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How to Use Stories to Get More Referrals

Imagine having a group of 100 or 300 or even 500 people out in the market talking to others about you and your services?

Do you think their influential comments would make a difference in your production, getting you the "inside track" on new clients – especially in a tough market?

You bet it would.

Good market or bad, you need to be "firing on all cylinders" with your prospecting to generate the best clients possible. And we both know, referred and repeat-business clients are the very highest quality.

They qualify. They close. And they refer others just like themselves.

Here's a quick little strategy to start building your "influence pool" of people out in the market raving about you and your services...

Have you ever been drawn in by a good story?

Not "Once upon a time" stories, but real-life stories that come out when people ask, "What's going on in your life?"

Using stories can be a powerful tool to subtly influence people to think of "you" when they think real estate. They draw people in, create credibility, and stir them to action on your behalf.

People don't know about your business unless you tell them. Here are 4 Steps for using the power of stories to program your friends, family and clients to send you ongoing referrals – without looking like you're begging with hat in hand.

STEP # 1: Choose the Best Time to program for referrals

When's the best time to subtly program people for referrals?

For a current client, DURING a transaction is the best time to ask for referrals. In your discussions with current clients there will be plenty of time to subtly program them to think of you when they learn of anyone needing real estate services.

It's also a time when "real estate" is high on their mind.

When you encounter an objection when working with prospects or clients, tell how you handled the situation in the past (and specifically how there was a successful outcome).

When talking with friends and family they are inevitably going to ask you, "How's business?" People you know are interested about what's new in your life, what you are working on right now, etc. This is a perfect chance to tell them how you get your business.

Try opening like this…

"Actually business is great. I have 3 clients in escrow and 4 more I'm working with.

Since the majority of my clients come by referral, I regularly have people call me asking me to help their neighbor or brother, or someone they know at work."

Then tell a story about a current client, how they came to you and what you are doing for them.

STEP # 2: Set the stage quickly and use specifics

Here's what to include:
  • Who you are talking about (give specific names)
  • Where they came from (include their location)
  • How you came to represent the client (i.e., a friend referred this person)
  • What they were intending to do (i.e., the type of home or lot they were intending to buy or sell)

Be specific, but don't go into too much detail here.

The most important part of this step is to tell HOW you received business. Give people a feel for how you operate in your real estate practice.

If you tell stories about how past clients came by referral, people will understand exactly how to help you. They'll be "programmed" to think about you the next time they know someone who needs a caring and competent agent.

What do people know about HOW you do business?

Give them a way to help by telling them how others have helped you, referring you business.

STEP # 3: Keep your focus on THEM

People are intrigued by stories when they can relate – if they've been in a similar situation, or could be in one.

People are self-interested and want to solve their own problems and fulfill their desires first and foremost.

So think about your audience, and what's most important to them right now. Then share what you can do for them in a unique and beneficial way.

Whenever you experience a difficult situation in real estate, or even while showing homes, give an example of someone else who faced the same situation or problem as your clients, and how you helped them.

This not only gives your clients confidence in your abilities, but you can also improvise and program for referrals by explaining how they reciprocated this great service by telling others about you.

Whenever you hear someone talking about real estate and a relevant past story is triggered in your mind… simply state how you used your resources to solve a problem for a past client.

This subtly "programs" the listeners to think of you when they (or someone they know) face a similar situation in the future.

These types of stories get passed around and shared, and suddenly you have hundreds of people telling their friends and family about you with no additional effort on your part.

Here are a few types of stories to showcase your service to get you thinking:

  • Tell a story about how you helped a first-time homebuyer navigate the home-buying and financing process
  • Tell a story about how you guided people through tough economic times by helping them pick an under-valued home, or by helping a seller get top dollar during a past down market
  • Tell a story about how you helped an investor find a great income producing property under his deadline

One secret is to name a specialized process you used such as a "28-Point Maximum Home Value Audit" you used to help a seller understand exactly what their home was worth.

STEP # 4: Conclude with a Positive Result (and a subtle call to action)

Describe with clear details how the clients were satisfied. Communicate how the person benefited by speed of service, money saved, or money made.

Then describe how the clients reciprocated this gratitude (in the form of referrals of people they knew).

This strategy programs people to know what to do…how to take action on your behalf…to tell others what you do for clients and how people regularly send you referrals.

Want an example? Try this...

The Johnson's had just moved from Chicago and were referred to me by Bob and Nancy Smith. They loved the southwest contemporary design and needed a 3 bedroom home with a home office. My staff and I used our exclusive “Preferred Home Buyer Search System” and found them their dream home in only 10 days. They now live in the Luna Vista neighborhood and were so happy with our team's services, they referred John and Linda Black.

Notice how this story also says how quickly the client's needs were met. That's an excellent way to use specifics to communicate benefits of using your services.

Where else can you program for referrals?

You can put the referral programming power of stories in to your testimonials and include them in all your marketing.

Include stories as powerful testimonials in your:

  • Newsletter
  • Pre-Listing Packages and Presentations
  • Buyer Packages
  • Just Listed/Just Sold Postcards
  • On your website
  • On the back of your business cards
  • Inserts into info-tubes

Try using short story referral programming in several areas of your practice, and you'll be astonished how much additional business you'll generate automatically – and most will come without you spending one thin dime.

A Smart Referral Directory for Buyers...

