Posts Tagged ‘Sphere of Influence’

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

I had an interesting conversation last week with a gentleman who wanted to pick my brain about how Itransitioned from a full-time real estate career to a full-time writing and training career. He was thinking maybe he’d like to do the same.

So, we chatted. I regaled him with my story of going deeply into debt (read more here) and then to lighten things up a bit, I shared what I believe to be the SECRET of success in such an endeavor, at least in my experience.

Wanna know what it is?

“Nah, not really, I have no desire to be a real estate writer!” 

Keep reading!

I told him that I believe the Simple secret to my success as a real estate writer and trainer is my mailing list. To put it bluntly, the bigger my mailing list, the more money I make. So that’s what I focus on – building my mailing list AND nurturing that mailing list. If I do those two Simple things, I have found that everything else falls into place.

I encouraged my aspiring writer/trainer friend to do the same. To focus on building his fan base, not by “buying” loyal followers with expensive advertising, but rather by offering his potential audience something they want, thus inspiring them to WANT to hear more from him. Thus, inspiring them to sign up for his mailing list. And most importantly, to STAY on his mailing list because they have found value there.

Hold that thought.

As I was espousing this nugget of brilliance, it occurred to me that it’s exactly the same in a real estate business.

While there are many approaches to building a successful real estate business, nearly everyone agrees that having a supportive Sphere of Influence is among the very best. And, in a manner of speaking, Sphere of Influece = Mailing List, right?

So, with that in mind, what if, instead of focusing your time, energy and marketing dollars on finding buyers and sellers who MUST BUY/SELL NOW, howzabout you focus that time, energy and $$$ on building a supportive Sphere of Influence (without regard to whether or not anyone you know needs a real estate agent at this very moment)?

Get out there and make friends. Get out there and make acquaintances. Behave in ways that will inspire those new friends and acquaintances to want to hear from you again. And when they do hear from you, be sure that what they’re “hearing” is something they will enjoy and want more of.

It Really Is That Simple :-)

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Everyone knows that Staying in Touch is a critical component of a Sphere of Influence (SOI) approach to running a successful real estate business. Of course, everyone has a different opinion of exactly what “staying in touch” entails – what, specifically, to do, how often to do it and how on earth to REMEMBER to do it that often! 

I am of the opinion that Staying in Touch should be Simple. Not fancy, not complicated, not overwhelming for either party – neither the Stay in TouchER nor the Stay in TouchEE. No need to remind someone of your existence every 35 seconds (or even every few weeks) – if you are that unmemorable, you have bigger problems than making sure you Stay in Touch!

But that’s a topic for a different day. Today’s topic is about using a real estate-specific contact management system to help you Stay in Touch with the Very Important People Who Know You. Not DO your Staying in Touch FOR you, but rather help you remember to do it yourself!

So without further adooooo… here are the first three of the Ten Simple Ways to Use Your Contact Management System to Stay in Touch

Simple Way 1:
Track birthdays and anniversaries and use your contact manager to set up reminders to give you plenty of time to acknowledge the special day.  Be creative with anniversaries – not just a “Happy One Year in Your Home” card, but rather use the anniversary as a reminder to make contact. Perhaps call, text or email something like: “Hey, guess what we were doing one year ago today?!” and suggest getting together for a drink to celebrate.

Also consider tracking “sad” anniversaries for your closer friends – the death of a parent, a pet or some other life event where your reaching out to comfort your friend would be appreciated. This may sound a bit morbid, but I always say that good contact management actually helps you to be a better friend. Everyone WANTS to be there for their friends, but our own lives get in the way and we forget…

Simple Way 2: 
Use your contact manager to remind you to connect with everyone in your “Group One” (defined as anyone you’d enjoy having coffee with). Make it your goal to have a personal interaction with your Group One once a quarter. “Personal interaction” means a face-to-face, voice-to-voice or at the very least email-to-email. Print out a list of your Group One and go through it every Monday, reaching out to the people on the list who inspire you to connect that week. Maybe 2-3 per week. Suggest coffee, happy hour, a walk in the park. Do it again next week. And the next. At the end of the quarter, you should have made contact with all your Group One’s and can all start over!

Simple Way 3:
Related to Simple Way 2, after you’ve made contact with your Group One’s, think of something you talked about that you can follow-up on afterwards to “see how it went.” Add it to the task list in your contact management system with the date to do your following-up. For example, perhaps your friend told you her husband was having a medical procedure on Friday. Call on Monday to check in. Maybe your friend is going on vacation next week. Call afterwards to see if he had fun. Did your friend get a new puppy? Email in a few days and ask for pictures!

These are things you really mean to do, but using your contact manager to help you remember to do it ensures that it does get done!

Simple simple stuff… but oh, so effective…

Stay tuned… more Simple Tips to follow!

p.s. Want to watch the entire webinar? Here t’is! 

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

In the comments on my post yesterday about What to Do (and not do) on Facebook, Robert Hicks mentioned that he “gets a little too political” in his Facebook conversations and implied that he might need to tone it down.

I have some thoughts on the matter… I hope you don’t mind if I share…

I lean toward the conservative side of the aisle. Not 100% – I couldn’t care less who marries whom or changes their body parts to suit them, but generally, yeah, I’m a right-winger.

(Lefties, are you already getting a bit ruffled? Fellow right-wingers, do you like me a little more now? Ah, we’ll get to that).

Sometimes when I’m surfing my newsfeed and see an opinionated post from a liberal friend, I get a bit irritated. Not because I don’t respect his or her right to his or her opinion, but rather because political posts tend to imply (or outright state) that the “other side” is stupid. And when I’m on the “other side,” I feel insulted. And when I feel someone has insulted me, I tend to not like that. Further, since I don’t agree with my liberal friend’s opinion, I might even think a bit less of his or her intelligence, because, well, I think they’re wrong!

(Stay with me here.)

So, it seems that if that is the case, it would be wise for a self-employed person (for example, a real estate agent) to avoid political pontifications and stick with discussing the weather, what they had for breakfast or their most recent listing.

Right? Right??

