Searching for real estate online is fun and entertaining, and Zillow, Trulia, and Google have successfully made looking for homes as addicting as scanning Facebook and Pinterest for hours on end. Filled with beautiful pictures and more relevant information than ever before, it is easy to understand why the Big 3 and Google simply dominate all aspects of the housing search.

The results of creating an entertaining experience has certainly increased leads for agents, but sifting through the mass amount of leads to find the qualified ones has led to increased frustration among agents, a lot of time and money spent, and very few reasons to justify the investment.

Handling the increased volume of leads is no easy task, and it takes several levels of filtering to find the qualified leads. For some agents who have systems in place to handle a high volume of traffic, they are finding great success and closing more deals. However, the majority of agents do not have systems in place to filter leads, follow up and continually stay in front of prospects over a significant period of time, rendering their investment in online lead generation a complete waste of time, money and effort.

Even large corporations have trouble filtering leads, and spend millions of dollars to farm and cultivate leads. It seems highly unlikely, given the state of the current brokerage/independent contractor model, that agents will ever implement the necessary personnel and systems to effectively track leads over a significant period of time, which leads me to believe agents really need to buckle down and focus the majority of their time and money cultivating their first sphere of influence.

Here are three tips to better farm and cultivate your first sphere of influence:

 1. Get serious about following up

It is hard to imagine only 17 percent of agents are rehired due to the fact that clients do not remember their agent’s name. If you want to stay relevant and thrive, following up needs to be at the forefront of your business strategy. You simply will not last long in this business if you fail to do so.

2. Create a story around you

People remember stories better than advertising slogans, because this is just simply how humans are wired. Create a compelling story about how you got into the business, where you came from, or why you are the best agent in your neighborhood. Do something people will remember you by to stand out from the rest. Always remember to keep it simple and concise.

3. Sponsor a cause or meetup group you are passionate about

The easier you can relate to people on a personal level will allow to more easily connect with them and build a lasting relationship. It is easier to find common ground with people when you have mutual connections or share the same passion. Forget the days of cold calling and grow your sphere based on mutual interests.

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series. See Part 1.

Will Caldwell, a San Diego resident, is the CEO and co-founder at Dizzle, a mobile real estate tech company that helps Realtors generate more word-of-mouth leads.

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