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Client Follow-up Tactics that Work

by Karen M. Kroll

For most successful REALTORS®, capturing new business from former clients is an efficient and rewarding way to build thriving practices.

Joy_CarterNAR's 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that 42 percent of buyers found their agents through referrals from friends or family. Twelve percent worked with an agent they had used before to buy or sell a home.

For some successful agents, these percentages run even higher. One is Joy Carter, CRS, PMN, broker associate with Keller Williams Realty in Coral Springs, FL. More than three-quarters of the $12 to $15 million in production her team does each year comes from former clients or referrals from former clients. "I'm strong on keeping in touch with people we've sold to," Carter says. "They know your work."

Corinne_WhiteheadCorinne Whitehead, ABR, CRS, GRI, PMN, SRES, is a REALTOR® with REMAX at Barnegat Bay, NJ. About 60 percent of her business comes from former clients, and the number is moving toward 90 percent, she says.

When Whitehead examined her business, it was clear former clients and referrals accounted for a large portion. "The analysis was telling me that I should work this more." Whitehead expects to close between 25 and 30 deals this year.

As these women point out, gaining business and referrals from former clients requires staying in touch with them. The question is how and how much? Social media provides numerous opportunities to reach out – along with the risk of overdoing it. And while electronic communication is wonderful, face-to-face interactions remain essential.

Ongoing Communication

Most REALTORS® who succeed at client follow-up make it an ongoing effort. "When people are making a decision [on a REALTOR®] you could have been their favorite REALTOR®, but if you're not top of mind, you're out," Carter says.

Electronic and social media provide wonderful opportunities to regularly follow up and keep one’s name in front of clients without requiring an inordinate amount of time. These communication vehicles also let recipients read the messages when they have time.

Barbara_LaskyWilsonBarbara Lasky-Wilson, GRI, PMN, of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, AZ, regularly sends former clients e-newsletters containing information on the current real estate market and upcoming community events. "It's short and to the point," Lasky-Wilson says.

Carter issues two emails each month to her contact list. One contains fun facts and trivia questions. The other provides updates on the local real estate market and information on current interest rates.

Whitehead produces video emails in which she discusses the market or interest rates. "It's a great way to stay in touch," she says. About once a month seems to be about the right interval between these contacts, she adds. "You're top of mind, but not overdoing it."

Social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, also offer opportunities to remain connected with clients. Lasky-Wilson is active on several social media sites and also maintain a website and blog; these are responsible for about three-quarters of her business, she says. "I want to be as visible [online] as possible."

Getting Personal

As effective as social media can be, the personal touch also is key. Each year, Carter calls former clients on the anniversaries of their home closing dates and their birthdays. She might discuss current market conditions and/or sing "Happy Birthday." Carter jokingly lets clients know she plans on keeping her day job, rather than switching to a career in music. She also sends gift certificates to a local ice cream shop.

Lasky-Wilson hosts a party for current and former clients each December. In addition to letting her remain in contact with her clients, the get-togethers allow them (many who have come to Arizona from out of state) to meet each other. "A lot of them stay in touch," she says.

Whitehead tries to schedule short – about 15 minutes – visits with clients once or twice a year. Last year, she added a twist and asked them to choose one of three pies, which she delivered the Monday before Thanksgiving. "It was a great way to keep in touch," she says.

The Message

A key consideration when connecting with former clients is deciding what percentage of your communication should be business related. If every message is an attempt to sell or gain referrals, the effort likely will backfire. "It's about what you can do for them," Whitehead says. That can mean offering information on the market or community, or providing referrals to experts in, for instance, home repair.

Similarly, Lasky-Wilson's Facebook posts include photographs of the Tucson area and news about events in the community.

Another challenge: keeping organized. As a real estate professional's business grows, managing client follow-ups becomes more complicated. Technology can help. Carter logs into a database management system each morning and obtains an updated list of clients to contact that day. "A lot of the information is in my head, but this is a great reminder."

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