We all remember Wayne’s World… you know the scene… “and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on.” Referrals can be a great positive thing – and an even worse negative drag. Did you know, when someone has a positive experience they typically tell 3 other people? Sounds great! However, with a negative experience, they’ll often tell 7 people!
In my business, referrals are my lifeblood. I am fortunate that about 90% of my business comes from referrals of people I know, or have done business with in the past. I am flattered by this, and truly believe that it clearly illustrates my professionalism and credibility as an expert in Real Estate.
I will be honest and say that the way some handle the business of referrals is disappointing. We all know the someone who’s posting on Facebook – or tweeting on Twitter – the “think globally, act locally” attitude. I do find that while most think this is an enviable attitude and really portrays the altruistic side of society; I also find that when it gets close to home, these “morals” are often abandoned.
“When something becomes personal, it becomes important.”
Let’s think about this comment. There is nothing more personal than someone’s financial affairs – and there are few businesses that don’t delve somewhat into your finances during a transaction. From home repair, dog grooming, and landscaping to financial planning, home financing/refinance and car purchases – there’s always that moment of “if I do this, what will they think?”
First and foremost, understand that more often than not, you’re dealing with a professional – or at least, you should be. From a Real Estate perspective, I would ask yourself, “am I dealing with someone who does this full-time, or someone that does this as a hobby and is looking for an easy windfall off my transaction?“ Is the person you’re choosing to work with dedicated to the industry? Is this truly their expertise? I think it’s a clear line in the area of Real Estate; however, I wouldn’t say that any other industry is any different. When you buy your car – is it from a friend that dabbles in the business – or from a dealership that has invested millions in their business? The contractor you’re looking to have replace your roof – has he done this before, or is it something a friend thinks they can do? You’re not going to have an acquaintance put down your $20k paver patio, simply because you know them – are you?
Pennsylvania – and Berks County for that matter – is a notorious Do-It-Yourself state. I know this from my days as a Regional Sales Director with an IT service provider. If I had a nickle for every account who’s IT Director told me “I have a friend that does some of this at a much lower rate,” I wouldn’t be selling houses!
I understand that saving money is a MUST in today’s economy – and should be pretty darn important at any other time as well. But, are you saving money – or just paying less? There’s a difference.
“You get what you pay for.”
I don’t know about you -but I am pretty analytical when it comes to spending money, from advertising for my business to getting an oil change. Here’s an example of paying less without saving money…
I have an old Volvo. It’s basic transportation at this point, and I would rather keep it on life support rather than have a car payment… much to my wife’s chagrin. I had a lot of problems with it for a long time. I took it to a friend that works on cars, spent less money, but saw the same issues. I then took it to a franchise repair shop, and they told me they could do it. The bonus here is that when they couldn’t – they had to tell me…. turns out my friend, nor the franchise shop, had the equipment to “talk” to the car. I was told by both that I would need a new turbo because that seemed to be leaking some oil, and was likely the cause. This would run me into the couple of thousands… Around that time, I had a friend that worked in Toyota service go to Performance Toyota – which has a Volvo dealership as well. I talked to him – he openly told me he didn’t know anything about Volvo’s – but to bring it in. $1300 later the issue was fixed (which wasn’t the turbo – that was fine). I would have spent $1300 (more than I was quoted at the other two options I tried) and been done. Instead, I payed less and ended up needing it fixed properly anyway.
How about home purchases – since that’s what this blog is about. I have seen time and again other agents that aren’t “experts” in the field. When I say an expert in Real Estate, I don’t mean someone that can just price your home to sell – or get you a good price on one. Does this expert have knowledge in financing? Home Inspection? New Construction AND re-sale? Property Tax Assessment/Appeal? These are all facets of every transaction. For example, I don’t even know how many homes were built in Berk County from 2002 – 2006; however, I know the builder that I worked for was exceeding 300 homes per year in that time frame. I also know that when I do property tax appeals, the homeowners want to know why no one told them about the appeals process and want to know why their taxes are so high.
You see, as a professional and as an expert, one should be consistently be providing services. I often tell prospective clients that buying or selling a home is WHEN I get paid – not WHY I get paid.
So – what I am saying is not give business to me – or another acquaintance – because I am a friend… I am saying give us the opportunity to earn your business because of our relationship. I am not concerned with discussing your finances. Most often in my career as a Realtor, I have referred any financing issues to my lender. I would much rather have you speak to the lender, get a definitive “Yes” or “No” instead of me speculating what I can, based on a fraction of the picture.
I refer to my lender because she is an expert. I love her tagline “No surprises.” That’s how she operates. I also refer to her because she has referred to me. That brings me to the most frustrating part of the referral dichotomy….
I often have people tell me that they’ve referred people to me (given my name or card) and I never hear from them. They tell me it’s “frustrating” that they didn’t call. I can empathize with that; however, these are the same people that chose not to use who I referred them to because they didn’t want someone to know their finances – or they already had a pre-approval from another lender.
Well, I can’t change it – but I can voice it. Think about it… why would/should someone heed your advice when you’ve turned a deaf ear on the advice given to you? It happens every day. What I would like to see is more people “thinking locally.” My lender, title, home inspector, auto repair, etc are all LOCAL. They’re not just local – but they’re people. People that can help you – professionals who will help you. And guess what, they need auto repair… they need home services…. they need landscaping…. etc.
How many referrals for appliance repair will Wachovia give you? How many landscaping jobs have you gotten from Wells Fargo? Not much I suspect.
I can’t stress this enough… I am not a good fit to help you buy/sell your home because I am your friend. I am a good fit to do so because I am a professional dedicated to my industry.
I won’t refer you to someone just because I have a personal relationship with them. I will refer you to an expert that I have a professional relationship with…. that because of their performance has led to a personal relationship.
I won’t discount my services because you’re a friend of mine. I will provide you with unparalleled service that you would pay a stranger the same fee for.
I won’t dismiss you after settlement. I won’t assume everything is OK because I haven’t heard from you. I will continue to communicate with you and serve as a resource that will continue to pay dividends on an ongoing basis.
Basically, if you need your car serviced… if you need a car… if you need landscaping, fishing guides, a gun made, a mortgage, an equity line, an attorney, a general contractor, IT services, a painter, a plumber, an electrician, a mover, a builder, a photographer, a designer, an interior designer, a vacation, or anything else…. ask me, ask another friend… there is great power in numbers.
“Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”