The Fine Art of Getting Referrals

As a Realtor this is how you ask for referrals

It’s a terrible truth, but if you want referrals, you’ll have to ask for them. No matter how great a Realtor you are, most clients, even the ones who love you, aren’t thinking about referring you to anyone.

And let’s admit it – we hate asking for referrals. Doesn’t your heart go into overdrive and your hands start to sweat even thinking about asking a client for a referral? We feel like we’re imposing, almost as though we’re pitching some multi-level marketing opportunity.

Why? Because we hate to hear that awful word: NO! And if we don’t ask, we never have to hear it. So let’s get over that, and find some creative ways to get referrals that really turn into new business.

  • Ask for what you want
  • Say “thank you”
  • Stop asking

Ask for what you want
Most Realtors assume that if a satisfied client knows of someone who’s in the market to buy or sell a home, the client will mention their name. Unfortunately, this happens a lot less often than you would like. Even when a Realtor does ask for referrals, the typical request usually goes something like this: “If you hear of anyone who needs a good Realtor, I hope you’ll keep me in mind.” There are at least two problems with this kind of asking:

  1. The person you are asking is probably busy and preoccupied with his or her own affairs. Keeping you in mind for a referral is not very high on their “to do” list.
  2. The person you are asking doesn’t have any idea what a great referral would look like for you, even if they wanted to help you out.

So if “keep me in mind” is a pretty weak approach, what might work better? Be very specific about the kind of client you’re looking for. Try this:

“Sandy, I’m looking to capitalize on the first-time home buyer market, which is really taking off right now. Who do you know that is currently renting but might be thinking of buying a home?”

Say thank you
Of course you use thank yous and other personal notes as part of your overall marketing strategy, and not just when you’ve completed a successful transaction either. Develop a reputation for sending creative cards and notes for almost any occasion. Handwritten notes are practically a lost art in these days of email, texting and Twitter. Sending a “real” note will make you stand out from the crowd.

But here’s a little secret that could make your personal note tactic really pay off. A successful financial planner we know has this line on all his emails, letters, and notes: By Referral Only.

This simple statement means, “I invest 100% of my time and energy delivering exceptional service to my clients. As a result, my clients and business associates refer their family, friends and work colleagues to me for financial advice. I’m interested in building long term relationships one person at a time.”

People need to know that you want and appreciate their referrals. By referral only answers the question, “What can I do for you in return for this nice thank you card?”

Stop asking
No, we’re not letting you off the hook here. Instead, we’re suggesting a different approach. Instead of asking for a referral, ask for an introduction. Here’s how this tactic can work for you:

A personal introduction gets you much more than just a name and a phone number. It gives you credibility. In-person introductions are best, preferably in a relaxed setting over coffee or lunch. If it can’t be done live, a phone introduction is good too. And email is better than none at all.

Set the stage by asking your client, “Have I done the kind of job for you that would make comfortable introducing me to other people you know?” Next, give your client an exact profile of what you are looking for: first-time homebuyers, people facing foreclosure, vacation property owners.

Ask your client for background information so you understand why she thinks you might help this particular person. This gives you a point of reference when you call the individual to set up an appointment. And of course, follow up with a “thank you” note.

The fear of “no” is real, and probably universal. But by applying a little creativity to the referral process, you can soften the sting and build some great relationships in the process.

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