The truth is, if you put a lot of effort into building a credible brand with a strong database to support both prospecting and finding the best deals, then you’ll end up with something even better than a great brand and database: a strong referral pipeline.
Although client retention is a commercial real estate brokerage’s single best source of business, the next in line—referrals—is often neglected, under-utilized or overlooked entirely in many brokers’ marketing plans. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of your existing client base, allowing them to do some of the heavy lifting and saving you the headaches and marketing expense in the process?
Every time a client recommends you or your brokerage to someone else, that referral saves you all the time and troubling of finding and then warming up a new lead. And the truth is, most clients will gladly recommend you if they’re happy with the services you provide to them.
How to get more referralsBut if most people are willing to give you a referral, what’s holding them back? The short answer—it hasn’t occurred to them.
For example, maybe it’s been six months or a year since the client last used your services. Now a colleague of theirs mentions that he or she is in need of a broker, and unless you’ve had some recent contact with your client, you may not come to mind if the client has used other brokers in the meantime.
The key to referrals then is to build a strong relationship with your clients and interact with them regularly to keep you (and your brokerage) top of mind. Here are some tips to boost your referral flow:
- Ask for referrals: It may seem like a no-brainer, but the most common mistake brokers make with referrals is not asking for them. For many, there’s a bit of a block to overcome—they don’t feel comfortable asking. But if you’re proud of the work you do, and you know that the service you provide is top-notch, there’s nothing wrong with asking a satisfied client to refer back to you whenever they talk to someone who needs brokerage services. Simply by asking, you increase the chance that the person will think of you when a friend or business connection expresses a need for a commercial broker.
- Capitalize on interactions: Your existing client base is your primary source of referrals and it’s a great place to start, but treating all interactions in your day-to-day life as potential opportunities for gaining new clients is a good habit to get into. That means expanding beyond your current clients to ask previous clients, friends, family, and even prospects that turn out to not be a good fit. Communication equals possibility.
- Say thank you: When someone goes out of his or her way to recommend you to a new client, thank him or her right away. Just calling them to say thank you is a great first step, but it’s even better to establish a referral reward system. To figure out exactly how much that reward should be, you need to know how much you’re saving on marketing by relying on referrals. Advertising space, printing costs, sales calls, and time spent in marketing meetings all need to be taken into consideration. Once you’ve arrived at a figure, you should have an idea of how much you can reward someone to show your gratitude, being generous while still saving money.
- Give your best: Now that you’ve been referred a new prospect, don’t let the opportunity slip through your fingers. If they haven’t already spoken with you directly, contact them right away and be sure to provide them with your best service. Show them that they made the right decision to trust their friend or colleague’s advice to call you. In turn, this will also show the client who made the referral that they weren’t wrong to do so.
- Reach out: The best way to stay fresh in your clients’ minds is by sending out a monthly newsletter to everyone on your client list. This newsletter can offer special deals, update clients on changes in the market, offer financial tips or useful tidbits, and of course it should mention your referral rewards program.
Learning to say no to postcards and online banners may take some getting used to, but once you’ve set yourself up for referrals, you’ll never look back again.