Not so fast.

Sometimes when I’m surfing my newsfeed and see an opinionated post from a conservative friend (as long as they aren’t bashing marriage freedom or B/C Jenner), I perk up. I smile. I might even comment positively. And, go figure, I feel complimented because this FB friend o’mine is implying that I’m smart because I agree with him/her AND since I do agree, I think a little bit higher of my FB friend as well!

So, if THIS is the case, it seems it would be wise for a self-employed person to embrace political pontifications…?

Hmmmm, what to do, what to do?

Your choice! Think about it… if you have strong political views, doesn’t it make sense that you might connect better with people who think along the same lines? (however right or wrong you may be, JUST KIDDING). And, further, that you might have “issues” with folks who have equally strong views that conflict with yours?

So perhaps… just perhaps… political pontificating might be a fantastic way to attract the perfect clients for you!?



Somewhat Related Blogs:
Is Transparency a Good Thing in Your Personal Marketing?
Should You Take Real Estate Advice from a Republican?

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Last week we did a show in the SWS Virtual Studio about Facebook… some Simple Do’s and Don’ts for real estate agents who want to take advantage of the Power of Facebook to build their businesses.

As I often do at the end of the show, I asked the audience to share their favorite tip or tips from the program and here is what they told me!

Favorit-est Tip #1: Share other agents’ awesome listings! Not only will this be good content, imagine the warm fuzzies and reciprocal good karma you might enjoy.

Favorit-est Tip #2: Casually mention a great referral you received and/or thank a friend for referring you… withOUT, of course, any mention of how much you LUUUUUUUV referrals (no referral-begging allowed!).

Favorit-est Tip #3: Use Facebook to connect, reconnect and stay connected with people you know and meet. Period. Do not use it to market yourself to strangers (or to your friends for that matter).

Favorit-est Tip #4: Be passionate about a hobby and find a local Facebook group to join and participate in,

Favorit-est Tip #5: Turn OFF your business page if you aren’t using it or seeing any benefit from it.

Other tips… NO whining! Be sure your status as a real estate agent is visible somewhere on your profile. Don’t use four-letter words or share posts that use them.

Want to hear the whole show? Join Club SWS and have access to nearly SIX YEARS of teleseminar recordings!


posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Okay, so if you’ve been around SWS any time at all, you know how we feel about Referral-Begging. Don’t do it. Ever. Just don’t. Ever.

But, but, but…

Yeah, I’ve heard all the but but buts. No need to reiterate them here. (But feel free to search the Referral-Begging tag cloud over there on the right.)

Here’s the thing. If you aren’t enjoying a referral-based business, I promise you, I swear to you, I give you my solemn oath on a stack of Sell with Souls that it is NOT because you aren’t asking for them.

So, um, Ms. Smarty Pantz JAH, why is it so, then? WHY am I not getting the referrals I so fervently desire?

I dunno.

(Real helpful, right?)

No seriously, I don’t know why YOU aren’t getting the referrals you want, but here are some far more likely reasons a real estate agent might not get a steady stream of referrals than a lack of asking for them:

1. He doesn’t know enough people to generate enough referrals to live on (shoot for at least 200);

2. She doesn’t stay in touch with the people she does know on a reasonably regular basis (and rest assured that doesn’t mean every 35 seconds);

3. His stay-in-touch materials are cheesy, predictable, unmemorable and/or boring (aka Dorky)

4. She doesn’t provide refer-worthy service, but rather focuses on prospecting for new clients;

5. His friends know him primarily as a party animal, career-switcher or just a generally likeable but flaky guy;

6.She pesters her friends constantly with reminders to send her referrals which a) annoys them thus inspiring them to avoid her and b) makes them wonder why she’s so desperate.

Of course there are those who protest, saying “But I’ve always asked for referrals and I’ve always gotten them!” And if that’s the case, keep it up if you choose.

But I will challenge you to consider this: How many MORE referrals might you get if you do NOT ask for them? Because I’ll bet you that the referrals you’ve gotten you’d have gotten anyway, without asking for them… but maybe, just maybe your Referral-Begging strategy has pushed people away who otherwise would have been happy to refer…?



posted by on Random (Un)Common Sense

I posted a blog the other day called (very cleverly, I thought) “Manners Matter” where I b!tched about someone who neglected to thank me for the wedding gift I gave them back in September.Thank You

Well, had some more thoughts on the Manners Matter matter and wanted to share.

I have a friend who is in a similar industry to mine; she’s an expert in her field and really puts herself out there to help people in need of her expertise, often without any compensation for her time and energy. We talk on a regular basis and I noticed that in the last month or so, her enthusiasm for her career has really cratered. Usually she’s all upbeat and optimistic; a little fireball of energy who gets a serious kick out of helping people See the Light and Change Their Lives, but lately… eh… not so much.

We finally talked about it, and while she hadn’t read my Manners Matter blog, that’s EXACTLY what’s got her down. An utter LACK of good manners from many of the people she helps. Specifically, a conspicuous lack of appreciation for the free advice and counsel she generously provides day in and day out.

She described several situations where she spent a lot of time with someone on the phone or email, came away from the encounter euphoric that she’d clearly made a difference, and then… NOTHING. No Thank You cometh, not even after she followed-up.

Coincidently, one of the non-thankers was someone we both know; someone who is in the real estate industry and could definitely benefit from both my and her high opinion of him. Which she no longer has. And after she told me the story, I don’t either.

All the guy had to do was send her a two-liner email thanking her for her time and wishing her a nice day. Or shoot, even a smiley face would have made a difference. Had she gotten her smiley face, she’d have thought nothing further about it and continued to think he was a pretty cool guy. As would I. But the utter lack of any expression of appreciation spoke so loudly to her about his character that now she wouldn’t dream of sending any business his way. Ever.

Scary, isn’t it?

