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Referral_Network“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

With that in mind, consider this conversation between two real estate agents:

Agent 1: “I couldn’t believe it. A seller I worked with five years ago sent me a co-worker who was absolutely perfect for my listing on Benton Circle. So that guy bought the Benton house and now I’m listing his old house on Evans. And get this—the co-worker’s sister is moving to town next month, so we’re finding a house for her, too. Plus, I’m getting a referral fee from the agent who’ll be selling her place.”

Agent 2: “You’re always so lucky. I never get referrals like that.”

When I hear someone say, “You’re so lucky,” I tend to think luck had little to do with whatever’s been accomplished. Preparation, hard work, strategy and expertly covering the fundamentals are usually much bigger factors.

This is particularly true with referrals.

According to the 2015 NAR Member Profile, most REALTORS® get less than a quarter of their business through referrals from past customers and clients. Roughly 14 percent reported getting no business at all through these channels. Even among agents with over six years of experience, 7 percent reported no referrals at all. None!

Focusing on non-referral sources of business is fine, but I have to wonder whether too many agents simply don’t recognize the opportunity created by every successful sale.

High earners aren’t making this mistake. Survey respondents who earned over $150,000 in GCI attributed nearly 30 percent of their business to referrals—and an even larger figure (36 percent) to repeat customers.

These top producers seem to understand that with so many variables in our business, it’s best to control the ones you can. As a real estate agent, you control 1) whether you provide service that impresses clients and compels them to tell others about you; and 2) whether you reach out to them after their transaction is closed. I’m guessing that most top producers are doing both.

The fortune is in the follow-up, and the important thing is to be purposeful, genuine, strategic and systematic. Your approach should also be measurable so that you can amp up the parts that work well and discard those that don’t.

You don’t have to break the bank to be effective. Touch base from time to time, share your knowledge, be a resource. And, in a way that suits your style, be direct and ask for referrals. I constantly notice the classic Brian Buffini line at the bottom of emails from the most accomplished top producers: “And by the way, I’m never too busy for your referrals…” It’s a smart, friendly and unobtrusive reminder to people who can help your business grow.

By committing to great service and crafting a strong follow-up system, you can be more like “lucky” Agent 1, rather than “unlucky” Agent 2. Do the preparation work. Seize the opportunities. Make 2016 your “luckiest” year yet.

Geoff Lewis is president of RE/MAX, LLC.

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