September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. That means we’re talking to the chief marketing officers at major brokerages about how the pandemic is changing their jobs and what it means for agents. We’re publishing a suite of tactical Inman Handbooks for marketing on digital portals. And we’re looking at what pages of the traditional marketing playbook still work. Join us all month long.
Although we love to give and receive referrals, it’s not always easy to properly nurture your referral network. Establishing new professional relationships and new sources of referrals can go a long way toward helping you grow your business and sustaining it through the ups and downs of the market. This is even more important now when many traditional avenues of networking, like training events, meetings, and conferences, have been canceled or postponed indefinitely.
This month, we’re looking at three of the biggest portals to help you get started and optimize your presence online. This week, we’re taking a look at the Redfin Partner Program.
Table of contents
- Getting to know Redfin
- Building a profile
- Managing negative reviews
- Making referrals core to your business
Redfin was founded in 2004 and pioneered the use of online map-based real estate searches. Unlike other portals, Redfin uses a brokerage model rather than making money primarily from advertising and lead generation.
Redfin employs its own agents who obtain leads through the Redfin platform. According to Alina Ptaszynski, senior communications specialist with Redfin, the Partner Program is a referral program for non-Redfin agents. “We refer customers to vetted partner agents when a customer requests service in an area that Redfin agents don’t serve or when our own Redfin agents have too many existing customers to take on a new customer.”
Unlike other platforms, there are no upfront costs or obligations associated with the Partner Program. Partners pay a referral fee to Redfin once a transaction has closed. “It’s a true win-win,” according to Ptaszynski. “Our partner agents are able to meet qualified, serious buyers and sellers through Redfin with no upfront fee. In 2019, Redfin partner agents closed 11,939 real estate transactions from customers they met through Redfin.”
Managing broker and owner of Flatland Homes, and Redfin Partner Agent since 2012, Sara Bryan agrees.
“I have always thought the quality of leads provided by Redfin are stellar and participating in this program is with no upfront financial risk because I only pay on closed deals versus paying in advance to receive leads within a specific ZIP code,” Bryan said.
According to Ptaszynski, Redfin’s national presence serves more than 95 metropolitan area markets with search capability covering 44 states and eight Canadian provinces.
- Redfin Partner Agent FAQ
- Redfin CEO talks iBuyer strategy, MLSs and more
- Redfin solicits feedback on opening up Redfin Direct to Partner Agents
To apply for the Redfin Partner Program, agents fill out an online application and receive a response from Redfin within two days. The onboarding process lets agents know whether they are qualified for the program and whether Redfin is looking for Partners in their area. If approved, agents can be onboarded and live on the Redfin platform within one week.
Both buyer and seller leads are provided to Partners, though, according to the program’s website, more than 85 percent of the leads are buyer leads.
Optimizing your profile
“Redfin has a process to ensure our Partner Agents share our values and commitment to customer service,” according to Ptaszynski. Redfin Partner Agents are interviewed and customer references are checked in order to ensure that the partner has completed five sales transactions in the previous 12 months in his or her market.”
Editor’s note: Rather than a formal interview, once an agent meets the sales criteria, a Redfin partner team reaches out to that agent to complete the process and survey past clients. After that, the agent is enrolled in the program.
According to longtime Redfin Partner Will Rodgers of Keller Williams McLean in Northern Virginia, during the interview process, it’s important to stay client-centered and very positive. “Make sure to focus more on how you help others and less about your numbers,” Rodgers said.
Once you are approved as a Redfin Partner Agent, you will need to write a personal biography for your agent profile and provide any needed contact information. It’s important to keep your information updated on a consistent basis to ensure that Redfin can reach you with relevant referrals and program information.
Although you will want to follow up with buyer inquiries right away, you need to be prepared to continue following up over the long term. “Keep following up, and keep adding value,” Rodgers said. “Many buyers might just have one question now and get more later (sometimes even years later).”
According to Nayda Reyes of The Reyes Group in Coral Springs, Florida, “The best part of calling the client immediately is when they are completely ‘wowed’ by the efficient and effective communication you provide instantly as an agent.” Reyes said that in her experience, “calling leads immediately has resulted in closed deals and repeated business.”
Reyes has found that clients on the Redfin platform are not necessarily ready to buy immediately. “On your first meet and greet, focus on providing value by educating your buyers on the real estate process, discuss market trends, listen to their real estate needs and before you know it, you are moving into the financing conversations,” Reyes said. “By this time, you provided so much value, and they like and trust you.“
For clients who are not ready to buy right away, Reyes employs a system she calls the “triple thread.” She communicates through phone calls, text and email, both immediately after receiving the lead and for 10 days after.