So, how about this for an assignment this week… commit to saying Thank You ten times a day. LOOK for opportunities to express your appreciation for someone’s time and attention. Even if it’s just shooting off a little smiley face in an email…

And let us know how it goes!

posted by on Contact Management

Last week we did a show-n-tell webinar in the SWS Virtual Studio about contact management – specifically what to DO with your contacts once they’re loaded. Because, as nice as it is to have a place to safely store your precious sphere of influence contact details, having them in storage certainly isn’t enough to justify either the effort it took to get them there, or the cost you’ll incur to keep them there.Contact Management

If you’d like to watch the video from the show, you can do that here: It’s a long one – nearly 90 minutes, but there’s some good stuff there if I do say so me-self!

If you don’t have the patience to sit through a 90-minute tutorial (I know I don’t), here’s the Cliff’s Notes version…

Step One: Print out a report of all your contacts, including their spouse’s name, home address, email address, phone number and birthday.

Step Two: Go through the list with a highlighter and identify any missing bits of information. Don’t DO anything with the missing bits just yet – just identify them.

Step Three: Go through the list again and identify your Group Ones (the people you’d feel comfortable asking out for coffee; i.e. your social network). Put a “1” next to your Group Ones.

Step Four: If you imported your contacts from an old database, identify anyone on that list that you don’t know with an “IDK” (I Don’t Know). These might be old web leads or people you met at open houses five years ago, for example.

Step Five: Everyone else on the list, who isn’t a Group One or an IDK should be a Group Two (people you know, but who aren’t in your social network).

Step Six: Go BACK through the list (yet again) and identify members any sub-groups that you see – for example – family, service providers, dog-lovers, fellow bikers or hikers, little-league parents, members of your church, high school or college friends, etc.


All this printing and highlighting and scribbling may sound a little low-tech for today’s world, eh? Surely there’s a faster, more efficient way to do these things without expending all this manual effort?

Yes, of course there is and most contact management systems will allow you to do most of these steps directly online, without printing and highlighting and scribbling.


I believe there is something magical about “touching” the names in your database on a regular basis. When you print out the list and go through it, name by name and really think about each person and who they “are” to you, good things happen. First, you’ll likely be inspired to reconnect with many of the people on that list, and second (as airy-fairy as this may sound), when you think about someone, I believe you send out a vibe to them, and if you’re thinking good thoughts (!), I believe they’ll feel it… and might be inspired to reconnect with YOU! I think every real estate agent should go through their database, name by name, at least every six months.

Okay – I’ll continue this later this week with what to do NEXT after you’ve printed out and scribbled up your list… Stay tuned!

posted by on Contact Management

Here’s a fun interview I did with my good friend Rich Gaasenbeek of IXACT Contact about SOI & contact management. Enjoy!

IXACT Contact: I’m curious to know what motivated you to move from your successful career as a real estate broker to the work you’re doing now?

Jennifer: Well, it was a series of serendipitous events that led up to the career change – which at the time didn’t seem so serendipitous! I owned a real estate company with a partner who, one day, decided she didn’t want to be in real estate sales anymore. BAM! I wasn’t in a position at the time to continue without her, so I took the “opportunity” to finish up a book I’d started three years earlier. I had no idea at the time what was involved in becoming a world-famous author so I made a lot of mistakes, took a lot of wrong turns and enjoyed a bunch of “learning experiences!” But it’s been worth every single painful moment – I absolutely LOVE what I do and appreciate my extraordinary good fortune to do what I love AND get paid for it.

IXACT Contact: “Sell With Soul” is such a captivating phrase! What is the essence of the Sell With Soulapproach to a real estate sales career?

Jennifer: The definition of Selling with Soul is to enjoy a wildly successful career selling real estate by treating clients and prospects respectfully, as you yourself would like to be treated. Sounds suspiciously like the good old Golden Rule, huh? But to go a little further – on the cover of Sell with Soul (the book), there are four words: Respect, Competence, Enthusiasm and Confidence, which I believe are the inter-related pillars of success in a real estate career:  Respect your clients and prospects… Be competent (even exceptional) at what you do… Love what you do… all of which leads to a self-confidence that is far more attractive to your potential clients than any elevator speech, fancy brochure or scripted sales pitch will ever be.

IXACT Contact: That’s such a refreshingly common sense approach and I can understand why it has resonated so powerfully with so many people.  On the flip side, what are the most common mistakes you see new REALTORS® making?

Jennifer: Oh my… where do I start? The biggest mistake I see them make is to head out into the world looking for business before they know what to do with it – in other words, focusing on real estate prospecting without taking the time to learn how to BE a competent real estate agent. I’ve seen agents literally on their first day of work handed a list of expired listings and told to start calling them for appointments – before the agent can even spell MLS! Aside from the obvious issue of whether or not that agent is capable of handling any business his efforts might produce, this can be highly frustrating and discouraging for a new agent. I hear from these poor agents all the time. They think there’s something wrong with THEM. These REALTORS® would like to have a little training before they try to drum up business.Real estate prospecting - cold calling is not as effective as relationship marketing

Another very common mistake is to enter the profession without proper funding. Most people wouldn’t dream of opening their own business without a nest-egg to get them started, but it happens every day in real estate sales. Selling real estate is not a get-rich-quick career, or even a get-paid-in-a-reasonable-amount-of-time career in the beginning but I see agents every day who enter the field with less than $1,000 to their name. Crazy!

IXACT Contact: Good points Jennifer!  We would add that failure to capitalize on existing contacts is another common rookie REALTOR® mistake.  So many new agents feel they have to generate all their business from strangers that they completely overlook the gold in their own contact list.

Most seasoned agents know it’s important to stay in touch with their clients, but they’re not sure how to go about it.  How do you recommend REALTORS® keep in touch with and market to their clients better?

Jennifer: By “clients” I assume you mean their sphere of influence – the people they know (as opposed to just their current active buyer and seller clients). So, let’s use the abbreviation “SOI”, okay? The secret to an effective stay-in-touch campaign with one’s SOI is NOT to bombard them with postcards and newsletters and doo-dads every two weeks. Your goal in communicating is not simply to remind your SOI that you exist, but to inspire them to smile and think of you fondly. No off-the-shelf or boilerplate real estate marketing piece is going to do that; in fact, being bombarded with such material will likely have the opposite effect – that of annoying your sphere or at the very least, training them to ignore your communication efforts.

