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

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


Need to Be Able to Say “NO” to Bad Business February 7th, 2014 | Posted in General Real Estate, Real Estate

I have the privilege of coaching some great agents.  They have enough business so that they can effortlessly say “no” to business that they believe has a small chance of closing. 

You are in a contingency business.  Your income is contingent on the property closing.  Lawyers who work on contingency are very careful in choosing what cases they work, and they get a 33% commission in most cases.  Similarly, you need to abide by the rules below…or you will be working too much business that does not close. 

Quickly, let’s go over what happens to you when you exert energy on non-closing transactions:

1.       You lose your enthusiasm for the business.

2.       You are less likely to have time & money for the important things in life.

3.       It is time you’ll never get back.

4.       You don’t do a very good job on low-closing percentage transactions.

When deciding to take business (a client)….

For buyers: 

1.       Have questions for them to answer before you meet.  Let them know that you can deliver additional properties to see — some “off market” — if they will answer some questions about their needs and goals.

2.       Have them pre-approved.  Let them know with their pre-approval on lender stationery provides surety of close to a seller, and therefore, gives the buyer negotiating leverage.

3.       Have all decision-makers meet when possible.

4.       Go over the plan of showing “off market” property.  Explain that this is a high-overhead activity and that you would like their loyalty.  When the answer is “yes,” have them sign a buyer- brokerage agreement.

5.       If they only want to see one property and do not concede to the items above, they are a low-closing percentage client.  Refer them by saying, “Okay, (name), if you only want to see the one property at (address), then let me give you to the office specialist in that property.  His/her name is (name of a new agent, preferably).  Let me connect you with him/her.”   Be sure that you’ve previously arranged a referral agreement with this individual.

For sellers:

1.       Have questions for them to answer before you meet.  Let them know that the more you know about their needs and goals, the better job you can do in customizing the marketing plan to achieve (their core motivation/goal in selling).

2.       Make sure they have a motivation that is real enough for them to “jump through the hoops” of a sale.  You might have to ask numerous questions about what a sale will do for them.

3.       Take the listing, if they have motivation, even if the property is slightly overpriced and ugly.

4.       If there is a lack of motivation, BE CAREFUL about taking overpriced properties or properties that don’t show well, since the price doesn’t compensate the buyer for the property deficiencies and there is little chance they will drop without motivation. 

5.       If the listing is overpriced, their motivation is low, and your warning bells are going off — refer it by saying, “(Name), I understand what you are trying to achieve, but there might be an agent at our office who has had more success in similar situations.  Let me connect you with (name).”

The only way you have the ability to refer bad business is to make sure you have the systems to generate consistent, new business.  Be proactive about new business so you don’t gum up the works with inventory or buyers that weigh you down. 

If you would like our multi-page question lists for buyers and sellers, please reply to this email with the name and contact information of someone who is hiring speakers for real estate events in your area. 

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


Are You Thinking about Opening Your Own Place? December 9th, 2013 | Posted in General Real Estate, Real Estate

Recently, I was asked to answer some questions regarding an agent opening their own brokerage.  Below are the questions with my responses, which have been taken from my personal experience and my experience with my clients.


Question One:

What are the telltale signs that a REALTOR® should break out on his/her own and start a brokerage? What are the typical tipping points in these situations?

Answer One:

Square footage!  When there is need to add to the team or add infrastructure/technology but there is no place to put it, it’s time to move out on your own.  A team that is separated loses synergy.  If the broker cannot or will not add square footage, the agent may be forced to get his own.

Another area is lead generation.  Some of the teams that I coach are so effective in generating leads that occasionally there is spill-over to other agents in the office and leads are lost.  A destination without in-house competition is sometimes the answer.

Compensation is another area to consider.  Sometimes top agents already supply the services for themselves.  When that top agent crunches the numbers and adds up the total costs of splits, fees, and franchise costs – many times they find that that amount of money can pay the monthly mortgage payment on a building.

Sometimes a broker’s vision and goals differ so much from the top agent’s that there is dissention within the office. 

You need a change of business plan.  Working the pure commission life is hard!  Sometimes agents want a different business model that allows income from splits and fees so that they can get away from the daily business of one-on-one sellers/buyers.

Finally, sometimes a different management style necessitates a move.  Maybe an agent wants to provide a heavier training regimen or hold agents accountable, and he or she might find that easier to implement in a different environment. 


Question Two:

What are the first few steps that a REALTOR® should take when the points discussed in #1 above actually happen?

Answer Two:

A.      Find a location

B.       Prepare a budget — looking at all costs and applying the knowledge of previous abilities to bring in income.

C.      Make a list of all the marketing materials, phones, internet, and image changes.

D.      Decide whether this is going to be a secret move vs. a well-advertised move.  This usually depends on the relationship between the broker/owner and the vacating agent.  It also heavily depends on whether the broker has a reputation of allowing a vacating agent to keep his or her listings. 


Question Three:

Where do REALTORS® generally go wrong in these situations? What challenges do they encounter and how can they work through these issues?

