Real estate

Start Working Your Real Estate Sphere of Influence (SOI)

How many times do you have to learn that someone you helped buy a home used another agent to sell it before you decide to start targeting leads in your real estate sphere of influence?

Happens all the time, yet agents are throwing money at purchased leads when those same dollars can get more mileage by either purchasing a killer CRM or amping up the one they have, and throwing brilliant client appreciation events.

Ah, but it’s not necessarily the money for some, right?

It’s the time

Working your real estate sphere of influence takes far more time than money, at least in the beginning. And time is something busy agents are short on.

But, consider this: Agents making more than $100,000 a year told the NAR that they got nearly one-third of their business from referrals from past clients. They got 34 percent from repeat business.

Successful agents get 64% of their annual deals from their real estate sphere of influence

And, as first-time clients, they became official members of your real estate sphere of influence. If you’re like many agents, these folks fell through the cracks like the rest of the members.

Stop it!

A well-stocked CRM is the proverbial barrel full of fish and if you aren’t holding a shotgun over it, you’re working too hard chasing new business.

Fewer than one-fourth of home sellers used the agent that helped them buy their home

According to the NAR. Why? Because they forgot about him or her. That won’t happen to you, though because you’re going to take some time to ensure that you nurture both past and possible clients.

Make it easy on yourself

Make your CRM do all the heavy lifting. First, if you haven’t categorized the folks in your real estate sphere of influence, what are you waiting for? Are they potential buyers or sellers? Former clients?

Manage your sphere of influence with powerful, built-in CRM, right in your LeadSite – Learn more.

Categorizing, or “labeling” as it is sometimes known, helps you automate customized content delivery to groups of leads. It’s easy to forget the generic real estate newsletter or other content but send something of value – that they’ll actually read – and the results are far more impressive.

Then, root around in your CRM to come up with past clients who represent your oldest deals; they’re the most likely to be thinking about moving. These should be further categorized as your “hottest” leads.

Once you have your CRM up to speed, you can start planning ways to make contact with the ones who are most likely to transact in the near future. One of the easiest tasks to set for yourself is to find them on Facebook and follow them.

This way you won’t miss a chance to respond to them when they post something interesting

Respond you must, though, or that growing family you helped to buy a home won’t be calling you when they need a larger home.

After all, almost 90 percent of home sellers don’t use the same agent they used previously

Events for your real estate sphere of influence

When it’s time to dive deeper into your real estate sphere of influence — to really jog their memories about you — you have a number of choices:

  • Client appreciation events (even if some of the hottest leads in your real estate sphere of influence aren’t former clients, invite them anyway)
  • Seasonal activities (Kris Lindahl in Minnesota does an annual pumpkin giveaway, while Billings, Montana’s Amber Uhren held a very successful sock drive this past fall).
  • One-on-one meets (for cocktails, coffee, etc.)
  • Invite them to help you with your favorite cause. Collecting non-perishable food for your local food bank, cooking or serving food at the homeless shelter are just two ideas we’ve seen agents use.

When it comes to keeping in touch consistently, use a multi-pronged approach with your real estate sphere of influence. Email (newsletters, market updates, etc.), social media, face-to-face meetings, snail mail (just sold/just listed postcards) and whatever other marketing strategy you employ.

The point is to remain connected, consistently. This is how you build loyalty for your brand.

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Focus on SOI marketing for real estate

Sure, you learned as a rookie to depend on your sphere of influence for business. Somewhere along the line, however, many agents get lured into other lead gen techniques, ignoring all those warm leads sitting in their CRMs.

Sure, some have the typical fears of salespeople, such as rejection, but many more are too busy prospecting for leads in the hopes one will turn into instant business.

If that’s you, how’s it working for you?

All the time and energy convincing a stranger to like and trust you is better spent tending to your sphere of influence, nurturing the amazing possibilities in your CRM.

Scary?

Sure, it is. Ask anyone who made the decision to cut buyers loose and focus on generating listing leads or the agent who decided to nix the single-family home market and become a condo specialist. They’ll be more than happy to tell you that niching down their business was frightening.

The same holds true for lead gen techniques. “Fear, momentum and the status quo combine to keep us stuck,” Seth Godin explains.

If free leads from something other than cold calls leading to potentially huge revenue sounds good to you, read on.

What exactly is a “sphere of influence?”

In the 1880s, the term “sphere of influence” originated as a political one:

“… the claim by a state to exclusive or predominant control over a foreign area or territory,” according to britannica.com.

Bringing up visions of colonization, it’s a pity it was chosen to represent a group of people that you know, like or even love.

Today’s accepted definition of “sphere of influence,” when it comes to sales and marketing is:

“A Sphere of Influence (SOI) business model is a strategy that focuses on attracting business to you from the people you know and the people you meet socially, as opposed to pursuing business from strangers.” (rismedia.com)

For some reason, “influence” feels like such an uncomfortable choice of words when it comes to real estate agents. Sure, you try to exert influence, or sway, a buyer to pay more for your clients’ home, but that’s negotiating.

