From small talk to big deals: How to leverage industry events for maximum networking impact

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Making the right connection at the right time can be life-changing.

Alex Bouja

Just ask Alex Bouja, Realtor at Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty. Once, seemingly out of nowhere, he received a call from an agent he had never met before. “She called with a specific opportunity for a listing in my area,” he recounts. But how did she know about him? It turns out her friend had met him at an industry networking event. So when this opportunity arose, Bouja’s name was mentioned right away.

“This one listing referral led to more than $10 million in sales across multiple transactions — and it all started with a single connection.” This illustrates the power of industry events to help luxury agents drive their businesses and deliver the best possible results for their clients — and each other.

Glenn Norrgard, associate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty Downtown Manhattan Brokerage, has also found immense value in networking. “Taking part in my firm’s events has enabled me to form a network of agents in feeder markets to and from New York that has enabled me to grow my business. About 50 percent of my sales come from referrals. I only get these referrals by making the effort to actively engage with other Sotheby’s International Realty brokers nationally and internationally.”

Bouja also notes the benefits that networking has brought to his professional practice. “I joined Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty in 2019 and immediately immersed myself in every networking opportunity that was presented to me,” he says.

“Over the next three years, my business grew 200 percent year-over-year, and agent-to-agent referrals have grown to a consistent 25 percent of my annual business. I would say that company and industry events have been paramount to my success. This year, agent-to-agent referrals from people I’ve met at events have grown to 50 percent of my business.”

How can you make the most of industry events to elevate your services and extend your reach? Bouja and Norrgard share their top recommendations.

Be proactive

Glenn Norrgard and Danielle Wiedemann – Sotheby’s International Realty – Downtown Manhattan Brokerage

Glenn Norrgard

“When at a larger event, assess which other markets are feeder markets to your location,” advises Norrgard. “If possible, obtain an attendance list well in advance of the event, prioritize agents that may have business for you, and even reach out to make individual appointments.”[h]

He notes that it’s not about handing out the most business cards; it’s about taking an intentional approach to meeting agents relevant to you and your clients, and maximizing opportunities for everyone. “If you can make even just a few meaningful connections, and ensure they genuinely get to know you as a person first, then the business will follow.”

Be engaged

Glenn Norrgard and Jason Bauer – Sotheby’s International Realty – Downtown Manhattan Brokerage

If you’ve been to any networking event, you may have experienced the familiar temptation to reconnect with the people you know — or, if you don’t know anyone, to try and look focused and busy by staring at your phone. But these are both major mistakes, according to Bouja.

“Be authentic, be a good listener, ask engaging questions, and sit with a total stranger,” he says. “Have an abundance mindset and enjoy the moment.”

Above all, he advises agents to be connectors, and to always give before you receive. “Never go into it assuming you’ll get referrals from everyone you talk to,” he cautions. “Finally, find agents you actually connect with professionally and personally, and follow up with them with a phone call, email, text or social media.”

Get yourself out there

Eric McCafferty – Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty

Bouja notes that you shouldn’t limit yourself when making connections. Most important is to just get yourself out there. “There are a ton of ways to network with industry professionals — the key is making authentic relationships and staying in front of them,” he says.

When choosing events to attend, he notes that consistency and diversity are key. One larger industry event and one or two online presentations, panels or virtual group calls are a good quarterly target, along with one or two smaller in-person gatherings. “This could be coffee, cocktails, dinner or a social event with professionals outside your immediate market,” says Bouja. “And remember, stay in front of, and in touch with, agents you meet along the way.”

Focus on relationships

Paula Leary and Terry Leary – Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty

Luxury agents are often focused on the professional benefits of successful networking, but one of the greatest rewards is the sense of personal fulfillment as well. “Some of my best friends are people I’ve met over the last four years of industry networking events,” says Bouja. “They’ve helped me elevate my professional presence and establish meaningful relationships.”

There are few industries as reliant on personal relationships as luxury real estate — and those relationships start with the agents themselves.

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