It’s Monday morning and time to make your plan for the week. Will you be making cold-calls? Will you be door-knocking? Maybe this is the week you’ll finally try out those Facebook ads you’ve been hearing so much about? Without a doubt, consistently marketing and building your pipeline of leads, is a given. It is a survival instinct that any successful agent needs to make part of their DNA. As you’re nearing cold-call number 60 for the day, how often do you pause to think if your efforts and hard-earned money are getting you the best returns?

The job of a marketer these days is vast. It’s a world full of noise and distraction and getting attention has become a lot harder and more expensive. There are so many new communication channels and methods that even seasoned pros are getting overwhelmed. Do you go with Snapchat, Instagram or good old Google?

Despite all these new avenues to target new clients, one question remains at the core that you should be able to clearly answer and serve as the anchor for everything you do: How do your clients go about choosing an agent? Just as any brand conducts research so they know what makes someone buy a certain kind of laundry detergent, you need to know why your clients choose you.

The answer may be closer than you think. According to the National Association of Real Estate (NAR), which surveys thousands of home buyers and sellers, an overwhelming 66% of home sellers chose their agent based on a referral from a friend or family, or because they’ve used their agent in the past.  Referral and repeat business outweigh some of the most popular tactics like cold-calling or open houses by much as 22 times.

Chart that shows how sellers choose their real estate agent

If you’ve ever driven by homes of people you know and see someone else’s sign on their lawn, you’ve likely left money on the table, and lots of it. I speak to dozens of agents daily, asking them what they’re doing to raise their rates of referrals. While everyone agrees how valuable and essential referrals are, very few agents have a systematic way or even a few loose initiatives that are aimed at increasing referrals.

Imagine your phone rings six months after you bought a car. You remember the buying process as being easy and pleasant, but this is the first time your salesperson calls you since you’ve driven off the lot. Next thing you know; they’re asking you to refer friends to an upcoming sales event. How would you feel? Similarly, the number one reason for leaving money behind is by not following up with clients after the purchase or sale of their home.  If your client’s perception is that their agent disappeared immediately after receiving a commission check, your odds of getting referrals diminish fairly quickly.

No matter what portion of your business comes from referrals today, there’s always a significant opportunity to do more. Focusing on referrals is not a short-term fix; you cannot expect it to yield money to pay this month’s expense. It is a long-term strategy that needs to be an essential part of your plan. The seeds need to be planted today to be harvested tomorrow and that can sometimes be a challenge in sales, where we live for the moment.

Ask yourself: Do I want to be cold-calling or door-knocking in 10 years? Or do I want to eventually have all my business come exclusively through warm referrals? If you’re ready to invest in your future, consider these steps:

Nurture relationships before the deal closes

Every opportunity you get to spend time with your client further builds your relationship and creates trust. Never miss the opportunity to add value beyond the transaction through advice, referrals or post-sale programs (such as MoveSnap for real estate agents & brokerages) that keep you top-of mind during and after the deal is signed.  You may be tempted to go after new business or go back to your routine of cold-calling or emailing, but time spent with a client is time usually well-spent.

Continuous contact

If you don’t have a client database, get one, or start with something as rudimentary as a paper calendar. Staying in contact with your database is the key to increasing referrals, so this activity should not be structured loosely. A systemic approach like 33 touch, works wonders in embedding you as part of your client’s major milestones and keeping you top-of-mind.

Be genuine

Most agents will shy away from contacting former clients for fear of sounding too much like a salesperson. You don’t have to be selling to call someone. Try a contribution approach, where you periodically check-in to ask questions about your client’s needs and offer suggestions to help. It could be something that is related to the community or neighbourhood, or could be something like home care tips, or it doesn’t even have to be real estate related.