A better approach is to take the time to create quality real estate marketing pieces – and by “quality” I mean ones that will be interesting to the intended audience and reflective of who YOU are. If your marketing materials are quality materials, you don’t have to send them out nearly as much, but the irony is that your audience won’t mind if you do because they’re enjoying them!

IXACT Contact: We couldn’t agree more!  We’re big proponents of only sending quality keep-in-touch marketing communications that are relevant, personalized and timely.  It’s downright sad how many real estate sales people are still doing the old monthly “batch’n’blast” of a poor quality generic email or postcard that might actually be doing their reputation more harm than good.

Use IXACT Contact drip email to send personalized and targeted  communications

Let’s explore this a bit more.  Why exactly are relationships so important in real estate sales?

Jennifer: There are so many different ways to answer this question! If you look at it from a purely financial perspective, inspiring people you know to support your real estate sales business is going to be a whole lot less expensive than going after strangers with any mass-marketing effort. And most real estate agents don’t have it in the budget to implement a strong-enough real estate marketing campaign to create any real brand or name recognition in their market area.

So, if we agree that it’s more cost-effective to focus on the people you already know instead of strangers, then it becomes critical that you make an effort to nurture the relationships you have, and to always have your antenna up to make new friends. Not that you have to spend all day, every day hanging out with and making new friends (when would you get your work done?), but if you’re going to rely on your sphere of influence for most of your business, it’s obvious that you’ll have to stay in touch with the people you know and to come across to them as someone they can trust with their business and referrals. So, while I don’t consider real estate sales to be a traditional “numbers game” it is true that “the more people who know you, and like you, and trust you… and know that you sell real estate, the more real estate you’ll sell!”

IXACT Contact: This raises another question.  Why is building a business based on referrals such a great approach?

Jennifer: Well, building a business based on referrals is optional, of course. I see two paths to success in a real estate sales career – the first path is the traditional burn ‘em & churn ‘em – the heavy real estate prospecting model where the agent spends the majority of his or her time looking for new business. Since there are only so many hours in the day, if one is spending most hours on the hunt for new customers, it’s likely they aren’t spending much time taking care of the ones they have, which, unfortunately can mean that those current customers will never become good sources of future business for the agent (which may not be a problem for the agent as he enjoys and is good at the process of prospecting, or “making rain.”)

The other path to success is to take such great care of one’s current clients that in a few years, the agent has enough satisfied past clients to keep his pipeline full for the rest of his career. The beautiful thing about this path is that it creates a sweet cycle of business – the less time an agent has to spend searching for new business, the more time he can devote to his current clients, and therefore, the more raving fans he has in his database. If a real estate agent does a fantastic job for someone, all he has to do to guarantee their future support is to stay in touch with them on a reasonable basis after the transaction is closed.

For many agents, a referral-based business is the preferred model, not only because it’s easier business to get, but it also affirms that we did a good job for our clients and they obviously trust us with their precious referrals! To me, this is critical – if you’re getting referrals from past clients on a regular basis, it means you’re good at what you do – and if you’re going to get up every day and go to work, doesn’t it sound like more fun to be so darn good at what you do that your clients happily refer you to others?

IXACT Contact: That’s a very profound point.  Too often we focus only on what approach or system will make us the most money.  But isn’t it better to find a way to be successful that not only makes us money, but also lets us feel great about ourselves and our lives?

Let’s switch gears and talk about the execution side of the business as opposed to the relationship side.  Do you see poor time-management and/ or organization a common barrier to success in the field?

Jennifer: Yes! Many people think of real estate as primarily a relationship business – that is – the more of a “people-person” you are, the more successful you’ll be. While there’s some truth in that, and being a people-person certainly won’t hurt your business, it’s not the most important factor. What we do (if we do it well) involves managing a lot of moving pieces and parts, staying on top of dates and deadlines, making sure everyone involved is doing their job… all of which requires a fairly high level of time management and organizational skills. Sure, an agent who is socially outgoing and extroverted may bring in a lot of business, but if they can’t manage it, if things continually fall through the cracks, they will likely fail sooner or later.You are in control of your real estate sales career

IXACT Contact: How can a real estate contact management system help a REALTOR® become better organized and in control?

Jennifer: I think every busy real estate agent (or one who hopes to become busy!) owes it to him or herself to have (and use!) a contact management system to manage their business. I call it conTRACT management – that is – using the system to stay on top of their active listings, their listings under contract and their buyers under contract.

Once you have any business at all – that is – a few buyers, some active listings and some listings under contract, it’s easy to let things slip through the cracks if you don’t have specific, detailed checklists. And any time something slips through the cracks, you take the risk that 1) you’ll lose the trust and affection of your client (and therefore his future business and referrals), 2) you might get to write a check – maybe a big one – to correct the problem your negligence caused or 3) you’ll lose the sale all together.

Paper checklists are better than no checklists, but having your checklists in a contact management system that auto-populates your to-do list – ahhhhhhh – it’s a beautiful thing!

IXACT Contact: You’ve worked with many of the leading real estate CRM systems over the years. Why did you ultimately select IXACT Contact as the system you recommend to your clients and partners?

Jennifer: I used to be a Top Producer fanatic – I loved it! At one point, I was even a distributor for the product because I was such a fan. BUT, as I was introducing it to others, I was reminded of the steep learning curve. In the year I sold Top Producer, not one of my customers was happy with their purchase because they simply didn’t want to take the time to learn it.

So I went on the hunt for a simpler real estate CRM solution to recommend to my readers. I found several, gave them a test-drive and was very disappointed. The contact management systems either didn’t do the very basic functions I thought they should do (e.g. notify me of upcoming birthdays) or they just weren’t intuitive to learn so I gave up in frustration. I decided that there just wasn’t an easy-to-learn contact management system that would do everything I wanted it to do, so I stopped looking.

