REBOOT YOUR REFERRALS
Cast a wide net to catch more business.
Referrals don’t just appear magically in your inbox. “If you
expect referrals to just happen, you’ll miss out on a lot of
opportunities,” says real estate trainer Rich Sands with Rich
Sands Seminars in Aurora, Colo. Sands, also an instructor for
the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC), encourages
practitioners to take a more active approach to referrals.
On average, real estate professionals earn 21 percent of
their business through referrals from past clients and customers, according to the 2013 National Association of REALTORS®
Member Profile. Agents with stronger referral bases tend to
have higher incomes, too. For example, REALTORS® earning
$150,000 or more report that about 29 percent of their business is from referrals. By comparison, those earning between
$10,000 and $24,999 say referrals make up only 18 percent.
Broker-owner John Rygiol, ABR®, with Buyer’s Broker Inc. in
Irvine, Calif., says about 50 percent of his annual sales come
through referrals. He credits REBAC’s Accredited Buyer’s
Representative (ABR®) designation with helping him maintain
an expansive network of fellow buyer agents nationwide.
Here are suggestions for building strong referral networks.
Make Yourself Referral-worthy
No one will recommend you unless they believe you’re a great
agent, Sands says. Earning designations and certifications
can set you apart. It also gives others more confidence when
recommending you. That’s how Rygiol judges who to refer
his relocating buyers to, placing the most weight on agents
with the ABR®, GRI, and CRS designations. “When I refer a
home buyer, I seek the best person in that area based on their
demonstrated performance and extra education,” Rygiol says.
Sands encourages agents to use their website to highlight
their background, using videos and blog posts to explain how
designations confer benefits to clients.
Target Key Players
REALTORS®: Become more social with professionals nationwide by attending REALTOR® conventions and taking classes
for REALTOR® designations, such as GREEN or ABR®, in other
cities. REALTORS® who earn the ABR® have access to the
Buyers’ Rep Directory at
REBAC.net, an online community of
35,000 REALTORS® nationwide, for exchanging referrals. Be
sure to ask agents their fee for referring clients to you.
Local service providers: Connect with painters, remodeling
contractors, or even divorce attorneys to swap referrals. Some
agents do this formally through organizations such as the
Business Networking International ( bni.com) or Le Tip (letip
.com), where professionals from various industries exchange
Community groups: Peggy Lynch with RE/MAX Mountain
Brokers in Estes Park, Colo., has built an extensive network
by joining local organizations. But don’t just be a member:
Becoming a leader improves your name recognition, she
says. Also, give back financially. For example, her business’s
$1,000 donation to a local Cancer Society prompted the
organization’s sta; to recommend her to others, resulting in a
multimillion-dollar sale. “The more you give, the more you get
back,” Lynch says. “People are really appreciative when you
give not just money but also your time and e;ort. They get to
know you as a good person, and they want to refer you.”
Past customers: Maintaining close contact with your past
customers “can be a gold mine for referrals,” says Carol
Moson, a real estate sales trainer with Peep Centric and an
ABR® and GREEN instructor. Moson says even small gestures,
such as sending out handwritten cards for birthdays and
holidays, can have a big impact. She once cooked dinner for
her clients, a family that had just relocated to the area. Within
a month, they referred her to two other relocating families.
Current customers: Often, “the best time to get referrals
from customers is when they’re actually going through the
process themselves,” Sands says. They’re likely talking about
their buying or selling experiences to everyone they know.
Others may hear it and say: “We’re thinking about it, too.
Who’s your agent?” Remind your clients that you’re available
to help their family and friends.
Give Some to Get More
If you’re not getting a lot of referrals, ask yourself: How many
are you sending out? “The key to working referrals and getting
referrals from other REALTORS® is to have a great database,”
Rygiol says. He maintains several websites that position him
as a go-to agent for people who are relocating and need an
agent. Buyers can fill out a form, and if they’re moving away
from the Irvine area, Rygiol recommends them to a buyer’s
agent elsewhere. For any referral he makes, Rygiol follows
up with both the customer and agent a week later to ensure
contacts were made. Then he adds the agent to his contact
management system. He sends networking e-mails once or
twice a year to his buyer’s agent referral network, highlighting
his experience in case they’re ever able to return the favor.
Don’t forget to ask for referrals from other agents and
customers. In networking situations, Sands says, “you’re not
saying ‘I want your business’ but ‘I would love to have you in
my referral network, and I’d love to be in yours, too.’”
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey