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Thoughts about real estate, referrals, technology and big data.

Whether stuck in traffic or on the treadmill at the gym, chances are you’ve listened to a podcast at least once. In today’s digital world, they’re more popular than ever and according to 2018 Edison Research, “monthly listeners grew from 24% of Americans 12+ to 26% year over year.”

Our VP of Marketing Lisa Fettner recently interviewed Bill Risser, VP of Digital Strategy at Fidelity National Title and Founder/Host of The Real Estate Sessions Podcast to discuss all things podcasting.

If you’re considering starting your own podcast, below are a few tips from Bill to keep in mind:

  • Starting your own podcast is easier than ever. Bill recommends the podcast hosting site anchor.fm as an easy solution for agents to get started. All you need is your phone and the Anchor app – it’s really that simple.
  • Create a website for your podcast and use social media to drive traffic back to it. If you interview a guest on your podcast, ask them to share and promote it to their network to expand your reach.
  • Tap into your specific market knowledge and create content through podcasting by consistently sharing unique tips and best practices.
  • Keep your podcasts short and sweet. Bill recommends keeping them 5 to 10 minutes in length and producing them once a week or monthly – it’s all about being consistent.
  • Search key words in your podcast app (e.g., real estate, real estate marketing) to find related podcasts for inspiration.
  • When starting your own podcast, it’s as simple as getting started and sticking with it.

Click above to watch the full interview.

Want more time to build relationships that grow your business? ReferralExchange verifies your leads and referrals, contacts and gives them back to you when they’re ready to transact, and matches those clients outside of your area, price point or property type with three great agents.

The real estate business is unpredictable. One minute you’re riding high with three signed offers and the next, you’ve lost a major, career-making deal.

In today’s market, it’s more critical than ever to leave no stone unturned by strategically managing your referrals and leads. As an agent, time is money and spending it following up on bad phone numbers and email addresses is not the best use of your energy.

If any of the below scenarios apply to you, it may be time to rethink how you manage your referrals and lead flow to take your business to the next level this year.

You’re generating more leads from your online marketing than you or your team can handle.
It sounds like a good problem to have, but buying or generating hundreds or thousands of leads each month can be overwhelming and a total waste if you don’t have an efficient process to manage them. 

The leads you purchase don’t always have the correct contact information.
We’ve all gotten them before: bad phone numbers and email addresses like britneyspears21@hotmail.com. Pure junk. Having a system or service in place that can help you track and weed out the good from the bad can save you a significant amount of time and money in the long run. 

You don’t have time to properly follow up and evaluate your lead flow.
Prioritizing and managing when and how many times you’ve contacted a lead can be chaotic and frustrating. Implementing a process that will inform you of which leads are real, right and ready to transact will ensure you don’t miss those hot leads who are ready to transact right away.  

You have leads, clients or contacts who don’t match your price range, specialization or market area.
If you generate leads outside your market, have a family member relocating to another state or a friend that wants to buy outside the price range you specialize in, you can still help them by connecting them with a trusted agent in your network.

You are retiring or going part-time, but would like to continue generating income from your network.
Just because you’re retiring doesn’t mean you can’t continue assisting the database of clients you’ve grown over your career with their real estate needs. Utilizing your referral network not only allows you to assist an old client, but also earns you a referral fee at the same time—it’s a win-win. 

You have personal referrals you want to place with a proven agent.
As an agent today, you must be the local expert with global connections. Your clients and sphere expect you to be the “go-to real estate resource.” Being part of a nationwide referral network enables you to do just that.

Want more time to build relationships that grow your business? ReferralExchange verifies your leads and referrals, contacts and gives them back to you when they’re ready to transact, and matches those clients outside of your area, price point or property type with three great agents.

Written by Lisa Fettner

Nearly every agent has experienced the frustration of dealing with third-party/online leads. While they can be an incredible source of business, there’s no denying that online lead generation is out of control.

In many cases, a prospect is simply researching information about their property or is at the very start of the home buying or selling process. And, when coupled with the fact that they search on multiple websites who then sell their contact information to multiple agents, a not-so-great prospect could actually turn into 30-plus not-so-great leads. It’s no wonder that even though nearly 100 million internet leads were generated in 2018, only 1.5% of them actually closed.

Sifting through these low quality, low-converting leads can be distracting and time-consuming. That could be why many prospects report that they never receive a response to their request. Agents are simply too overwhelmed by the volume of leads that don’t pan out. This can lead to missing some real opportunities.

Before buying leads, it’s important to know what your end goal is. Do you simply want to do more business, increase your average deal price or expand into a new market? Be realistic — converting prospects in a new price point or market area will be more difficult than leads located in your current area of focus. You also need a strategy for contacting, tracking, nurturing and evaluating your leads so you can determine which ones generate the best return on investment.

Below are some tips to help tame the flood of data and get your lead management activities under control:

Do a personal assessment: What makes sense for you to do versus someone else? What do you like to do? Yes, you can make every call and send every email yourself, but is that the best use of your time? Are you neglecting work that only you can do to follow up with these leads? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, consider outsourcing some of the initial lead contact and sourcing duties.

Make technology work for you: Most evidence shows that leads need to be contacted right away, and that often isn’t realistic if you’re in the middle of a listing presentation or showing a buyer a home. The good news is, there are many great tech solutions to help you. Customer relationship managers (CRMs), email automation and companies like mine and various others that filter/nurture raw leads for you can all take care of the initial contact and qualification. Just be sure to identify what features and functionality you need before you purchase anything.

Make your schedule work for you — and your clients/prospects:Allocate blocks of time for different tasks, especially recurring ones. Exceptions will sometimes need to be made, but controlling your schedule helps you stay calmer and more focused.

• Offer clients or prospects specific time segments versus open-ended responses. You want to be responsive, but not at the expense of your sanity. There’s nothing wrong with providing time options that work for you. You can always make an exception if need be.

• Identify your prospect’s preferred means of communication (e.g., phone, email, text) moving forward.

• Include your service-level agreements (SLAs) in your client presentations. Let them know when you’re available to show properties, how quickly you’ll return their call, text or email, etc. Buying or selling a home is stressful, and managing expectations helps keep everyone organized and calm.

• If someone is out of your preferred area or price point, refer the lead out. You’ll still receive a referral fee, and chances are a local agent will do a better job than you could.

Do a quarterly assessment: Sometimes it takes a while to determine whether a lead-gen program is successful, so reviewing your lead generation business quarterly is usually sufficient.

• Overview — Analyze the type of prospects you received, where they were in the sales process when they contacted you, price point, area, property type and the overall conversion rate. Consider rating their level of intent (e.g., A, B, C) to prioritize them.

• Compare — Some lead sources might be more expensive per lead, but convert better than a cheaper one. Or, the average price point could be higher on one lead source than another. Allocate each lead as “revenue/lead” to determine which sources make sense for you to continue purchasing.

• Don’t be afraid to pull the plug — If a specific lead source isn’t working for you, stop. You can’t build a house without a foundation, and if the leads you’re receiving aren’t right for you or aren’t converting, it doesn’t make sense to continue.

• Were the leads worth your time? — Assign yourself an hourly rate and use it when analyzing your revenue/lead.

Streamlining lead management helps you more quickly identify who is most likely to transact and needs help immediately. This can increase your productivity, your peace of mind and ultimately your bottom line in growing and maintaining your real estate business.

Want more time to build relationships that grow your business? ReferralExchange verifies your leads and referrals, nurtures and gives them back to you when they’re ready to transact, and matches those clients outside of your area, price point or property type with three great agents.

With a new year comes a fresh schedule of real estate events – a chance for us to meet new people, catch up with old friends and connect with the talented agents in our network all over the country. Check out this full list of major industry events from Inman News.

If you’re attending any of the below conferences, drop us a line at marketing@referralexchange.com. We’d love to connect!

January: Inman Connect – New York, NY

February: CRS Sell-a-bration – Las Vegas, NV

February: RE/MAX R4 – Las Vegas, NV

July: Inman Connect – Las Vegas, NV

August: Florida Assoc. Realtors – Orlando, FL

September: Texas Assoc. Realtors – Ft. Worth, TX

September: California Assoc. Realtors – Los Angeles, CA

October: NAGLREP – Palm Springs, CA

October: California Realtors WomanUp! – San Diego, CA

November: NAR Annual – San Francisco, CA

December: Triple Play – Atlantic City, NJ

Want more time to build relationships that grow your business? ReferralExchange verifies your leads and referrals, nurtures and gives them back to you when they’re ready to transact, and matches those clients outside of your area, price point or property type with three great agents.



Written by Lisa Fettner

For the last 6 years, my March has been filled with sparkles, sequins and smiles. Every spring, teens from all over the Bay Area come to the San Francisco Princess Project to get a free prom dress and accessory. Unfortunately, just like real estate in much of the country, prom has become unaffordable to many since the average teen spends over $1000. Last year, we helped over 2,500 teens!

My experience – as a volunteer and Co-President – has helped me become a better leader, mentor, and person.  Below are some of the lessons I’ve learned that apply to the real estate industry.

BE FEARLESS – You don’t get to “yes” without asking the question.

During my first year as Co-President, we needed to find new space for our pop-up boutique. Finding 10,000 square feet of donated space for a month in San Francisco was challenging and we had contacted nearly every property management company with no success.

Finally, I called Boston Properties who managed the Embarcadero Center. Not only did they give us a prime location, but they’ve become an amazing partner – promoting our organization to their tenants, organizing dress drives, and even donating the janitorial and utility costs.

In real estate, you absolutely must ask for the business. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says no – but they won’t say “yes” if you don’t ask. 

BE GRATEFUL – Someone else always has a higher hill to climb.

During one of our giveaway seasons, I was facing some personal challenges and felt a bit sorry for myself until a teen came in whose mother had recently passed away.  Her chaperone was helping her apply to college, get a part-time job and find a place to live.  I helped her find a great dress and the chaperone told me it was the first time she’d seen the girl smile since her mother had died.

Being an agent is tough. You’re at the mercy of clients – and your pipeline. Deals fall through or don’t go the way you hope. The good news, is that if you stay focused and keep trying, eventually things get better.

BE MINDFUL – Your moment is someone else’s milestone.

One evening, we had a special needs teen come to the boutique.  While we were having fun making her look fabulous, I realized that her mother was crying. She had never anticipated having that “prom dress shopping” milestone with her daughter, and it was tremendously emotional for her.

Real estate agents help people with the largest purchase of their lives. And it’s sometimes hard when you’re crazy busy and handling multiple transactions to remember and appreciate that. Even if the clients are difficult, you get to be the person who makes it happen — and that’s one of the biggest rewards of being an agent.

BE JOYFUL – Happiness yields positivity.

Every year Job Corps brings a huge group of teens to get dresses. They give them a place to stay, food to eat, clothing, healthcare, and job training. While their lives are challenging, the shopping experiences enables them to have fun and celebrate – and that’s okay.

Buying or selling a home is stressful, but it can – and should be fun. By bringing a sense of excitement and “fun” into a transaction, you’ll have happier and more grateful clients in the long run because you helped make their experience a positive one.

BE PASSIONATE – Let your passion drive your legacy.

I was on the train coming home from work several months ago, when a young woman came over and said, “You’re the prom dress lady.” She had found her prom dress through the Princess Project and wanted me to know how grateful she was for our program.  She also wanted to help volunteer during our next giveaway. I felt like a proud parent.

Real Estate can be a passion and mission vs. simply a profession.  You are the subject matter expert of your business, and people will respect you for it.  Your passion can drive your legacy – for both your team and the clients you’ve helped – you just need to channel your energy and drive to make it so.

A video about the Princess Project can be found here.

About The Princess Project

The Princess Project promotes self-confidence and individual beauty by providing free prom dresses and accessories to high school teens who cannot otherwise afford them.  Our effort is made possible entirely through invaluable volunteer, donor and community support. For more information, please visit www.princessproject.org or email info@princessproject.org.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.” – Wayne Dyer

Whether you’re a new or experienced agent, having strong leadership skills and practices will help you save time and increase your bottom line.

Bestselling author and speaker Coni Meyers, recently joined our VP of Marketing Lisa Fettner for a second webinar on becoming a more effective leader. Watch the first webinar here.

During the webinar, Coni shared how you can define your purpose and design your vision both personally and professionally, build your team with intention and how vision affects happiness, success, emotional intelligence and self-management.

What is Kickbutt Leadership? Kickbutt leadership with VISION means you are a visionary, impactful, strategic, inspirational, organized and a navigator. It’s going to attract your tribe – i.e., the clients you want, the people on your team, the people around you and give you more time.

What is your “WHY”? Coni stresses that it’s very imperative that we figure out our purpose and our why. When you have your why (e.g., helping others, being a great parent, to serve others in real estate), it makes making decisions must easier. A WHY statement is a simple statement about why you are on this earth. Your why can change through different stages and ages in your life – but ultimately it is the core of who you are. For example, Coni’s WHY is “To support people who are stepping into the vision for their life personally and professionally.”

Ask yourself these questions to determine your why:

  • What do you love?
  • Who are you?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • How do you want to be remembered?

Creating the vision. In order to have a clear vision, you must come from it and in order to come from it, you have to become it. Coni shared the four aspects of our lives: health, relationships, career/creative expression and time/money freedom. Put pen to paper and write down what you envision for each of these categories if you had no limitations.

Define and design your perfect business. Regardless of your type of business, you need to look at your vision from a leadership, team and client point of view. Ask yourself:

  • What is working for you that you LOVE?
  • What demographics do you LOVE working with?
  • How much sales volume in units/clients would you LOVE?
  • What is the median price point you would LOVE to sell?
  • What niches or emerging markets would you LOVE to work with?
  • What would you LOVE that you have not done yet?

Happiness vs. Success. “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” –Albert Schweitzer. 10% of your happiness comes from external influences, while 90% of your happiness is predicted by the way your brain processes the world – your mindset.

If you have a visioning mindset, your happiness is going to come from that vision. You are also 31% more productive and 37% better at sales when you come from happiness.

Mindfulness thinking creates emotional intelligence. Mindfulness thinking is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. If we have a clear vision, we will be more focused and helps us stay in the present moment.

Coni suggests doing five mindfulness practices throughout the day:

  1. 10 minutes in the morning
  2. Every 1-2 hours take 1-2 minutes
  3. Before meeting or phone call take 1-2 minutes
  4. Start meetings with something personal
  5. 5 minutes at the end of day

Learn more at conimeyers.com and watch the full webinar recording here.

In real estate – referrals are the name of the game. Sometimes, however, determining the best way to market to your personal sphere can be challenging.

Our VP of Marketing Lisa Fettner recently hosted a webinar with social media strategist and author, Katie Lance to discuss tips, tools and strategies for how to effectively leverage your personal sphere of influence to increase your referral business.

Here are some key takeaways from the webinar.

Do’s and Don’ts of working with your sphere. DO: be helpful, thoughtful, and treat your sphere how you would like to be treated. DON’T: send canned marketing, be a spammer, or be a nuisance.

Get creative with these top ways to market and expand your sphere:

  1. Use social media – post about a property on your old street or let your former colleagues know you’re an agent now.
  2. Holiday messages – send holiday messages from your work email with your business signature and information.
  3. Sponsor events – consider sponsoring friend/family events or activities (e.g., baseball game, charity run).
  4. Network – use family events and community activities to let your sphere of influence know you can be their real estate resource. Ask them what their real estate goals are for 2019.
  5. Lead a project that requires engagement from others (e.g., a family tree, have family members share their holiday decorations).
  6. Be the GO-TO real estate advisor for you sphere. Offer a 5-minute favor such as recommending a good landscaper or pulling some market data about their area.
  7. Be the hero of your sphere – have a network in place to help anyone, anywhere. We live in a global, extended market place – consumers expect you to give them information no matter where they live.

You don’t always have to say yes. Although you may want to work every referral that comes your way, it may not always make sense to. Lisa emphasizes that it’s critical to be consistent with who you do and don’t work with – doing so will save on “hurt feelings” or confusion in the future. Below are some scripts Lisa shared to help you navigate the situation.

  • I’d be happy to tour/look at/do an analysis of your property at any time. We can either work together, or I can find you someone who would be a perfect fit.
  • I’d love to help you, but I’m not an expert in your area/price point/property type. I’m a member of a network that works with agents who specialize in [xyz] and can help find the best fit for you.
  • I actually make it a policy not to work directly with friends or family members, but I’m part of a nationwide network of top agents, and I can find the perfect one for you.

The power of staying in touch with your sphere. Staying in touch with your network could be the difference between them calling you or someone else when they have a real estate need or question. Stay top-of-mind by choosing your social channels based on what your clients and future clients are using. Katie emphasized the importance of creating content that attracts who you want to work with (e.g., video, Facebook Live). You only have so many hours in a day, so focusing on quality over quantity is key – remember, you don’t have to be all things to all people.

Use LinkedIn and Facebook to stay in touch with your sphere. Lisa shared a few easy tips on how to make the most of LinkedIn: update your bio, let people know that you’re in real estate, publish and share new content and reach out to 5-10 people in your sphere once a month on the platform.

On Facebook, Katie suggests creating different lists to organize your sphere and interactions (e.g., friend/connect with them, interact with them, add them to your “see first” notifications). Use Facebook messenger to start a private conversation or use the FB voice feature to send them a personal message.  If you’re creating one piece of content, make sure you distribute it in multiple ways, on multiple channels (e.g., videos, social media posts, blogs, newsletters).

Are you making the most out of your personal sphere of influence? Watch the full webinar recording here.

Q4 tends to be the the quietest season of the year business-wise, but it’s probably the most important one when it comes to relationships – because you have the opportunity to finish the year strong and to fill your pipeline for the upcoming year.

Our VP of Marketing Lisa Fettner recently held a webinar with Dan Smith, a former top-producing agent and now a coach, consultant and speaker. They discussed how to make the most of your Q4 to ensure that you hit the ground running in Q1.

PROSPECTING

Q4 is filled with both industry and community events – all of which represent great referral opportunities. Dan encourages agents to use these events to prospect for 2019, “Plant those seeds today and harvest them in the next year.”

The key is to act strategically and have a plan. While you might simply want to go to an event to learn and/or mingle with your friends – you can’t afford to NOT take advantage of making new connections.  Be sure to think about who you want to meet and what you want to get out of every event and conference that you attend.

Real Estate Events:

  • Introduce yourself to new people and make referral connections – everyone is there to do the same thing, so they’ll be relieved when you make the first move.
  • Try to sit with people you don’t know and strike up a conversation.
  • Email people you want to meet prior to the show – if you know someone who’s coming from a different market, make plans to meet up – and bring a friend along with.

Community Events:

  • Set yourself a goal of speaking with a specific number of people during each event.
  • Always wear a piece of logo-wear that immediately identifies you as an agent. Bonus points for creating an “ugly-logo-wear sweater!” during the holidays.
  • Once people know you’re an agent or a broker, they’ll naturally ask you about the state of the real estate market because people love to talk about real estate! Dan suggests asking them what their real estate plans are for the coming year – it’s less salesy than simply asking if they’re planning to buy or sell property.
  • Try to provide a 5-minute favor (providing someone with a small item of value that only takes 5 minutes). Offer to send recent sales prices in a specific neighborhood or the name of a good mortgage consultant.

RECONNECTING

Q4 provides agents with great opportunities to reach out to past clients in a “non salesy” way.  Think about different and fun ways to expand your personal professional sphere.

  • Identify your raving fans – Dan reminded us that 90% of an agent’s referrals come from 10% of their friends/family members/past clients, etc. Agents absolutely MUST follow-up with those folks the most frequently and not take them for granted.
  • Consider creating Facebook Lists of people you know. Bonus points for creating different lists for different types of contacts.
  • Use the information you learn on social media to a make a personal connection with people when you see them at events.
  • Dan emphasizes effective social media usage is about engaging with other people’s posts – by “inserting” yourself into the sphere of other’s lives, you make a more authentic connection.
  • If you are going to post – make it engaging. Consider holding a holiday decorating or fun family photo contest.
  • Don’t forget the holiday cards – which can be sent any time in Q4. Try to make them as customized as possible – either with an insert, short note, or unique image.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for testimonials during this time as well. People aren’t as busy, and they have time to write or record (video!) a short testimonial for you.

HOUSEKEEPING

Q4 is also a great time to update your photos, online information/profiles and marketing materials.

