June 14, 2016
9 Creative Ways to Jumpstart Your Referral LeadGen Engine
When you first start out in the real estate business, you won’t have any clients. You might not even have any leads. You need to build your pipeline with business opportunities quickly – but doing so can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are new to the sales profession.
These challenges are behind the statistic that says 87% of real estate agents will last less than five years in the business. Simply put, there is only so long you can stay in business when you are not closing business and depositing commission checks.
To beat these odds, you need to learn how to generate leads by referral. Referrals are the least expensive way to find new business; for new agents, they are a critical way to overcome some of the disadvantages and inexperience that you will be struggling with as a new agent. Referrals can also serve as an important reminder that no one becomes successful alone. Lasting success comes from supporting and being supported by others.
So how do you go about getting those referrals flowing? Read on to find out.
Build your database. One of the most important tools for success in real estate is to have a strong database. Your database is everyone you know or have worked with; all these names should be managed in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system so that you can track conversations and contacts by phone, email or postcard. Some members of your database are part of your sphere of influence – advocates with whom you will be in frequent, personal contact. Others might be acquaintances. However you divide them up, a good system for keeping track of them will be the foundation of your success.
Make a big announcement. One of the biggest obstacles to being a successful real estate agent is remaining a “secret agent.” A secret agent is one who doesn’t tell anyone that they’re in the real estate business. So, after you put your database together, your very next step should be to notify everyone in your database that you’ve gone into real estate. Some offices provide postcards to help you spread the news; you could also send an email announcement right from KarmaCRM. You could even put a press release in the local paper. The main thing is to make sure you spread the word, personally if at all possible. This is called “warming the leads” and will set the stage for the next step – getting in contact with your sphere.
Meet with everyone in your Sphere of Influence. Your Sphere is made up of people who are your biggest advocates and want to see you be successful. They might be friends, family, past co-workers, or people from your church. They are people with whom you can be honest and who will be honest with you. Your goal for your first month or two in business is to meet personally, face-to-face, with every single one of these people and make them part of your success. That first in-person meeting can open doors to talk about how your business is going and let them know how they can help you succeed by referring people who need help buying or selling real estate to you.
Stick to the script. One of the biggest challenges many agents have about getting business by referral is that they don’t feel comfortable asking. Your long-term success in real estate depends on getting over this discomfort. The best way to get comfortable is to develop a referral script and to make it a part of every conversation. Many people in your Sphere may have questions about your business, so consider what you want to say to them in advance. You could talk about your business goals and the kinds of clients you’d like to attract, and then simply ask if they know anyone who fits that description. This is basically what developing a script is all about: anticipating questions with thoughtful answers.
Talk about FORD with your Sphere of Influence. No, we’re not advocating talking about American-made muscle cars (although they are an awesome topic if that is what you or your contacts want to discuss). FORD in this case stands for “Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams.” Asking your prospects about these topics is how you learn what matters to, and motivates, your Sphere. It also opens up the conversation to talking about your own FORD; these conversations can naturally turn toward referrals. Maybe your Sphere member tells you about the big promotion they’re trying to earn; you, in turn, might tell them that your goal for your first year in business is to earn “Rookie agent of the year” for your office. The goal of FORD conversations is to look for opportunities to help each other be successful – asking for referrals can be a natural part of this.
Remember you have to give to get. Of course, asking for referrals without being obnoxious is an art that takes a while to master. That’s why it’s important to remember the old adage, “you have to give to get.” Think about how you can help others and learn what is important to them. What are their goals? What challenges do they face? Talking about FORD, you’ll learn the answers to these questions and be positioned to offer help in the form of advice, referrals or just a listening ear. This kind of giving is a great way to earn the right to ask for referrals when you haven’t yet earned your stripes as an agent.
Build a referral list. Continuing on with the idea of giving to get, one of the most powerful tools you can leverage as a new agent is your ability to develop a list of fellow business owners in your database and sphere, to whom you can provide referrals. Think about it: everybody needs something. In your conversations, you’ll learn a lot about what people need, both in real estate and in other aspects of their life. Listen carefully and help with referrals to people you know and trust. If someone is looking for a plumber and you give them a name, it makes the conversation a lot more natural when it turns to asking if they or anyone they know is planning to buy or sell a home. It’s also important that whenever possible, you also should work with the people on your list. If a member of your sphere sells life insurance, try to utilize his or her services yourself if possible.
Expand your network. Through your conversations with people in your network, you will find that you know many people, and you’re a valuable resource to help them find each other. However, there will likely be needs you can’t fill with your existing database, so it’s important to continue expanding your network – become a more valuable resource for the people in your sphere. Ultimately, your goal is to be the go-to person anytime someone has a question about anything even remotely related to real estate, whether it’s a plumber or carpet cleaner, to an insurance dealer or mortgage broker. To do this, it’s important to always be meeting new people and to think about how to connect each person with others in your database.
Be a person of value. Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a man of success. Rather, strive to be a person of value.” Referrals come when you are in positive relationships with people; positive relationships happen when you provide value. Always consider how you can add value to your relationships and help others to meet their goals, and you will usually find that others help you reach yours in return.
Being successful at generating referrals depends to a large degree on leveraging an important part of human nature – our innate desire to help others. Scientists and anthropologists have found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, humans are altruistic. We want to see members of our “tribe” succeed. Use this human tendency to your advantage by helping others whenever you can, and giving people the opportunity to help you generate leads by referral.