Even with no in-person events on your schedule, you can continue to build professional relationships right now – you may just need to think creatively during this unusual time.
In a recent NAIOP Advantage Series webinar, networking strategist Lori Saitz, CEO and founder of Zen Rabbit, shared ideas for making meaningful professional connections, whether you are looking to touch base with people you’ve met in the past or would like to expand your network to reach new customers.
“One of the main reasons that people go to events and conferences – apart from the learning, certainly – is for the networking,” Saitz said.
She started by defining the term. What is networking? “Starting a conversation – the foundation for building a relationship,” according to Saitz. “But now that we can’t go to events to do that, how can we still make that a part of our business?”
Follow Up and Reconnect
“While you can’t go meet new people at events, I challenge you to follow-up with people you’ve already met at events in the past six months to a year,” Saitz said. “How many business cards have you collected from people at luncheons or events that you have done nothing with?”
Even for those who might be comfortable networking, following up is an area where many people fall short, Saitz said.
Connect on LinkedIn with those same people you’ve met in person at events. Send a note along with your connection request acknowledging when and where you met to help jog their memory. Look through all of your existing LinkedIn connections and see who it might make sense to check in with. Ask: “Can we reconnect? What’s going on in your business right now?”
See what they’re posting on social media and engage with their posts, Saitz added.
Whether someone has business with you right now isn’t as important as how they will remember you after this unique situation is over. See if you can be of service in some way, in any way.
Grow Your Network
Many organizations have moved their in-person networking events online – in a virtual format – to adapt to the current situation. “Industry associations can provide great opportunities for this,” Saitz said. [NAIOP is hosting Virtual Roundtables for members to connect with their peers virtually on topics during COVID-19.]
Ask people you know for introductions, she added. People might be more receptive to taking a phone call or scheduling a video conference while working from home. LinkedIn is also great for this – you can see who your existing connections know and ask for a virtual introduction.
“Everyone is in a more casual mode right now, so it’s easier to get to know the real person,” Saitz said.
Make a Lasting Impression
Can you sell your products or services right now? “Certainly business is still being done right now,” Saitz pointed out. “At the same time, it’s not business as usual.”
It’s better to ask what you can do to bring value to clients and potential clients. Whether that’s articles, research, webinars, podcasts – create it and share it with your existing network.
“This is not a time to sit back and say ‘There’s nothing I can do. I’m just going to wait it out.’ It’s about finding ways to be of service,” Saitz said.
People are still buying. But even if they’re not, they will remember those with whom they built relationships with during this time.
Visit the NAIOP Response: COVID-19 page for webinar archives and other critical resources and knowledge to support you now.
Brielle Scott is Senior Communications Manager at NAIOP.