You landed the clients and made the sale. They love the house, they loved you, and they’ll definitely be calling you the next time they want to buy or sell any real estate.
Depending on how actively you follow up with your clients, that may not be the case. The problem — as you probably already know — is that by the time those clients are ready to make another big life decision like buying or selling a house, you may have lost contact with them.
Many real estate agents might feel awkward about reaching out to their past clients every now and again to touch base or just to talk. On top of that, even if you do make a solid effort to keep in touch, a lot can happen in months, let alone years. And then comes the day when your clients find themselves quizzing each other to remember your name while doing halfhearted Google or portal searches to see if you (or someone else) emerges from the morass of faces and names.
This scenario isn’t a stretch. The National Association of Realtors’ annual consumer survey found that although 88 percent of buyers would use their agent again, 36 percent or more of previous buyers didn’t reach back out to their former agent when they were ready to buy or sell again … most likely because those clients didn’t know how to find him or her. And if your clients can’t find you, they sure as heck aren’t referring you to friends and family who are buying or selling.
So that’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news: You can solve this problem by making a point to follow up — gently and thoughtfully — with not only your past clients, but everybody in your sphere of influence.
You might be worried about coming across to your clients as pushy or “sales-y,” but here’s the thing: If you’re actually thoughtful about the follow-up, your clients will be glad you reached out.
Maintaining contact with your clients may seem difficult, but we assure you, it’s really not that hard. If you want to build trust with your past clients and get them to refer you to their family and friends, there are six steps that you need to follow.
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to try to cultivate trust and referrals from your past clients, then you will probably have to focus less attention and fewer resources on other marketing activities as a result.
This can be scary, especially if those other activities are generating some business. You needthat billboard or grocery cart ad or to spend however many dollars a month to boost your standing in portal search results.
Doing this process the right way is going to require some time, energy and money — there’s no two ways about it. So make a commitment that this is the path you’re going to take and then figure out where you’re going to find that time, energy and money to make it happen.
If you’re a newer agent or an agent without an extensive client list, don’t panic: this list does not need to exclusively contain clients.
However, you should be selective about whom you add to your list. Have you met this person face-to-face? Do they know you, or at the very least, would they remember you? To put it another way, if you asked this person to meet you for coffee or lunch, would they accept?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” think hard about why you want to follow up with this person. Your list should comprise people who know, like, and trust you — or who know you and have a better-than-decent chance of growing to like, and trust you if you give them a window of opportunity.
The Graham Seeby Group used a list of 279 contacts to become the No. 1 Keller Williams team in the Southeast — proof positive that if your list is solid, then it doesn’t need to be huge to be effective.
You’ll want to decide on a variety of methods for following up with your sphere — emails, phone calls, video emails, direct mail, text message and newsletters are a few options you can use to reach out to people on your list.
What you probably don’t want to do is limit yourself to just one method of contact. If you decide you’re going to follow up by phone every time, for example, then your client might start to wonder why you’re calling her every three weeks. Emails can be easy to ignore, as can newsletters, and bombarding your prospects with text messages is undesirable for hopefully obvious reasons.
And you’ll want to think about how often you’re following up with your sphere. Three or four times a month? A couple of times a quarter? You can experiment to see what volume works best for you, but it’s inadvisable to try to “touch” a potential client more frequently than once per week.
The Graham Seeby Group used the following campaign strategy with its list:
Three “touches” per month plus the quarterly calls was a good mix for the team and started generating listings quickly.
Once you’re committed (you did remember to commit to this plan in Step 1, right?), this part is probably the easiest. Start making those phone calls, sending those emails and typing out those text messages.
Keep track of your results so you can take a look at them later and decide whether and how to tweak your campaign. And feel free to experiment: Maybe half your list gets a text message one week in lieu of a video email, or perhaps you’re using social media as part of your campaign and you want to see how two platforms measure up against each other.
If you’re tracking your results, you’ll be able to see which of your experiments is yielding more impressive results and switch to that strategy exclusively. Or if two tactics seem to be equally effective, you can decide which one to use based on your own needs, such as how convenient it is to execute or how much time or money it requires.
Think about the last time you researched (or bought) a product or service online. How much attention did you pay to the “star” ratings or reviews available for the products or services in question?
For better or worse, Amazon has permanently changed how millennials shop — and as a result, reviews can be an agent or a team’s lifeblood.
This presents another problem: Reviews are written by your clients, and you don’t have much control over when (or even if) they review your work. Posting a review on a portal isn’t typically a seamless task, and it’s more than possible that people who loved working with you won’t want to jump through those hoops to tell the internet about it.
But all hope is not lost. There are two things you can do to improve your odds of successfully landing a positive review:
If you tell your clients in your first meeting — either the buyer’s presentation or the listing presentation — that reviews are extremely important to your business, then they’ll understand why you’re asking them to commit to writing one.
You can explicitly solicit their permission to keep nudging them: “Do I have your permission to remind you to write a review for my services for as long as it takes to write one?” If you’ve just presented yourself as a real estate rockstar in your spiel, they’ll be eager to help you out.
You can also let them know at the presentation that to motivate clients to write and post their reviews, you give away a gift every month or every quarter — depending on your business volume — by randomly selecting one client who’s written a review for you.
Make sure the gift is something truly desirable, something your clients will truly be excited to receive: electronics, like an iPad or a higher-end Fitbit, work well; you might also consider dinner or vacation packages in your town.
You can offer to include your clients in the prize drawing as separate entries for each review they write — for example, for each review posted on Zillow, Realtor.com, Yelp, Homes.com, and any other portals or review sites where you want to establish a presence.
Be warned: Most review sites discourage “compensation” for reviews, and they all have different guidelines for what’s permissible and what isn’t.
By running a “sweepstakes”-like contest where anybody can enter — but reviewers earn “extra” entries — you could be exploiting a loophole in some of these site guidelines; however, check with a legal expert to make sure that your specific contest is compliant and won’t get your profile yanked from the site.
This will increase the chances that your clients will post their review everywhere that another potential client might find it.
You’re working your list and generating those leads and closing those sales — and it’s great!
So why is your production plateauing?
Building trust and growing your referral and review base is important — even critical — for any real estate agent or team, but focusing exclusively on the people who already know you (and might grow to like and trust you) leaves out the whole world of human beings who have no idea who you are — yet.
So if you committed with a zeal in Step 1, now is the time to think about what other marketing activities might bring in leads — including options you may have eliminated from your mix back then, especially if they were too costly or time-consuming. By keeping yourself open to brand-new opportunities, you’ll be firing on all sales cylinders.
Keeping in touch with your sphere can be a challenge, especially when you’re busy. It’s easy to neglect past customers when you’re focused on helping your current buyers and sellers, but if you spend a little bit of effort to close the loop (and keep closing it) with people who already know, like and trust you, then you’ll be astonished by the results it brings to your business.