But then I discovered IXACT Contact and found it had the perfect combination of features and was very easy to learn for the average, non-technical REALTOR®. I call it Top Producer OFF steroids because it’s not overwhelming to learn and does 95% of what I think a real estate CRM system should do. And the 5% it doesn’t do – those features are either in the works or there are easy workarounds to them. I’m very satisfied with IXACT Contact. In fact, it’s one of only three or four real estate products I fully endorse and stand behind (outside of my own, of course!).

IXACT Contact: Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers regarding effective contact management and/or IXACT Contact?

Jennifer: For those who say they can’t afford contact management, I hear you – with every dollar being squeezed to death these days, an extra $35/month can seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if you don’t quite understand how it will help you. But when I recommend any product to a real estate agent, I do so with the caveat that it will pay for itself and more (if you use it, of course). And I’m 100% convinced that if you use a contact management system, even on a very basic level, you WILL see a return on your investment.

IXACT Contact: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Jennifer.  It’s been a pleasure as always, and I know our readers will appreciate the ideas and insights you’ve shared with us today.

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout Jennifer? You can’t be serious!

Yes, I am.

If you’re asking the question “What is the best way to ask for referrals?” that tells me that something about doing it bothers you.

And if it bothers you, don’t do it. Your discomfort will be crystal clear to the person you’re asking, which is probably worse than not asking at all.

(If you don’t mind asking for referrals, it probably comes naturally to you. Keep up the good work and ignore the rest of this blog.)

Do YOU like being asked for referrals? I don’t.

When a friend asks me to refer business to her, I feel uncomfortable. What was five minutes ago a friendship suddenly feels like an obligation. If she asks me twice, our friendship may very well be in danger. I don’t want to have to explain to her why I haven’t referred anyone to her lately (or ever). I don’t want to listen to her sales pitch… again. And, frankly, if I haven’t referred anyone her way, there may be a reason. But I’d hate to lose a friendship over it.

When a business professional asks me for referrals, it lowers my respect for them a notch. Right or wrong, I assume everyone is as successful as they wanna be. So when I receive a marketing letter from my insurance agent or my accountant asking for referrals, I suddenly question their level of success… and therefore, just a teeny bit, their competence. Where five minutes ago, I perceived them to be a prosperous, crazy-busy professional… now they’re a … salesperson. Ick.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to refer. I’m a referring madwoman when I find someone I believe in. You don’t have to ask me to refer, I’m all over it! Aren’t you the same way? If you have the world’s best hairdresser, dog trainer, chiropractor – don’t you tell everyone you know? Do these people have to constantly ask you for your referrals?

Here’s a better way.

Be a friend first. If not a friend, then a reasonably competent human being. Be happy, excited and enthusiastic. Act as if your career is everything you always dreamed of. Practice saying “I’m a real estate agent and it’s the coolest job in the world!” with a huge smile on your face. Or how about “I had no idea how much I would enjoy selling real estate, I’m having a blast!” Followed up by a sincere “How are YOU doing?”

To ensure that every potential referrer in your life knows you’re a reasonably competent human being, make sure your self-promotion materials are professional and error-free. Return phone calls promptly, even social phone calls. Show up on time for appointments and lunch dates. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it. No excuses. Dress appropriately. Watch your language.

It really is that simple.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

The new agent asks… “What can I tell people about myself in 30 seconds that will make them want to work with me?”

That’s a tough one. I’ve seen some pretty creative answers. Most answers center around bragging about one’s expertise, one’s helpful nature and one’s successes.


I’m trying to think of a time someone bragged to me about themselves and I was so impressed I asked for their business card. Can’t think of one. We human beings tend to be contrarians and will argue (at least mentally) with just about anything. Tell me how great you are, and I’m already thinking of reasons to disagree with you.

So, what do you say to someone you just met to motivate them to want to know more about you?

Try this secret phrase.

“I’m a real estate agent!!!”

If you announce it with your shoulders back and a big smile on your face, like being a real estate agent is the coolest job in the whole world…it’s magnetic. People will be irresistibly drawn to you and can’t help but want to know more about you.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work if you fake it. If you don’t love your job and don’t think it’s the coolest in the world… no one else will either.

But if you do love your job and think you’re pretty darn good at it… try the secret phrase a few times and let me know how it goes.


copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

posted by on Jennifer's Best, Prospecting & SOI

You’ve heard the cold caller’s philosophy…for every 100 phone calls you make, you’ll get five appointments; for every five appointments you go on, you’ll get one listing. Therefore, if you make 500 phone calls, you can count on five listings as a result. If your average listing commission is $5,000, then every phone call is worth $50 since it takes 100 phone calls to get a listing. Supposedly you will actually start to enjoy each rejection, because you realize that every 99 “no’s” equals a “yes” which leads to a paycheck, since every “no” means you are one step closer to a “yes.” Sound fun?

Not to me. In fact, it sounds like an awful way to make a living. Pestering people for three hours a day asking the poor sap who answers the phone if he “knows anyone who’s thinking of buying or selling real estate?” Being rejected 99 times out of a hundred, voluntarily? Ick. Phooey. Blech.

So tell us how you really feel, Jennifer!

Okay, thanks for asking, I will.

The State of Colorado’s Division of Real Estate did not grant me a real estate license so that I could be a professional prospector. I have to assume that good old DORA intended for me to spend a significant amount of my time serving the clients I am honored to have today instead of tracking down the ones I hope to have tomorrow. Taking good care of my listings and my buyers. As my first priority. Not as an afterthought when I can squeeze them in around my prospecting and networking efforts.

But, but, but….!

Yeah, I know. As self-employed types, we have to ensure ourselves a steady stream of business to keep the home fires burning in the style to which we intend to become accustomed. Hey, believe me, I never took a vow of poverty and I don’t sell real estate out of the goodness of my heart. I’ve had $50,000 months before, more than once, and I could happily get used to that!

But you know what? I have never cold called, I have never knocked on a stranger’s door… in fact, I’ve never even asked a stranger for business. Ever. No, not even FSBO’s or expireds.

