Between rising mortgage rates and soaring loan production costs this year, many lenders and brokerage leaders are reducing headcount to preserve their bottom line.
As a result, many mortgage and real estate professionals may find themselves checking out LinkedIn, whether to search for a new position or make connections in anticipation of the future.
No matter your position, networking is a crucial skill.
“Whether you’re a recruiter that relies solely on daily calls and emails to make connections or someone in a sales role that utilizes networking as a way to grow their business, it’s useful to understand how to approach each outreach to ensure you’re presenting yourself in the best light,” said Tracy Chongling, producing branch manager at Supreme Lending.
Chongling often receives calls and messages from people looking to connect with her, but often finds the initial contacts very “cold and generic, almost robotic.”
“Obviously I would not expect an individual to build an instant relationship or rapport on the first meeting; however, the ‘canned’ messages and templates being used really show that there is no real interest in me as an individual,” she said.
“I have received several emails and social media messages with a salutation addressed to someone else — if that doesn’t scream copy and paste, I don’t know what does.”
Chongling shared some strategies for smarter outreach and networking for those looking to make connections.
Know what you’re looking for
The first thing to do when you’re looking to network is to know what you’re looking to accomplish by making new connections.
For example, if you’re a recruiter, you would want to know what each job entails and look for individuals with those skill sets. Or if you work in mortgages or real estate, you may be looking to grow your book of business with potential homebuyers, sellers or new referral partners.
“The key to any outreach is purpose,” Chongling said. “What purpose do you have when reaching out? And what purpose can you bring to the person you are reaching out to?”
Do your research
Once you know what you’re looking for, prepare for outreach by researching the person you want to connect with.
Chongling said she often receives calls where the caller brings up the company she was at previously when she’s been at her new company for a year.
“If you even looked me up as a whole, it shows my new company name, but you didn’t do that,” she said. “You just saw my name, maybe my production numbers, and ran with it. You didn’t even take the time to see who I am.”
Research allows you to better understand who it is you’re hoping to connect with and shows that person that they are important enough to prepare to speak with.
Social media can be a great way to see a bit more about a person ahead of time, including their personality, interests, work history and even family life.
“It helps put the human aspect into the networking attempt,” Chongling said. “If you are connected on social media, maybe add something about a recent post they made or include a clip of an article they wrote.”
One thing that’s lacking in networking is authenticity, Chongling said.
“One of the easiest ways that people can build lasting relationships through networking is to understand that every interaction is a chance to get to know one another better,” she said. “Don’t approach networking as a chore or a job — think of it as a way to connect with like-minded individuals that could help open doors down the road or even turn into friendships.”
You can show authentic interest by asking open-ended questions, listening intently, learning how you can bring value to each other and being honest.
“Remember that just like everything in life, long-lasting professional relationships are built on trust and a level of comfort,” Chongling said.
It may sound obvious, but being present in every interaction is key to networking successfully. In this fast-paced environment, everyone is focused on numbers and instant gratification.
Slowing down to actually focus on the conversation and even picking up the phone or meeting in person can make a big difference.
“Hearing someone’s voice, you can tell sometimes if they’re preoccupied,” Chongling said. “I would say, ‘Smile and dial.’ I think that that impacts people a little bit more.”
The final piece of successful networking is to follow through and be persistent. Real estate and mortgages are not businesses of one-time communication and that’s it — rejection is part of the job. But so is following up.
“You never know, when you network with the right people, who you may cross paths with again later down the road,” Chongling said. “I don’t bother people, but I know three to five years down the road, someone’s situation may change.
“If I treated them fairly and showed them that I cared about who they were and I got to know them on a personal level, they’re more inclined probably to reach out to me.”
Ultimately, even if someone isn’t ready to build a relationship or transact with you right then, they may be later. How you treat them in every moment matters both in the present, but for the future.
Improving your networking skills is a way to not only form important working relationships but also gives you a step up the next time you need to find a job.
“There’s a lot of staff that are making their exit from the mortgage business,” Chongling said. “I think it’s a great time for really skilled networkers and recruiters to get up there and really try to find a way to show their value proposition to people.”