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Heading for Orlando? 12 Ways to Get Referrals at NAR’s Expo/Convention

Sep 30, 2012

Posted by

Matt Heinz

Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, Inc., a long time, much sought-after marketing specialist, can be reached through his website: www.heinzmarketing.com. Have a sales or marketing question? W Read more

This year, before you head to the NAR convention in Orlando, build a plan around these 12 easy-to-follow steps and you’ll come home with exponentially more business opportunities to increase your sales and income in 2013.

A key objective for most attendees of the annual NAR Expo/Convention each year is to meet other agents and brokers, and build a stronger referral network.  Yet, without a strong proactive plan, most agents fail to get the introductions and new relationships necessary to drive significant new referral and customer growth in the subsequent months.

Set Goals Up Front

How much business do you want to do next year?  How many new referrals would you need, and how many new relationships do you think it would take to get there?  This may all be “ballpark planning,” but having a goal before you hit the convention floor will help you be more proactive, prepared and ready to execute.  Here are some suggestions:

1.)  Planning, planning, planning!

Good goals could include the number of new people you want to meet, number of business cards to be collected with explicit -- and expected -- follow-up reminders, and so forth.  Don’t expect to get customer referrals on the show floor.  Starting and fostering peer relationships comes first.

2.)  Understand you’re building long-term relationships.

It’s not just short-term referrals and revenue you’re seeking.  So don’t expect your new agent and broker friends to send you referrals the following week.  Some might, true, but most relationships will take long-term nurturing to generate ongoing referral volume and income growth.  Not unlike some of your potential home buyer and seller relationships – they may eventually transact, but not right now -- if you try to rush them, they may go elsewhere with their business.

3.)  Know who’s going to the Expo whom you want to meet.

This is very helpful.  In the weeks and days before the show, look for those who are talking about their upcoming NAR trip via social networks, industry discussion groups such as ActiveRain, and more.  Build a list of top agents and brokers in other markets that you’d like to meet.

4.)  Contact targets in advance, where possible.

Be bold but sensitive to other’s time.  Don’t wait until you get to the show to try and set up meetings.  Contact your targets in advance and ask to meet, even briefly, for a cup of coffee for a five or 10 minute introduction.  Again, be bold, yet sensitive to their time and busy schedule. 

5.)  Take three times the business cards you think you’ll need! 

The very last thing you want to do is run out of business cards.  It’s far better to come home with a big stack of your own cards than to be in the middle of the best industry networking event of the year, and have nothing but a scrap of paper to write on.  Make sure you have a good pen within arm’s reach at all times as well (vs. buried in your purse, brief case, or back at your hotel room).

6.)  Offer a complimentary service to other agents and their customers.

What could you offer new agent/broker partners and/or their customers, for free, to encourage follow-up and quick referrals when everyone is back at the office?  A free report of listings in your area?  A free “choose the best neighborhood” consultation for their customers who may be moving?  How about a “get to know our area” presentation for the agent and others in their office after the show if you’re in their area?

Another good idea -- consider printing this offer on the back of your business card, or print separate but same-sized business cards to hand out specifically with this offer.

7.)  Go to all the parties as time permits.

Your feet will hurt.  You will get tired.  But you’re there to work -- to network, to meet others, to take those relationships back home with you.  Learn in advance as many of the after-hours parties, get-togethers, tweet-ups and other networking events that you can find.  Sign up for them early if they require registration, but otherwise put them on your calendar so you remember when and where they are.  Consider going early too, as it’s the best way to scope out the scene and meet and greet other early arrivers with quality conversations before the scene gets busier and noisier.

8.)  Catch up on work in public places.

If you need to catch up on email or other work on your laptop, don’t do it in your room.  Find a public area like a hotel lobby or corner of the convention hall where other agents and brokers are also near by.  This won’t be the quietest and more productive space to work, but it’ll increase the chances that you run into someone you want to meet, or that you’ll have a chance encounter with someone new who could be added to your referral network.

9.)  Meet exhibitors (not just other agents and brokers).

Think of the service providers at the show as your gateway to dozens of potential referral sources.  Most of the service providers you’ll see on the show floor have relationships with hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of other agents and brokers.  Oftentimes, you can leverage these vendor relationships to get introductions to multiple referral partners at once -- either at the show directly or afterward.  A good time to meet them is early in the morning -- especially Sunday as Saturday night is party time!

10.)  Ask everyone for their business card.

This may seem trivial, and real estate professionals are generally good about this anyway.  But don’t walk away from any conversation at NAR this year without asking for a business card.  Keep a separate area in your jacket pocket or purse for these cards so you can gather them cleanly at the end of the day or show, and have them ready for follow-up afterward (more on that below).

11.) Write specific requests on the back of cards.

Use the card you receive to make short notes about what you may have promised to send your new potential partner.  Write notes with other trivia you may want to remember later (where they went to school, a common interest, and so forth).  All this helps, believe me.

12.  Follow up immediately after the show.

This is the most important part of building an active referral network from the NAR Expo/Convention.  If you do everything above and fail to follow up, you’ve killed your opportunity to nurture new relationships for sales and income.

As soon as you get back home, have an assistant, intern or high school student immediately turn your stack of business cards into a spreadsheet.  Write a common follow-up email that you can customize (if necessary) to each person you met.  Add them to your social networks, and follow up with anything specific you may have promised.

Expo 2012

Make this year’s NAR gathering the best show you’ve ever attended.  Successful and prosperous networking!