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I'M GOING TO BURN ONE OF MY POSTS FOR THE WEEK TO TALK ABOUT MAKING REFERRALS, ACCEPTING REFERRALS, WORKING WITH REFERRALS AND GENERALLY MANAGING INCOMING AND OUTGOING REFERRALS.
This post is inspired by a post by Sky Realty. This subject is near and dear to my heart due to the fact that I work with a network of wonderful Maryland and Virginia real estate agents and brokers who kindly accept my buyer referrals as a major percentage of their business, and mine. I also refer to agents and brokers to develop the relationship where I can make more referrals. So far this year, I've made about 300 buyer referrals.
My intention was to post the below comment to the Sky Realty post, but, as often happens, the thoughts went on and on and it became just too much for a "comment".
THE COMMENT NOT POSTED WAS: I suggest that agents who live by voice mail will not get referrals from me. That might not matter to much to them because, after all, there is LOTS AND LOTS OF BUSINESS OUT THERE TODAY and agents who live by voice mail obviously have more business than they can handle and don't need to get my call.
When I have a buyer referral and call an agent, I do NOT leave a message because I have a buyer sitting by waiting for an agent to call. If I don't get someone to call them back quickly, THE BUYER WHO IS SITTING AT THEIR COMPUTER will likely tire of waiting and just continue their search for help and is likely to find another agent. After all, they found me on the Internet, why couldn't they find another agent? Fact is, they can and will.
This doesn't take a RHODES SCHOLAR TO FIGURE OUT.
WHO ARE OUR REFERRAL AGENTS? Agents and brokers to whom I refer buyers, and an occassional seller, or buyer with a home to sell, are all experienced and, just as important, nice folks. I know their personality and I know their experience. That is already done. I know their track record. I know their dedication to helping consumers of real estate services.
Agents left are some of the wonderful referral agents that accept my referrals.
Most of my referrals go to brokers I've known for some time and have a record of success helping my buyer referrals. One broker in Northern Virginia sells between 30 to 60 of my referrals each year and has done so since 1999. Others are former agents in my brokerage who "graduated" and, after getting their own broker license and opening their own company still receive most of their business from my buyer referrals. I value these agents and brokers and go to them first with a buyer referral because:
They answer their cell phone.
They make contact with the buyer almost immediately.
They sell my referrals.
They give me regular feedback.
They pay me the agreed referral fee.
Obviously, if I try regularly and an agent doesn't answer their phone, they go to the bottom of my list for that area. If I get calls from a buyer that the agent who was supposed to contact them did not, I know for the future that the agent isn't interested in buyer referrals. If I make several referrals and there are no successful sales, I know that, either my buyers are not given good service or the agent isn't paying me.
If the agents accept referrals and don't provide feedback about progress, I eventually drop their name because it appears that they are not partners. Agents who do not provide feedback don't get referrals. This has always given me a chuckle. Agents will provide detailed, regular feedback to relocation companies to whom they are paying 30-40% of their commission, but don't believe that feedback is important when the referral fee is only 20% and there is no paperwork involved.
Referral Business Is Good Business. Not only that, the agent doesn't have to use any capital to generate the buyer business and they don't have to pay the referral fee until settlement. But, agents neglect this valuable source of business regularly. Referring agents are taken for granted, perhaps because they are so easy. "Gee, all I have to do is answer my phone and Lenn sends me a good buyer." I had an agent a few years back who eventually went on to get her broker's license who remarked once to a question about her busines, "It's easy, I answer my phone and Lenn sends me money." The operative part there is "answer my phone". Until the agent answers the phone, they don't know whether I'm sending a $200,000 buyer or a $1,000,000 buyer. I don't keep high priced buyers to sell myself because that's not my job. I sell a few new homes, but I do not work resale buyers. I send everything to our agent/broker partners.
Lastly, pay me the agreed referral fee. If our agreement is a 20% for sales over $200,000, don't send me 10% on a $600,000 sale and a promise of more money in the future. Saving $1,800 on a referral fee is a Pyrrhic victory. I'm not interested in telling folks how to run their business, but if agents accept referrals, they should respect the referring agent that works very hard to get the buyer business. Otherwise, don't take referrals.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Don't be a secret agent. Be available for contacts from agents and brokers who make referrals (that would be me). My process for contacting agents and brokers to inquire about whether an agent wishes to accept a buyer referral is:
1. Call the cell phone number. I call the cell phone number first because many agents these days really use their cell phone number of record as their main business contact. If I don't get an answer, I DO NOT LEAVE A MESSAGE. What? No message? NO, NO MESSAGE. I have a buyer waiting for an agent to call to arrange a meeting, tour a home, get information about an area, generally find an agent. Leaving a message isn't going to help that buyer waiting for a call. I don't know when my message will be retrieved. I don't know when the agent will be returning phone calls. I don't even know if the agent is in town. WHAT GOOD IS LEAVING A MESSAGE??
2. Call the agent's office number of record. They may be in the office, or the office may be able to link directly to the agent. However, I do NOT go to voice mail to leave another message. I know they're not in their office so leaving a message is just having two messages out there. Still doesn't tell me when the agent will call.
3. Start looking for another agent. Go to my "Referral Agents" roster and start going through my list to begin calling other agents.
HELP ME OUT. If you're going to be away for vacation for a few days, send me an e-mail or phone call. Of course, you don't have to. But, if I call and find a person is on vacation, all I can say is "Thanks a lot".
NO SECRET BUYERS PLEASE - I don't make buyer referrals unless the buyer has provided a name, phone number, location and price range. If the buyer contacts me by phone, I may not have an e-mail address. The agent can get that because writing e-mail addresses is risky. If the buyer contacts me by e-mail, I work the lead until I get a phone number and THEN I'll send it to an agent. Obviously the referral will have specified the location and price range because a lot of the contacts came from our CONTACT form which asks for the above information. If the buyer has contacted me by phone, I'm going to engage them and get more and more information about their needs, all which helps the referral agent. But, I need to speak with the agent to impart buyer information that will help that agent make a sale.
Of course, if your business is good and you don't need buyer referrals, just don't answer your phone.
UPDATE Sat. a.m. : Several comments have been posted by members who are not in my market area. I'm a licensed broker in Maryland and Virginia. Buyers that I'm referrring to agents and brokers have contacted me from my web sites. I have had a strong Internet presence since 1995. But, it is focused on generating business, home buyers interested in Maryland and Northern Virginia. I don't want to mislead anyone to thinking that I have a supply of referrals for other areas, I do not. However, my experience with local agents who live on voice mail is fully transferrable to other areas and other agents and brokers.
From time to time, I will have a friend, local home owner who is relocating and asks me for a referral to a buyer's agent in other areas. In that case, I would contact serveral agents/brokers, make sure they are experienced and qualified to help the buyer referral and make a referral. In the past 11 months that I've been a member of Active Rain, I've made 5 out of my area referrals. So, that is not a large segment of my business and not the focus of this post. Active Rain is a wonderful resource for referrals.
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.