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The Power of Personal Notes

Want to win over customers? A little gratitude and good manners go a long way.

The day a transaction closes, Racquel Schroeder handwrites a thank you note to her customers. “It’s what your mom teaches you,” says Schroeder, of Goodwin Realty & Associates Inc. in Kissimmee. “You have no excuse not to do it in today’s market. Even if you have one month where you haven’t had any closings, go to your existing customer base and say, ‘Thanks for allowing me to help you find a home last year. I appreciate you trusting me with such a large purchase.’”

Writing thank you notes is not just a matter of manners—they ultimately lead to more sales, say Schroeder and other Florida real estate professionals who put them into practice. Recently, Schroeder saw how her thank you notes paid off: She’d sent a note to a couple who hired her to sell a piece of land. After receiving it, they called her again, saying that they appreciated her courtesy and that they wanted her to sell their house. It closed at $167,000 just a few weeks later.

“I think it does make a difference, because it keeps you top of mind. It’s a big relationship thing. It doesn’t take a lot [of time] to do it—five minutes a day,” Schroeder says.

Here are the benefits you can expect to reap from sending thank you notes, plus tips on penning them:

The Bonus of Gratitude
A word of thanks signifies that you offer personalized service to customers, says Don Egnor of The Condo Store for Coldwell Banker in Tampa. He’s been a real estate professional for nine years and previously sold cars for 22 years—writing thank you notes the whole time. On average, he writes two to three notes per day. Regularly, people tell him he’s the only sales associate who has ever thanked them, and they send him referrals as a result.

 “It’s all about attention. You make them feel like they’re the one and only customer,” Egnor says. “It’s being professional. People appreciate someone who has given them the attention and lets them know they’re important and not just another sale. The money is important, but a satisfied customer is more important.”

The Bonus of Business
Expect big results if you make gratitude a priority. Laurie Neiman, of Prudential Tropical Realty in Port Richey (and a long-time former broker at Marie Powell Realty) has consistently sent notes to one building contractor since the late 1980s. Two years ago, the contractor asked her firm to sell several projects, which resulted in 35 new-home sales, “all because of my notes,” she says. 

Likewise, Stavrula “Sam” Crafa, of Keller Williams Realty Gulf Coast in Seminole, derives a lot of her business from thank you notes. Of her nine current listings, seven resulted from referrals from people whom she’d thanked at some point. For example, recently she popped by one former customer’s house to say hi, and then wrote a note thanking the person for spending the time with her. A week later, the person called to list a property, which sold for $185,000.

Crafa is also using the coaching services of Brian Buffini & Co., which teaches business by referral through handwritten notes. She notes that in 2006, before using the Buffini system, she had four listings. As of October 2007, after she’d incorporated the thank you note system, she had 11.

Penning Your Thanks
Sales associates agree that it takes only about five minutes to craft a note. Here are some key things to remember:
1. “Think about who you’re writing to, what’s important to them and make them feel important,” Neiman says. One builder she knows recently had a baby, so Neiman’s note empathized with her, saying, “I know you’re doing a good job as a mom and that it’s hard to balance work,” in addition to her thanks.

2. “Remind them what you can do for them,” Egnor says. For example, you thank buyers for spending the day looking at houses. Remind them of the locations they liked and of the amenities that were available at certain properties, in addition to your statement of thanks.

3. “Keep it simple,” Crafa says. “Just write a couple of lines thanking them for whatever they did. It’s not the content of the note, but just taking the time to send the note makes a big impact on people.”
4. Correct grammar and spelling are important, so take your time. In addition, neatness counts!

5. “Don’t write from your head—write from your heart,” Neiman says. This comes more easily after you’ve practiced saying thanks regularly, she adds. “Once you get in the habit, your mind gets better and your heart gets better.” 

Heidi Russell Rafferty is a Kentucky-based freelance writer.