Real estate agents know that one key to success in the business is chasing referrals. What would happen if you decided to make that your primary focus? I checked in with Vicky Chrisner, a Keller Williams real estate consultant in Northern Virginia, who has done exactly that.

ROOKIE: When did you get started in real estate?

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series that features an interview with real estate consultant Vicky Chrisner. Read Part 2.

Real estate agents know that one key to success in the business is chasing referrals. What would happen if you decided to make that your primary focus? I checked in with Vicky Chrisner, a Keller Williams real estate consultant in Northern Virginia, who has done exactly that.

ROOKIE: When did you get started in real estate?

CHRISNER: I’ve worked in real estate only — I had worked in development, and for a brokerage — but just got my license in 2005.

ROOKIE: What was your first referral transaction?

CHRISNER: The majority of my transactions have been referrals, starting with my third. That was a referral from my father, a builder, who had been anxiously waiting for me to get my license so that he could send business my way. I made a conscious decision to market to referrals once I realized that that was where most of my business was coming from.

ROOKIE: And how’s business? How many sides are you doing?

CHRISNER: This year it’s going to end up being about 50. Now I do a lot of work with builders, so I do sometimes have both sides of the transaction. Right now I have more than $4 million under contract. I have never had a September with $4 million under contract before.

ROOKIE: Wow.

CHRISNER: The people who know you want to support you in your business, so the key is to educate them so that they know how. I started by getting to the people who knew me, and saying, "I need your support. If you’d hire me, then please make sure your sister does."

ROOKIE: What about other agents?

CHRISNER: That is something that I’m starting to do more this year, and as we’re entering the second half of this year I am starting to reap the rewards. Throughout my sphere, I market that I am able to refer to other agents. When I am talking to a neighbor, and the neighbor says (a relative) is moving to Colorado, I can refer an agent, so that opens that line for reciprocal referrals.

I will be closing a deal in two weeks that was an immediate reciprocal referral. I sent a referral to Los Angeles, and they sent me back a referral the next day.

ROOKIE: OK. More tips?

CHRISNER: In my database I’ve got separate categories for "non-agents" and "agents." As far as the agents are concerned, I have an e-mail marketing campaign and a blog specifically for them.

ROOKIE: I met you when you asked real estate agents a question on LinkedIn. Have you had any success with LinkedIn?

CHRISNER: I haven’t gotten any business from it … I use it to get new ideas, because it’s a little bit more of an intellectual crowd.

ROOKIE: As far as referrals, how do you pick out the good ones? I am fervently grateful for every agent who thinks of me, but sometimes I get sent referrals that aren’t financially qualified, or they’re not in any hurry in terms of time — so sometimes the "referrals" turn out to be "B" leads.

CHRISNER: Since I look at each new contact as an opportunity to build a relationship, I get very few of what I would consider "trash-can" leads. In other words, every lead is a qualified lead. If they get referred to me, they’re in my community or they want to be in my community, so they’re going to be a source of referrals for me.

ROOKIE: But what about the referring agent who was imagining an immediate paycheck? You don’t want to disappoint that agent.

CHRISNER: I got a call from an agent in North Carolina who said, "We have this person, they’ve picked out something to buy (in North Carolina), and they are ready to put their house (in Leesburg) on the market. They’re ready to move, go for it!" But when I looked at the sellers’ personal situation — and the market here and the market there — I recommended that they wait three to five years before making the move.

And I told them, "If you decide to sell despite what I’ve told you, I hope that you’ll pick me. But I have to be able to sleep at night, and I want to give you the information that will lead to success for you."

That was maybe six weeks ago. I have talked to that agent and explained the situation. I’m not so sure (the agent) is happy for me.

I will stay in touch every three months or so. I do feel down the road, in three to five years, those people will be sellers, and I will pay that referral fee — I have it noted in my database where they came from — and that agent will be happy with me again.

Ultimately, you have to serve the people that are referred to you in their best interest, so you can move forward with your life and your business and know that you’re doing the right thing.

Read the second part of this two-part article about an interview with Vicky Chrisner next week in "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."

Alison Rogers is a licensed salesperson and author of "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie."

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