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By Brian Buffini

RISMEDIA, May 3, 2007-Consumers have become cynical. Years of being bombarded by heavy-handed sales techniques have hardened them and created a "cocooning" effect.

Answering machines, the Do Not Call laws, and gated communities all serve as reminders of how people have insulated themselves from the world of advertising and sales. Yet while sales professionals number themselves amongst the 160+ million households on the Do Not Call list, they continue to use the very methods they have signed up to prevent!

More than ever before, this is the time to build business by referral. When you work by referral, you have a warm clientele of people who are happy to see you. When people first come across our systems, some are skeptical: "Are you telling me I could stop advertising, never have to cut commissions again, and work only with clients who like me?" They soon discover it to be true.

Over the past decade, we've helped thousands of industry professionals implement the Referral Systems I developed in my own business. These systems didn't just help me become a top producer; they also afforded me the chance to live a balanced life. I wanted a business and a life. With the Referral Systems, I was able to achieve both.

When I first arrived in the United States, I knew nothing about the real estate industry, but a week in the business told me all I needed to know. The traditional methods for generating leads were far from how I wanted to work, and a world away from how our family's painting business had operated in Ireland. Buffini & Company Decorating Contractors had such a reputation for excellent work and exceeding expectations that they were able to rely on referred business. This was how I wanted to build my business in America and it began a great journey that has led to today's Buffini & Company-now one of the largest training and coaching companies in North America.

The Referral Systems are attractive to agents and brokers because of their simplicity. This is about making life easier-not more difficult.

The first place to start is with your database. Gather the names of everyone you know-including any past clients. Next, break this group down into a prioritized list and communicate most often with those who refer you most (the As). Finally, you must qualify this group, your database, on an ongoing basis to ensure you are fully aware of who is most willing to do business with and refer you.

Build: Gather the names of all those you know (include past clients).

Sort: Prioritize this database into As, Bs, Cs and Ds and consistently communicate with those who refer you most (the As).

As – most likely to refer you
Bs – would refer you, if asked and shown how
Cs – might refer you in the future
Ds – names to be deleted from your database

Qualify: Using targeted dialogs, determine who is willing to do business with you and refer you on an ongoing basis.

The qualifying step is important, and refining your database is as simple as using a dialog called the "Mayor Campaign." My good friend, Joe Niego, coined it when trying to determine potential clients: "Oh, by the way, if you were buying or selling a home, or had a friend or family member who was, do you have a Realtor you'd work with or refer?" For those willing to refer you, make a follow-up phone call, send them a personal note and add them to your Client Appreciation ProgramTM. If they say, "Yes, I do have a Realtor," move on.

Working by referral means looking for A clients. If you're new to the business, use the Mayor Campaign to build your database up. If you're an experienced agent, use it to refine your database into a core of high-referring clients. Remember, the rhythm of referrals is about first giving, then asking, and then finally receiving referrals.

Serve those who want to be served. A small number of high-quality clients can send you all the referred business you'll need. The Referral Systems are designed to build such strong relationships with your database that they end up being advocates on your behalf.
As the market has slowed, being able to rely on referred leads has become more valuable than ever before. You won't need to spend more money to chase fewer leads; you'll just pour more time into your best clients. It's the perfect time to change to a business based on relationships-one that is driven by loyalty and commitment, not the whims of a fickle market. You won't just reduce costs, you'll generate a steady stream of referrals that will lead to a successful business and a balanced life.

Brian Buffini is the founder and chairman of Buffini & Company. For more information, visit