Closing is the perfect time to give a gift that sets the tone for the post-transaction relationship.

Here's a great example of a closing gift that continues to provide service to a buyer after closing. Agent Dave Dumas puts together a simple binder filled with business cards of services that the new home owner will most likely need. Buyers always need to call pool technicians, plumbers, even doctors or dentists in the local area.

Dave goes one step further and gives them all their transactions documents electronically.

Putting together a directory of service providers not only gives ongoing value to clients but can be a way for you to get sponsors for your marketing. Service For Life!® subscribers have a ready-to-use template to highlight service providers and a Sponsorship Kit that helps them work with sponsors to send out their mailings.

Here's Dave's description in his own words…

“Client Closing Gift: With my buyers after closing I present a 3 ring binder with business card pages containing the business cards of service professionals in the local area.

I also have a couple empty pages so they can add additional business cards and keep it handy. I call it "Dave's Referral Directory." I also include a copy of all their transaction documents including their closing statement burned onto a CD. It is received very well by all even clients who have lived in the area for years.”

QuickTip: Keep Those Commissions Up!

“Keep our commissions up! Be professional and know your standards...Sellers test us on a listing appointment, just as buyers test sellers when they make an offer on a home. Do Not argue over your value or your worth. If a Seller wants to challenge your commission, just stand up, extend your hand out and say... 'Thank you for your time but I am not the right agent for you.' Start putting your stuff together to leave and more times then not, they will say no, no, sit down I just wanted to see if I could save some commission. Questions and doubt are always in the mind when the absence of value is there!.”

Surviving (and Thriving) In Lean Times

This idea submitted by agent Alma Glueck is a good reminder about broadening the scope of services you offer to match market demands. This can help you not only survive lean times but thrive in a changing market. Here she is in her own words…

“I survived in lean times by believing in my abilities as a Broker and REALTOR® and by making a decision to go into other aspects of the real estate business.

I did notice that not all my associates were willing to work harder. I started by taking courses in the management of income properties. Next I worked hard to find investors that wanted to purchase apartments. I started by selling 4 apartments then I got referrals of other investors, I was able to sell up to 10 apartments at a time.

I also enjoyed learning to sell existing businesses to people who wanted to own their own business. I enjoyed learning, working on my own business as well as earning more money by investing the time and effort to challenge myself and become more successful.

I would suggest others not to be content with only working on one specialty and instead broaden their horizons, be confident that they have what it takes, know they can succeed by using the talents they already have, learn new skills and take positive steps to succeed to new heights.”

Horror Story: “What makes you think you won't get murdered?” – Urgent Safety Message

“Recently I received a call from a 'couple' wanting to view one of my listings. After getting his name and phone number, I asked him what time the next morning would be good for him, he replied, " 4 or 5 would be fine", I assumed he was joking and I said, "Tell you what, I will meet you at 8 am." He agreed and the next morning I was at the house and a very large man, at least 6'3', 250ish pounds, showed up at the house, alone.

I introduced myself and proceeded to allow him to enter, he insisted I enter first. Something I usually do not do, but I allowed myself to go in ahead of him. When inside, I stayed in the entrance and asked him to please go ahead and go through the house. He wandered quickly through and came back asking if we could sit and talk at the table.

I said ok, and we sat and he talked about himself, 'his girl'(girlfriend) and mainly back to him again. Suddenly he became quiet with his head down and in a quiet voice, he said, "I went fishing yesterday." I waited and when no further response came, I just said, "ok?" He said, 'My girl asked me what was wrong, and I told her I was thinking about meeting you here today."

Then he looked up at me and said, "What makes you think you won't get murdered? Do you carry a can of spray, a stun gun, or a gun?" Needless to say I was starting to get very creeped out, and I looked directly at him and in a very low, calm voice, I replied, "No, I do not do any of those things, I always let the office know who I am meeting and where and what time, and then I check in when I get back."

He looked directly at me, and after making a comment on my appearance, in an almost low angry voice he said, "Do you have a feeling, do you think you would have a feeling that would tell you that you were looking at a murderer?" At that point I felt like an electric bolt went through my body, (the proverbial feeling!!) and I knew I just had to get him out of there.

Again, very calmly, keeping my face totally expressionless, I said "no I do not have esp or anything close to it, I just try to make a living, say a prayer and do the best I can."(I felt that if I had said yes, he was ready to leap across the table!) At this point, somehow I managed to stand up while gathering my things, and walked slowly to the door, making chit chat all the way, until I got him outside and then he said he would like to meet me again the next day to look at more properties and he told me that his mother had passed 2 years ago and he was having a hard time accepting it.

As he walked to his truck, he stopped, turned around and said "My mother is dead, and there you are." He shook his head as he got in his truck. Shaken, I contacted my Broker and explained the situation, and she insisted I file a police report. More happened but to summarize, the police contacted him, he was told not to contact me anymore and he called me 3 times, until I asked the Broker to call him, which she did and read him the riot act. His response to her was that he 'had unfinished business' with me.

I haven't heard from him again, but believe me, I am more aware of my surroundings, I always walk behind the client, always have my cell phone and definitely let others know where I am going and who I am meeting, I have an unlisted home phone and never, never tell a client what community I live in! We all know there are strange ones out there, and we have work we have to do! It is not feasible to have someone accompany me every time I have to show a house...Just be careful and if you get that gut feeling...Listen To It!”

Issue #1141