I believe a wise man once said: “Many business dealings have been won or lost over a slice of pizza.”

All right, so maybe a wise man never uttered those words, but I certainly stand by them, and I consider myself somewhat of a smart guy.

When I was an agent closing 230 properties a year, I realized that there had to be a better approach to networking and building my vendor base. Knowing that I wanted to focus on vendors in high-traffic areas that could be active advocates for my brand, I thought, “How can I grow my referrals through my vendor network?”

Now, I am admittedly a connoisseur of pizza, and if my appearance weren’t an issue, I would probably eat it for all my meals. Around this same time, there was this local pizzeria that was renowned for whipping up delicious pies called Mr. Giovanni’s. I ate there all the time, and it was always busy.

During one of my pizza binges, I asked if I could meet with the owner, and when I did, he and I started developing a good rapport. After casually learning his business, I mentioned to Mr. Giovanni that I too was a budding entrepreneur, and I saw potential to benefit from one another. I gave him a proposition. I told him:

  • I would purchase a pizza from him for every property I closed. That’s 230 pies a year.
  • When I bought a pizza, he had to match me by contributing one free of charge.
  • With each pizza I purchased, and he subsequently gave away, it had to include my branding on the packaging — essentially a giant sticker of my face on the box.
  • Lastly, attached to each one of the boxes I would have a sheet of personally branded pizza coupons that included the free pizza for which Mr. Giovanni was responsible.

I became a conversation piece based just off a pizza box. Mr. Giovanni readily agreed. I knew that personally branding the pizza boxes and coupons gave my clients a sense of exclusivity, but it also grew my brand through word of mouth.

Nobody I know buys pizza just once, so, as you can imagine, the exposure I received from birthday parties, sporting events or any other gathering was tremendous. I became a conversation piece based just on a pizza box. Not to mention, I could measure the success of my promotional efforts through the pizzas that were ordered and the coupons that were used.

For Mr. Giovanni, I knew he was doing well because clients’ orders led to residual sales, repeat business and so on. In all, it was a win-win scenario that culminated in at least seven additional property closures each year.

So, what are the takeaways to turn my example with Mr. Giovanni into referrals for you? Essentially, there are three key points:

High traffic/volume

Don’t waste your efforts on people or endeavors that aren’t worth it. Think about the things that every person enjoys, buys or needs. From there, think of creative ways where you can incorporate your brand into that product or industry.


Make sure you can develop a working relationship with another person or business. Take the time to learn about them: how their business works, their financial flexibility, etc. Small-business owners are great because of the eagerness to work together.


Don’t waste your marketing on efforts that don’t deliver results. Be able to monitor what is working, what isn’t, and then make your adjustments as need be.

Maybe a wise man didn’t say it, but take it from me, a slice of pizza can mean a whole lot in the world of real estate.

Tyler Smith is founder and CEO of SkySlope, and a former top-producing agent, and 30 Under 30 alumni. You can follow him on Twitter or on his blog.

Email Tyler Smith.

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