For ten years I have depended on my SOI for 100% of my business. And they have generously delivered. Sure, I’ve picked up the odd client here and there from floor time or open houses; maybe two or three a year, which is nothing to sneeze at. But the vast majority of my business comes directly or indirectly from the people I know or meet.

And every client is special to me. Even precious. Okay, admittedly some are a pain in the ass, but I still appreciate their business and the juicy commission checks I get as a reward for putting up with them. But most of my clients are pleasant people with a real estate need who simply want to be treated as if their business is valuable to me. Not like a number.

When you depend on your SOI for business, you bow out of the numbers game. And it’s wonderful. No more dragging yourself to the phone for your daily cold calling session. No more searching the real estate ads for your next FSBO target. No more beating yourself up because you’d rather take a nap than finish up your 10 HouseValues CMAs that are due today.

When your pipeline is running low, you have a little Super Bowl party. Or send out some friendly personal emails. Or ratchet up your “take-a-friend-to-lunch” campaign. You don’t need 20 more clients today; just two or three good ones will restore your mood. And pad your bank account.

SOI business is good business. It’s loyal business. It’s fun business. The success ratios are more like 50%-75%, compared to 5-10% from traditional lead generation (and that’s being optimistic!). So if you get 100 leads from your SOI, that will result in 50-75 closings from you.

So how does it work exactly? Glad you asked.

SOI business comes in one lead at a time. But the leads are good leads, leads that will likely result in a closing. And, depending on your market and your broker split, each lead-that-will-probably-result-in-a-closing is worth thousands of dollars to you.

So let’s say you have 20 close friends. If you have implemented a respectful, consistent SOI campaign, you, obviously, are the agent of choice for most of them if any happen to need a real estate agent this year. Maybe that will only get you one or two sales; or maybe your friends are a restless bunch and you’ll get five or six.

You should also get the family business of your 20 nearest & dearest. Katie’s grandma moves to town to be closer to her grandchildren. Fred’s brother-in-law needs a referral to a Las Vegas agent. Maria’s sister gets engaged and needs to sell her condo. Her fiancé wants to sell his too. There’s a good chance you’ll get first dibs on this sort of business. So let’s say you pick up three family members.

Let’s not forget everyone else your 20 friends know. If just half of your friends refer you to just one person, that’s 10 more clients for you. What if all of your friends refer you to one other person? Or if three of your friends each refer you to five of their friends? What if you have 30 friends? 50?

Oh, and what about everyone else in your SOI? The other 150 people you know and stay in touch with? Your husband’s assistant? Your dog trainer? Your massage therapist? Depending on the strength of your SOI campaign, you might see 5-15 sales a year from these folks.

And we haven’t even talked about the NEW friends you’re going to make over the next 12 months! If you’re out there in the world, with your antenna up, you will run into people who happen to be in need of real estate services. If you approach them right, that business is yours. Maybe that’s another five sales for you.

So add it all up and you’re selling some real estate! All without treating anyone like a number.

Unless you’re striving to be a mega-producer with 10 buyer agents scurrying around underfoot, you really don’t need to go after every buyer and seller in town. This is what I mean when I say that Real Estate is Not a Numbers Game. The business that you can generate from your SOI and from your own social encounters really ought to be enough.

And the best part? If you spend a few years building a strong cheering section (i.e. your SOI), you can coast through the rest of your real estate career. NO prospecting, NO marketing budget, NO sleepless nights worrying about where your next closing is coming from. Now, that’s a lifestyle I could get used to (and I have). 

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007


SOI in Action


posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Yesterday, I got a call from a former client of mine. She was one of my biggest investor clients during the Denver real estate boom in the late 1990’s, but has since left town and no longer invests in the Denver market. We stay in touch and she sends referrals my way when she can.

Anyway, she called asking for my help in appealing a low appraisal her brother received on his home he’s trying to refinance.

No problem, I tell her. I pull the comps, confirm that the appraisal is ridiculously low and email her the information, which she forwards to the lender handling the refinance. The lender calls me, asks for a little more information, including a copy of the tax assessor’s record, which I immediately fax to him. He emails me the low appraisal and asks for my input which I provide. I explain in detail why the comps the appraiser used are inappropriate.

He thanks me profusely and tells me I’m awesome. I smile.

From the time my client called me to the point I evaluated the appraisal for the lender, about 90 minutes passed. All in all, I spent maybe 25 minutes of my time. Piece o’ cake to do.

The moral of the story… this is pure SOI in action. Do you think I’ll need to constantly remind my former client that I LOVE Referrals? Uh, no. I’m her real estate resource in Denver, no question about it. Because I dropped everything and helped her out right away, she knows she’s a high priority for me. She knows she’s special. I don’t have to tell her, I showed her. And I won’t have to remind her.

This is pretty simple stuff. But what if I followed my buddy Dirk Zeller’s advice and put her off until later in the day (or even tomorrow) so I could finish up my prospecting or other more critical work? I mean, isn’t it way more effective to pester ten strangers than to take care of one person who has already proven to be a source of business for me?

What do you think?

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Welcome to Part Two of SOI and the Single Gal (read Part One here)

Ten Ways SOI is like Dating:

  1. When you leave the house, you never know who you might meet. So put on lipstick, comb your hair and put on some sexy jeans. If you feel good about you, others can’t help but notice and be drawn to you. Conversely, if you’re slouching around Wal-Mart in your baggy sweats, bed-head hair and morning breath, people will most certainly keep their distance!
  2. Be nice to everyone you meet. You never know if their brother or sister or aunt or uncle or mother or father needs someone just like you, right now!
  3. Be nice to everyone you meet, Part II. Even though this person may not appear to be Your Type at first glance, you never know where it might lead if you give it a chance.
  4.  Be nice to everyone you meet, Part III. Get in the habit of being pleasant to everyone who crosses your path and you’ll be READY when you come face to face with THE ONE.
  5. Get out of the house. Sure, online prospects are low-risk and plentiful, but nothing beats that rush of physical chemistry and intellectual rapport.
  6. Go where other people are. Preferably to places where people talk to each other and feel good. The dog park, concerts in the park, happy hour, Water World, high school football games…
  7. Play it cool. Don’t put all your (business) cards on the table until the other person asks to see them.
  8. Don’t put your friends on the spot asking them to match them up. Okay, maybe ask ONCE if you must, but never mention it again. Feel free, however, to discuss your life (in a positive, upbeat, confident voice) with your friends, including all the great fun you’re having meeting new people!
  9. Be ready for the roller coaster. Euphoria and despair will be your companions on a daily basis. It’s part of the fun!
  10. Strive for that elusive balance between overly eager and underly responsive. Playing a little hard to get can make you appear more desirable, as long as you’re WORTH waiting for!

