Networking is hard. Especially when you don’t have a clue what you are doing. You may feel like an ill-prepared contestant on Survivor, stranded in the wilderness of the complex private lending industry. Fortunately you’re not. You won’t have to forage for food and water, or build a structure out of drift wood and palm fronds to survive as
a private lender.
That doesn’t mean, with untold riches at stake, you won’t be tempted to cut corners, fudge the truth or make shady alliances to win favor and make money. Sadly, you’ll see a lot more of this than you’d think. But like Survivor, steering clear of these shenanigans starts with how you approach networking in the first place.
Why traditional networking could get you voted off the island by borrowers
The premise of Survivor is simple: outwit, outlast and outplay your competitors — without being a weapons grade jerk — and you win a million bucks. And maybe a new car.
If you’ve followed the show for any number of seasons, you’ve probably noticed money hungry contestants fall into one of two camps: either they try to become the most well-liked castaway on the island, or they bulldoze right over anyone who gets in their way.
It’s the same thing with traditional networking. You don’t want to be the bulldozer, because no one does business with people who leave tread marks on their back. That leaves us with some version of the ‘like me’ strategy. Some people look like they’re trying to use this strategy, but everyone quickly finds out they’re bulldozers in disguise.
Be a Rupert, not a Russell
The most notorious Survivor villain of all time (there’s plenty of contenders) is Russell Hantz, a bitter oil man from Texas, with the demeanor of a bulldog chewing a wasp. He competed in several seasons of Survivor, but his MO was always the same: make no friends and take no enemies. His weapon of choice? Lying and backstabbing.
He even sabotaged his own teammates—he burnt his tribe mates’ socks and emptied their water canteen. He also lied about being a firefighter who survived Hurricane Katrina. He admits he was trying to weaken his teammates psychologically in order to better manipulate them. Russell came close, but he never won the million dollars.
On the other end of the Survivor spectrum is Rupert Boneham, a mentor for troubled teens and a beloved repeat competitor. He was known as the “gentle giant”, with a notable beard and a wardrobe of tie-dye tee shirts. His devastatingly effective approach? Be authentically outgoing, friendly, and focused.
Did his approach work? The fan favorite was voted a million dollar winner in the Survivor: All Stars season by the viewing public. This was a second million dollar prize awarded at the conclusion of the All Star show. Rupert received 85% of the votes.
So how do you survive the private lending Final Tribal Council and walk away with the million dollar prize?
Forget everything you think you know about networking. Schmoozing, butt-kissing and passive-aggressive tactics have to be kicked to the curb. You aren’t fooling anyone. Building open and honest relationships with potential borrowers (and others in your lending community) is a surefire method to win the hearts — and minds — of borrowers.
Networking shouldn’t consume all of your time either. So many folks show up at the wrong events and then wonder why they are not successful. Time is money, so be selective with how you spend it. Attend Real Estate Investor Association meetings regularly—this is where experienced rehabbers hang out and network. Developing relationships with two to three rehabbers can put thousands of dollars in your pocket very quickly.
You can also meet and build relationships with other networking professionals at the right kinds of events. Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizational meetings, like the Rotary, Kiwanis and the Lion’s Club, are also where your ideal prospects are open to meeting you.
Your hottest commodity is your profession — you’ve got the funds borrowers need to complete their deals. As long as you don’t act like a Survivor supervillain, people are going to want to work with you. Especially if you present yourself as someone who is trustworthy and knowledgeable.
But I’m a hard charging numbers person who doesn’t like dealing with people… can I really do this?
Yes, you can! You do not have to be super sally salesperson to be successful in private lending, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to improve upon your networking skills. It just takes some practice. If talking to and connecting with people is something you struggle with,
watch some youtube videos, join Toastmasters or take a class to boost your confidence in this area.
Many excellent books have been written on this very subject, or you can always look into joining a community mentoring group on our website. Sometimes roleplaying with your peers to overcome a fear is the best solution for improving.
The first rule of Survivor — and kindergarten — still applies
Just be your most authentic self, and play nice with others. Kindness and honesty go a long way in establishing rapport. Be strategic with your time, and only attend events regularly frequented by your target audience. If you do these things, there’s no reason you can’t claim your own million dollar prize. You just have to take lesson from Ruppert: be authentic, friendly and focused (tie-dyed shirts optional).