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Building relationships with clients has always been an important component of real estate success. But with today’s consumer being more and more tech savvy, connecting with them can create a challenge if you’re not up-to-date. Read on as RISMedia’s Lesley Geary talks to Christine Richardson of Weichert REALTORS® about the importance of social media, versatility and flexibility.

Christine Richardson
Weichert REALTORS®
Years in real estate: 24
Region served: Northern Virginia

How do you connect with today’s consumers?
I think you have to be versatile and flexible. Some people want to communicate by text and Facebook messaging (especially my younger clients), while others prefer the good, old-fashioned phone call or face-to-face discussion (especially my older clients). And you have to be able to do everything in between, too. I try to make my clients feel as comfortable as possible and make connecting with me easy. That requires different approaches for different people.

What specific strategies do you use to effectively build relationships with clients and prospects?
The bulk of my business comes from referrals from past clients. That is, by far, the best type of lead to receive. The connection to those referred leads sometimes comes through social media or a text, or a client might send someone to my website as a means of introducing me. I also generate a lot of leads from my website, primarily people who are looking at one of my listings. I have found that a terrific way to send people to my website is with Craigslist ads. They are free, but somewhat time consuming. Your ad has to be fresh to be seen, so I place Craigslist ads every day. The time of day is also important, as you want to place ads at a time when consumers tend to be looking. It works extremely well for me.

What kinds of media are you using?
Website, Craigslist, Google AdWords, direct mail (I always send “Just Listed” and “Just Sold” cards), and I still place some ads in one local paper that is heavily read by the over-60 crowd in my marketplace.

Is your website interactive?
No, but I definitely understand the concept of responding to website leads very quickly. At an RISMedia conference a couple of years ago, a speaker referred to Internet leads as strawberries. They are really good when very fresh, but they get bad pretty quickly. I love that analogy and I try very hard to pluck my strawberries when they are fresh!

What is the biggest challenge in using social media?
My concern with it is the potential waste of time. I could see myself spending huge amounts of time browsing and chatting and commenting and have nothing to show for it. I believe strongly in choosing a couple of methods for lead generation, and then becoming an expert in those few methods and executing them flawlessly. It’s very easy to become like a pinball, bouncing around from strategy to stratgey and not doing any of them completely or especially well. There are so many different strategies available, so I have chosen three and I focus my attention and intention on them.

Why did you become a Member of Top 5?
I believe strongly in the idea of providing relevant information to my clients. Why is it that consumers wait to call us after they have decided they want to buy or sell real estate? They should be calling us to find out if they should be considering buying or selling real estate. I also like the idea of having a credential that spans real estate companies so that consumers have a true benchmark to seek when choosing a REALTOR®. There are so many “top producers” out there—how is a consumer to choose? I truly hope that Top 5 becomes a well-known name that people recognize so they know they are working with a professional who truly cares about their business and knows what they are doing.

What is the one thing you can’t live without?
Electronic signatures. I love this! What a huge difference it makes to not be driving all over town to get one set of initials on a counteroffer, or dealing with the poor quality on a contract that has been faxed back and forth a dozen times. It is such a time-saver for me, and my clients really love it, too. A number of my clients have commented that they love the fact that working with me is so high-tech and professional.

What’s your best idea for time management?
I love the “Six Most Important Things” list. Each night, I make a list of the six most important things I need to do the next day. In the morning, I take out the list and order them by importance. Then I start working on them in that order, crossing them off as I go. If an item doesn’t get done, it goes on the next day’s list. This method really keeps me focused on what’s important. It is so easy to get distracted during the day. And it feels so great to cross an item off!

What is the key to a successful life in real estate?
Maintain balance in your life. Real estate can consume you. It can also chew you up and spit you out! I try really hard to set aside time for my family and for myself. And we have a “no real estate talk” rule at the dinner table. Having a supportive family has been critical to my success in this business. But they also need to know that sometimes I am just a wife or mom. So, on some days, my Six Most Important Things List says, “Take Carly to the mall” or “Help Mark clean out the garage.” I love those days!