In an era when you can look up anyone in your network on social media, it’s an unexpected consequence that it’s easier than ever to lose touch with your sphere of influence. The constant connectivity of social media might give everyone the impression that we’re keeping up with each other, but in reality, too many of us are only “keeping up” by scanning news feeds.
So there eventually comes a time in many real estate agents’ careers when they suddenly realize that they’ve been effectively ignoring their sphere for months -- or even years. Providing top-notch service to clients is only part of a real estate agent’s job; you’ve also got to keep tabs on the housing needs of your past clients, friends, family members, partners and acquaintances, or they’ll find someone else to answer their questions and list their homes.
What do you do when you find yourself in this situation? How do you gracefully reconnect with the people in your database when you’ve let too much time pass in between touches? The fact of the matter is that when you don’t regularly follow up with your database, you’re going to lose business to other, more proactive agents -- so how do you get back on the wagon and make sure you don’t fall off again?
If this is you today, then there are nine steps to take before you’ll be using your database as a fruitful, productive source of new clients, and one that doesn’t cost you nearly as much as a portal or online advertising can.
1. Get organized
One big reason why many agents don’t follow up with their database is very basic: They don’t have a database at all, or their database is trapped in a mostly useless format like a spreadsheet. A real estate-focused CRM (customer relationship manager) can help you start to organize your contacts in a truly meaningful way, and it’s one that allows you to take quick action to re-establish friendship and trust with them.
Your CRM needs to be able to import contacts quickly from multiple different sources and then help you sort them into groups. For example, First can import from other CRMs as well as LinkedIn, email lists and many more options, and First can also serve as a CRM all on its own if you aren’t using one yet. Whichever CRM you use should be able to do the same (and it’s also helpful if your CRM or a software plugin can map and filter your contacts for you, in addition to scheduling appointments and alerting you when someone might be ready to sell -- but we’ll get to that later).
2. Think bigger
When your database is in decent working order, you’ll want to ask yourself one very important question: Who’s missing? In the time that’s lapsed since you last paid attention to your database, there are probably a lot of people who could be in your sphere of influence but who aren’t in your CRM for some reason, from mortgage brokers to hairdressers to gym partners to school teachers.
Ninja Selling has a comprehensive worksheet that can help you identify any gaps between the people you know and your CRM, and it’s a useful tool to revisit every now and then just to make sure you aren’t missing anyone. But it’s especially useful when you’re trying to get back into your database flow, and also when building a database from scratch.
3. Research and sort
If you’ve gotten all your contacts, old and new, into a CRM, then congratulations -- the hard part is (mostly) over, and very soon the actual reconnections will commence. But first, there’s one more important task that you’ll need to tackle: researching and sorting your contacts until you’re able to make a meaningful offer to each and every one of them.
What kind of research should you do? It really depends on the client, so some agents might want to leverage an assistant or a tech tool for this kind of task, because it’s not necessarily a simple process.
Clients you’ve helped buy or sell in the past should be grouped accordingly, and you’ll also want to make sure that those sales dates are recorded in the client’s CRM entry if it’s not. You might also want to track down or tackle your clients’ birthdates and occupations, kids’ names and dates of birth (including the year), anniversary dates, even pets’ names and ages. And if it’s at all possible to include any details about things they love -- sports teams, musicians, television shows or movies, books, types of cuisine, whatever you can discover -- those can be extremely helpful when you’re re-establishing contact.
Don’t forget to sort your clients into groups! You’ll want groups for past buyers, past sellers, service providers, parents, dog owners, baseball fans, theater lovers, and so on to infinity. Using an assistant or a tech tool can help you identify groups you might not have seen on your own, so getting some help with this part of the process is typically worth every penny you spend on it. First can send out reminders and give you intelligent prompts around whom you should be talking to next based on data science, keeping everything database-related, including your list of what to do next, all in one place.
4. Re-establish contact
Now that your database is in top working order, it’s time to start formulating a plan for how to reach out to your contacts. This will probably vary from contact to contact -- some of them you may want to call on the phone; others might warrant a pop-by; maybe sending an email or starting a Facebook message thread is an ideal option for a group of clients.
The method you use will likely depend on what you are going to offer each person in exchange for paying attention to you. Let’s face it: We are all constantly bombarded with information we don’t need, all day, every day. You don’t want to make it easy for the people in your newly refreshed database to ignore you, which means you don’t want to send a variation of this message to anybody: “Hi, Name, it’s been a long time! How have things been? I was wondering if you happened to be ready to buy or sell a house, or if you know someone who might be ready to buy or sell a house?”
Of course you’re working on your database because you want clients -- that goes without saying! But your contacts have their own lives and priorities, and unfortunately for you, finding you new leads really isn’t one of them. Your goal with this first message shouldn’t be to generate X-number of leads; it should be to re-establish yourself as a resource and real estate expert who’s easy to work with and happy to help.
This means you need to offer each of your clients something as a thank-you for opening up your message or taking your call in the first place.
