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Focus on referrals in a slow market

Focus on referrals
Broker/owner Jo Carter, of Jo Carter & Associates Inc. in Naples, says that selling in an area she loves has contributed to her 33 years of achievements in real estate.

“People come to Naples and fall in love with it and buy a home here; then they want all their friends to move here, too,” says Carter. “I’ve built my business by always putting people first and treating people right. I have what I call a ‘servant’s heart,’ and I give my all to every customer. I have a great respect for integrity.”

As with most successful professionals, Carter’s business accomplishments depend the most on referrals from satisfied customers. Most of her out-of-town buyers are referred to her by the buyers’ friends, who also become her friends.

Sales associates with longevity in the business have an established network of referrals that they can turn to when the market slows. Sue Flaig, broker of Coldwell Banker Residential in Clearwater, says that 95 percent of her business today comes from referrals from other real estate professionals and from her database.

“The first thing you need to do when you start in this business is to create a database and treat it like it is gold,” says Flaig. “Every month I send something of value to everyone in my database and follow up with phone calls and letters. I identify my A-plus clients and keep in touch with them all the time.”

And, many long-time real estate veterans learned early in their career what would keep them in business. Broker Alan Riley, of RE/MAX Affiliates in Seminole, always tries to provide the best possible service, is an advocate for his clients and focuses on building a referral base.

“For the past few years, we didn’t have time to go back and contact past clients, and we didn’t have to find buyers because they just came to us,” says Riley. “Now, [sales associates] need to get back to the basics and work on building a client database.”

SOURCE: Florida Realtor magazine, February 2007; Michele Lerner is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer.