Referrals are the lifeblood of a real estate agent’s business. But if you’re a new agent, starting out, you might be at a loss as to how to get referrals.
They don’t happen by accident. You need to build a referral strategy and then execute it regularly.
Below, you’ll find the fundamentals for building a thriving referral-based business.
Consider All Potential Resources
Friends, family, and past clients are all logical targets for referral requests. They aren’t the only resources, though.
You should also consider:
Other Real Estate Pros
The real estate industry is full of self-employed professionals who also work on referral. Networking and building relationships with other professionals can generate leads for you both. This includes inspectors, appraisers, lenders, mortgage brokers, construction companies, and more. Build connections with the professionals you encounter, especially those who are great at their job. Go to trade shows and industry events. Establish yourself as an authority with other professionals. Consider who might interact with potential clients for your target base and go from there. And educate yourself on how to network successfully.
Every property owner is going to need repairs, upgrades, and remodels at some point. Sometimes, that work begins right away. Building relationships with people who provide services to existing homeowners can be valuable for both of you.
Local Entrepreneurs & Businesses
Networking with local businesses or vendors outside the real estate community can bring a whole new source of business and referrals. They’re plugged into your community in different ways than you are, and you can build mutually beneficial relationships.
Other People in Your Day-to-Day Life
If you have kids, hobbies, or volunteer in your community, you have access to more potential referral pools. Just tread lightly here—unlike the other groups on this list, you aren’t offering direct reciprocation. You’re asking for a favor. A light touch is best. Wait until they know you and trust you or they mention someone who might benefit from your services.
As you can see, there are a lot of angles you can take for building a referral network. The more of them you work, the better. But if you’re just starting out, pick one or two pools to focus on and build a routine. You can expand your referral plan later.
We suggest starting with existing clients and other real estate professionals. Those are natural connections and building those relationships will have many other benefits.
This should go without saying, but you can’t go without saying: “I would really appreciate you recommending me to your friends and family.” You won’t get many referrals if people don’t know that you need them. Of course, there’s a time and a place. You’ll have more success if you:
Ask the Right People
Obviously, you shouldn’t ask clients that aren’t happy with your services. You want to target people who know and trust you, value your judgment, or have seen your expertise at your job.
Ask at the Right Time
With clients, wait until a bow has been tied on their transaction or they mention how amazing you are. With professionals and business owners, you can bring it up fairly early on, but build a rapport first. With others, wait until it comes up organically. Maybe they ask how the business is going or mention their friend is getting married. In all cases, you don’t want to push or bring it up too often.
Ask the Right Way
Be direct. Don’t hint or beat around the bush. You want to be polite and respectful, but you do need to come out and ask.
Provide the Right Resources
If you have a particular niche, let them know what kind of clientele you can help. And always leave behind one or two business cards. Don’t give them a whole stack unless they ask—you don’t want them to feel like you expect too much from them.
Show Your Appreciation.
Thank the person when they give you a referral, then follow up later to let them know how it’s going. Even if the lead doesn’t work out, you should express appreciation that they thought of you and passed your name on. Otherwise, they won’t keep doing it. If someone sends you multiple referrals, consider giving them a token of your gratitude or doing something nice in return.
Keep in Touch & Provide Value
You don’t want to be the schmuck who only calls when you need a favor. Nurture your relationships and check in periodically.
The time commitment and context will vary by relationship and value as a referrer. Know who warrants a casual face-to-face, who rates a phone call, and who can simply be part of your email marketing strategy.
No matter what medium, you should always provide value with every communication. Sometimes this value is just a human connection—texting to say you heard they were sick and wishing them well, for example. Holiday cards are another classic example.
More often, though, it should be something tangible:
All those professionals you’ve built relationships with? Send them referrals when it’s appropriate. This provides value to them and to the person you’re referring. Drop a note after you refer someone so they know who might reach out and that you’re actively sending them business. They’ll want to reciprocate. Note that you should focus cross-promotion on individuals whose work you know and trust. Referring people to someone that disappoints them will damage your credibility.
Provide Helpful Information
People will learn to open your emails if you consistently provide quality information that is relevant to them. You can write the content yourself or simply link to other sources. Divide clients by criteria like where they are in their homeownership journey. Divide professional contacts by career. Then cultivate and target content that is most helpful to each group. Provide maintenance tips to new homeowners and tips for preserving resale value to those who have already settled in. Think outside the box. Let people know about community events and professional development opportunities. Recommend podcasts or YouTube channels they might find helpful. Whatever it is, build a schedule to keep each individual engaged.
If this “providing value” business sounds like a lot of work…well, it is. It’s also incredibly effective:
- Regular communication keeps you at the front of people’s minds so that they remember you when someone needs your services.
- Providing value keeps them positively engaged (and keeps them from sending you to spam).
- Quality content builds you up as an expert in their minds. You aren’t just in it for the sale, you’re a source of advice.
- According to a study by the Content Counsel, 78% of consumers believe providing content means that you care about building good relationships. And 61% say it makes them feel better about your brand.
- Content marketing generates three times as many leads as other types of marketing.
- Why not just blast this helpful content out on social media? One analysis found that email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.
Be Excellent at Your Job
Of course, the best way to build your referral business is to provide high-quality service to your clientele. Let your clients know what to expect from you and then follow through. Provide perspective to temper any unrealistic expectations and provide advice in any area they need it. Don’t bluff on what you don’t know—you’ll damage their trust. Instead, keep up-to-date on your continuing education, read up on relevant topics, and become a Googling master. Clients who see your dedication will want their loved ones to benefit from your expertise, too.