Here’s a simple seven-step method that’ll ease the process of making phone calls, help you get mad referrals and keep you at the ready to help any client at any time, positioning you as the go-to agent.

Not a fan of cold-calling? Tired of having to hard sell? Crossing your fingers that people will send you business? There’s a simple method for creating a referral-based business organically, and we’re going to show you how.

You won’t even need to leave your office. And by following these seven steps, you’ll set yourself up for a strong referral business next year.

The secret to staying top-of-mind

This isn’t your typical spiel about working your sphere of influence, we promise. But the key is utilizing your vendor list.

Keeping a list of reliable service vendors can be one of the most consistent and powerful lead generation strategies in your arsenal. It’s also of tremendous use to prospective clients — an added touch that can do wonders for positive word-of-mouth.

In the first year after buying a new home, homeowners spend on average $10,601 on furniture, appliances and home repairs, according to a National Association of Home Builders study.

One of the best things you can do to stay in touch (and top-of-mind) with clients is to be there for them when they have needs. If you’re the person who’s always “got the hookup,” you’re giving yourself a valuable position in the lives of everyone you know.

Better yet, the simple process of creating this list gives you a reason to make phone calls. And who doesn’t love making phone calls, right?

Making phone calls is the worst, unless you do it right

We all know that we’re supposed to call everyone we know all the time to keep business flowing, but unless you’re a natural conversationalist, it can be hard to find a reason for doing so.

Occasionally, I’ll still get calls along the lines of, “Hey, it’s that person you worked with at that job we both hated 10 years ago, how’ve you been? So anyway, here’s something I want to sell you …”

I hate those calls. Don’t act like we’re friends if I haven’t heard from you in a decade. It’s fine for a call from an old acquaintance to be just about business, but please get to the point.

And it can’t be fun for the guy on the other end of the phone either. It’s awkward and difficult.

Here’s a simple seven-step method that’ll ease the process of making phone calls, help you get mad referrals and keep you at the ready to help any client at any time, positioning you as the go-to agent.

1. Build your list

Start with your master contact list; remember that sphere of influence list you made at the beginning of your career? If you’re not new to the business, you should already have this.

If you are new, this is the perfect time to make it.

Label this list “Consumers” because that word describes everyone. Identify those on the list with services to provide. Break them out into their own “Vendors” list. Voila — you’ve started your service directory.

Next, you need to figure out what you have and what you need.

Look at your vendor list, and find some common professions that are missing. Have a dozen attorneys and painters, but no plumbers or CPAs? Perfect. Now you know what you’re looking for. Put them in a third list called “Find.”

If you’re not sure what you’re missing, you can tap into the many studies that detail the average spend in the year after the sale.

For instance, the study titled “Spending Patterns of Home Buyers: Appliances, Furnishings and Property Alterations” by the National Association of Home Builders details spend by category.

Review that list to determine which categories most likely apply to your local market.

2. Start calling

Now that you know who’s on your vendor list and which vendors you’ll need, it’s time to start calling.

First, you’re going to call your known vendors. These should be some of the easiest calls you make because your call will also help them get more business.

Here’s the basic script outline:

Hey, I need a favor. I’m putting together a list of professionals to refer to my real estate clients to, and I don’t know any good plumbers (could be anything of course — this is just an example). Do you know one you could recommend?

If they say no, keep the conversation going.

No? How about a great accountant?

Yes? Can I have his or her contact info? (Add this info to your “Vendors” list, but make sure to mark them as someone you still need to vet.) Thanks so much, this is a huge help. You’re still in the ___________ business, right?

Perfect. If I find someone who needs your services, can I send them your way?

And while I have you, is there any kind of professional you’ve been looking for? Maybe someone for your business like an accountant or someone for your home like a landscaper? (If yes, write what they’re looking for next to their name on the “Consumers” list. If you don’t have what they’re looking for, add it to the “Find” list. Either way, don’t give them the information just yet.)

If I find that person, should I have them give you a call?

Great. Remember, if you ever need any professional for anything, give me a call. If I don’t have them on my list, I’ll find a good one.

By the time you finish, you should have added some new names to your “Vendor” list.

3. Call through your ‘Consumer’ list

Now, go back to your “Consumers” list, and call everyone left on it.

You’re going to have basically the same conversation, leaving out the part about whether they are open to you sending them business because they have no direct service to offer.

4. Call the vendors who’ve been recommended to you

Last, you’re going to call all of the vendors who have been recommended to you, opening with who you are and who referred you, then setting an appointment for coffee or a quick pop-by to see their business (if they have an office or designated workspace).

Before you pick up the phone, use online tools like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau to check reviews and confirm merchants’ level of integrity and performance.

You can probably feel good about referring vendors you don’t know if they:

  • Come recommended by someone you trust
  • Can answer the phone or return calls promptly
  • Can make and keep an appointment
  • Can explain their business coherently
  • Can generally give a first impression of professionalism

5. Make the connections

Once you’ve made all of these calls, you should have a few extremely valuable assets:

  • A master list of everyone you know, each of whom you’ve called and subtly reminded that you work in real estate, without any kind of hard sell
  • An organized list of service providers you know and trust
  • An organized list of service providers you can meet with and potentially establish a referral relationship

Depending on the size of your list, you may take several days or even weeks to complete all of the initial calls. In any case, you want to make connections at the end of each call session.

You may wonder, why not wait until you’ve made contact with everyone and then set up the connections?

Think about it this way: How impressed you would be if someone called you in the morning to ask if they could refer you to some potential sellers, should they come across them, then called you in the afternoon with the contact information of three potential sellers?

When you call back to give them the contact info for their potential new customers, this is your golden moment to say, “All I ask is that you take great care of these people and let me know if you hear of anyone who needs to buy or sell a home.”

Match up anyone who said they need a professional with a trusted vendor in that field. Call the vendors, and give them the names and contact info for the consumers.

Never leave that contact info as a message. Always get the vendor on the phone and verify that he or she will reach out to the consumer that same day.

6. Follow up

The reason for this is that the next day, you’re going to reach out to the consumers you referred and make sure that the vendor attempted contact. You’re also going to follow up with them down the road to get feedback on the vendor.

If you hear good things, send the vendor a thoughtful thank-you note for taking care of your client. Don’t forget to end this conversation with a call to action:

I’m so glad I was able to help you solve this problem. Be sure to let me know how things go or if you need help finding any other professionals.

Or: Never hesitate to call if you hear of anyone who needs to buy or sell a home.

If you’re getting negative feedback about a particular vendor, replace him or her on your list. And schedule follow-up calls in your CRM — that’s what it’s there for.

7. Rinse and repeat

Over time, vendors may disappoint and need to be removed from the list. They may drop out of their businesses. New needs will arise as you meet new people and grow your network. The world is constantly changing, and service offerings are always evolving.

Because your list reflects you, the research and management of the list is likely the most important step. You should have reason to revisit this list at least once per month.

In fact, it’s entirely possible to build your entire business around this process. How do I know? Because I didn’t invent it. This is a tried-and-true method for building and maintaining your sphere of influence that is taught by countless high-priced coaches around the world.

Jon Starwalt is the director of technology with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Star Homes in the Chicago area. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Additional reporting was provided by: Brian Friemel is president and COO of MooveGuru, a company offering custom email campaigns and providing move-related coupons to buyers and sellers.

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