  • Create a Google doc containing all sites and locations where you have a profile or listing. Make sure that all posted information is current and consistent.
  • Create a document of client testimonials and stories – and add to them throughout the year.
  • Take a new professional headshot. You want to be sure that if someone is meeting you at a coffee shop, they will recognize you based on your photo.
  • Update your lists and feeds – add new clients and prospects as needed.
  • Dan suggests sending yourself a calendar invite for the first Monday of the month. Take some time to update your information on a regular basis. Doing so makes the process much less time consuming and overwhelming.

Trying to prepare for the coming year can be overwhelming, but Dan suggests doing at least the following 3 activities during Q4:

  • Identify your raving fans and make contact.
  • Organize your database.
  • Engage with people on Facebook or Instagram on a regular basis – but limit yourself to a short amount of time. At the end of the day – and especially in Q4 – being a successful agent is about taking advantage of those in-person connections!

Watch the full webinar recording here and learn more at bydansmith.com.

“Kickbutt leadership is when mindfulness meets vision, opportunity and engagement.”

Having strong leadership skills can make all the difference when growing and cultivating your team. During our latest webinar, Author, coach and speaker Coni Meyers joined our VP of Marketing Lisa Fettner to share how agents can become more resilient, identify new ways to collaborate, improve problem solving, decision-making and managing stress.

Whether you’re a new or experienced agent, these leadership practices will help you become a better, more empathetic, and effective leader.

Using mindfulness as a leader will help you attract your tribe. Mindfulness can help you build your team and increase your bottom line, so you have more time to focus on the things you want to do. Coni explained that great leadership is about supporting others, so they go beyond ourselves.

Happiness vs. Success. “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” –Albert Schweitzer. The first tool you need to have as a leader is to come from a place of happiness and passion. This will determine the type of people and team members you attract. Scientific studies have shown that people who come from a true place of happiness are 31% more productive and 37% better at sales. Additionally, 10% of our happiness comes from external influences and 90% is caused by your mindset – meaning YOU can change your own reality and mindfulness.

Coni shared five exercises you can do to increase your positivity:

  1. Showing gratitude
  2. Journaling
  3. Exercising
  4. Meditating
  5. Performing “Acts of kindness”

Emotional Intelligence (EQ). The first step to achieving emotional intelligence is self-awareness. It’s the ability to understand our own emotions and understand the emotions of others and manage it. Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman found that EQ accounts for 67% of the skills we need to be a top leader. Once we become aware of our emotions, we must learn to manage them and our team accordingly.

Empathy (cognitive and emotional) and engagement are another crucial piece of emotional intelligence. Cognitive empathy is when we can see the world through others’ eyes. As an agent, that might be seeing your client’s dream home through their own eyes and understanding what they want it to look like. Emotional empathy includes understanding and empathizing how emotional (both happy or sad) the purchase or sale of a home could be for your clients. Having both cognitive and emotional empathy will impact the engagement and communication you will have when working with them.

Having emotional intelligence will allow you to attain a higher level of financial success, develop a better organization culture and create a more productive workforce. Emotional intelligence distinguishes great leaders from average ones. It is learned, versus IQ which is genetic.

Self-management. There are five different areas of self-management:

  1. Stress – Using mindfulness practices to reduce your stress can make a big difference.
  2. Organization – The more organized we are, the better off we will be in managing ourselves.
  3. Decision making – Reduced stress and increased organization will help you make better decisions and allow you to help others (e.g., your clients and team members) do the same.
  4. Problem solving – A key component of problem solving is having a key vision of our desired outcome.
  5. Time management – When it comes to time management, it’s about how to incorporate the things we need to do into the time we have, that will help us move forward. Another key component of self-management is listening.

Coni shared five simple mindfulness practices which included:

  • Taking 10 minutes to yourself in the morning.
  • Every 1-2 hours take 1-2 minutes to breathe.
  • Before a meeting or taking a phone call, take a few minutes to prepare.
  • Start meetings discussing something personal to help clear everyone’s minds.
  • Take five minutes to yourself to breath and reflect at the end of the day before racing out of the office.

By improving your mindfulness, you will become a more effective leader, improve your bottom line and save time for you and your team.

Watch the full webinar here and download Coni’s workbook to improve your leadership skills.

