REALTORS® are notorious for knowing a lot of people, but many REALTORS® assume their sphere of influence will produce endless leads without much effort. Although that might work sometimes, diverse lead-generation systems are crucial for longevity in this business. Networking is part of that, but it’s time to start thinking about networking in a new way.

Networking events probably come to mind when you think of networking. Those one-off meetings have benefits, but a networking group can truly help you prosper. Though there are various forms of networking groups, look for one that meets once a week with professionals who have a desire to connect, provide referrals, and share ideas for mutually inclusive business principles.

Here’s how you can elevate your lead-generation process by getting involved in a networking group.

Go local. Established local entrepreneurs and business leaders have influence in the community. Find a group in your community, or consider launching your own. Look among industries that have good synergy already, and get shoulder to shoulder with influential and passionate people—not the “What’s in it for me?” types.

Find groups of like-minded people. Referrals fly within groups where the members share similar goals, where everyone has a like-minded M.O., and where members truly connect and share.

Look for limited-membership groups. The membership of the group should be industry-exclusive—one REALTOR®, one chiropractor, one lender, and so forth. Getting involved in a group where you are the real estate authority will be most beneficial for your business.

Evaluate the group’s leadership. The ideal networking group is based on a proven model where leadership is evident. The best groups have a structured agenda, designated leadership roles, opportunities for members to contribute, and a professional-development component of each meeting. If a group just gathers for coffee, lunch, or after-hours drinks with no set format or opportunity for professional development, its lifespan is limited.

Be a lead-giver. We all want more leads, more business, and more clients. The best members of a networking group are those who put giving first. The more you sow, the more you reap. In the words of Zig Ziglar, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Get involved for the long term. Relationships develop over time. Regularly attending your group is your best investment. Be consistent about meeting at the same time on the same day every week. This allows you to stay top of mind with local business leaders and entrepreneurs. It’s an appointment you make, and it’s one you can’t afford to miss.