I am convinced one reason real estate agents fail in this business is they do not stay in touch with their past clients on an ongoing basis. We work extremely hard in our prospecting efforts to procure buyers and sellers, but we do very little to make sure they remember us after the transaction closes. Why?
I believe we become too involved in taking care of current prospects, clients, and transactions, and forget the importance of staying in touch with those whom we served in the past and who will more than likely need our services in the future.
A year or two into this business I learned the importance of staying in touch with clients. One Saturday morning, I was driving in a Nashville neighborhood where I assisted a young couple a year earlier purchase their first home. As I passed their home, I saw a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. Sadly, it was not one of my signs. I was shocked and very disappointed. Why didn’t they call me? Didn’t they know I was their agent? Apparently, not. Why would they use someone else? The reason was simple. I did not stay in touch with them after they moved into their home. It was my fault.
According to the 2018 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, only 12 percent of buyers and sellers use the agent who represented them in their last real estate transaction. That means 88 percent did not. This statistic confirms the fact the majority of real estate professionals have become “stealth” agents and disappear from their past client’s radar and find themselves “out of sight, out of mind.”
I believe it is vital agents regularly stay connected with their clients after everyone leaves the title attorney’s closing table. A good client appreciation program including periodic mailings, telephone calls, emails, in-person “drop by” visits, etc. will ensure you stay in front of clients on an ongoing basis.
Clients are the number one source for referrals – especially past clients! These folks are in the best position to refer a buyer or seller because they experienced the service and attention their agent provided them when they sold or purchased a home. Ongoing relationships with clients allows the referral pipeline to flow on a consistent basis.
Remembering your client’s birthdays and anniversaries as well as births of children, job promotions, and other special occasions will be remembered by them. This is a great way to let them know you still care about them and are always available if they ever need you. Put a reminder system in place in your contact management program or calendar so you know when you should reach out to a past client.
Here are eight inexpensive ways you can stay in front of your clients and prospects to prevent from becoming a stealth agent:
Develop a post-closing, one-year follow-up program for your clients. You spent a considerable amount of time – possibly weeks, months, or years - with a client assisting them in selling their property or finding their next home. The relationship you developed during your time together is the foundation for an ongoing association and becoming a trusted source for everything relating to real estate. An active one-year client follow-up program of handwritten notes, telephone calls, face-to-face contacts, and miscellaneous client appreciation mailings will tell your client you have not forgotten about them. You should have each client “touch point” on a precise schedule and spaced apart, so it doesn’t inundate them but keeps your name in front of them. I tried to “touch” my clients every thirty to forty-five days in the first year after they closed on their home.
Host a “client gratitude dinner” in your home or local restaurant. People love to eat! Why not bring a group of your clients together for dinner around your dining room table or at your favorite restaurant? A meal is an excellent way for you to show your appreciation to each of them for allowing you to be their one and only REALTOR®. It is also an opportunity for clients to get to know one another and build new friendships. Remember, they all have something in common - YOU! I would encourage you to consider holding two to three of these dinners throughout the year.
Sponsor a local youth sports team. One of the best ways to get your name in front of clients and prospects is through the sponsorship of a local youth sports team. I discovered many years ago, having my name on a banner or t-shirt of a youth T-ball or soccer team is a good investment. Your name and logo on uniforms, t-shirts, signs, fence banners and other collateral materials are very effective for brand recognition. Your support also creates goodwill for you and your brokerage in the community. You may want to think about sponsoring a couple of teams during the year – one in the summer and one in the winter, so your name and brand remain consistently visible to those who might consider utilizing your services.
Invite a past client or someone in your sphere of influence (SOI) to coffee. A cup of coffee (or some other favorite beverage) is a cheap way to have a face-to-face meeting. The local coffee shop provides me with an excellent opportunity to sit down and spend some quality time with a past client, prospect, or “referring” friend. Also, more times than not, I usually run into someone else I know in my sphere during a coffee meeting. Over the years, I’ve received many buyer and seller referrals from past clients, friends, and colleagues over coffee. The return on a small investment for a “cup of Joe” can be tremendous if it leads to a prospective seller or buyer in your business pipeline.
Write several handwritten notes each day to clients and prospects. I believe one of the most impactful and least expensive ways to deepen a relationship with a client or prospect is to send them a handwritten, personal note. Handwritten notes are always read, and they leave a lasting impression with the person who reads them. Your note does not need to be too long. It can be two to three brief sentences expressing your appreciation for the relationship between you and the client or prospect. Many times, I will attach to a note an interesting magazine or newspaper article I want the client to read; a recent comparative market analysis of their home for them to review; or a favorite recipe from my wife for them to try. The message in a handwritten note can be almost anything. And, don’t forget to include your business card!
Call five to ten prospects or past clients every business day. The telephone is a fantastic and accessible communication tool. Unfortunately, we do not utilize it as much as we did in years past. Email and texting have become the preferred choice for many today – especially the younger generations. The messages contained within these electronic methods are limited and take a certain amount of time to compose. On the other hand, a telephone call can convey information in a much more personalized way. Hearing a live voice on the other end of the line allows for better and clear communication as well as numerous opportunities for subjects on which to discuss. I always enjoy checking in with clients and prospects to see how they and their family are doing. Also, it is another chance for me to ask if they know of anyone who might be considering selling or purchasing a home.
Plan personal “drop-by” visits to clients and top tier prospects around holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries carrying an item of value. The best way to have a steady stream of referrals is to consistently deliver an item of value on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions to your current and past clients as well as your “A-list” prospects. These visits provide you with a few minutes to speak with the person and catch up on what is happening in their lives. I always receive a positive response when I deliver flowers at Easter, a box of sparklers on July 4th, a pumpkin in early October, or a small poinsettia at Christmas to those who have worked with me in the past, in the future, or who may provide me with a referral. A cupcake or special sweet treat on birthdays and anniversaries are always remembered and can demonstrate the importance of the relationship you have with your client. People appreciate the gesture of these small tokens of acknowledgment and are more likely to contact you if they need to sell or purchase a home or know of someone who needs a top-notch REALTOR®.
Host a neighborhood block party. Everyone likes a party! Grilling out hamburgers and hot dogs for those in your neighborhood or farm area(s) is a great way to bring people together. These events can be done very economically and without too much work. In your invitation, ask everyone to bring their favorite dish to share as well as a lawn chair or two. Go to your local discount or party store to purchase an assortment of drinks, condiments, plates, napkins and other items for the party. Have personal promotion pieces on hand that will keep your name in front of everyone for an extended period. Several weeks before the event, order some plastic tumbler cups or foam koozies with your name, logo, or brand printed on them. Consider providing custom imprinted Frisbees or small footballs for the kids to enjoy while the parents socialize. And, make sure they know you are in real estate and are never too busy for their referrals! Block parties can become annual events and, if done well, can lead to new business and friendships.
Make it a priority in your daily prospecting activity to connect with a previous seller or buyer client. Stay in front of them on a regular basis as you never know when they or someone they know may need your services. You always want to be the “REALTOR® for life” for your clients. Good follow-up after the sale will make this happen! Don’t be a stealth agent!
John Giffen is Director of Broker Operations for Benchmark Realty, LLC in Tennessee. He is the author of “Do You Have a Minute? An Award-Winning Real Estate Managing Broker Reveals Keys for Industry Success.”