darren-nolander-networkingLet’s face it, people buy from those they know, like and trust. Your job is to break into that inner circle, whether that involves a neighbor of a friend, a fellow soccer dad, a yoga classmate or a conference attendee. Many seem to think networking is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to massaging leads and securing business…but is this really the case?

I’ve seen my fair share of mortgage professionals waltz into a conference and sit in the back with their heads buried in their smartphones the entire time. I’ve also seen those unfortunate souls who show up to business events with a little liquid courage and a perhaps misguided belief that the group is hanging on their every word. Are these people physically involved in networking events? Yes, technically. But are they really engaged and, more importantly, are they engaged in a positive, beneficial manner?

Don’t let your mere attendance fool you into thinking you’ve somehow captivated a room and secured a slew of new leads. The venue or event may have provided the “net,” but you’re the one who has to put in the “work.”

Here are a few assumptions you want to avoid the next time you have the chance to really work a captive audience.

 – Don’t Worry About It. It’s Just Casual.

This myth has nothing to do with your attire (though you should make sure you understand the dress code) and everything to do with your approach. If you belong to any business organization, charity or sports-related club that meets on a regular basis, you need to make sure you show up – on time.

Becoming a no-show or constant late arrival sends the message that you’re unreliable. I get it. Your bowling team doesn’t take the competition all that seriously. But if your team develops the reputation for holding games up and you’re the culprit, how likely do you think it is that someone will trust you with their six-figure loan?

It’s just good practice. Be reliable. Be on time. Show. Up.

 – I’m a Debater. I Like to Play Devil’s Advocate.

There is value in being able to see both perspectives in a situation. However, someone who constantly points out the flaws or naysays another’s ideas can be viewed as an energy vampire, a toxic person and a Negative Nancy. No one is saying you have to throw your support behind a bad idea. There is an inherent difference, though, between someone who shoots down another’s thought and one who points out what’s great about it…and how it could be even better!

People like solutions. They like doers. They’re not typically fond of whiners and eye rollers. Make sure your commentary adds distinct, positive value before offering your two cents. You’ll find something great happens when you do. The power of positivity tends to draw others to you. We can’t help it. Humans naturally like to be around those who make them feel good, heard and valuable!

 – I Put Forth Some Effort Last Night. Now I Can Coast for the Next Four Months.

You gave it your all. You went in there, worked the room, got a few laughs, exchanged a bunch of cards and went home feeling like a winner. Bravo! Seriously, bravo. This is exactly what you want to do. Now you just have to do it again and again and again and again. Networking is very similar to dating. Sure, you can go out one night and really bring your A Game. Even if you score a few numbers, what are the odds your dance card will be full for the next six weeks based off a two-hour roll? Slim. Same here.

You want to keep your momentum going. Reach out with the thanks-yous, nice-meeting-yous and follow-ups where you promise to meet in a one-on-one setting. Remember, this industry is all about relationship building and relationships take time to evolve. You also want to continue to work your other leads and avenues. Networking is just one artery in the heart. You want all the pathways running efficiently to produce the best results.

Regional Vice President - Southwest

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.