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An interview with Buffini & Company Coach Deborah White-Rice

By John Voket

RISMEDIA, May 24, 2007-Why have so many agents in today’s marketplace strayed from the fundamental practices associated with the real estate business?

I think most agents today are looking for a quick fix. However, they are chasing an ideal that does not exist, especially in this adjusting market. For many it’s been a while-for some, a long while-since they had to work the fundamentals to generate business. And people who got into the business more recently never had to learn these practices. There was so much business going on that, in most cases, new agents didn’t have time to learn, or never bothered to develop, these essential skills. And while certainly not sexy, they work.

What are some bad habits that cause agents to spin their wheels as opposed to moving forward?

I’m finding that the three most prominent bad habits are: constantly being taken away from important activities by distractions that can be handled by an assistant or subordinate; failing to maintain a system for time management; and allowing cell phones to dictate how time is spent. Most agents begin their day “firefighting”-pulling on those hip boots and rushing out the door-instead of taking 10-15 minutes to plan their day and identify their most important tasks. In this business, it’s incredibly easy to lose an entire day just “reacting.” Agents end up spinning their wheels and never getting to the top priorities of the day for their business. It’s not unusual for agents to begin their day by checking their e-mails, and then their voice-mails, which is where the reacting takes place and the spinning out of control begins.

Why is it a better choice to develop a Working by Referral business?

Working by Referral is doing business relationally instead of transactionally, building future business in the process. You can spend-and waste-a great deal of time with a non-referred client just to get past these initial issues and still have them go buy from a FSBO or another agent. Referred clients usually have a sense of who you are and why they should work with you based on the referring person’s recommendation and experience. Trust, and even loyalty, are established much more quickly, which helps to build the relationship. That’s why relationships are pivotal to Working by Referral successfully.

What are the fundamentals of implementing a Working by Referral business?

First thing, create a database of all your past clients, friends, family and vendors. Then-the harder part-you must qualify these people, determining if you are, or would be, the Realtor they would refer. Next, you begin reconnecting, and staying connected to these people through lead-generation activities such as personal notes, calls, Pop-Bys, client parties, and business luncheons. At every opportunity it’s important to communicate your appreciation and to remind them that you’re never too busy for their referrals. Our philosophy is: give, ask, and then receive.

Can you tell us about a Coaching client who went from an ineffective way of doing business to succeeding through Working by Referral?

We had one client who was really struggling when she first joined Coaching. She had been in the business a short time and was spending long hours away from home, waiting for leads to come in, doing floor time, holding open houses, and working with every (and any) client that would come her way. She was always being pushed to discount her services with listings and spent hours with buyers who had no loyalty to her. She wanted three things when she came to Coaching: to build her referral business; to have time with her daughter no matter what; and a significant increase in her net income. Today, she works 100% by referral. She decides who she will work with and her clients are loyal. She is rarely asked to discount her services, but when she is, she simply smiles and explains that they were referred to her because of the way she takes care of her clients and no, she will not be discounting her commission. Her net income has tripled in the past three years and her husband is joining her in her real estate business. Now she doesn’t miss her daughter’s events; in fact, she attends the field trips, is there for her daughter after school, and has had more time for family in the past several months.