If there is any aspect of the home inspection industry that I think I hear the most complaints about – it’s this one. Most home inspectors don’t like networking. We are home inspectors – not politicians.
But there is a sad truth that I learned many years ago. I watched a home inspector that had a terrible reputation. In fact, I don’t know if I knew of anyone that had been sued more than this particular inspector. His reports were terrible (in my opinion) and he had a reputation as being one of the worst home inspectors out there – but he was ridiculously busy. In fact, he was one of the busiest home inspectors I have ever met.
In that same room was a home inspector who was one of the best home inspectors I know. He was awesome, professional, polite, and knew more about a building than most people could dram of – and he was struggling. He couldn’t get work. But he refused to network – but the terrible inspector, that’s all he did was network.
That just shows the unfortunate truth of our industry though: If you are good but don’t network, you will not do nearly as well as a terrible inspector who does network. Networking is extremely important.
It all comes down to relationship building and being known. Keep in mind, we are not talking about advertising to agents like we did before. Networking takes in a wider net and is not necessarily direct marketing. It is not always about the real estate agent either.
So how does networking happen and with whom does it happen? The answer is all the time and with everyone.
One of the best ways to network is to think about everyone else in a transaction. The mortgage broker, the insurance salesman, the appraiser, the attorneys, the contractors who come in to do work, etc. Knowing those people and having them as a network are key to success.
I will give you an example. One of the big brokerages had these mix-and-mingle events every year. Most inspectors I know stopped going to it because they said “I don’t get any work out of it” – which is very short sited in my opinion. I kept going, year after year and stuck with it. Eventually the woman who ran the program and I got to trust each other and build a great relationship. Eventually I became the companies “premier inspection vendor” as she put it. When they came out with their own real estate TV show, I was the one who was asked to be on it.
What did that do for me? It gave me “street cred” so-to-speak. Now all 400 of their agents know my face and my company. The moral of the story is that networking does not usually yield immediate results. In fact, it may be a long time before you see results – but they do eventually come.
An important part of that story was the woman who I built a professional relationship with was not an agent. In fact, I would spend almost as much time networking with the vendors at those mixers as I would with the agents.
I built a relationship with a respected mold remediation company and with a water treatment company many years ago. They did great work and were used a lot. SO when someone even mentioned a home inspector, guess who they recommended. If an agent never used me before and asked anyone about me, everyone knew me and had a good opinion of me – so it helped with my relationships with agents.
On top of that though, it made transactions easier. If I found a major problem in a home and the sellers tried to contest it, many times the contractors and attorneys would back me up because they knew I was a good inspector – which added to my company’s reputation and credibility.
We have also mentioned the fact that you don’t want to put all your eggs into one basket, and networking helps you to do that. Some weeks I will look at the calendars for any one of my inspection companies and I will get almost as many inspections from other referral sources as I did from agents and the internet. There are attorneys I will go and have coffee with. Mortgage brokers that call and chat with, and contractors that I make sure I talk with whenever possible.
Every person you network with will eventually know someone who is buying a home and then will refer you. Every person you meet in life is a potential referral source – or even a client.
Here is a couple of pointers about networking properly though. First, keep it light and brief. Relationships happen over time, so don’t rush it.
Second, keep it professional but friendly. Getting too personal about yourself or about them too early in the game is just going to feel uncomfortable for everyone.
Third, remember names and conversations. Keep notes on everyone as much as possible. Did Greg the attorney mention that he was going to Florida for a month? Ask him if he had a good time. Did Barbara the loan officer at the bank mention her nephew was in high school football? Mention the game that was shown on the local news.
But here is a word of warning: Networking done wrong looks like stalking. Be careful not to invade personal space, get too chummy, or know too many facts about their life. It will just weird people out.
If you are a good home inspector, let people know about it. A home inspector I was training one time told me that if he was a good inspector that he shouldn’t need to advertise it. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. But if you are good, and you network properly, then you will do your clients a great service by putting yourself out there where you can be found.
In our next blog, we will talk about another way to market your home inspection company and gain more work: previous clients.