Building a Referral-Machine... A Softer Perspective

Education & Training with Sell with Soul

I read and enjoyed Chris Pollinger's last week's featured post on Building a Referral Machine. It was well-written and obviously quite well-received by the AR crowd. However, being the argumentative sort that I soiam, I'd like to, well, argue!

Actually, I'm not really arguing. Just offering some alternatives. In my years of coaching agents on their own referral-building efforts, I've found that many are uncomfortable with the idea of aggressively pursuing business and referrals from the people they know and the people they meet... so, for you... see how you feel about THESE referral-building philosophies...

Go out in the world with your antenna up... and your business cards in the car
Whenever you leave the house, you have an opportunity to meet someone who could end up being your biggest fan. You NEVER know who that person will be, so smile at everyone, make eye contact, dress for success (doesn't mean you have to dress UP, just leave the sweats and hair curlers at home. You want to feel sexy and sassy when in public, even at Wal-Mart). But never accost a new friend with your business card unless they ask for it.

Never create or even imply any sense of obligation within your relationships.
Contrary to urban myth, pursuing mutually obligatory relationships (a la Business Networking Groups, leads groups, etc.) is not an effective method to building strong referral relationships. Most people do not like to feel obligated to someone else; they'd much rather refer from the heart. I've even heard of agents who ask their clients and even friends to sign a contract agreeing to send a certain number of referrals... blech! BE the agent someone is excited to refer to... and it will happen, promise.

NEVER ask for referrals! 
Never, ever, ever ask/remind/beg/bribe anyone for referrals. I've written extensively on this... for more click here and here and here.

Be the SOURCE for your SOI
Become a resource for your sphere of influence, not necessarily for real estate-specific information, but as The Person Who Knows People. Create a referral directory for common household and personal services. Create a list on your website of People Who Have Done a Good Job for You and post it on your website.

Be a heck of a real estate agent
This is by far the best way to generate referrals... be worthy of them!!!!

Show Your Appreciation for Referrals.
There are two ways to show the people who refer to you that you're delighted with the referral. First, take exceptional care of your new client. The word will get back to the original referrer and will make him feel smart for referring to you. Second, send a nice thank-you note. You don't need to offer any financial reward or give an expensive gift; seriously, you don't. People just want to be appreciated and they didn't send a referral your way to get a free toaster. Just never, ever, ever bribe or advertise any gift or incentive for sending referrals your way - it's unprofessional and hints of desperation.

* * *

Many disagree with my softer, less aggressive approach to generating referrals... but it's worked for me... for years... However, there are many paths to success in a real estate business... choose one that fits your feet and get moving!




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Grant & Lisa Bennett
The Bennett Group - REMAX of Greensboro - Greensboro, NC

Well this a refreshing post. Most everything you mentioned is right in line with what we practice. I don't believe I have ever heard or seen anyone else teach a passive method. I believe yours and Chris' conversation on introvert and extrovert are right on, and there is a way for everyone. Yours just happens to fit us better. Now I need to check out some more of your writings.


Jul 23, 2008 03:16 PM #30
Blake Farley
Real Living Hacienda Realty - Silver City, NM

Love your blog.  I read the Pollinger blog on the same topic and it didn't sit very well with me either. I'm one who is always open to suggestions, but when I hear about those kinds of approaches they feel contrived and unnatural to me.  I knew an agent in my town who got listings all the time because he went to garage sales checking out the people having them who were moving.  I thought about it...briefly, and that approach just felt a little insincere to me. Maybe it's not and maybe he was doing them a great service.  Whatever the case, that approach doesn't work for me and I'm glad to see someone else out there who has new suggestions that feel more natural to how I like to work.  Thanks for your thoughts.  I guess I'll have to read your book now because I ended up spending half an hour reading your blogs and web articles. 

Jul 23, 2008 03:39 PM #31
Dawn Maloney
RE/MAX Trinity Northeast Ohio Real Estate Specialist - Hudson, OH
330-990-4236 Hudson & Northeastern Ohio

You make excellent points, but I just love the thought process behind Chris' Group 100 - people who are willing to refer you and only that is a faithful partner. So far we have Group 2 - he and I would only recommend each other!!! He does IT for business and residential and I'm the resident Realtor(r)!!

Jul 23, 2008 05:12 PM #32
Kathy Anderson
Arizona Luxury & Lifestyle Living - Cave Creek, AZ
Arizona Homes For Sale, Sun City Grand

Jennifer, this is more in line with how I do business as well and it seems to be working nicely.

Jul 23, 2008 05:44 PM #33
Larry Story
Total Care Realty - Greensboro, NC
Total Care Realty, LLC, Greensboro, NC Real Estate


I have never been the hard sell type.  I believe in making and cultivating those relationships.  I don't have to ask for referrals because my clients are more then happy to refer me to anyone out there that they know that needs my services.

Jul 23, 2008 11:34 PM #34
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Larry - it really is that simple, isn't it?

Kathy - Works for me, too... kind of a no-brainer.

Dawn - Mutual referral relationships are great until one side becomes dissatisfied with the other... but until then... go for it!

Blake - I think a sign of maturity in a real estate career is learning to think for yourself.. if something doesn't sound like YOU, be proud that you have the brains to reject it. My personality made this a non-issue - there was no way I could do the things that made me cringe; it simply wasn't gonna happen.

