Real estate sales is a relationship-based business, but sometimes it gets confusing as to what that relationship is supposed to be. When people look for an agent are they looking for a friend? Can the way we use social networks cause us to go from friendly to obnoxious?

There are salespeople out there who have inserted themselves into my life with constant contact, and I don’t seem to be able to get rid of them. They put themselves into my online conversations and follow me everywhere. Once we get onto their mailing list we can never get off.

When does following someone on Twitter cross the line and become stalking? We want to stay connected and we want to be that trusted adviser, but does that make us friends? Do we have to be friends to work together? Do I have to know the birth date of every past client and the names of their children to get repeat business?

I like to say that I am not a people person. I am not a social butterfly and am more introverted than extroverted. The longer I stay in real estate, the less I like people and the more introverted I become.

Some of my clients become friends, but friendship is not one of my business goals. This kind of attitude may make no sense to you, but it is likely that you have clients who have a similar attitude, and some of those clients may not welcome those frequent "touches."

My insurance agent is a friendly guy. He smiles a lot, too.

He sends me a birthday card each year and a calendar, too, but I don’t consider him a friend and if he stops sending cards I will still pay my insurance. He should save his money. I rarely open the cards.

He is a wonderful insurance agent and I have recommended him to my clients, but he isn’t someone who I chose to make a part of my life. I don’t think about him on a daily basis and I only call him when I get the yearly bill for homeowners insurance and need someone to listen as I complain about how the insurance goes up even when home values go down.

He doesn’t need to be any more involved in my life than he already is.

People will call me because they know me or know of me through my blog. On a day-to-day basis I don’t have contact with past clients, and some may even have forgotten my name. I have never thought in terms of being anyone’s agent for life. In fact, I will not be there to help my youngest buyers through every transaction.

Buying a home is not like buying insurance. I have few clients who have used my services more than once because most of my clients are buying a primary residence and few have moved.

Many of my sellers have moved out of state or into senior housing. There is a small group of past clients who I can depend upon for referrals. I tend to have the most contact with that group.

In some businesses it costs more money to find new clients than it does to retain existing clients. In real estate sales in general it is more cost effective to find new clients who want to buy soon than it is to retain or sell to past clients.

I want people to know that they can trust me and that I would love to help them buy or sell a home and that I am uniquely qualified to do so if they are buying or selling in the neighborhoods where I specialize.

I also want them to recommend me to friends and family. Some of my clients become friends but I can work with most anyone. I am not looking for anything more than a business relationship, and neither are most of my clients.

I can honestly say that I have never invited a client to become a Facebook friend, but some of them find me and I usually accept their friendship request. It is the same with Twitter. I do not use either service to keep in touch with past clients or to network with them.

Just because a business is relationship-based does not mean that the relationship has to be a friendship. I have some pretty solid business relationships that have lasted for decades.

I have an endless capacity for business relationships and I like to think I take care of each of my clients just like I would if they were my best friend. I don’t try to be anything more than a great real estate agent.

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