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How to Build Your Referral Network Your Way

As an agent, referrals you receive are a key barometer of your success, and the number of referrals you send and receive can turn a good year into a great year. Unfortunately, many agents don’t track their referral sources — nor do they actively include generating more referrals into their regular business and marketing planning.

Based on our proven track record at ReferralExchange, below are five ways to identify and grow your referral business.

1. Identify three to five friends or family members who know a lot of people. We all have friends, family members or current/past clients who seem to have a huge social network, and these individuals can be a great source of referral business for you. I was recently invited to a “shopping party” at one such friend’s house, and I always try to do some “gentle networking” at these types of events. By the end of the afternoon, I’d made several great connections to follow up with.

How to get business: If they’re a past or current client, ask for a testimonial. If they’re a friend or family member, let them know that you can help them — or their friends — with any of their real estate needs. Make sure they’re on your holiday card/email list so your real estate expertise stays top of mind.

2. Take advantage of not-so-chance encounters. People you meet seemingly at random can be a great source of business as well, but it’s important to plan for them in advance. One agent in our network commits to handing out five business cards per day. She won’t allow herself to come home until she’s handed out those business cards.

How to get business: Have your ice-breaking opening lines ready to go to initiate a conversation. At that recent shopping party, I made my connections by simply saying, “I can be casually dressed at work, but when I speak or attend conferences, I have to dress up.” This prompted people ask what I did for a living. Make sure you wear a logo-branded item when you’re out and about, so that someone can see it and ask, “Are you in real estate?” Offer them your business card if they have questions or want to keep in touch.

3. Maximize your professional, business or service contacts. These types of contacts are indispensable to our work and personal lives — and they can all significantly help your business, as they have a good read on the community and know just about everyone. When we moved to our first home in Northern California with our newborn daughter, our agent gave us a list of local pediatricians, dentists, kid-friendly restaurants, etc. That list stayed on our refrigerator for the entire year, until she sent us an updated version with her holiday card.

How to get business: Ask these contacts for coupons or discount opportunities to distribute with your listing or buyer presentations, client gifts or open houses. Regularly ask them for business, and be sure to refer back in kind. Consider placing a candy jar in their offices, and then periodically drop in to refill it and stay top of mind.

4. Get more involved with the associations, groups or organizations that you are a member of. People like to work with people like themselves, and will always try to find common ground. Garnering referral business from associations or groups that you’re a member of provides you with a “warm entry.” I once coached an agent who loved to surf, and we made that the core of his local business development efforts. He placed ads in his club’s newsletter, sponsored surf events and gave away free surf wax branded with his contact information.

How to get business: Find relevant ways to get involved that showcase your expertise. Host real estate seminars targeted to your group’s interest. For example, if you’re a member of a wine group, host a tasting alongside a seminar on the value of remodeling a kitchen. Or if there are vineyards located nearby, host a seminar on second homes/vacation properties. You can even consider making a donation to your preferred charity/organization for every closed transaction.

5. Identify three friends/family members/former colleagues who live in different cities or states. Your sphere of influence is a great source of referral business, but consider expanding it to cover outside of your market or beyond your immediate contacts. Most referral networks, mine included, provide you with a pool of colleagues and connections in different areas so that you can help anyone anywhere. We have an agent who gets referrals from friends of friends and family members simply because she let them know she’s part of a nationwide referral network and can help them find an agent no matter where they’re located

How to get business: Make sure everyone in your sphere — and expanded sphere — knows what you do. Post fun real estate stories on your social channels. If you have to send an extended family email (perhaps you’re coordinating a family reunion), be sure to do it from your work email, with your work signature. Make sure you include what your occupation is in your social profiles. And, be sure to let them know that you’re part of a nationwide network and can help them even if they aren’t local.

Making a commitment to grow your referral business doesn’t have to be hard or overwhelming. You simply need to look to your extended life and activities and then take action. Be sure to track any of the activities that you do so that you can determine which ones are the most effective. Start with one or two to see how they work and add more as time and resources permit.

ReferralExchange matches your clients with 3 great agents and pays you a 25% referral fee at closing. Learn more at

Guest post by Lisa Fettner, VP of Marketing, ReferralExchange


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