Grant & Lisa - funny, I'm often "accused" of being too passive in my prospecting efforts... but if it's working, why change it?

Jim - Thanks for stopping by!

Bob - Shudder... me neither!

Mana - I agree. When I try to be someone I'm not, I'm positive my discomfort is obvious to everyone.


Jul 23, 2008 11:40 PM #35
Robert Smith


Well thought out post, but I'll take exception to your opinion on Business Networking Groups.  I'll use BNI as an example.  It is not mutually obligatory in nature.  A good Networking group is about building trust and deeper relationships.  At least mine is!

Givng referrals with the impied emphasis that you are only doing this because you expect referrals in return is NOT the way to go!  Refer those you trust because you want your clients to receive exceptional service, dont do it because you want something in return.  You will actually receive less referrals in the long run with this mindset. 

You will find when you refer "from the heart" you will receive!  It's amazing how reciprocity works.  Dont refer others with caveats or strings attached.


Jul 24, 2008 12:36 AM #36
Andrew Kyle
Royal LePage Foothills - Calgary, AB
Calgary Condo Realtor

Very interesting perspective Jennifer.  I love it when someone in the herd has the guts to go in a different direction!

Jul 24, 2008 12:57 AM #37
Sandy Shores FL Realtor®, Melbourne Real Estate
M & M Realty of Brevard Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Brevard County Real Estate, Florida's Space Coast

Hi Jennifer, Loved the post!  So true!  I feel like agents hand out oodles of business card, always expecting something in return.  I love the perspective...I agree!  Keep up the great job.

Jul 24, 2008 02:19 AM #38
Hurst Real Estate & Auction - Morristown, TN

I agree completely with your approach.  Even as a lender we are pushed to ask for referrals from past customers, spheres of influence, realtors, etc.  I hate to look like I am begging for business and agree wtih your stance--do a good job, be worthy of the referrals people send.  Great post!

Jul 24, 2008 02:55 AM #39
Craig Mullikin
Beverly-Hanks & Associates - Lake Lure, NC

A lot of good points and I also argree with being the best you can be and the referrals will follow.

Jul 24, 2008 03:25 AM #40
Karl Burger
ERA Beach Ball Realty - Pensacola, FL
Pensacola Real Estate News

Your approach fits my personality better. I tend to be low key by nature, and I've found many people like me a lot for just that reason. A more out front type person might find the more aggressive approaches work better. But all of your systems seem to fit me better.

Jul 24, 2008 07:56 AM #41
Bethany Phillips, MBA
Fredericksburg, VA

I go with gentle reminders... Just keep reminding people that you are a real estate agent and would like to help their friends, family and coworkers with real estate needs.

Jul 24, 2008 08:21 AM #42
Kat DeLong
LakeView Realty Enterprises, Inc - Lake Arrowhead, CA
Realtor DRE#01235311, Lake Arrowhead Real Estate (

Jennifer:  I'm with you on this one!  I DON'T asking for referrals, though I hear it being preached at most of my office meetings.  I LIKE your approach and, in fact, follow the same the same "rules" myself.  You derserved a "feature." Congrat's!!


Jul 24, 2008 11:14 AM #43
Olan Carder
Fairway Independent Mortgage - Charlotte, NC

I agree with a lot of what you are saying here.  I would say I am in the middle.  I definitely do not believe in pressure sales at all, but I think you will get more referrals by asking people the right questions.  

As a loan officer I ask Realtors about how I can add value or have a chance to speak with more of their clients.  They are typically very open to this and we can talk strategy.  I don't think you say, "Please send me a referral."  I think you can ask without asking directly and that can open people that like and trust you to the idea of referrals.

Olan Carder


Jul 24, 2008 04:00 PM #44
Cyndee Haydon
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
727-710-8035 Clearwater, Beach Short Sales Luxury Condos &Homes

Jennifer - Just got in from 2 glorious weeks in Hawaii to my mail and found my autographed copy of your book - can't wait to dig into more meet - Couldn't agree more with you about asking for referrals. Congrats and keep up the great work!     

Jul 25, 2008 06:06 PM #45
Lindsay Pendleton
Relocating To Baton Rouge & Surrounding Areas - Baton Rouge, LA
Marketing Agent - Property Management in Baton Rou

I was always told to ask for referrals but never do. If my services are good enough, I shouldn't even have to ask. ! :)

Jul 27, 2008 02:12 PM #46
Heather Fitzgerald
REALTY WORLD-Harbert Company, Inc. - Greenwood, IN
REALTOR Greenwood Indiana Real Estate

I agree, and glad for the reminder not to accost friends, I like for things to just flow and not force anything.

Jul 28, 2008 01:48 PM #47
Kim Peasley-Parker
AgentOwned Realty, Heritage Group, Inc. - Sumter, SC

Jennifer-  I love your soft approach.  It is the method I use and it has worked very well for me.


Aug 04, 2008 06:38 AM #48
Sandy Nelson
Riley Jackson Real Estate Inc. - Olympia, WA
your Olympia area Realtor

Hi Jennifer,

I'm currently reading your book and love what you write. I highly recommend it.



Aug 04, 2008 06:43 AM #49
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