We’re in the throes of prime networking season. Summer parties and industry events all provide real estate agents with opportunities to make connections and generate more business. Just like anything else, networking is a skill — one that many of us are uncomfortable practicing.

Below are 10 tips to help you network and garner more referral business like a pro.

  1. Have a plan. Whether it’s committing to make three new connections or to meet one specific person, it’s important to decide what you want to get out of each event you attend. If you can get a list of attendees in advance, identify who you want to connect with and if you know someone who can introduce you (and of course, vice versa).
  2. Figure out your icebreaker/elevator pitch in advance. Think of a way to introduce yourself or your company in a fun, interesting way. Develop a few-sentence description that describes you or your company. Rather than simply saying you’re an agent or broker, include something that sets you apart. Perhaps you focus on a specific neighborhood or type of buyer/seller, or you sold a unique property that everyone knows about. A description that receives a smile or positive reaction makes people more receptive to starting a conversation.

Be sure to tailor your pitch to your audience. If you’re meeting with other agents, you might want to emphasize your market knowledge and area expertise. If you’re meeting with prospective homebuyers or sellers, your pitch should reflect that.

  1. Make your name memorable. Remembering who you met after an event can be challenging, even if you collect a business card. Try to come up with a way to make your name memorable. Consider if your name is often misspelled or mispronounced and offer clarification. Does your company name have a fun or interesting meaning or story behind it that you can share?
  2. Make yourself memorable. While you want to be dressed appropriately for any event, try to wear something that can help start a conversation. Logo-wear is a great way to immediately identify yourself as an agent or broker and orchestrate a dialogue about your company or business. Or, wear a fun accent piece (bonus points if it ties in with your company’s colors) like jewelry, socks, shoes or a tie that are easy for someone to comment on as a way to break the ice.
  3. Divide and conquer. If you attend an event with a group or another person, try to split up — at least for part of the time. Try not to sit together, or at least leave an open chair between you. That way, if the table or row fills up, you’ll have the opportunity to make a new connection.

If you’ve reviewed the attendees in advance, divide up the list of people with whom you want to connect. At a large event, you’ll have a better chance of speaking with more people. It’s okay to reconnect with your partner if you both need to speak with someone. Send each other a text or let the person you’re speaking with know you’ll find your colleague and circle back at some point during the event.

  1. Listen and learn. Interactions at networking events can sometimes last only a few minutes, so it’s important to listen intently and ask open-ended questions to make them as productive as possible. Try to identify an opportunity where you have common ground, can solve a problem or can fulfill a direct need. Mention if you’ve handled a referral from their area or have sold/found buyers for properties in a specific area. Do you have friends, colleagues or experiences in common that can help you make a deeper connection?
  2. Follow up and be a giver. Look for ways to provide a “five-minute favor” — e.g., finding a small way to add value to someone’s life in a few minutes. Think of a question you can ask to spark a conversation. Ask about a current market or neighborhood, or if there’s a question/information that you could provide help with. Sending an article, making an introduction or providing information is an easy way to follow up and keep a dialogue going.
  3. Keep your body language open and welcoming. You’re at an event to mingle, so you want people to feel comfortable approaching you as well. Smiling, nodding and making eye contact shows that you’re engaged and interested. Include a new person who joins the conversation with an introduction — both of yourself and who you’re speaking with. Doing so will also help you remember names.
  4. Say goodbye graciously. Determining how to end a conversation can sometimes be challenging, but it’s expected at a networking event. Some ways to “extricate” yourself from a conversation include:
  • Tell the person you’re speaking with that you enjoyed your conversation, but you need to “keep mingling.”
  • Let them know that you’re getting a drink/something to eat and offer to get them one.
  • Thank them for chatting with you and let them know you’ll be following up with the information you offered during your conversation.
  • Invite them to lunch or coffee, or to visit your office the next time they are in your city.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for the business, if it’s appropriate. Sometimes it does make sense to ask for a referral/business opportunity — if the person you’re speaking with specifically asks. When that does occur, it’s critical to follow up as quickly as possible. Send an email or call within 24 hours, offering to set up an appointment. Provide some options that work for your schedule. Find out if anyone else needs to be included in the conversation or appointment and get contact information for everyone who needs to be involved.

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