Networking is an important aspect of any business. Whether you are a real estate agent, an investor, or a bridge loan lender, you probably know the importance of meeting people. As important as it is, very few people know how to network effectively. For this reason, here are five tips to help you network better.

Know who your target audience is

The first rule of networking in real estate—and every business— is knowing who your target audience is. Are you looking to meet fix and flip lenders or partners? Or are you looking for agents to help you find and close deals? Hunt them! Local charity events, industry seminars, and conferences, REIAs (Real Estate Investment Associations), membership group meetings, open houses, chamber of commerce’s events. Any event that brings people in your industry together can be a great place to connect with potential clients and like-minded people.

So, research and know about conferences and events they attend, search for social media groups they join and connect with them. Engage in your local community and build rapport with people in your industry niche.

Prepare ahead of time

The second tip to network effectively is to never attend any event without prior knowledge of what you plan to do there. Preparation helps you connect with people effectively. So, before attending any event, know why you are going and have an idea of what you would talk about when you meet people. Prepare to ask questions and discuss topics that interest your potential target.

Doing preliminary research on the purpose of the meeting should give you an idea of people who could attend and their interests. With this information, you can brace yourself with knowledge of topics to discuss. You don’t have to be an expert in those topics, you just need ideas that would show you know what you are talking about. After all, no one wants to connect with a dummy!

Be professional

First impressions matter a lot. When you are just starting out, always learn to leave a lasting impression on people you meet. Do not dress casually to events and conferences. Real estate investors, agents, and financiers have learned to be alert; they screen the physical appearance of anyone they come across before doing business and any red flag will put them off. Have knowledge of the event you are going to, decide intelligently on what to wear and how to act there.

Also, never forget to take business cards with you. Sounds funny, right? You should remember that you are not the only person your new connections will meet at a given event. You need a way to make them remember you after the event. Another thing is that nothing is worse and disappointing than asking your new friends for their business card and you have nothing to give in return. How do you expect them to remember you?

Learn to listen

Networking is two-sided—your contribution and your new connections. So, if you want to network effectively and efficiently, you have to also be a good listener. Ask questions, listen to their responses and reply to whatever question they ask you. It’s easy for strangers to be interested in you and it’s also easy for them to lose interest. This is why you need to always appear interested in what they say—even if you are bored.

Furthermore, what is networking when you just exchange numbers with your new friends without making meaningful business relationship? Who knows if what he/she said would help you in your next project?

Follow up and stay connected

What’s the use of making connections if you don’t follow up? Nothing! That is the reason you need to have a way to remember and follow up on people you meet at an event. Do not toss business cards you received at an event away, but instead save all relevant contacts to your CRM with notes to make you remember your discussions. Write personalized follow up messages for each card and send them to your new friends. A simple ‘Thank you for your time today’ could go a long way. Who knows if that could turn them into trustworthy partners and clients?

Effective networking can connect you to great business partners. So, if you don’t know how to do it, just: know your audience, be prepared, be professional, be a good listener and follow up!