Answer Three:

Bad mouthing by either party is not the way to go!  The management of the previous brokerage bad-mouthing the leaving agent and the leaving agent bad-mouthing their previous affiliation will not help anyone.  There is no reason to do either.  It only hurts the image of either or both parties.  The brokerage should be proud that they could provide the foundation for an agent to open their own business.  The leaving agent should be thankful the experience gained at the old brokerage. 

If the broker supports your moving on, then full disclosure of the move is the best way to go.  Another item of contention is that the vacating agent should initially look to recruit new agents from other companies, rather than the one they are leaving. 


Question Four:

Do you find that REALTORS® tend to jump the gun in these situations and perhaps not think through what it really takes to run their own brokerage?

Answer Four:

No, since most of the great agents want to stretch their wings.  They were successful agents because their planning and coaching allowed them to move to the new endeavor.  If there was a problem, it would be underestimating the costs of having your own brokerage.


Question Five:

What other advice would you give a reader who is thinking about this right now?

Answer Five:

The concept of the broker trying to keep listings or charge higher splits during a transition time will cause innumerable problems.  Letting great people do their own thing is the gracious thing to do. 

I hope this helps you make the important decisions involving opening your own brokerage.  Doing so means you are opening a new type of business.  You will be taking much time away from personal production and the other challenges while trying to live off of other agents in your new office.  We have coached many top producers and their teams through this year long process.  Good luck in your planning!


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

The Best Agents Initiate Consistent Systems to Obtain Listing Leads September 5th, 2013 | Posted in General Real Estate

Well, all the sellers are taking “happy pills.”  There are more FSBOs, and they are tougher to talk to now.  What are my coaching clients doing right now?

  1.  On the FSBOs, they are setting up spreadsheets that keep track of the information on all FSBO’s in their market area. 
  2.  They subscribe to services like Landvoice and REDx to get lists of FSBO’s. 
  3.  They check their hometown newspaper and subscribe to the rags where the really cheap FSBOs might advertise. 
  4.  They check all the FSBO websites. 
  5.  They have built a team of family, assistants, and affiliates who drive through town, always taking different routes.  This team writes down all the FSBOs addresses with their respective phone numbers, and they pull brochures, if available. 
  6.  They time-block this weekly accumulation of information for about an hour on Monday morning.  Each of the affiliates knows to get his/her information in before that time frame.
  7.  Next, my clients carefully go through the ads and complete their spread sheet columns.  The columns would be the following: property address; situs address; owner name; 4 spaces for phone numbers with the first one being the one used in advertising; bedrooms/baths; square footage; extra rooms; garage space; lot size; basement; upgrades; best features of the home; email address, and special circumstances.  Additionally, including columns to answer these questions: is the seller a local buyer; in what city do they need an agent; why are they selling; and what date they have to close. 


The first week of these activities will be tough, but it will get easier after that!  After the information is assembled for the week, a call is made to the seller.  Let the seller know that you show your buyers more than just MLS property.  If they tell you they won’t pay a commission, tell them that commission is taken care of by an agreement with the buyer via a buyer brokerage agreement.  Complete any empty slots in the spreadsheet.  Let them know you would like to send them articles and information that may help them, and let them know that you will call them after they receive the letter or email.

Send them letter/email #1 out of “Grow Your Leads: Just Add Wa(l)ter” from the FSBO chapter.  Call to follow-up on the value that you mention in the letter on Thursday.  Time-block it.

On the next Monday, do it again.  Send letter/email #2 to last week’s FSBOs and letter #1 to the new FSBOs for this week.  Call the new ones on Monday to fill in your spreadsheet.  With each call, you may be adding more information to your spreadsheet.  Call everyone again on Thursday to see what value that has been mentioned in the letter that you can deliver to the FSBO.

There are twelve letters and twelve phone calls in addition to the initial phone call to complete the spreadsheet.

Give copies of your spreadsheet to your buyer’s assistant(s) so that he/she can start showing the FSBO whenever they have a buyer who is even close.  Make sure he/she leaves a lot of material with your picture and name on it plus mention your name liberally.

Pay special attention to nice FSBOs who take value from you, have a clear reason for selling, and especially, have a definite move-out date.  “Special attention” means previews, personal consultation, pre-listing consultations, and sessions to show that if you use their closing date and work backwards that now would be the time to list.

Most sane FSBOs who need to sell, have taken help from you, talk with you, and have not sold should be talking about listing around the 7th week.  

In the meantime, show the property to your buyers and earn commission.  Talk the “sold” FSBO into being your buyer and earn commission.  Send the FSBO as a buyer referral someplace in the world and earn a referral bonus.  Get the buyers to whom the FSBO didn’t sell and earn commission.  Finally, build the FSBO into a raving client who becomes part of your database and earn money from the referrals and business after they have learned that being a FSBO is no fun. 

As I used to own this demographic, I’m proud to see my coaching clients dominating their individual markets’ FSBOs, too!  You could send another request for someone to like your Facebook page or get to work with great systems that make lots of money! 

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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