Successful salespeople know their best business comes from their best friends. Past clients, family and close friends are the greatest sources of referrals and repeat business. Yet sometimes these groups need a little help to help us. Here are a few ways how. The number one source of new business in real estate continues to be referrals and repeat business. The best kind of business comes from people who want to see us successful. Most of them don't need a "reward" to help us, either. The pleasure they get from watching us do a great job is all they need. Yet even our best friends and closest allies need to be reminded from time to time how much we appreciate their help. And how much we'd like them to keep helping! Even though we're more connected to our sphere than ever, referrals aren't naturally recurring phenomenon. Beyond using social networks, blogs and tweets to let them know you're "still in the business" or update them on local markets, we need to take specific steps to prepare and encourage your friends to refer business to you. The good news is that we'll be working with people who already like us - past clients, friends and family - so it should be the most pleasurable prospecting you ever have to do. Here's how:
- Teach them how to refer you. Many of our closest supporters are happy to talk about us to their friends. In fact, some of our relatives could talk about us all day - which could become a liability. Teach your contacts how to talk about you when the opportunity arises by incorporating key words, phrases or business terms into your blog postings and other social marketing. Distill key terms into "elevator statements" they can simply repeat when describing you to a friend. Put these "key words" into every blog, email signature or other communication to your sphere - even your old-school voice mail message. Give friends, clients, even other REALTORS the language you want them to say when they talk, tweet or share about you to their friends.
- Equip them to refer you. Make sure they have the right materials to refer you. Start with the basics, like your latest contact information. Make sure your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles are up to date and accurate. Old school: send your friends a few of extra business cards. New school: send them a vCard in Outlook so they can update their contact records instantly (and even forward to friends). Likewise, produce all marketing materials in "referring-friendly" format. Printed materials get lost, are hard to copy and never handy. Make sure everything you say - or want others to repeat - is in "share along" versions like blog content, simple email newsletter, or in helpful tweets that can be re-teweeted. Electronic materials it a snap-click for your friends to refer-forward you to someone they see could use your help.
- Tell them what to expect. Some people hesitate to refer us because they don't know what we'll do to their friends and family. Seriously, they worry that we might inundate them with phone calls, postal mail, email or other pushy tactics. Make sure your allies know how you'll treat their friends: just like them! Outline your referral process, either on your website or in a short video clip. Let them know your approach and style, so they feel confident they are not betraying their friend's trust. By educating your friends and clients on how you approach new business, you can ease their minds and encourage them to make the referral.
- Ask them to refer you. This one seems obvious but it's also least likely to be done. We often take it for granted that our sphere will mention us - or even use us themselves - when the time is right. Yet we frequently hear stories of people who thought "we didn't need their business" or "we were too busy to handle their sale." By actively asking your sphere to refer you, you're not only hoping they will introduce you to new prospects, but reminding them how much you'd appreciate their repeat business. The best way to do this in social media isn't by posting a "please refer me" update but instead, spotlight anyone who refers you (even if it doesn't become business). Publicly praising friends' actions is a great way to encourage them (and others) to do them again.
- Incorporate passive options. Some friends or clients may still hesitate to actively refer you, even if you did a great job for them. It's just not in their nature or comfort zone. They can still help you in other ways, like creating a testimonial. The most powerful testimonials are video clips, but if they are shy, a written testimonial is still great. The best outcome would be if they would write it directly onto your Facebook Wall or using the LinkedIn "Recommendations" features.
- Close the loop. The last step of encouraging your friends and family to refer you is to follow up afterwards. Let them know what happened when you contacted their friend or co-worker. They will now be prepared for the next time they meet that person and ask how it went. Plus, it's another chance to thank them for helping you build your business. And don't forget, sometimes this can happen "offline" with a nice handwritten note.