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Published by OREP, E&O Insurance Experts | April 2013

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Pullig's research demonstrates that in these still-dodgy times for the real estate industry, it's vitally important to be proactive in your quest for customers.


The Relationship Business - Part 1
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey

Are you an attractor or a seeker? If you want to make it in real estate sales, it pays to know the difference. An attractor casts a wide marketing net—using the Internet or direct mail—and then waits for a prospect to bite. A seeker proactively builds and manages a base of friends and acquaintances with an eye toward doing business down the road. 

The condition of your local housing market dictates which approach will ultimately lead to more sales. Research from the Keller Center at Baylor University shows that in healthy markets, a mix of 60 percent attract-oriented and 40 percent seek-oriented activities delivered the highest lead generation conversion. In weak markets, just the opposite is true. There, a 60–40 emphasis on seek strategies—phone calls, networking, and acquiring referrals—yields more appointments and, ultimately, closed transactions, says Chris Pullig, who conducted the 2008 study of about 1,200 real estate professionals.

Pullig’s research demonstrates that in these still-dodgy times for the real estate industry, it’s vitally important to be proactive in your quest for customers. But creating pathways to successful relationships depends on far more than e-mail blasts or depleting your supply of business cards at a cocktail party. “Consumers continue to be more knowledgeable as a result of all of the information they have available to them,” says Pullig. “You need to be able to demonstrate value.” And in this modern age, value is often measured in intangibles, he says. “It comes from forming a solid relationship and by being true, genuine, and honest.”

Read on for more enlightening research, as well as great ideas from your peers, on how to build thriving and sustainable business—one relationship at a time.

Step 1: Building Bonds
Every day holds new possibilities for creating connections. When you find people with whom you have something in common, relationships are likely to sprout. They can occur over shared interests—butterfly gardens, Bundt cake recipes, bike riding—or shared friends. “If you and I have someone in common or a common interest, that makes me like you a little more and want to chat more,” says Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of
The 11 Laws of Likability (AMACOM, 2012). “When we discover similarities, we form deeper and more lasting connections.”

Eventually, those connections may lead to business—but they don’t have to start there.

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Tip: Turn every interaction into a business building opportunity.
Allen “Al” Rusca, ABR, e-PRO, wears his “Diane Turton, REALTORS®” name badge around town. “That badge opens many doors for me when the inevitable question arises: ‘How’s the real estate market these days?’ ” says Rusca, a salesperson based in Ocean Grove, N.J. “I’ve gotten business from the local coffee shop, the barber shop, the dry cleaners, the grocery store, the gas station, the doctor’s office, the bank, my church, the local senior center, and more. Being visible and active in the community is the best way to find new business.”

Formal networking or referral groups, such as chambers of commerce or BNI, can help you expand your reach, too. BNI is an organization with chapters across the country. Only one person per professional specialty joins each chapter. The reason: Pros from different fields network and swap referrals. You can find success through routes that fit your particular interest, too. Diana Baylor, a sales associate with RE/MAX Masters in Covina, Calif., builds relationships through the California Women’s Conference and charity events benefiting cancer prevention programs.

Tip: Connect deeply via online social networks.
If you’re going to spend time on online social networks, do it with a keen understanding of what each network delivers. Pinterest, for example, has been called a “woman’s social network.” The site—which enables you to pin Web content you like to your personal or business page and share it with your Pinterest followers—has an audience that’s more than 82 percent female. Because women are big influencers in home purchase decisions—and “home” is the No. 1 category of “pins” on Pinterest, according to a study by R.J. Metrics—it may be a good play for making meaningful connections with female buyers. (Pinterest recently added the ability to create business pages and created separate terms of service for businesses.)

One enthusiast is Sue Eller, a sales associate with Dilbeck Real Estate Real Living in La Canada, Calif., who has pinned hundreds of photos of local architectural gems, parks, and more. “Pinterest is a good way to build affinity marketing by connecting over not just real estate but also hobbies and interests,” Eller says. Eller posts architectural photos she loves on her Web site and uses Pinterest to drive traffic there. Her Pinterest page also includes categories such as “How to Make Your Home Sellable,” “Favorite Homes I Have Sold,” and “Gardening and Gardens.”

Tip: Strengthen your reputation in an environment where there’s no sales pressure.
Bryce Fuller, a broker with Coldwell Banker in Northbrook, Ill., hosts a neighborhood open house each year. It’s a way to meet the neighbors and establish himself as the local expert with a vested interest in home values. Fuller provides each family that attends with a neighborhood market analysis. “The BBQ allows people to approach me, get to know me, and ask questions,” he says. “As they spend more time around me, their comfort level increases. That comfort level and trust coupled with my listing signs and activity in the subdivision is a one-two punch that can’t be beat.”

Have a “wingman” sing your praises.
Boasting about your own sales record and accomplishments can come across as arrogant, says Kurt W. Mortensen, author of The Laws of Charisma (AMACOM, 2010). But if you can get others to say it for you, it’s powerful. Getting friends to introduce you to their peers, for example, gives you built-in credibility, Mortensen says. Testimonials on your Web site or LinkedIn account can be just as powerful. “Written reviews from satisfied customers enable trust to be formed more quickly,” says Michael Davenport, a broker-associate with King Realty Associates LLC in Sarasota, Fla.


Don’t miss Part 2 of The Relationship Business for Steps 2 and 3 in Working RE’s next Agent-Broker Newsletter.


*Reprinted from the January/February 2013 issue of REALTOR Magazine by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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