Research from the National Association of Realtors shows that clients don’t shop around and seventy-five percent of buyers and sellers contact or interview only one agent. A referral, thereby, is the surest way to be that first and only agent that a client contacts. In fact, Outbound Engine has found that successful agents get up to 75% of their business from referrals.

Agents know that people trust direct referrals from their family and friends. But, many fail to capitalize on this because they either don’t know how to ask, or when and how to ask someone without seeming self-centered or desperate. Here’s how you can change that, and successfully ask your best clients for referrals.

When and Who to Approach for a Referral

Of course, it is best to approach clients who are happy with your service for a referral. They are much more likely to respond positively to the idea and give a genuine referral. But, how do you tell who is happy enough with your services that they might refer you to someone?

Clients thanking you is a good hint they’re satisfied. Usually, they’ll thank you after you close their home, or after you go above-and-beyond for them. If they thank you after a long weekend of looking at homes, but you haven’t found their home yet, don’t ask for a referral. Just remember that they were grateful and bring up that long weekend when you do ask for the referral after you have closed their deal.

Some real estate agents wait until the closing date or until after their clients have moved, to ask for a referral. That can work too. It’s all about how you ask.

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How to Ask for a Referral Directly

If you’re not used to asking for a referral directly, it may feel awkward at first. Avoid undercutting yourself by saying things like, “I know it’s a lot to ask” or “if it isn’t too much trouble.” Most people enjoy passing along the news about excellent service they’ve received, so all you’re doing is undermining your confidence with these statements.

Instead, focus on being genuine and specific about your client’s experience. Ask them if they know anyone who could use your services. Mention the ways in which you went above and beyond for them, not only because it will encourage them to say yes, but also because they may pass this information on to whomever they refer.

You’ll also need to give your clients the information they need to be able to refer you. Have a business card or other marketing material on hand for them to take so that they can pass it on.

How to Get Spontaneous Referrals

Ideally, you’d directly ask every happy customer for a referral. However, if you find that you’re not comfortable asking directly, you can create an environment where people are likely to refer you spontaneously. Of course, even those who ask directly can use these techniques to try to get more referrals:

  • Events: Hold exciting, extravagant, or genuinely interesting events for your past clients. After such an event, they are highly likely to mention it, and you, to their friends and family.
  • Content marketing: Your past clients may share content that you produce if it is genuinely useful or interesting. You can share real estate news and content, but you don’t have to limit yourself to it. If you find several of your clients share an interest, pursue that. Share your content through social media or email marketing, where your clients can easily share it and your business.
  • Direct mail: You can also ask for referrals indirectly through direct mail. After all, you should have your customer’s new address. If you’re the selling agent, you can ask for it. Mailing your clients is also a great way to stay in touch with clients so that they will use you again the next time they buy or sell.

Be Worthy of the Referral

Those who find that they rarely get referrals may need to work on offering better customer service or might need to invest in a way to stand out from the crowd. Here are a few services you can offer, that can help you improve your level of customer service:

  • Virtual 3D Tour Technology: Offering a 3D tour, by technology like iGuide, will significantly increase your value to clients and almost certainly boost their sale price.
  • Virtual Staging Technology: You can get great results for your clients, without having to worry about actually staging the home, with technology that stages it virtually.
  • Street Peek: New from MLS, this app gives you information about any home that’s for sale, if you point at it. Help your clients get the information they need faster.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow-up with those who give you a referral, to thank them. Your customers will refer again if they know how much you appreciate it.