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In this exclusive interview, Quicken Loans®’ Regional Vice President of Mortgage Banking Tony Nuckolls discusses tried-and-true techniques for real estate professionals who want to up their referral game and build a pipeline of future buyers.

Paige Tepping: Please provide a brief overview of your history in the industry and how you ended up where you are today at Quicken Loans.
Tony Nuckolls: I’ve been in the mortgage/real estate industry for nearly two-and-a-half decades. My mother was a licensed agent, so I grew up driving around to various open houses and looking at real estate, which piqued my interest at a young age. After graduating from college, I was given the opportunity to jump into the mortgage business…and I haven’t looked back since.

PT: When it comes to gaining referrals and building a pipeline, what is your best advice?
TN: For real estate professionals looking to gain referrals and build a pipeline, it’s all about expectations, service and follow-up. Providing clear expectations from the get-go is important, which means that real estate professionals must be upfront with their clients and ask for referrals in exchange for the value they will continue to provide for years to come. Make it of paramount importance that your clients thank you for your continued service by referring their friends, family, neighbors and coworkers to you. While most real estate professionals are doing the same old thing and getting the same old results, taking a different approach begins with setting clear expectations for all parties involved.

PT: What should real estate professionals avoid doing if they want to up their referral game?
TN: More often than not, real estate professionals cast their net too wide and ultimately water down their message. While I agree that mass marketing works on a national scale, real estate is a local business, so being very narrow and intentional with what you want to cultivate from your brand is key. It’s not about being on every billboard or shopping cart, but rather, allocating your time, energy and resources to being involved in communities or groups where you can foster strong relationships. Establishing yourself as a real estate professional in a network or business association will go a long way toward driving referrals to fill your pipeline.

PT: How can real estate professionals ensure they’re building a business where they’re constantly getting referrals?
TN: By focusing on the tried-and-true things that work. In today’s digital age, it’s all about creating community. Everyone you meet is part of some type of community. Take the time to sit back and reflect on what types of communities you are a part of, the communities you want to be a part of and the communities you don’t want to be a part of. Then, associate yourself with those communities that you can deliver value to, placing yourself among individuals who see value in what you provide. There are so many communities that you can be a part of, and by involving yourself with a booster club at your child’s school, for example, you’re gaining a different type of return: return on involvement—or ROI. Real estate professionals have an important role in their community, so it’s essential to get involved in a way that’s genuine, authentic and real.

PT: Why is it so important, especially in today’s environment, for real estate professionals to focus on referrals in order to continuously work on building their pipeline?
TN: Those who have the biggest budget typically win, so if you’re looking to build a solid pipeline and a referral-based business, you need to be able to zig when others zag. There is so much noise out there today and so few people listening, that you have to be willing to go in a different direction. To that end, it’s critical that you find intimate and tight-knit communities where you can go deep and provide value so that you don’t have to compete with the broad-brush approach of those with the big dollars. Establishing trusted referral sources is key, and clients who had a great experience will provide the type of referrals you’re seeking, which is where you’ll get repeat business. While every interaction can lead to a transaction, it can also lead to a relationship where you’re positioned as an advocate. If you’re enough of an advocate, you’ll never be left wondering where your next listing is coming from.

PT: How can real estate professionals stay top of mind with those in their pipeline?
TN: It all boils down to what the agent really wants and what their ultimate goal is. As Stephen Covey says, it’s important to begin with the end in mind, and to do that, agents must set up a cadence of communication. Let your clients know that once the transaction has been completed, you’re going to mail them something every month that details how to maintain their home. Ask if they’d like to be added to your email list so that you can provide them with information pertaining to the neighborhood to keep them educated as to what is happening in the community. In addition, plan small client appreciation events or coffee meet-ups in order to stay in touch and keep the lines of communication open. And don’t forget to pick up the phone. Make it all about the relationship and provide the experience they’re looking for. While people will often forget what you say, they might remember what they hear, but they will never forget what they experience.

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Paige Tepping is RISMedia’s managing editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at