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Ask Dr. Real Estate
How Do I Make Sure I Get Repeat Business?
by Dr. Kenneth W. Edwards GRI

 

QUESTION:

I've been in the business about a year. I was shocked and hurt when I noticed on a recent Multiple Listing release that the first couple to whom I sold a home had just listed it with another agent. What's the best way to get repeat business?

ANSWER:

The absolute best way to insure that past customers and clients return to you for repeat business is to do a thoroughly professional job when you are working with them the first time. If you've done that, it will then primarily become a matter of following up periodically to insure everyone knows you are still selling real estate for a living and want their future business. Here are some specific suggestions.

The Close: When the transaction closes it is both good business and good manners to let people know that you appreciate their trust and confidence in you. That means saying "thanks" in writing. A gift is also appropriate. It need not be expensive. For example, when working with buyers, a REALTOR® friend of mine secures a color picture of the home the customers purchased, has it enlarged and framed, and presents it to them when the transaction closes.

The Follow Up: As you know, your supervising broker must maintain what is known commonly as a "deal file" on each transaction. It is critical that you also maintain an even more elaborate file on each of your closed transactions in which you retain personal memos and other matters not appropriate for the main file. Use this as a basis for establishing your suspense system to ensure that you contact former clients and customers on a planned, periodic basis. People forget quickly. You need to regularly let them know you are anxious, willing, and able to respond to their real estate needs promptly and professionally. You also need to impress upon them that if they have friends or associates with real estate needs, you would appreciate it if they would refer them to you.

Get Personal: When you are establishing your follow-up program, resolve to give it your personal attention. For example, if you decide to send a card through the mail, include an individualized hand-written note. Personal visits are quite effective if you plan them when it is convenient for everyone and keep them brief. Phone calls are probably the most efficient way of keeping in touch, but nothing beats that eyeball to eyeball contact. If your office has a follow-up suspense system, that's great. But remember, it is your responsibility to make sure the job gets done properly. At some point in your career, you may get so busy that you hire assistants to do administrative chores for you. That will allow you to focus on the matters that only you as a licensed agent are permitted to do. That makes a lot of sense, but once more, understand that this is a function that only you can do to successfully accomplish the mission.

Here's A Bonus: Remember those deal files I mentioned? How many of those transactions do you think were put together by agents who are no longer in your office? Check with your broker. If it hasn't already been done, get permission to go through the files and reestablish contact with past sellers and buyers who worked with agents no longer with your company. Establish a personal contact. It could turn out to be a gold mine. There may also be some good leads in deals that fell through. There will be files on those too. When I first started my real estate career, I accidentally stumbled upon this resource. It resulted in two closed transactions in my first six months. One more time--coordinate with your broker.

Don't Take It Personally: If you've given it your best shot and someone decides to work with another agent, don't fret. Inevitably, there will be losses. If you can't take occasional rejection, no matter how unfathomable the reason, then real estate may not be for you. Just try to figure out what you did wrong or the other person did better. Sometimes it is an emotional decision with no real basis in logic--"my cousin's nephew just got his license and needed the listing." (I often wondered if that's how they would pick a brain surgeon).

If you are doing things right, the time will come when a very large percentage of your business will be repeats and referrals. That's when selling real estate really becomes professionally fulfilling, profitable, and a whole lot of fun. Hang in there and don't sweat the small (but understandably hurtful) stuff--the occasional setbacks.