5. Offer something of value
Your offer of value should be targeted toward each client, or at least each group of clients. This is where your earlier work researching and sorting your clients can really pay off; it makes the process of finding something of value to offer them much easier than if you were flying by the seat of your pants with each individual client.
Let’s say you’re a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, and there’s an upcoming mixer event for members and guests. Maybe you know some electricians, plumbers, general contractors, mortgage brokers or other contacts who do business in the area but who aren’t members yet. When you reach out to those contacts, tell them about the mixer and invite them to tag along with you.
If your research has shown you that you have a cluster of clients in one or two specific neighborhoods, perhaps you can spend some time creating a neighborhood guide that includes the local parks and playgrounds, dog-walking routes, restaurants, gyms and yoga studios, schools, art galleries -- you get the idea. Write it up, lay it out in a PDF or on a website, and when you re-establish contact with the people in that neighborhood, tell them about the guide and offer to send them the document or the link.
One obvious but still worthwhile reason to reach out to your former buyer clients is to offer a market report. This doesn’t have to be a generic ZIP code home price report that any agent could print out -- get creative! Maybe your “market report” is based on building or business permits filed with the city or county, focusing on what new developments or companies might be opening their doors in the near future.
6. Make new connections
Another powerful way to provide value to your clients is to introduce them to each other. Maybe in your research, you noticed that you have a cluster of contacts within a five-block radius in the same neighborhood, all of whom have kids about the same age. Why not offer to put them in touch with each other before school starts?
Or perhaps one of your clients bought a fixer-upper and doesn’t have reliable general contractors -- or just doesn’t know that the owner of the local hardware store is a wealth of information about DIY. When you’re reaching back out to the client, a more powerful question than “Know anyone who wants to buy or sell?” could be “I saw on Facebook that you’re thinking about starting on the bathroom -- have you met Dave down at the hardware store on 10th yet? He’s been there for 30 years, and he’s seen every issue bathrooms can possibly have in this area. Let me know if you want an introduction!”
The dog-walker who just moved to the neighborhood would probably love an introduction to your clients with dogs, and maybe there’s a group of hockey fans who don’t know that the local bar airs the games and provides drink specials. If you can’t think of a way to provide value with a resource or asset, then making a connection can work equally well.
7. Organize an event
For some of your contacts, it might make even more sense to organize and host an event for them to enjoy. This doesn’t have to be a big, expensive gathering -- maybe that group of parents with kids would enjoy a barbecue at the park near the playground, or you can tell the hockey fans that you’ll be at the bar during the game and will buy the first round of drinks. But it should be thoughtful, targeted toward the specific interests of your contacts, and it should be planned far enough in advance (at least two weeks is ideal for most schedules) so that people can commit to attending.
And sometimes it might make sense for you to plan a big, expensive event. One or two of those a year can provide an excellent reason for you to reconnect with everyone in your database to extend an invitation. Although it’s popular for a reason, the holiday season tends to get pretty packed for most people, so think of a big event you could host in the spring, summer or fall that would gather people together. Some options might include an Easter egg hunt, a spring garden or flower festival, a summer cookout, Fourth of July fireworks, a local beer or wine festival, a harvest festival, a back-to-school barbecue or a Halloween party.
8. Thank them
When your clients take the time to accept something you’ve offered, that warrants a thanks, so make sure you thank each and every client who bothers to respond to you. You don’t have to be over the top, but a simple “thanks for getting back to me” or “thanks for your time” -- and always and especially “thank you for showing up here today!” -- shows your client that you care about them and you recognize the effort they are putting into the relationship, too.
Most people let relationships in their database lapse because it can feel awkward to reach back out to someone you haven’t seen or spoken to in a few months or even years. But if you take care to apologize for the long silence, offer your contact something of value and then sincerely thank them when you’re finished, you’ll find that any awkwardness has been eliminated and the path to regularly touching base with this person again has been established.
9. Make it a habit
When you’ve re-established contact with everyone in your database, congratulations -- you’re officially back into flow!
But don’t get complacent. You’ll need to create a plan for how you’ll continue to keep in touch with everybody so that you don’t have to go through each of the previous eight steps again in a few months.
For post-closing clients, use Ninja Selling’s post-closing-calls process and incorporate it into your CRM so you’ll be reminded when it’s time to touch base. And for all your clients, keep track of every interaction you have and make notes that you can use in your follow-up calls. Remember how powerful a face-to-face meeting can be -- it’s how you make yourself the go-to, top-of-mind real estate agent for those meeting partners. First can schedule appointments and calls for you so that you don’t forget, and can prompt you about what to say to whom, or a savvy and experienced assistant can also be an excellent resource for juggling your ever-growing database.
If you’ve fallen out of flow with your database, don’t despair. You’ll have to do some work to get back into the race, but the right tools and resources can supercharge your efforts and help you start reaping benefits from your contacts almost immediately. The most important thing is to commit to get it done, and once it is, you’ll be juggling even more business from both old and new clients.