Tell me if you've heard this before: 88% of homeowners say they definitely or probably would use their agent again – only 25% actually do.
That's what NAR learned during the 2017 study of trends in the housing market.
Whenever I'm reminded of this stat, I think of a recent trip I took to San Francisco.
I caught up with my cousin while I was there. We hadn't seen each other in a while. Naturally we talked about work and family. It turns out he and his wife had just decided to get a divorce.
As is so often the case, they had decided they would sell their home.
He and his wife had really liked the agent who helped them buy their home. He knew the market. He was incredibly responsive. He built trust throughout the process.
He wouldn't just show them homes. They met up for coffee. He would text to check in. He built a relationship with my cousin and his wife that did not feel transactional to them.
But, my cousin told me, between the time they purchased their house and the time they decided to sell, they never heard from the agent again.
Then, as soon as he heard they were thinking of selling, he wanted to grab coffee again. In the words of Laurie Weston Davis, my cousin felt like the agent had "commission breath."
Now, on the one hand, the agent was acting in a perfectly rational way. If they don't need my help, why should I bother them?
But for my cousin, this infected their relationship with doubt. Did he really care about helping them – or was he just chasing the commission?
Had the agent reached out, even just a few times, in the years between buying and selling, my cousin would have believed he cared about his well being – not just the money he could make off of him.
It Has Never Been Easier (Or More Important) To Nurture Your Sphere Of Inluence
Nurturing your relationships with your past clients may actually be more important in the tech era, than it was in the analog era.
That's the argument that Dan Smith, author of the book, Failing Greatly, and successful real estate strategist, makes.
The world is at our fingertips now, demanding our attention 24/7/365. For better or for worse. Sometimes both.
“It's so dynamic now, how much communication you have,” Dan says. “All these people found each other and lost loved ones and best friends from high school on Facebook, and all these relationships are being established."
"And now there's this other piece: we need to have a solid business relationship and a personal relationship. Because if you won't, somebody else will. In fact, 27 people friended me today!”
Dan's observation lines up with what home owners are saying.
According to Zillow, home sellers consider trust and responsiveness, two qualities essential to relationships, to be extremely important qualities in an agent – beating out local market knowledge and marketing expertise by a wide margin.
If you don't follow up effectively with your past clients in between transactions, it's easy for homeowners to lose trust in you as an agent.
“If you think you're a boss in the transactional piece, and ‘I'm so good and I get this and I get it so fast,’" says Katie Clancy, who leads one of the top real estate teams in the Cape Cod area, "I got news for you. You're about to lose your job.”
What Katie Clancy sees, and what we believe here at First, is that relationships are a real estate agent's core asset.
“It's the only asset you have,” Katie says. “You have to keep paying that lead source. If you stop next month, it stops.”
Make The Call (It Actually Works)
One of our current users, Brandon Doyle, had a very similar story to my cousin's.
He noticed that a couple he knew, past clients, was ranked as highly likely to sell by First. He had just helped them buy their home a couple of years ago, so he was skeptical.
He decided to reach out. He texted his friend to see if he and his wife would be interested in tickets to an upcoming Twins game. His friend was interested, but… It turns out he and his wife had just decided to get a divorce.
So, he and Brandon went to the game. Shortly thereafter, Brandon helped him and his (soon to be ex) wife through the often painful process of selling a home you thought you would live in for a long time.
By simply reaching out and following up with a past client, without any apparent financial motive, Brandon was able to make a sale that he could have easily lost (after all, 75% of homeowners choose a new agent when they sell their home).
Even if you use a system like First to prioritize likely sellers in your follow-up, you shouldn't wait to follow up and make connections until someone is likely to sell.
Conversations are the currency of relationships. The value of your relationships depreciates if you don't invest in them with quality conversations.
For most agents, choosing a follow up strategy and sticking to it during the years between transactions can help. Not only will you generate more referrals, but you will ensure that you are the agent your past clients choose when they decide to sell.
When Following Up With Past Clients, It Helps To Get A Strong Start
So, what should you do after closing on a house?
Full disclosure: I am not a successful real estate agent. So, I'm not going to share any of my strategies with you.
But, working at First, I do have the opportunity to learn from our users, including some of the most successful agents in the country.
