Whether you’re a newly minted agent or a seasoned pro, these tried-and-true strategies can help create and connect with your sphere of influence — even in uncertain times.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Success in the real estate industry is tied to more than selling. It requires a continued commitment to learning and training, growing and nurturing your sphere of influence, and investing in your business.

Whether you’re just starting out in real estate or reexamining how to grow your business during these uncertain times, there are tried-and-true strategies you can use right now to begin sharpening your axe. Here are my five tips to get you started:

1. Get involved!

When building your sphere of influence, it’s important to immerse yourself in the community. One effective and fun way to accomplish this is through your hobbies.

Whether it’s a softball league, yoga classes or even board games, when you participate in an activity you like, you connect with people who share your interests and build genuine relationships. Not to mention, you’re happy doing it!

The bottom line? People work with people they like. As an agent, you want clients to know you, like you and trust you. This simple exercise can help you build trust and engagement among your community and lead to long-term success.

2. Train, train, and then train some more

Many new agents are reluctant to advertise they work in real estate, typically because they don’t feel confident in their skills. To overcome this challenge, commit to training — just like you would any sport or activity you enjoy — to become the best agent you can be.

We host virtual meetings with our national team daily to share ideas, practice scripts, address objections and review current market research. In doing so, our team is best prepared to support clients and deliver unmatched customer service.

This is the sharpening of the axe Abe Lincoln was referring to! Find others in your network or agency to connect with virtually and fine-tune your skills, build your confidence, and set the stage for your success.

3. Technology is your friend

It wasn’t too long ago when post-it notes served as my “database” of choice, probably like many of you. But as you can imagine, this so-called system became unwieldy and rarely led to success.

Technology has come a long way to support real estate agents, and today, it can help alleviate many of the time-consuming and manual processes that plague our industry and distract from revenue-generating activities.

By relying on an intuitive CRM system (we like Chime), we are better able to manage and nurture our leads and effectively build smart plans that map back to a client’s specific needs.

An automated, intelligent system helps take the guesswork out of the process and makes us look smarter than we are! We are partial to Chime for its seamless integrations and AI-powered capabilities, but other options include Salesforce, Keap and Sierra Interactive.

No matter which option you pursue, my advice is to invest in systems that are purpose built for the real estate industry, and you will quickly find technology to be your biggest ally in building a successful business.

Here’s a helpful Inman Handbook, should you decide to implement a new CRM with your team or brokerage.

4. Have a plan. Make it personal

To stay top-of-mind among your sphere of influence, it’s critical to maintain regular outreach. Leverage your CRM to set up regular touch points with your contacts through phone calls, social media and text messages.

Make your outreach personal and meaningful to make an impression and foster real connections. We also make it a point to send gifts to our clients, reminding them of their positive experience with our team or thanking them for an introduction they made to help us grow.

This simple but thoughtful gesture — coupled with a strategic outreach plan — keeps you top-of-mind, makes an impression, and sets you and your agency apart.

5. Ice cream, anyone?

While nurturing your referral network is critical to long-term success, it’s often a time-consuming and sometimes expensive endeavor.

Several years ago, our team took an innovative approach to engaging with our client base and launched an annual ice cream social at a local farm. In doing so, we offered a low-pressure, family-friendly, fun day out for all those within our network to enjoy a day on the farm — complete with a bouncy house, live band, lawn games and all-you-can-eat ice cream!

Not only do we introduce the families to the cows, the farmer actually walks them through the entire process from milk to ice cream, all right there on the farm.

We found this yearly event not only cost effective, but also, more importantly, a unique opportunity to connect with those in our network and remind them of our team of qualified, experienced agents available to support their own (or those in their network) buying and selling journey.

It’s important to stay creative as you consider how to best nurture your referral network. That may be more relevant than ever, given the state of the pandemic today. If you can’t do an onsite activity, bring the fun to your clients!

Using our example above, hire an ice cream truck instead, and bring the farm to them this year. Whatever idea you come up with, it’s important to step outside the box to engage your community, and position you and your agency head and shoulders above the rest.

Building and nurturing your sphere of influence takes time, resources and a dedicated focus. Authentically engaging with your network is critical, but so, too, are the tools you use behind the scenes to keep the momentum going.

Consider what works best for you and your brand, map out a plan, invest in the technology to make it happen, and continue to show up for your community. Consistency in your efforts will pay off no matter where you are in your real estate journey.

Nick Waldner is the founder with The Waldner Winters Team of KW Realty Centre in Columbia, Maryland. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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