Following the first 10 days, Reyes uploads the lead to a CRM for further lead nurturing through AI, email, text and remarketing. “If you stay in touch and keep providing value, eventually they will consider your services,” Reyes said.
As part of the approval process, Partner Agents’ customers are surveyed, and reviews are posted on Redfin.com. Surveys are sent automatically so Redfin Partner agents do not need to take any action to gather reviews on closed transactions. Redfin continues to survey clients for as long as the agent remains part of the Partner program just as it does for its employee-agents.
“Redfin surveys all of my closed deals, be it a Redfin lead or a deal that was not generated by Redfin. Over the past eight years, I have accumulated 230 reviews through Redfin, which also serves me well in my business and market presence,” Bryan said.
As you continue to work with clients and Redfin continues to gather reviews, you will continue to become “more vetted,” Rodgers said. Mention to clients that Redfin will be reaching out with a survey after the closing. With more reviews, you will begin to see an increase in leads coming from the platform.
- Want a better bio? Here are 7 examples that’ll inspire you
- Want to keep your online profiles on point? Here are 5 tips
- Agent’s reputation, social media matter most to clients: study
- 3 tips for using rapport to turn prospects into clients
- Meeting new clients for the first time virtually? Nail these 3 basics
- The Facebook ad campaign that won’t let leads forget you
According to Ptaszynski, “The Redfin spirit of transparency and accountability is reflected in our approach to reviews. We survey all customers who work with a Redfin agent or a Redfin Partner agent, and we post those reviews on the agent’s profile along with a record of the agent’s closed transactions.”
“We believe the most transparent approach is to share all the reviews (the glowing ones and the occasional bad ones) and let customers see the agent’s level of experience for themselves,” Ptaszynski added. In the event of a negative review, agents can leave a “personal, professional” response to provide additional context.
According to Rodgers, as long as they are few and far between, a negative review here and there shouldn’t hurt your online reputation. “Everyone will eventually get less than 5 stars. If it is not a pattern, it will be forgiven.”
In the event of a negative review, Rodgers advises portal partners to “Respond gracefully. Do not attack the reviewer. Let them know publicly that you will try to make it right.”
How can you respond gracefully to a negative review? Remember these three tips:
- It’s not personal. Stay logical and fact-based, and don’t give into your hurt feelings with an emotional response.
- Respond to all of your reviews, not just the negative ones. Thank people for the good things they say, and emphasize the positive aspects of working with you. That helps to balance out the profile and draw attention away from the few negative posts.
- Honesty wins. If the review has validity, admit it, and offer to make it right if possible. Check with your broker if you have questions about what you may or may not say in a specific situation.
- 7 steps to defend against negative online reviews
- What agents should know about online reviews
- Online reviews significantly boost agents’ web visibility: Study
- 5 myths about online reviews in real estate, busted
Unlike Zillow or realtor.com, Redfin’s platform works as a referral source. Just as you would with clients from your personal sphere, it’s important to offer stellar service to the referrals you receive. Be sure that you’re doing the following:
- Make an effort to personalize your communication with referral clients. Because they don’t know you, and they may be choosing between you and another agent, it makes sense to work hard at making a personal connection. Consider creating an introductory video or sending a video message so that they can see your face, hear your voice and get to know you a little better.
- Make time to listen to and get to know your client, including their timeline and priorities. Although you no doubt do this with all of your clients, you’ll probably need to spend a little more time on this process when working with referral clients.
- Your referral might need a bit more information from you than clients from your sphere. Because they are finding you through an online portal, they might be a first-time homebuyer, they might not know any real estate agents personally, or they might be new to your town. Don’t assume knowledge upfront; instead, ask questions to determine whether they need some additional guidance.
Remember the advice from the Partners we interviewed: Many Redfin referrals are working on a longer timeline, so you’ll need to be prepared to keep the conversation going. Follow up through your CRM, send along a handwritten note, and check in if you don’t hear from them for a while.
- Want to connect better with clients? Customize your communication
- 4 tips for upping your video marketing efforts
- 5 tips for virtually hand-holding first-time homebuyers
- How to write the perfect thank-you note
As with any platform, it’s important to do your due diligence and ask the right questions during the application and interview process, just as you would with any referral program or lead gen platform. Talk to Partner Agents to get the low-down on their experiences and insights on the process.
A robust referral network like Redfin’s offers you the opportunity to boost your lead generation efforts and burnish your professional reputation. By offering a platform where past transactions and client reviews are fully vetted, Redfin gives great agents the chance to increase their visibility and their online presence.
Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on Facebook, Twitter, Instagr