But I digress. Your SOI, in a nutshell, is everyone you know, whether or not you’ve done business with them.

As you can imagine, the list can be frightfully long. Consider the types of people in your SOI marketing for real estate efforts:

  • Relatives
  • Friends
  • Friends of friends
  • Your parents’ friends and neighbors
  • Kids’ friends’ parents
  • Spouse’s or partner’s friends, family and coworkers
  • Neighbors
  • Former (pre-real estate) colleagues
  • Kids’ teachers
  • Everyone to whom you send a Christmas card
  • Your doctor, dentist, gynecologist, veterinarian, eye doctor, etc.
  • Former clients
  • Service providers, such a pool cleaner, plumber, gardener, mail carrier
  • Folks you met and/or did business with in your former career
  • Anyone you speak with on a regular basis (grocery checkout person, barista, wait person, restaurant owner, bartender, etc.)
  • Your barber/hair stylist, manicurist, tanning salon personnel, yoga teacher, etc.

The list goes on and on and on. And, it’s growing every day.

Apparently, just by dint of knowing all these people, you have influence over them (see how creepy that word is).

A better way to think of it is that these people will at least listen to you and not hang up the phone or delete your email without reading it. And that there is half the battle.

Why it’s important to devote more time to SOI marketing for real estate

I recently read a blog post at followupboss.com that featured an interesting statistic: “85% of people don’t know how to get in touch with their Realtor.”

The writer ascribed the stat to NAR and included a link. Unfortunately, that statistic isn’t mentioned in the NAR piece so we can’t verify it.

But, if it is true, it’s a sickening truth. It explains why so many survey respondents say they will use their agent again and so few do.

It explains why the majority of real estate consumers go with the first agent they speak with

If agents spent as much time nurturing their SOI as they spend chasing after the next shiny marketing gimmick or pursuing lead gen tactics that aren’t working for them, they could end up like the team that was mentioned in that aforementioned blog post.

Apparently, the team’s coach suggested that they grow their SOI which, at that time, was just shy of 280 names. They took the advice and, within four years, their revenue jumped from nothing to $90 million.

If your CRM is short on SOI folks, start this new project by expanding it. First, wrack your brain to figure out who you’ve left out.

Then, get out and socialize (if that’s being allowed in your market). Interact with others. Get as much contact info on these people as possible and get them into your CRM.

Even if you are new to the business, or the area, you can quickly start SOI marketing for real estate. Consider:

  • Getting involved in a non-profit
  • Become active at your church, mosque, synagogue, etc.
  • Join a civic or service organization such as Lion’s Club, the Jaycees, Rotary Club
  • Volunteer
  • Join the local Chamber of Commerce and attend the mixers
  • Try to strike up a conversation while waiting in lines
  • Become a regular at a local coffee shop

Make it your goal to meet people, whenever and wherever you can.

If, on the other hand, you have the opposite problem (a huge sphere that has become unwieldy), take some time to pare it down.

  • Delete anyone whose name is only vaguely familiar
  • Delete or label as cold anyone who has moved out of the area you serve

SOI marketing for real estate – Get organized

If you haven’t done so, segment your SOI. There are no rules to this process; segment your SOI in a way that makes sense to you. Here are a few ideas we’ve heard from other agents:

  • Segment by relationship to you. For instance, family, friends, former clients, former colleagues, folks you know through your parents, kids, siblings, etc.
  • Choose who to focus your SOI marketing for real estate on by their likeliness to pull the trigger on a real estate deal the soonest. This would be your basic “hot,” “warm,” or “cold” prospect.

In the beginning, SOI marketing for real estate may be uncomfortable

If you’re anything like many other agents, there’s a whole lot of people in your CRM that you haven’t had contact with in years. Maybe even decades.

Picking up that phone to make contact may bring up the same feelings you had if you ever attempted cold calls.

The fact that you actually know who you’re calling should make it easier but a lot of agents we’ve spoken with say that isn’t necessarily so. You may still ask yourself what you’ll say to break the ice. It’s even harder if you have only a cursory association with the person.

One technique we like is to make your first calls to those in your sphere that you are closest to. That will get you used to striking up a conversation and collecting as much personal data as possible.

Consider inviting those closest to you out to lunch or coffee.

Then, move on to others with whom you have a cordial, somewhat close relationship, such as past clients.

Consider direct mail for those at the cold end of the SOI spectrum; from a newsletter to a handwritten note letting them know you’re thinking of them, the first contact via direct mail, if it’s personalized, will break the ice.

Social media is another way to reach out to them. Find out where they hang out online and read through their posts. Discover what they’re interested in, what makes them laugh, etc. These are topics to keep in mind when coming up with your own social media posts.

Then, engage with them. Commenting on their posts will encourage them to return the engagement.

NAR once surveyed agents earning more than $100,000 a year. They learned that one-third of these agents’ business each year came from referrals from former clients.

Additionally, 34 percent of their business was repeat business.

This can only happen if they were consistently keeping in touch with these clients.

Something to consider, don’t you agree?

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