Referrals = Business
Back in the “old days,” when I was an agent at Jon Douglas Company, Jon Douglas would frequently talk about the importance of staying in touch with people. This was before computers took over our business, and Jack (as he’s known) would say, You need to go through your Rolodex, card by card, and keep calling people so that everyone hears from you on a regular basis. When you reach the end, start over. He called these “warm calls.”
He was talking about creating referral business, and although the technology has changed, the facts have not. There are two key elements to Jack’s message: real estate is a people-to-people business and the people you know – your friends, family and past clients – know other people who need real estate help or may need your help themselves.
But the subtext here is that just like you have to ask for the deal, you have to ask for the referrals. Don’t assume that your clients/friends/family will give you referrals just because they know you’re in the business. For one thing, they forget. For another, they may think you’re too busy, or you don’t handle properties of this type or in this location. Ask For The Referrals.
Your business is like a table. The legs that support the table are the various things you do to keep it standing: networking, marketing, prospecting and referrals. To keep your table balanced, you need to divide your attention between the various lead-generating tools and you need a strategy and a plan for each one that’s part of your schedule so you know what to do every day. Otherwise you end up with one of those wobbly tables that rattles the plates every time you rest your elbow on the edge.
Technology is very seductive. Contact management software, elaborate web sites, blogs, viral marketing, lead generators, and phones that are more sophisticated than we are all promise huge returns, massive business, and fabulous success. Agents spend enormous amounts of money purchasing and developing these tools. But here’s the rub: The agents who are the most successful using technology are usually the same ones who are the most successful without technology.
Marketing brings people to the gate. But it’s you – the prepared, intelligent, professional, skilled, savvy agent – who lets them in, creates the relationship and escorts them through their transaction. If they arrive at the gate and you can’t deliver – you don’t have the skills, or you don’t answer their questions or their phone calls, or you don’t control your schedule (or your temper), or you don’t know the market – you won’t get the client, you won’t get the business and/or you won’t get referrals down the line.
It’s the “people” contact that leads to referrals: You’ve developed rapport with a client who comes to know you, like you and trust you. You pay attention, handle the client’s concerns and have a win-win experience. Within the first month or two of the transaction, people are going to ask your client, Who was your agent? and they will probably pass along your name. But once that short period of time is past and that real estate transaction is no longer the primary thing on your client’s mind, you, too, are no longer very important to them. It’s nothing personal. They may forget which company you’re with, where they put your phone number, or they may even forget your name. Unless you remind them. And that’s where we get back to Jack’s Rolodex.
Keep In Touch with Past Clients
Once somebody has been your client, you don’t need to blast them with weekly postcards or dozens of intrusive auto-generated e-mails, but you do need to remind them periodically that you’re still in the business, that you’re still interested in their well-being and that you still appreciate their referrals. The more personal this contact, the more likely it is to yield results, even in our techno-savvy world.
I want to share one other instructive story. A friend of a friend sold real estate marketing materials to agents all over the country, so of course she knew hundreds, if not thousands, of real estate agents. Naturally, because of her business, she was always being asked for referrals when her acquaintances were looking for an agent. When it came time to sell her own house, she selected a local agent who had been sending her mailers consistently. He represented her, the sale was successful and they had a very compatible interaction. The escrow closed and she never heard another word from him. Not a call. Not a mailer. A couple of years later, she happened to run into him at a conference and she asked him why he had dropped her like a hot rock. His answer: Oh, well he just assumed that once they had done business together, she would always come back to him when she needed help. Well, guess what? This agent, by failing to “go through his Rolodex,” lost himself uncounted numbers of referrals and who knows how much income. Big mistake.
The market will continue to change, technology will continue to evolve and become obsolete, but referrals will remain a vital business-generating tool. Pick up the phone. Connect with people. Ask for referrals. Give great service. Repeat as often as possible.
(Patti Kouri, GRI, Accelerated Performance Coaching, is a Master Coach who works closely with executives, managers, and real estate sales professionals. She offers dynamic and innovative techniques to help people achieve their goals and specializes in breaking through limits. “I work with people with big visions for themselves who want to make a dream into reality or create more meaning in their lives.” She is the co-Creator of The Real Estate Game®, and hosts the annual JumpStart Workshop.)