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Basics of Friendship Building
Joshua Garfield, of Coldwell Banker South Tampa, and Drew Russell, of Michael Saunders in Sarasota, each have steadily increased their business since the market corrected. How? They’ve relied on basic friendship building.

Garfield had 35 sales a year in both 2006 and 2007, but the amount rose from $7.5 million in 2006 to $9 million in 2007. “It wasn’t like in 2004 or 2005, but I’m still happy,” he says. One way he builds on his customer friendships is through a dinner club, in which five couples (chosen from friends of friends and prospective customers) take turns hosting a themed dinner. After two months of getting to know one of the couples, Garfield helped them buy a $275,000 home. And the other couples have continuously given him referrals. He stays in touch with all of them regularly.

“It may be three to six months or a year or longer before they move forward with something, but they’ve been continuously receiving the information from the initial referral from someone they trusted. They have a relationship with us,” he says.

In the first six weeks of 2008, Russell had already completed three closings for $1.5 million, and had received nine referrals. Eighty percent of his business comes from what he dubs “protecting the database.”
“I’ve hunkered down to protect and maintain my database of past clients and people that I network to,” he says. He literally carries around index cards with the names and contact information of people with whom he needs to stay in contact. If he hasn’t spoken with them in two to three months, he treats them to lunch or dinner. If they’re too busy, he’ll find out their favorite restaurants and then bring lunch to their offices.

Russell also sends out a one-page newsletter called “The Russell Report,” which contains pertinent market information and his advice about buying and selling. He puts it together with Microsoft PowerPoint, prints it on a Canon copier and either mails or e-mails it to 100 people.

The clincher, though, is that Russell is never shy about asking for referrals. “I want everything to be so perfect for my clients they refer people to me. I’m never bashful about asking them.”