You have to constantly fill your customer pipeline and reconnect with past clients to ensure you’re top of mind and your business remains healthy, whether the real estate market is up or down. “There’s no better time than right now” to grow your network, says Holly Mabery, ABR, GRI, a real estate coach and vice president of brokerage operations at eXp Realty in Peoria, Ariz. “Real estate has always been a relationship business, and the opportunity to connect is more critical than ever.”
With home sales lagging and an increase in agent competition for scant listings, many real estate professionals are prioritizing relationship-building to cement customer loyalty and stay ahead of market changes. And clients appreciate the outreach. “As consumer confidence in the real estate market dips, brokers must establish strategic, personal client communication to readjust consumer perceptions,” says Terry Sprague, lead broker at LUXE Forbes Global Properties in Lake Oswego, Ore. “We don’t rely on the technologies that automate viewings or feedback because personal connections are the most important tool for us to learn about a client’s needs.”
Practitioners share several ways to expand the relationship part of your business, which may help you strengthen your position for the next market shift:
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- Check in with past clients. Mabery, also an instructor for several National Association of REALTORS® designation courses, recommends reconnecting with past clients and your sphere over the phone. She suggests a script: “Hey, I was thinking of you and just wanted to see how you and your family are doing. Anything I can do for you?” The extra thoughtfulness of a phone call—as opposed to a text, which can more easily be ignored—can make you stand out from competitors, Mabery says. “With a phone call, they hear your voice and passion and that you care.” If you made five phone calls per day last year, make 15 now, Mabery advises. Triple down on making connections during a market slowdown.
- Create a powerful peer referral network. Look at the markets where new residents in your area tend to relocate from, and build referral partners with agents in those areas, says Nicole “Nikki” Beauchamp, associate broker at Engel & Volkers in New York. These referral networks can earn you extra income: Studies have shown that real estate pros can make up to $50,000 a year in agent-to-agent referral fees alone. One way to build a referral business is to take in-person designation and certification courses—such as ABR, GRI, SRES and others—in markets where people relocating to your area are coming from. and in an area that often has clients relocating into yours. “These courses tend to be very interactive with small groups and can be great for building a network of peers and referrals,” Beauchamp says. Don’t forget to nurture these newly created relationships with thoughtful touches, such as a birthday phone call, Mabery adds. “Look for ways to create a memorable experience with a peer, and they will be more likely to remember you and send you a referral,” she says.
- Build up your “virtual appeal.” “Virtual appeal is the curb appeal” for real estate professionals, Mabery says. One way to beef up your online presence is to create a robust local-centric video library, which could include fun facts about the area, local housing market snapshots or your favorite parks and hiking spots. Mabery also recommends creating videos about the real estate process and leveraging the “power of 3”—for example, “3 tips for hiring a home inspector” or “3 mistakes buyers make when they walk into open houses”—in order to keep your videos short and simple. Share the videos on your social media channels, but link viewers back to your YouTube channel to help make yourself more searchable online, she says.
- Show off your expertise. Social media, podcasts, guest blogging and cross-market Zoom panels can increase your visibility and position you` as the expert in real estate, says Beauchamp. Use housing reports from REALTOR® associations or other real estate companies—but provide local context beyond just a data dump. Throughout your social media, keep it local, Mabery adds. Share what’s happening in the community, such as upcoming farmer’s markets, art or car shows and new restaurant openings. “You will become a resource and the trusted adviser,” Mabery says.
- Try pop-bys. Visit members of your sphere in person, and offer small tokens of appreciation—perhaps a gift with your marketing slogan on it—to help keep you top of mind. After all, a third of consumers say they are more open to connecting with companies that send them gifts, according to a survey from marketing firm Sendoso. Provide a gift card along with a handwritten note, flowers, candles or special treats for holidays and special occasions. Also, don’t forget to treat those who treat you: Holly Styrcula of Huff Realty in Cincinnati offers small gifts of appreciation, such as a branded ice cream scooper or pizza cutter, to anyone who gives her and her team a client referral. Need ideas of your own?
- Expand your “other” network. Don’t just focus on building relationships with other agents; create a vast network of professionals from related industries. Consider joining a local Business Network International chapter or start your own. The groups include representatives from various industries, which could include a real estate agent, home inspector, lender, photographer, insurance agent and contractors for numerous trades. You also can build your “other” network by hosting a joint webinar or event, such as a home buyer seminar with a panel that includes a lender, home inspector and others involved in the homebuying process.
- Host a client appreciation event. Use a party to build up client loyalty and generate warm leads. These can be a great excuse for reconnecting with past clients and thanking them for their business. Real estate pros have planned a range of events, from drive-in movie nights to fall or summer festivals and Academy Award-level dinners.
- Create a contest or offer an incentive. Some real estate professionals have held friendly contests online, such as “guess the list price!” and open house scavenger hunts. Alexandria Reed of Guide Real Estate in Denver told the Drive With NAR podcast how she uses a giveback mindset to foster greater connection. For example, on social media, she may offer to donate a dollar to a local food bank for every like or comment on certain posts. “It serves as something tangible in directly helping the communities that you do business in,” she says.
- Earn a “thank you.” In your conversations with prospects, listen carefully to their problems—whether related to real estate or not—and think of a quick favor you could do for them. Organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant shares the business gratitude approach in his 2014 book, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. He highlighted how a service model—doing a favor with no expectation of anything in return—can pay back dividends. For example, get an estimate from a handyman or painter for a prospect who’s struggling with a renovation, or share recommendations for local restaurants. Studies have shown that salespeople who adopt “extra-role” behaviors create deeper, more long-lasting relationships.