You found your buyer the perfect house, succeeded on the offer, and closing is just four weeks away. Inspection, financing and post-sale repairs are next on the buyer’s to-do list. Is your buyer left scouring the yellow pages for help, or do you have a list of resources that makes it easy for the buyer to sign on the line?
The savvy, connected real estate agent will not only know the market value of price per square foot, but will also be able to refer names of qualified lenders, title companies, inspectors and handymen. Building a strong Rolodex of local, reliable contacts — or partners — brings confidence to your buyers, and is a powerful marketing and networking tool for you.
Building Your Go-To List:
Establishing a list of partners is not a one-day activity. It evolves over time, and experience working with each partner is critical in assessing the quality and value-add for your clients. Key partners to include in your go-to list are:
- Title Companies
- Handymen and General Contractors (with specialties in electrical, plumbing, masonry, painting and roofing)
- Home Inspectors, including structural, radon and electrical
Make sure contact information, such as e-mail, cell phone and Web sites, is current. A dead-end contact can detract from your clients’ trust in your guidance. It is important to let your partners know they are on your list. This awareness helps them anticipate future business, and also lets them know you are collaborating so they may at times reciprocate the referral. A steady stream of referrals to certain companies or partners may even result in discounts and special offers for your clients.
Making the Recommendation:
Clients want a hassle-free move. To alleviate this concern, some agents promote their “one-stop shop” in listing presentations or buyer counseling sessions, demonstrating that the agent will help with EVERY step of the process.
Keep in mind that not every client’s preferences — and budget — are alike. Tailor your recommendations to meet the economic needs of the client. For example, the young couple buying a starter home may have very different needs in a handyman from the more established couple that wants to add a guest addition onto their new home.
To empower your clients during the decision-making process, provide two or three referral names, with the suggestion of one over the others. It also lends some legitimacy to the process. And remember, feedback on service is important. Always ask clients whether your referral met their needs. Sometimes, the feedback you don’t hear is the most damaging.
Marketing Your Partner Network:
A strong partner network is a powerful marketing tool. Marketing your partner company contacts represents your knowledge of the local market and personalizes your support for new homeowners. Partner companies are usually thrilled to team up with an agent because they are great sources of referral business–both ways.
There are several effective ways to promote your partner network:
- Web site and marketing materials: Promote your partners on your Web site and even perhaps marketing materials. In exchange, the partner may even pay for ads that appear in your newsletter or Web site.
- Home-Buying Seminars: Agents can invite partners to speak at seminars. Lenders, for example, are especially welcome at seminars to give potential buyers that latest information on financing options, interest rates and mortgage calculators.
- Incentives: Partners may want to provide your clients with coupons or special promotions. A handyman, for example, may provide your clients with a $200 coupon toward home improvements after closing.
- Post-Closing Gifts: A referral need not be an immediate need. A post-closing gift basket of food from a local market, restaurant gift certificates, and even a gift certificate for a local landscaper can contribute to continued client and partner rapport.
Not Just a Buyer’s Market:
Buyers aren’t the only clients in need of personal referrals and contacts. The well-connected real estate agent also anticipates the needs of sellers. Locally, this may include local movers and utility checklists. Clients moving to another city or state may need to find organizations (such as the Salvation Army and other community non-profits) willing to take large, unwanted items. If the Realtor is part of a large, national real estate company, there may be involvement in referring clients to a Realtor qualified in the client’s new state.
Join a Nationwide Referral Network:
Realtors who are members of nationwide referral networks, such as HomeAgent, know how to make the most of long-distance networking and referrals. Through a members-only Web site, HomeAgent members can identify and refer clients to other HomeAgent member Realtors. Whether working across the state line or from coast to coast, the high level of HomeAgent’s standards and requirements will put your clients at ease when working with a referred agent.
Creating a one-stop shop for all real estate needs is a smart and essential marketing tool that will set you apart from the competition. Keep the Rolodex current and handy. You never know when a referral will turn into new business.
Howard Brinton is a real estate sales motivational speaker and the founder and CEO of Star Power Systems, a sales training organization that offers tapes, books, videos, conferences and a club that distributes selling techniques from the nation’s top producers.
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