Every time I hear about lead generation, I want to throw up. Let’s be honest: Lead generation is not the next big thing in this business. I understand that a lot of people will disagree with me, and that’s OK. But if you think your brokerage needs to feed you leads in order to be successful, then you’re doing it wrong.

Real estate is a relationship business. It’s one of the first things I learned about real estate (because it’s not a secret or a mystery). People want to work with an agent they know, like and trust. So why on earth would you spend so much time, money and energy on random leads?

We aren’t here to talk people into buying or selling a home. Real estate is not an impulse buy. We’re selling homes and the life that happens there.

Want a prosperous and fulfilling career in real estate?! Build relationships. Add value. Release mediocrity. Tell the truth. Honor your commitments. Be a trusted adviser. Show up and do the work.

My mindset is one of service — service to our peers, the industry and the community at large. I’m not trying to point fingers or be a bully. I want us all to do a better job. I hate the reputation we have as an industry. We are all in this together — and I don’t just mean in the real estate industry, I mean on the planet. People who know me don’t call me naive, even when I say that helping others is the best way to help ourselves. When other people are better, we are better. I believe that.

One of my favorite daily activities is to connect people. The management side of real estate is no different than sales in this respect. When you introduce people who can help each other, you build stronger relationships with both parties. You enrich their lives, and you show that you’re paying attention and that you care. The small act of providing a trusted referral takes your relationship to another level — it helps solve a problem, and it adds significant value. Plus, it doesn’t cost you a thing.

I’d like for everyone to commit to greatness. I know that isn’t going to happen, so let’s just start with you. Instead of going through the motions — making cold calls to people who don’t know you or don’t want to talk to you, doing just enough to get by (like wearing only 15 pieces of flare), waiting for things to be handed to you instead of creating opportunities — do something extraordinary today. Then do something extraordinary tomorrow. Then repeat that, every day.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

When you work and create at a high level, people will be drawn to you. They’ll connect with you and shout your praises from the rooftops. Want real lead generation?! Make clients happy. They’ll be the best lead generators you could ever imagine. They’ll tell their friends and co-workers. They’ll post about you on social media. They’ll write a kick-ass review on Yelp.

Routine and discipline will boost every aspect of your life — including your sales business. My challenge to you is to turn your routine on its head. Take the time you’ve been using for cold-calling and spend it on talking to people you already know. Check in with your past clients. Take a prospective referral source to coffee. Send some notes to let people know you’re thinking about them — congratulations on your promotion; I saw your son’s soccer team won the championship; happy anniversary. There are hundreds of reasons to reach out, and you just need to pick one. Spending two hours a day on these activities will generate more long-term business than just about anything else.

And now that I’m up on my soapbox, I might as well hang out for a minute longer. If you want to build a self-sustaining business in sales, you must tell the truth. Not only are we dealing with legally binding contracts, we’re dealing with people’s lives. It’s our job to be honest and honor our commitments.

Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it is disappointing. Sometimes you just don’t want to. But it’s always the right thing to do, and someone always finds out when you don’t. What could have been a small hiccup can turn into legal action. (In which case, you may want to work for a company that relies on lead generation because your referral base will most likely leave you.)

So instead of telling your brokerage that you need more anonymous leads from random websites, ask what you can do to improve your existing relationships. It’s the best and most reliable system for creating a business for your life.

Sunny Lake has served the Bellingham real estate community for the past 10 years in a variety of roles; she’s currently the sales manager of Coldwell Banker Bain, where she wrangles the 60 real estate agents.

Email Sunny Lake.

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