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Why you don’t need a big sphere of influence to be successful in real estate

Michael Fanelli, REALTOR and Business Development Manager, Touchstone Group

That’s right. You don’t need to know a lot of people in your town to be successful in the real estate industry. You just have to be willing to talk to people.

Michael Fanelli, Business Development Manager at Touchstone Group, draws on his past experience in executive recruiting to share his perspectives on how brokers can succeed — on their own terms.


The Sphere of Influence strategy

Many traditional brokerages will encourage you to create a list of contacts — family members, friends, even mild acquaintances — when you first join their team. Your list might look scant if you aren’t originally from that city, didn’t go to college there, or are new in town. Conversely, brokers with roots in your city might have hundreds and hundreds of contacts, from their college roommate to their third grade teacher.

Although tapping into your social network is an important strategy for building your real estate business, it’s OK if your sphere of influence isn’t strong. There are other ways to find opportunities.


How to build your business without a strong network

You’ve called all your contacts — now what? How do you build your pipeline and get more clients? Good news: There are several options.

Join a brokerage that offers a leads program.

Cold calling can be tough. So instead of purchasing a leads list or dialing the phone book, joining a brokerage that offers its brokers leads can be a valuable opportunity. These leads are either targeted or might have already shown interest in buying/selling on the brokerage’s website, so your conversations can be more focused and fruitful.

For example, at Touchstone Group, buyers will frequently browse the listings on our website, register for an account, or ask for a search to be sent to them. We funnel these leads to our brokers, who can follow up and possibly gain a new client that they already know is interested in buying or leasing.

Additionally, Touchstone also cultivates targeted lists of potential clients that we offer to our brokers looking for more business. Although these are technically still cold calls, the agent has a better understanding of who the lead is and what they’re looking for, which allows the agent to tailor their messaging to maximize the conversation’s effectiveness.

I highly recommend looking for a brokerage that offers similar lead opportunities as a built-in way to secure more clients. Even if you’re not a new broker, joining a brokerage that offers leads can amplify your business and generate contacts that turn into more opportunities for your pipeline. You can never have too many potential clients in our industry.

Networking works, but you have to do it strategically. Traditional brokers should look for non-real estate events instead of industry-specific networking.

Seek out the right networking events.

If you’re in property management or construction, real estate networking events could be a great option, as many of the attendees will be brokers who might not offer those services but could use a trusted partner who does.

If you’re a traditional broker, though, look for networking events outside of the industry. Young professionals, chambers of commerce, general business, religious, alma mater, or interest group events are great options. What I like about networking events is that the attendees are already going in with the expectation of meeting new faces and discussing their careers, making it much easier to work your real estate business into the conversation.

You might score big and find someone who could use your services right away, but don’t expect to get a new client after one networking event. Of all the people you meet, 98 percent will be contacts you cultivate, but you might find one or two who will bite. You’re playing both a long and a short game — don’t be afraid to ask a new contact out for a coffee or drink.

Get social.

And I’m not just talking social media. When business is stagnant and you need to find clients or build a pipeline, I’m a big advocate for what we call the “Happy Hour Strategy.” The strategy is simple, but surprisingly effective. Step 1: Go to a restaurant or local watering hole during happy hour. Step 2: Sit down next to another solo diner. Step 3: Strike up a conversation, where you eventually mention what you do. Step 4: Continue building these relationships. Repeat at a different location the next day.

What…that’s it? I know — it doesn’t seem like much advice. But when your sphere of influence isn’t strong, sometimes it’s smart to use a volume-based strategy.

For example, when I was a recruiting consultant and trying to fill a position, I would call hundreds of people about one opening. Out of these, you might get one person who calls you back. And if the candidate isn’t right for the position, they still might be a perfect fit for another job down the road.

The same idea applies to your real estate client list. If you talk to 10 people, you only might make a connection with one person. If you’re lucky, that person might be ready to rent/buy/sell and become an immediate client. At the very worst, they’re someone you can put in your pipeline who might refer you to a friend or think of you when they do need real estate. 

This strategy is low cost, personable, and if you can make small talk, you can gain new contacts and build your business.


Brokers: Want more ideas on how to build your business?
Talk more with Michael!


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