It’s an age-old question in real estate: Should a brokerage focus on lead generation tools or building business through referrals?

It’s an age-old question in real estate: should a brokerage focus on lead generation tools or building business through referrals? On the stage at Inman Connect in San Francisco Tuesday, Dan Sundberg of Kendrick Realty and Barbara Betts of The Betts Realty Group made divergent arguments for their companies’ heavy investment in time, energy and money.

Lead generation

Sundberg, the director of people and culture at Kendrick Realty, told the crowd in the Continental Ballroom of the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel that his company spends $125,000 a month on lead generation for its 35 agents.

“When we came into this, we came in with the approach that we are going to go all-in,” Sundberg said. “When we started the business, this was a pretty big initial thing. We didn’t start at that number, but we got there pretty quickly.”

Sundberg said the company had to very quickly ensure the return on investment was there — he wakes up thinking about return on investment and goes to bed thinking about it.

The keys to his company’s success are identifying agents that he believes will be victorious in their system. Sundberg’s unique background — he has a doctorate degree in organizational behavior — gives him an edge in evaluating employees.  

“From there, we spend a lot of time on training, making sure that people watch and I can hear and see them doing the right things,” he added. “Then a lot of ongoing coaching and mentorship with our agents.”

Referral and repeat

Betts, the CEO of The Betts Realty Group, doesn’t like the word “referral.” She believes in relationships.

“Our agents were initially attracted to our team for that exact reason,” Betts said. “They were tired of the rat race of other ways of attracting business: door knocking, cold-calling, following up on internet leads. And they were inspired by what we were doing to build our business.”

As a real estate agent, when you start a job at the Betts Realty Group, you make a commitment to work based on relationships. Betts makes all of her agents bring a list of 100 people who they would invite to a wedding, send a baby announcement to or look at their checkbook and see whom they are already paying.

She teaches them to have real conversations and watch for opportunities to build the relationship organically through outgoing communication like phone calls and Facebook messages. Start a casual conversation and reach out to people and wait for the opportunity to talk about business, she explained.

“If you’re working by relationship the right way, you’re not competing against anybody because your clients are only looking to you,” Betts said. 

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