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Thanks to everyone who responded to my question yesterday “Do You Market Your Listings to Your SOI?”

I used to. As Susan H. said, I wanted my SOI to know that I was active and successful, and heck, who knows? Maybe one of them would want to buy the house or know someone who does. Couldn’t hurt, right? Besides, I was one of the first agents in Denver to do my own virtual tours (as opposed to hiring out IPIX – yech), so I was able to really WOW my SOI with such advanced marketing techniques!

But today… eh…. I dunno. The last thing I want to do is train my SOI to ignore my emails because they’ve learned there’s nothing “of value” there. There’s a fine line between staying in touch and being a nuisance. Once you hit the “nuisance” list, there’s not much you can do to earn back your credibility. I think people today are much less receptive to receiving unsolicited marketing emails than they were ten years ago when email was still a novelty to many.  And besides, do you REALLY think your social network cares that much about your listings?

I think Ruthmarie nailed it when she said “I would not want overwhelm their email or snail mail with an unending stream of listings. I think its common sense. Not only is it annoying – it would lose its effect in short order.  It’s like any other form of advertising.  The more the public is bombarded, the more they tune out. They HAVE to – its survival for God’s sake.” 

I like to approach my SOI as an interesting, reliable, intelligent, caring PERSON first, and a real estate agent second or third or fourth. If I use my listings as my main excuse to communicate, that’s sending the wrong message (to my way of thinking). I want people to know that I’m a real estate agent, of course, but I think it’s more important that they think I’m a generally cool person, as well.

On the other hand, my seller client didn’t hire me to worry about my SOI; he hired me to sell his house. So, is it my DUTY to expose his home to my SOI, at the risk of turning them off?

I don’t think so. The chances that my SOI will bring the buyer to the home are slim. Do you think anyone is sitting at their computer, reading your mass-email and suddenly exclaiming “Eureka! I want to move and this house is PERFECT for me!” Probably not.

The exception is if you have an unusually interesting listing, such as a historic property, a cash-flowing investment or even your own home. I always send out the virtual tour of my own properties when I sell them. Does that sound contradictory? It’s not. I believe mass-emails should still be interesting and personal, and I believe most people ARE interested in seeing the price, photos and description of the home of someone they know. (Which is why I always encourage my sellers to send out my virtual tour to THEIR friends!)

Heather Oberhau commented that she uses direct mail to market listings to her SOI and I think that’s just fine, as long as you can afford it. I just don’t think we should risk losing our email rapport with the people we know… since that’s FREE!

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Let’s say you just got a shiny new listing on this second day of 2008. You take your photos, create a virtual tour, write up a snappy description and….

…send it out to everyone you know (that is, your SOI) — just in case someone might want to buy it or know someone who does?

How do you feel about this marketing technique?

I’ll share my thoughts tomorrow, but I’d love to hear yours today…


posted by on Prospecting & SOI

A few of my blogs have found their way to a South African real estate newsletter. Holy Moly – that’s one tough coachaudience! I (well, all of us as an industry, but me specifically) have been called a trailer-trash buffoon, an idiot and even a prostitute!  I don’t know what the South African real estate community has done to the general public down there, but if you think we aren’t respected in North America, you ain’t seen nothing compared to these folks!

Here are the links, for your reading enjoyment. Don’t miss the commentary – it’s the best part:

Selling Real Estate it NOT a Number’s Game!
SOI is Like Dating

One of the more memorable comments on my most recent posted blog accused me of resorting to “selling books to morons because she can’t make money out of selling properties.” Well, humph!

Okay, buddy, I’ll show you!

On February 1, 2008, I’m reactivating my real estate license and I’m gonna sell some real estate. I’ll do it by following my own rules and I’m gonna do it publicly. Mr. South African A$$h0le can watch me to his heart’s content.

And, for that matter, so can you.

I’m not exactly a rookie, but I’ve been out of the biz for almost two years and not only have I lost touch with many members of my beloved SOI, but the market has changed significantly. I’m also pretty sure the Colorado real estate contracts have been revised, so I have a lot of catching up to do! I might (egads) even have to finally learn about foreclosures and short sales.

I intend to prove that, in today’s market, Selling with Soul works, and works well. That it’s not just some crazy theory I came up with to sell some books. That you can depend on your SOI to generously deliver business to your doorstep without your ever asking for it. That selling real estate respectfully and competently will make you money… and in the process … you’ll enjoy the heck out of your real estate career.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

The other day I wrote a blog, basically admitting that I’ve lied all this time when I said that virtually all of my real estate business came directly or indirectly from the people I knew, otherwise known as my sphere of influence (SOI).

As part of my re-entry into the wonderful world of real estate sales, I’ve been more closely analyzing where my business came from the first go-around and had an AHA moment of… “wow – I got a lot of business from strangers!” Now, don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t forgotten about these Very Important Clients; I just kinda forgot how I met them since, of course, they all ended up in my SOI and many became friends or semi-friends.

But the difference is… I never prospected for the business of strangers. Never cold-called, door-knocked; rarely advertised or farmed. I never, ever approached a stranger with the intent to prospect to them.  All of my Business from Strangers was serendipitous

They say that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. BINGO!

Opportunity: Being out in the world with a smile on your face and your antenna up.

Preparation: Being ready to hand out your business card and spout your elevator speech? NO!!! Preparation means being ready to speak intelligently and knowledgeably about the local real estate market without a hint of a sales pitch.

