Become a Category of One: Maximize Your Referrals

Become a Category of One: Maximize Your Referrals

It’s still all about the relationship.

Why do sales associates spend billions of dollars buying leads and chasing strangers? The research is clear. Buyers and sellers prefer to work with someone they know, like, and trust. That’s why, according to REAL Trends 2018 Consumer Study, some 92 percent of consumers say they look for a referral from a friend when selecting a real estate professional.

Thought-leader Simon Sinek was asked what he thought about our industry’s obsession with technology, disruption, internet leads, and e-transactions. Here’s his response: “Human beings are social animals and relationships will always win. There is a small percentage of people who want a transaction. Most want a relationship. Invest in your relationships. They are your most valuable assets.”

So, back to our original question, “Why do real estate professionals spend so much time and money chasing strangers when consumers prefer a relationship?” Two reasons:

1. Because it works! Their real estate professional abandons most consumers shortly after closing. The Zillow Consumer Housing Trends Report of 13,249 consumers found that 74 percent of them never heard from their real estate professional again after closing! It’s clear most agents have a transaction focus instead of a relationship focus. Because consumers are abandoned, they are ripe for internet lead generation, capture, and conversion. Even though consumers would prefer to work with someone they know or a referral, they end up working with strangers by default.

2. Most agents are committed to providing the five keys to maximizing referrals (see next section). Those who are committed build both a large and smart business. A smart company is a business that is sustainable in all market cycles and has a high net income per hour. In contrast, most lead generation models have a low net income per hour due to the cost of buying leads.


1. Relationship & Referral Mindset. Every person in the United States knows at least four people who will move this year. Our mission is to access and earn those referrals. You do this by building relationships instead of chasing transactions. You build relationships through the frequency of interaction.

2. Your Appearance. People will refer you if you make them look good. How you dress reflects on the person who referred you. Studies indicate that your appearance affects your income by at least 20 percent, and some studies say as much as 100 percent. Sloppily dressed agents may get the business, but they don’t get the referrals. A survey of sellers found their two biggest complaints were that the agent was late for the appointment, and the agent didn’t dress for the interview.

3. Fabled Service. Can you deliver “Wow!” Is your service memorable? Does your customer feel they are exceptional–or do they feel like they are just a transaction? They are not transactions; they are people.

4. Consistency. Do you deliver the wow consistently? Or is it by accident? Do all your customers receive the wow? Or, are you selective and only provide that level of service to high-end clients? Agents are notorious for this, and it’s not seen in any other industry. When you check into a luxury hotel, rooms may range in price from $300 a night to $5,000 a night, but all guests are treated with the same care at the check-in desk. They are not treated differently. Do the same.

A real estate friend of mine was referred to one of the richest men in the world by the man’s limo driver who had purchased a low-priced, two-bedroom condo. Even though he was buying a lower-priced home, the limo driver received the wow and told the rich man about it. As a result, my real estate friend became the go-to agent for all of the corporate executives at the wealthy man’s company—and consistently earns over $1 million a year.

5. Follow-up and Flow. Have you ever sent a referral to an agent and never heard back? Unfortunately, this is the industry standard. When you follow up, you are differentiated in our industry, and you get even more referrals. You need a follow-up system (mailings, emails, phone calls) that are driven by your calendar and keeps you in flow with your clients and referral sources.

Maximizing your referrals is a simple five-step process that pays big dividends. Why don’t more real estate professionals do it? Because they would have to organize themselves and commit to their relationships. It’s easier for most of them to buy leads and chase strangers. If you follow the five steps, you’ll have all the business you can handle, you’ll build great relationships, and you’ll have a high net income per hour. You will also be so differentiated. You will be a Category of One!