Sharing business cards over cocktails at networking events is no way to make new contacts in 2020. Large in-person industry gatherings, which provide opportunities to establish connections and swap business tips and customer referrals, are a thing of the past thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the need for social distancing shouldn’t stop you from building relationships; you can still expand your network from afar.
“I think your network is more important now than at any other time in our history,” says Holly Mabery, a real estate coach and instructor for the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation course, offered by the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC). “Real estate has always been a relationship-based field, and now, that is really coming to the forefront. You can still do a lot of things online to make that personal connection.”
There’s good reason to focus on virtual networking: More remote workers, freed from the bounds of a commute, are rethinking their lifestyles and considering long-distance moves—and you want to capture those out-of-town referrals. By broadening your online network, you could discover more opportunities for referral swaps, which, in turn, could lead to extra commissions and more clients.
But before trying to connect with random agents virtually, work on building up your own skill set and online presence to make a good impression. REBAC is increasing its virtual education opportunities to help real estate professionals better connect online. Here are ideas for expanding your virtual Rolodex.
Earn a designation. REBAC’s ABR® designation can set you apart in your local market, giving you specialized instruction on prospecting, crafting buyer contracts, and ramping up negotiating, marketing, and technology skills. You’ll also get access to a database of more than 24,000 active ABR® designees nationwide, publications geared toward buyer’s agents, exclusive online networking events, and customizable marketing materials. “This is an opportunity to invest in yourself,” says Mabery, ABR®, who also is a broker and director of operations at eXp Realty in Sedona, Ariz.
Pinpoint potential prospects. Approach networking with the aim to “create a relationship before you actually need that relationship,” Mabery says. Have you noticed any patterns over the last six months that indicate where buyers are coming from or moving to in your market? Find other real estate professionals to connect with in those markets. You can search for ABR® designees in a specific market by using the Find a Buyer’s Rep directory at REBAC.net and homebuying.realtor.
Reach out on social media. Follow specialized groups or deepen your connections with your existing sphere on social networks. To build more meaningful relationships, show a constant presence by commenting on others’ statuses and sharing useful content. But “it’s not just about you sharing your knowledge,” Mabery says. “Make your presence about lifting other people up, too.” REBAC offers a private Facebook group, ABR® Referrals & Network Community, with more than 8,600 designees.
Participate in videoconferencing events. Video tools, such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype, have grown in popularity since the pandemic began. Use these tools to build relationships, whether it’s attending a virtual happy hour, broker caravan tour, or videoconference sessions. “That human touch is still there in the industry, but it’s just coming at us from a different way,” Mabery says. In late August, REBAC held its first-ever virtual networking event exclusively for ABR® designees, which included small virtual groups to share ideas for useful real estate apps, virtual showings, evolving business models, and how to handle multiple-offer situations. “Take that next step to attend a virtual event to increase your network,” Mabery says. “Connecting with other people will pay dividends as the market ebbs and flows.” Look for online real estate mastermind groups, which serve as think tanks to exchange ideas.
Work on your virtual appeal. Know that while you’re checking out other agents online, they’re doing the same with you. Virtual appeal “is the new curb appeal,” Mabery says. “Look at it from a house standpoint: You drive by, and if it looks good on the outside, you may be interested to learn more. [Virtual] appeal is very similar.” Center your online presence on showing your personality, skill set, and knowledge. Have an online bio that reflects your work in the industry, showcase your designations, and spotlight online reviews from buyer clients. Establish yourself as an expert by offering content on your website that provides buyers with useful tips and checklists on the homebuying process, financing, and closing. ABR® designees have access to more than 40 customizable marketing materials and home buyer resources in the Member Center at REBAC.net.
Create a video library. Video can be a powerful medium to introduce yourself to others. Your video library may become your introduction to a prospect or referring agent. Mabery suggests creating a video library on YouTube, starting with videos on topics like the homebuying process, current trends in the housing market, different components of a contract, and the dangers of wire fraud. “Those simple things start to increase your credibility as an expert in this subject matter,” Mabery says. You also can generate videos about the local community, including outdoor amenities like hiking trails, and showcase the various neighborhoods in your area. In addition, make videos highlighting what Mabery calls the “cocktail stat,” such as how many homes sold in your market in the last month and the average sales price. “Earn trust, showcase your knowledge, and show up on video to own your story online,” Mabery says. “People will be Googling you. How do you show up? Would you hire you or refer [a buyer] to you? How you show up makes a big difference.”