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Your Insider Investing for Real Estate Agents book has been very helpful. While I am not the one at the company who hires speakers, I have recommended your book and website to many of my colleagues. Cynthia Lee, Weichert Realtors


The Secrets Behind Referral Building by the Top Agents February 11th, 2014 | Posted in General Real Estate

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Recently, Bridget McCrea of the Illinois REALTOR® Magazine asked me some questions on how to build a superstar referral system.  Below is our communication exchange, and I hope it helps you!

Question One:

Why should today’s real estate agents be thinking about improving their referral systems?  Why are referrals such a critical part of their businesses?

Answer One:

Referral and repeat clients are your least expensive buyer and seller leads.  Generating a lead from scratch takes more effort, time, and money than the “greased slide” from a happy past client, family member, co-worker, or friend.  The acquisition of good leads is the number one difference between great agents with great nets and the rest. 

Question Two:

How can an agent go about measuring the success of his or her current referral system?

Answer Two:

They can measure the success by tracing the source of their commission dollars.  Prompted by their closing checklist, each of my coaching clients writes down their net commission in a spreadsheet under a column titled “Sphere Database System.”  Whether it was a past client, sphere, or referral, the database would get the credit. 

Question Three:

What’s the first step that should be taken on this path?  What do they need to do first?

Answer Three:

Determine who should go into your database — past clients, family, friends, family of friends, friends of family, non-agent co-workers, out-of-area agents, people with whom you spend money, internet leads with whom you’ve spoken, etc.  

Next, gather their pertinent details: correct spelling of name; mailing and situs address; all phone numbers; all email addresses; preferred contact method; their haves and wants; contact history; and personal dates like birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and anniversary of purchase or sale. 

Question Four:

What other strategies/steps can an agent take to create a referral system that actually produces business and results for them?

Answer Four:

It builds on my answer to question three.  A multi-media system needs to be set up for contact, solicitation, and delivery of value:

  1. Email them every new listing before it hits the MLS as a secret listing that should be forwarded to an interested party in databased client’s lead.
  2. Old-fashioned direct mail on company stationery sent in a window envelope and a hand-signed letter with a personal note.  Only do enough every day to get 4 different letters out to the complete database, every year.  This would equal the number of working days in a quarter divided into the quantity of contacts in your database.
  3. Friend all people in database in Facebook
  4. Call enough people every day to get through your complete database twice every year.
  5. One fancy, expensive, impressive, and fun event a year where everyone in the database is invited.


Question Five:

Where do agents typically go wrong in this area?  What do they need to be doing better and how can they improve?

Answer Five:

Again, referring to an earlier answer, only people that know who you are should be in your database; otherwise, you are wasting resources.  Beside adding “bulk” leads instead of quality leads to the database, agents just don’t do the above activities or do them sporadically.  

These activities must be time-blocked – a time-block every day for the calls and for the letters.  It is just a few calls and letters every day.  This is much better than waiting until June to call your entire database plus you just won’t do it that way! 

Agents need to stop sending material that says they are “the best.”  Send value like information on self-directed IRA’s, invitations to sign up for listing comp services on your IDX, and other unique value propositions. 

Question Six:

After following your advice, what benefits can an agent expect?  What returns will they see if they take these steps?

Answer Six:

My clients find that their referral/repeat client division is their largest income producing system.  Per lead, it is their least expensive system. 

If an agent would like a helping hand in setting up their own repeat client and referral generating systems, our coaching program can do just that!  These are two (out of over fifty systems) that we get up and running in your first year of coaching!


Walter Sanford has been designing and implementing real estate systems for 30 years.  One of the most successful REALTORS® and now wealthy from his systems, Sanford teaches his systems and strategies through his products, seminars, and personal coaching producing the best results in the industry.  Do what works, do what is proven.  Hire Walter Sanford.  Call our office at 800.792.5837, email, or chat with us online at


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