It occurs to me that running an SOI* business is a lot like dating. I'm thankfully no longer in the dating world, but I remember it well. Trying to figure out where Mr. Right might be hanging out that day. Pondering who among my friends would give me that magic referral to the man who was The One. Trying to find the elusive balance between approachable friendliness... and aloof-hard-to-get-ness. The roller coaster ride of euphoric highs followed by crushing lows.
When you're dating, you're bombarded with advice. Such as... it's a good idea for a marriage-minded woman to ask a man on the first date if he's similarly-inclined. If no, NEXT! If you see children in your future, you should make sure every man you have coffee with feels the same way. Before the second cup. How about announcing to all your friends that you are now Single and Available, and demand that they find you a mate?
Of course, there is the other camp which tells women to take the hard-to-get game to the extreme. Never return phone calls, never change your plans to meet a man on short notice, and never discuss the future.
When you begin your SOI business (that is, generating business and referrals from the Very Important People Who Know You), you are also given all sorts of advice, most of which makes no sense if you evaluate it from your gut. You are told to tell everyone you meet that you sell real estate and that you Love Referrals. Over and over again. That you should remind your friends constantly of that fact. That you should push your business card on anyone within shouting distance. That you should categorize your friends in order of importance - that is, how likely they are to refer to you - and socialize with them accordingly.
In short, PUSH your agenda on your SOI instead of allowing things to unfold and develop naturally.
If you interrogate a typical guy about his plans for your future together on your first (or tenth) date, he'll likely run for the hills regardless of his feelings on the matter. The same thing will probably happen if you assault every new acquaintance with your business card and elevator speech.
If you beg your friends to play matchmaker, they may silently wonder why you're so desperate, and be unwilling to subject their USDA Prime Choice male friends to that desperation (after all, matchmaking often backfires on the matchmaker!). Just like when you beg your friends for referrals (er, sorry, frequently remind them), they may question your professionalism and wonder why you don't already have all the business you need. Yeah, people do think this way, don't you?
Of course, there's that fine line between enthusiastically letting your SOI know you're open for business ... and putting your friends on the spot, both in your professional and your personal life. Finding that balance may be an ongoing struggle, but here are some tips:
- Don't attend a party or function with the sole intent of handing out your business cards. Attend with the idea that you will meet lots of nice people, and may have enough rapport with a few to pursue a relationship. Leave your business cards in the car and just relax.
- If a friend hasn't referred you, after your repeated requests that she do so, there may be a reason. Drop it - if you want to keep the friendship alive.
- Wait for people to ask you what you do for a living. Answer enthusiastically and see if there's any interest. If not, talk about the weather or the yummy shrimp kabobs.
- Don't send a letter to your SOI simply asking for referrals. In fact, don't ask for referrals at all. There are much better ways to get that point across than flat-out asking.
- Your friends will be happy to refer you (or hire you) if you seem to be a Reasonably Competent Human Being who enjoys selling real estate. You can't tell people this, you have to show them. Show up on time (with a smile on your face!), return phone calls promptly and do what you say you're going to do.
- Don't ever whine about the real estate market. To anyone. Ever.
Being a positive, upbeat, confident person who believes in her heart that She's All That will attract plenty of business from both friends and strangers.
Oh, and this strategy works well with men, too.
Stay tuned for Part Two of SOI and the Single Gal...
*SOI = Sphere of Influence = People Who Know You
The Daily Seduction
Tips & Inspirations to Generate Business from the Very Important People Who Know You!
copyright Jennifer Allan 2007