This story about two agents’ transactions illustrates the difference between a “little picture” and “big picture” approach to growing your real estate career.

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Real estate agents have a bad rep: People think we’re dishonest, money hungry, door openers and unnecessary.

Reflecting on these qualities, unfortunately, I understand why people harbor these kinds of thoughts. Before I got into the real estate industry myself, I worked with two agents and each experience was vastly different.

Agent 1 was difficult to get a hold of, gave abrupt, sharp answers, only opened the door and didn’t say anything when my roommate and I viewed the apartment. He then kept to himself and stood in the corner on his phone while we looked around.

He did not guide us through the process and was not at the lease signing. To this day, if you asked me to pick him out of a lineup, I wouldn’t recognize his face. This is the agent who the general public, sadly, so often pictures, and this gives us all a bad reputation.

But obviously not all agents are like this. Agent 2 was referred to me by a former colleague. She immediately got back to me to thoroughly explain the buying process. She asked questions, and scheduled an appointment with me — all before even meeting me.

She took me to see multiple properties and talked me through each of them, which prompted me to eventually move forward with a purchase. During the process, she continually checked in and answered my extensive (and numerous) questions.

When I decided to move out of my home, I reached out to her to help rent it to two different sets of tenants, then again to sell the property. I subsequently referred her to a friend who was purchasing a home as well.

Each time I spoke with her, she happily answered my questions and completed the transactions with ease and reliability. Years later, she even took the time to speak with me about her real estate experiences before I took the leap into real estate myself.

So let’s think about this: Agent 1 put in little work and received commission for one deal. Agent 2 put in the extra effort going above and beyond, and received commission for five deals — I think we can all see the correlation here! Which agent do you want to be in this scenario? I hope you’re screaming: “Agent 2!”

Arguably the hardest part of the real estate business is cultivating a client base and continuing to grow that client base throughout time. Forming relationships with your clients, like Agent 2, is the key to becoming an agent who is not just “one-transactional.”

Renters become re-renters, renters become buyers, buyers become sellers, sellers become buyers, and the cycle continues. As our client base grows, how do we keep up with our past clients while continuing to grow with new clients?

‘Little picture’ thinking

It is necessary to understand your business as a combination of “little picture” and “big picture” thinking. Your “little picture is the idea of which clients you can help now to fill your pockets, but these clients will eventually add to the pool of your “big picture” clients after you’ve formed a relationship with them.

For your new clients, build a rapport by taking the time to get to know them and their needs. Your goal is to educate them by describing your agency’s expertise and who you are.

You need to fully explain the process, and make them feel confident in your skills so that they can trust you to find them a home.

Many people (especially if moving from outside of New York) are very anxious about the process, so you need to reassure them, and make them feel comfortable leaving it in your hands. This way you are giving them a reason to form a relationship with someone who is otherwise a stranger.

This relationship should continue to grow throughout your interactions together by treating them as a person. I know that sounds elementary, but little things such as grabbing them a coffee or splitting a snack along your tour forms real-life personal interactions and encourages conversation — it’s kind of like dating!

Conversely, your clients need to realize you’re a person as well so they want to continue a working relationship with you in the future.

When your first transaction is nearing an end, this is the time to start converting your client toward your “bigger picture” so they know that this is not the last time they’ll be hearing from you or working with you.

‘Big picture’ thinking

Now that leases are signed, your job is done — right? Wrong! This is where the next phase of your relationship begins.

After leases are signed, have your “sign off” pitch ready. We want to continue a relationship with this client, so tell them that!

Continue outreach to them through their lease duration (30 days into lease, 60 days, 90 days, and so on) or homeownership, ask them for friends and family that they can refer to you, and add their contact information to your mailing list so you can keep them in the loop with your events and activities, articles you can send them, holiday cards, etc.

Also, social media is a great tool to keep in touch with your clients; you can congratulate them on the apartment they’ve just gotten via social media (with their permission, of course) and keep up with them in a friend-like way too.

Because the more difficult part of this industry is building a client base, work with the clients you’ve already built relationships with and build referrals through them. It is a “small world,” and we never know who knows who; therefore, who needs help finding a home. The bigger picture is to have a self-sustaining business where you have more business than you can handle.

Be like Agent 2, and you will have lifelong clients for your lifelong real estate career.

Gina Castrorao is a rental manager and licensed real estate agent at Real New York. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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