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Managing and growing your online referral business can turn a good year into a great year

Referrals are the undisputed lifeblood of an agent’s business, but managing inbound online referrals can sometimes be challenging. Plus, most agents admit that they don’t send as many outbound referrals as they could be doing.

For inbound online referrals, clients may have requested information from multiple sources, and some referral companies—like ReferralExchange—send referrals to several agents so the client can choose the best fit for them.

For outbound referrals—e.g., when you have a client moving to a different location, a buyer moving into your area who needs to sell a property in their old location, or a friend/family member who needs to purchase a property that’s out of your price point or market—the challenge can often be finding qualified agents in other markets and keeping track of how they’re handling the referral.

Here, we highlight some tips and tools from agents who use ReferralExchange, a nationwide referral and lead management service, to help you convert and close the online referrals you receive, as well as how to find ways to send out more referral business. For both types of business, the key is to have a thorough and consistent marketing and communication strategy in place in order to capture the business when the prospect is ready to transact.

Converting Inbound Referrals
Melissa Zavala, administrative broker at Broadpoint Properties in Escondido, Calif., serves the busy North San Diego area along with her husband, Javier.

“When a referral comes in, we make the call, get an appointment, and do what it takes to work the lead,” says Zavala. “It sometimes takes a lot of negotiation, but it’s gratifying to know we’ve helped more than one family out of a very tight spot—and we get paid to do it.”

“Acting quickly and professionally is critical,” notes veteran Broker/Owner Donald Patterson, whose company, Commonwealth Real Estate Associates, has closed seven inbound ReferralExchange transactions in Georgia and Florida within the last 24 months. “You have to be good—and fast—to beat out the competition.”

Here’s how these leaders follow up with inbound referrals:

  1. Call quickly. Patterson calls within 30 seconds, and Zavala calls on the same day.
  1. Make follow-up calls and send emails and texts several times during a two-day period.
  1. Include a photo of yourself, as well as any personal or customized information based on the prospect’s request.
  1. Add them to your CRM/drip campaigns, since these types of referrals might be at the very beginning of their home search.

Converting Outbound Referrals
When managing outbound referrals, agents need to have a partner with a large number of vetted agents, the systems in place to manage and track the submitted referral, and a customer service team to help everyone through the process.

Zavala says that ReferralExchange provides the national network and support they need to help their clients. They simply upload the name and information into the ReferralExchange system. “They find an appropriate agent and manage the entire transaction, and we get paid when it closes.

“When we work with clients locally, we know the area well, and we can offer the kind of insights a buyer needs to know in order to make a good buying decision,” says Zavala. “When we refer through ReferralExchange, we know our clients will get the same level of expertise from the agent they ultimately work with.

“We know that the system works, and that makes it possible for us to focus on the business at home,” adds Zavala. “In fact, we just had a referral close that we submitted in 2015.”

The process works well no matter the size of the real estate firm, says Cornelius Jackson, president and CEO of CLJ Realty, Inc., a small team of REO specialists serving all of Southern California.

“Working with ReferralExchange allows me to compete with big brokerages all across the nation easily and efficiently,” says Jackson. “I had one client in Alabama, a former coworker and a first-time buyer, who was being transferred to Chicago and wanted to buy a home there. Here I was, halfway across the country, but a ReferralExchange agent in Chicago managed the transaction and kept me updated at every point along the way—and I got my commission when they closed.”

“It’s the best system I know for increasing your business outside of your geographical area,” says Patterson. “It’s a win-win for everyone, and we’re well paid for our effort.”

Like Jackson, Patterson values the fact that his ReferralExchange association puts his company on the national stage.

“I can truthfully tell my clients that I can help them with their real estate needs anywhere in the country. And I can be very certain that they’ll be happy with the performance of the ReferralExchange agent on the other end,” says Patterson, who appreciates the ease of using the platform.

“It’s a real work-saver,” adds Patterson. “I input the information and, with one click, I know they’ll take it from there.”

Here are their tips for doing more outbound referrals:

  • Look for opportunities to refer. Zavala says that their most recent closing was the friend of the daughter of someone who worked in their office.
  • Always ask your relocating buyers or sellers if they need an agent wherever they’re moving to/from.
  • Focus on the local business that makes sense for you to work and refer out the rest.
  • Let everyone know that you have access to a nationwide network of top agents who can help them.

ReferralExchange, which began connecting real estate professionals and clients in 2005, currently has more than 24,000 agents on board nationwide, and helped connect over 250,000 agents and clients in 2018.

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