If you build it, they will come
Uhhhh . . .they might . . . and it won’t be as fast as you think! I’m sitting in my chair reading notes from a training class that I’m currently taking and as I’m reading, I notice the person who is leading the course starts talking about how you’ve “spent the time to get the word out about your home staging business” and asks “What are you going to do as the phone starts ringing with clients?”
I stop right there.
What clients?!?! I notice another thing that no one openly talks about . . . with the amount of dollars some stagers spend to take training courses and to get education, the instructors don’t always elaborate on how to get the clients. It’s almost as though they leave that up to you to figure out and I've found that to be extremely frustrating. I've taken 3 training course and 1 course in particular covers how and where to connect with the people you're going to service. Part of it I can understand because no matter which route you take, the truth is YOU have to generate the clients and as a reminder, people have to know you, like you and TRUST you. Networking and getting to know people is a long-term commitment and oftentimes, stagers get frustrated during the process when the phone isn’t ringing off the hook the way they expect it to.
That doesn’t mean you should give up though. You’re just learning how to create community.
I’m typing this during the COVID-19 pandemic, which means a lot of realtors, investors and homeowners are hesitant to stage homes and many stager’s businesses have taken a loss. It’s not completely over and before we know it, things will relax a bit more and we’ll be back to networking in no time.
Here are 6 solid ways to network with realtors and investors with hopes of getting future projects:
1. Cold calling – I cringe when I think of it and I’m sure you do too. Cold calling is great practice to not only get comfortable over the phone, you can practice sharing about the services you offer to realtors and investors. To get contact information, google “Real Estate Investors near me” or “Realtors near me” and chances are you’ll find at least a handful of realtors or investors that you can call and talk to. Here’s a heads up: practice the call with a friend or family member so you can work through whatever nervousness you may feel. Don’t be afraid to be nervous – it’s totally normal and we've all been there.
You may have to call 100 different places before someone actually speaks to you and it’s perfect – that’s what cold calling is! All it takes is 1 person and once you get that person and they like you, it will get better from there. If they don’t like you, it’s no big deal, just keep going! Every stager has experiences that didn’t work out well and it’s part of the learning curve. I tend to find that any stager who can provide a lot of wisdom, tips and tricks is also a stager who has had many breakdowns.
2. Join a local Realtor Association as an affiliate – I recommend finding out what their fee is and if it works for your budget, join the association, meet people, learn and get involved. Be sure to volunteer to help with their events because you have to prove to people that they can count on you, you’re reliable and trustworthy. Avoid coming off as a desperate stager salesperson – just blend in and roll with the crowd! If they offer opportunities to sponsor snacks, bring fun-colored snack bags with 5-7 healthy snacks, place your business card in it and pass it out. The community will get to know your name quickly.
3. Attend free events – go to Meetup.com and Facebook and search for “Real Estate Investor events” or “Realtor events” to see what’s going on in your area. Find 2-3 events that work for your schedule and if they happen every month, attend and make friends. If you don’t have a name badge, make one online and order it for less than $15. Strive to attend 2-3 events per month and be consistent with the ones you attend because you want to get familiar with the other people there. Here’s a word of caution: it’s common for alcohol to be served at these events. Be very professional in your choice to drink or not because this does impact your reputation within the community and people talk.
4. Share with friends and family members – this is probably the easiest and it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get any client leads. If it does, that’s great and don’t expect anything.
5. Attend local MLS meetings – As you get to know realtors, ask the ones you like about any MLS meetings or realtor meetings they attend and ask if you can join them for the next meeting. Whatever you do, be consistent, show up and have fun.
6. BNI (Business Network International) – I’ve heard about BNI from a few people and from what I’ve gathered, I can say that it’s a very solid way to meet and network with people. If you do decide to join, make sure you understand what their requirements are and what they expect of you. BNI is a two-way street and I’m saying that to say that it doesn’t work to show up expecting something to happen for you. You will be the cause of your own success or lack thereof.
Another thing I thought of is as you meet realtors and investors, friend them on Facebook. What I do is look at the birthdays list on Facebook every day and if I see there’s a realtor friend’s birthday, I send them a birthday shout out on Facebook. I also make sure to regularly read and comment on their posts so they keep me in mind for any projects.
It definitely takes something when you first get started and once you do, the snowball will start rolling quickly, so enjoy this time getting to know people. Don’t rush anything, learn as much as possible and if you’re lucky, you’ll form life-long friends.
Authenticity and consistency is key!