Don’t want to prospect? Then don’t. Spend that time learning the heck out of your market. Preview, preview, preview. Read neighborhood newspapers. Preview some more. Visit neighborhood grocery stores and shopping districts. Preview. Visit new home communities, attend meetings on Transit Oriented Development. Preview. Know your office inventory inside and out.

When a Stranger Calls…(on one your listings or while you’re on floor duty), you’ll get ‘em. When an open house visitor expresses in an interest in the neighborhood… you’ll get ‘em. When another guest at a wedding wants to talk real estate investment… you’ll get ‘em.

KNOWING YOUR MARKET is the best way to “prospect” to strangers. No fancy business card, well-rehearsed elevator speech or slick closing technique will beat the confidence that exudes from you when you know your stuff. It’s magnetic.


p.s. remember the part about leaving out the sales pitch. If you impress someone with your market knowledge, then hit ‘em with a sales pitch, you’ll likely un-do all the good you just did. When you’re confident and enthusiastic, people will ASK for YOUR business card. It’s a beautiful thing.

posted by on Prospecting & SOI

Got this question today from a reader who is signed up with the Buffini program…

“Hey there Jennifer,   So I’m working through my Buffini ‘phrasing’…for how I’m qualifying those in my database…and wow–it’s just not flowing right for me i.e. not my style.   What are your thoughts about qualifying your database i.e. this goes back to ‘to ask or not to ask’ for referrals………  I have a coach through Buffini and I know that their systems really work…AND I need to find a way that also fits me.  Have you worked with anyone else in rephrasing the questions that you ask those in your database? Any suggestions?”

Here’s my answer…

“Well, Mr. Buffini and I differ dramatically on this point, so I may not be able to help you.   First, as you probably know, I’m adamantly opposed to asking for referrals in any way, shape or form. I’m even more opposed to qualifying a database based on whether or not you think someone will refer to you.

Referral patterns can change over time, especially if you make an effort to build a PERSONAL relationship with someone that is not based on their “value” to your business. If you spent the next three months truly building relationships with the people in your database instead of figuring out who and how to ask for referrals, your business will explode. When someone asks me for referrals, no matter how subtly, my respect and affection for them goes down significantly.  

When I group my contacts, I do it based on how comfortable I feel socializing with them. For example, I have 43 people in my “Group One” which is made up of those I’d be okay asking to coffee. Whether or not they will refer to me is not relevant. If I build a relationship with them, they WILL refer to me eventually, or at least invite me to their parties, putting me in a position to meet their friends (of course, I’d never ever pester them for business or referrals either).  

If you’re good at what you do… if you love what you do… business will come. You don’t have to ask for it.”

posted by on Introverts Are Awesome!

I struggle with the personal phone calls. Don't know why it's so hard, but it is. I guess it's because I really don't like to talk on the phone myself, so it's hard for me to impose my voice on others! But whenever I do get brave and make the call, I almost always feel good that I did.

Except, as I've mentioned before, when I call a fellow introvert (who probably doesn't like talking on the phone any more than I do). So, unless I have a real good reason to make that call – I don't. My introvert friends get an email.

Also, as I think I've suggested, before you make your SOI phone calls, make a few purely "business" calls to warm up. Like – schedule a dentist appointment… call your credit card company to protest a charge… if you've moved recently, make a few phone calls updating your address. Once I've have a few successful phone calls under my belt, it's much easier for me to make the personal, or even difficult ones. (Like calling your seller to explain why you haven't had any showings this week).

I usually make my calls in conjunction with my lunch date goals.

I have noticed, however, that I get a much better response to my emails than to voicemails. Anyone else notice this? Maybe we really are moving toward a digital world and away from voice to voice. Any thoughts?

Just remember (yeah, like I have to remind THIS crowd), don't call your friends looking for business. Don't even mention real estate unless you have a darn good reason to.


posted by on Prospecting & SOI

For almost twelve years, I’ve run a nearly 100% SOI business – that is – most of my clients have come from the people I know, the people they know, or the people I meet. In other words, I’ve done very little formal lead soigeneration with the goal of attracting the attention of strangers.  It’s worked for me.

As many of you know, I have a somewhat organized, yet unconventional approach to keeping my name in front of my SOI. I don’t bombard them with cheesy mailers; I don’t pester them on a monthly basis for referrals; I don’t sort them according to whether or not they will commit to sending business my way. Nah, I just stay in touch, as a real person who happens to sell real estate for a living. Oh, and I take great care of my clients… as my first priority – not as an afterthought once my prospecting activities are done (that’s straight from my profile – kinda catchy, eh?).

And… business floods in. My phone rings (or email jangles), I answer it, and voila! I have a great new client.

But what has pleasantly surprised me since my recent return to real estate after two years away is how many of my past clients, some of whom I haven’t spoken with in years, still consider me their Realtor-of-Choice. Just in the last week, I’ve been contacted by four past clients – all of whom bought or sold over five years ago – wanting to talk real estate. Three out of four of the calls came from people I didn’t think really liked me much since they’d never responded to my stay-in-touch efforts. I figured I’d done something to make them mad and many times considered striking them from my database.

Nope. Not the case at all. They had lives to live and didn’t need a real estate agent that day. But when they did… they knew who to call. (That would be ME.)

So, why do they remember me? I ask myself the same question. I really don’t have a personal relationship with them, obviously, since we haven’t actually spoken since the closing in many cases. Yes, I have included them in my postal mailings and emailings , but I’m sure they’ve met other agents through the years and probably get bombarded with Just Listed! and Just Sold! postcards on a regular basis. What’s so special about me?

In the interest of research, I got up the nerve to ask a few of them. And the answers warmed my heart.

They called me because I did a good job for them and they knew how reach me when the time came. Simple as that. Now, if I had done a lousy or even mediocre job for them, but stayed in touch, I doubt they would have kept my card around, but since they were happy, they did. Oh, I’m sure that I’ve lost people thru the years who did happen to meet other real estate agents who befriended them more than I did, but overall, I have to say that I’m tickled with my retention rate.

Do a good job. Stay in touch. Pretty easy stuff, huh?