One of the most popular real estate selling systems among our users is Ninja Selling. Funny name, wildly successful program.
"I am absolutely a relationship marketer at heart," says Stacie Staub, founder and CEO of West + Main. "We do a lot of community events. We do a lot of Ninja Training. So I've been through the Ninja Selling Programs several times. It's at the core of my real estate training, and it's how I coach and hold my agents accountable. And that's all about sphere building or training your sphere."
Ninja Selling's recommends a 15-touch post-closing sequence. The calls in this sequence basically breakdown into two groups: calls that fit into a 6-month post-closing sequence, and calls that you should make consistently each year thereafter.
The Ninja Selling Post-Closing Sequence
Follow Up Step #1 - 2 Days After Close
This is a quick check-in and should be a phone call. Were there any surprises? Any unmet expectations in the house?
Your goal here is to make sure that your clients feel like everything went as expected. They're happy and have no lingering issues.
Follow Up Step #2 - 2 Weeks After Close
This is another quick check-in, but it differs from the first step, because now you're transitioning out of a relationship defined by a specific transaction, and into a relationship defined by mutual interest.
It can feel awkward for some agents, but can also be extremely valuable.
Ninja Selling recommends questions about how life in the new house is going. Are they starting to get unpacked? Pictures up on the walls?
Follow Up Step #3 - 1 months After Close
Have they met the neighbors yet?
Meeting the neighbors is something all of us want to do, but may not get around to right away. This call not only gives you another opportunity to reinforce your relationship, but, more importantly, gives you an opportunity to serve.
As a local expert, this is an opportunity to help. Have you helped other people buy? You might make an introduction. Do they know about the Next Door group? Does the neighborhood have a listserv or Facebook group?
If they're wanting to connect with their neighborhood but aren't sure how, this is a great chance to help.
Follow Up Step #4 - 3 month After Close
How is the new home working out?
After 3 months, the new homeowners are settled in. They've met the neighbors. Hopefully they're happy with their new home.
But, they may have thought of a few projects they want to work on. This could be a good time to make recommendations about local contractors, or other resources that can help them with finishing touches, to make their new house the home they imagined as they signed the contract.
Follow Up Step #5 - 6 months After Close
This call marks the end of the post closing sequence and the transition to staying in touch.
6 months after moving into a new home, your clients have probably already settled in, met the neighbors, started school, and adjusted to their new commute.
You're just checking in. And, honestly, this is where things can get challenging, even for the most successful agents.
Staying In Flow With Your Past Clients
If you ask Kendyl Young, the CEO & Cofounder of DIGGs Realty, she will tell you this is the hardest part of maintaining relationships with past clients: staying in touch over the 3,5,11 years between transactions.
As an agent, you want to help people – not annoy them.
And for many agents, even extremely successful agents like Kendyl, making that call, seemingly out of the blue, can be scary.
And then there's the simple fact that you have a lot of relationships to manage and you simply forget. Weeks go by. Months. Then years. And the next time you think of them, it's because their home just popped up in the MLS – in some other agent's listing.
Staying in flow with your network, means maintaining connection, keeping in touch with what's happening in their lives.
After the first six months, the Ninja Selling system relies on anniversaries of various kinds: wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and the anniversary of the closing.
The most important thing is to make at least 2-3 personal connections each year.
Stay in touch, stay present. Even if it's just a comment on Facebook or a quick text message wishing them a happy wedding anniversary. Staying personal and consistent will pay off over time.
"I have to have a strategy," says Kendyl. "So my strategy is to be in the flow of people's lives. When I think about that it's a lot easier to make the phone call and then I'm doing the standard, age-honored F.O.R.D conversations. Family, occupation, recreation, and dreams."
For Kendyl, the long term strategy is just to be "their person. Then they'll think of me when something is needed."
First makes this easy by enabling agents like Kendyl to set a next step on their phone, logging when, how, and why they'll reach out next.
The best part: First also automatically reminds you to follow up.
Remembering that you wanted to follow up with someone is often the hardest part of nurturing a relationship.
However you choose to nurture your relationships with past clients, the most important thing you can do is do it consistently. Don't let your most valuable resource depreciate and slip away.
After all, in the words of Brian Boero, a lead is just a relationship another agent lost.