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Forging successful partnerships—whether it’s with a fellow real estate agent, vendor or client—can yield benefits for all parties involved beyond an initial sale or deal. Perhaps you want to expand your service area, launch your product or program to a ready-made market, or implement technology that you don’t have resources to develop, these are just a few of the many reasons to develop a partnership.

Below are five best practices to use when creating powerful and lasting partnerships. One of our most successful partnerships, with CRS (Council of Residential Specialists), has followed this path—and it’s been a win-win for everyone involved!

  1. Define a true need. The first and most important factor when forging a partnership is to identify and define a true need. What are the pain points your prospective partner is facing? How can you help with those? What does your partner have that you need? How can you benefit from the relationship? What are the synergies that exist between you and a prospective partner? Of course, you also need to consider the potential problems: What are the downsides to working together? How could such a partnership impact your long-term plans?

When ReferralExchange launched several years ago, we had two main challenges: 1) We were always looking for top-performing agents to send referrals to, but many agents did not meet our stringent performance criteria, and 2) even though we were a successful consumer-direct-to-agent service, many agents hadn’t heard of us.

CRS was looking for ways to recruit new agents into their organization, while adding additional value to provide to their agents.

  1. Be a true partner. Partnerships are based on an equal, synergistic relationship. Negotiating a deal that significantly benefits one partner over the other or hiding facts, figures, or capabilities can lead to disaster—potentially impacting your long-term relationship, reputation and bottom line. Effective partners must work together towards common goals, try to identify all potential risks and pitfalls upfront, and resolve them as quickly as possible.

The ReferralExchange/CRS partnership is equally beneficial to both organizations. We were able to welcome over 6,000 amazing agents into our network, and our relationship helped increase awareness of ReferralExchange within the real estate community. CRS was able to provide a free continuous stream of vetted referrals to their agents.

  1. Over-communicate and over-deliver. Launching and rolling out your partnership can be tricky, especially if your partner has multiple constituents and stakeholders. You need to promote the partnership to everyone involved and show them how it will be a benefit. Be sure to really listen to your partners—they understand their constituents the best. Follow their lead during rollout, while being accessible to support and help as needed.

ReferralExchange and CRS soft-launched the new program to CRS leadership first to garner their input and feedback. We then launched the program with webinars, articles, emails, and FAQs during CRS’ Referral Week. The partnership was announced on the various real estate websites, as well.

  1. Be patient. Partnerships take time to put together. Negotiating terms that work for both of you are not always easy to finalize and priorities are not always in sync. Don’t panic if a prospective partner “goes quiet” after an initial presentation. They might simply be trying to work things out on their end, or discussing the prospective partnership with stakeholders.  

We first met with CRS at a NAR Convention in New Orleans one November, and the program launched the following August. Multiple in-person and phone meetings took place to finalize an agreement. We provided references, and CRS vetted us with members on their Leadership Team who also used our service.

  1. Be in it for the long term. A successful partnership continues long after the contract ink is dry—and success isn’t a given. You need to be flexible. Sometimes your initial vision might evolve into something different. Be sure to set regular check-ins to determine how the relationship is doing and set future plans and growth goals. As the industry and business climate evolves, so should your partnership.

We have continued to foster and grow the relationship. We hold in-person check-in meetings several times a year to review performance of the program and set goals, and are currently planning on launching new offerings to CRS agents in the next few months.

To date, the CRS Partnership has over 6,000 participants who have closed nearly 2,000 properties and generated over $14 million in earned commission. We are currently working with CRS to offer additional services to their constituents. CRS has also partnered with us on other joint projects, such as an annual Referral Survey.

Good partnerships can be hard to find—and you can’t “force fit” a relationship. You need to be willing to let them go if it’s not working. But, if the need and mutual respect exists, the rewards are worth the effort. A successful partnership can lead to long-term growth, product legitimacy, and strategic expansion—and that’s definitely worth the time and effort involved!

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