3 tips for creating a loyal vendor network

Making the most of your friends with benefits

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Takeaways:

  • Many agents might have been motivated to get their start in this industry for the freedom of becoming their own boss and brand.
  • Becoming an agent is akin to starting your own business, and in this notion it demonstrates why creating a local vendor network is so critical to your success.
  • Although it is important to know which vendors you want to work with, it is as equally important to know which vendors to walk away from.

When you are a real estate agent, the business vendors you work with become the lifeblood of your business. From my experience as a Realtor who closed more than 300 properties a year, I know there is virtually no limit to how you cultivate your business.

With that said, I worked primarily from a referral-based system and discovered that it produced the highest yields, and it was the most effective for me.

The majority of my referrals, or leads, came from my diverse network of local vendors that I slowly nurtured, developed rapport and established a relationship with — one vendor at a time.

Many agents might have been motivated to get their start in this industry for the freedom of becoming their own boss and brand.

Becoming an agent is akin to starting your own business, and this demonstrates why creating a local vendor network is so critical to your success.

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You’re all a bunch of small-business owners, and, as such, you have the wherewithal to rely on each other for support and mutual gain.

When I decided to sell my real estate business, I had created a network of over 125 local vendors that fed my referral machine.

Getting to that level was no small task, but I built it up over time with the mentality that these vendors weren’t necessarily working for me. Instead, we were working together.

They were my partners in business. Also, I maintained a stance to try always to give more in terms of value to my vendors than what they gave in return.

I never was labeled as the individual not carrying their weight in the relationship, and by doing so it made the vendors in my network want to go above and beyond for me.

Creating this network of business vendors I could rely upon wasn’t easy, and just as with any relationship there was always an initial “dating phase.”

During this time, the vendor and I would conduct getting-to-know-you conversations, and I would learn as much as possible about their business and their ideas for growth.

We tried to establish ways in which we could help each other. It wasn’t always the perfect fit with each vendor, and determining whether we could work together generally came down to the ultimate question I would ask: “Who is the best agent you know, and why?”

By asking this qualifying question, I knew whether there was potential with the vendor. Even if I wasn’t the top agent who came to mind, I knew most of the time I could convince them otherwise.

But in some cases, I realized that even with all the convincing imaginable, we still wouldn’t be the best match. Say a vendor had a relative who was an agent — this vendor isn’t likely to refer me over his own family member in business matters.

Although it is important to know which vendors you want to work with, it is equally as important to know which vendors to walk away from.

Finally, going back to my dating metaphors: Once a vendor and I had passed the getting-to-know-you phase and had decided that we wanted to work together, it was crucial to establish reasons why we wanted to stay together.

For me, I sent my vendors constant reminders, and I did so in three ways:

1. Monthly check-ins

Each month, I would call or visit every vendor I had in my network to see how things were going. Keeping the communication flowing with my network was critical not only to the health of my business but also to theirs as well.

I would discover strategies and objectives my vendors were currently working on and then try to merge to achieve a common goal.

2. Quarterly mixers

Networking creates a lot of value, and each quarter I would arrange fun, entertaining social functions with all of my vendors. These events were an opportunity for vendors to engage with each other and develop networks among themselves.

If a vendor was new to the mixer, I made sure everyone there knew who they were and what they were about; and the result became a snowball effect of businesses giving each other business.

3. VIP parties

With all of my vendors, I tracked who gave me the most referrals and who didn’t. The top 20 of referring vendors were showered with gratitude and invited to my annual VIP party at my house.

People who do an awesome job like to be acknowledged, and I wasn’t shy about who I considered the invaluable people in my network. Treat your vendors well and they’ll do the same.

In closing, your vendor network doesn’t necessarily define what your business is, but it shapes what your brand can become. A loyal network of vendors will go a long way in driving success, so help them to help you.

Tyler Smith is founder and CEO of SkySlope, and a former top-producing agent and 30 Under 30 alumni. You can follow him on Twitter or on his blog.

Email Tyler Smith.