Sphere of Influence Straight Talk: Why Client Experience Is Everything
Ask almost any top producer the secret to their success, and you’ll probably get this three-word answer: Sphere of influence.
A real estate agent’s sphere of influence (SOI) — a.k.a. the list of past clients and people they know both personally or professionally — can account for as much as 64% of their business. When you consider that those 64% of deals come relatively cost-free, it’s no wonder so many agents see their SOI as a top priority.
But here’s the thing. Just having a sphere of influence isn’t enough.
It’s what you do with your sphere of influence that turns a list of email addresses into a business-generating machine. And with so much riding on your SOI, the last thing you want to do is drop the ball on client experience once you’re under contract.
Whether it’s an acquaintance from your kids’ school or the dentist you’ve known for years, by keeping the focus squarely on your client from that first real estate conversation to the big celebration on closing day, you’ll be the first one they think of when opportunities for referrals and repeat business arise.
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What is a sphere of influence in real estate? A quick refresher
In real estate, your sphere of influence is pretty much anybody and everybody you know. It’s the circle or ‘sphere’ of people in your network and community that, simply by knowing you, already have some inherent level of trust in their relationship with you.
Here are a few common examples of the types of people you can expect to find in your SOI.
Past clients. Unless you’re brand new to the business, you’ve probably got at least some past clients to include in your sphere of influence.
Friends and relatives. Don’t just think about the folks you call when you want to go to the movies or out to dinner, or relatives you invite for holiday celebrations. Friends can include your neighbors, parents at your kid’s school, Facebook and social media friends, and anyone you’ve ever invited to poker night.
Co-workers and associates. You probably don’t want to include the agents on other teams and competing brokers, but you should definitely include past co-workers from any previous careers and, assuming your spouse works in another field, definitely include their co-workers and associates too.
Organizations and places of worship. If you belong to a neighborhood watch group, volunteer at a local charity, work on a local political committee or belong to a church group or bowling league, you’ll want to include all those people in your sphere of influence.
Service providers. Your dentist, hair stylist, mechanic, personal trainer, yoga instructor, the manager at your favorite restaurant, bank manager, insurance agent, mail carrier, pet groomer, dog walker, and veterinarian, teachers, and day care providers are all prime candidates for your sphere of influence. Phew!
The list here can really go on, so don’t be afraid to think big!
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Even in the age of paid leads, your personal SOI still matters.
Maybe you’re wondering why you need to nurture your sphere of influence when you’re already working with so many lead generation tools.
The reason is both simple and complicated.
Your SOI alone generates almost as many customers as all other lead generation strategies combined. (Yes, really!)
A 2020 NAR survey looked at how buyers found the agent they worked with for their home purchase — here’s what it revealed:
40% of all homebuyers used an agent referred by a friend, neighbor or relative
50% of first-time homebuyers used an agent by a friend, neighbor, or relative
34% of repeat buyers used an agent referred by a friend neighbor, or relative
The reasons behind those statistics are a little more complicated.
You see, we humans don’t much like strangers. As kids we’re taught not to take candy from them. As adults, we’re slow to trust people we don’t know. Instead, we tend to gravitate to those who share our interests or common experiences.
As a real estate agent, you can’t expect to have interests in common with all your customers, but you can find common ground through personal connections.
Because connections breed familiarity. And familiarity fosters trust.
In a nutshell, people want to work with people they know, like, and trust. It’s that simple.
Client Experience and Your SOI: You can’t have one without the other
Happy clients are the x-factor of your sphere of influence. That’s why it’s so important to awe your customers, not just from contract to close, but after closing as well.
By continuing to nurture your client relationships once a transaction closes, you show them they’re not just another name in your CRM. You become their person for all things real estate — and your name will be the first one that comes to mind when a friend, neighbor, or relative asks for a referral.
Let’s take a closer look at the three core elements of a stellar client experience for your SOI:
Listening: Listening and really hearing the needs of the friends, family and acquaintances in your SOI is crucial to how you show up for them, both as a personal friend and contact, and as a real estate agent.
Solving problems: Going the extra mile throughout the home search, closing and post-closing process via clear information, resources, and fast answers, can mean everything to the clients and prospects in your SOI.
Cultivating trust: Following up after a transaction is a natural way to build trust. But you can also look for ways to improve transparency during the real estate transaction process to show clients you’re there for them every step of the way.
If you’ve done a good job of nurturing your SOI, you won’t have just one single sphere.
Your SOI will consist of clusters of smaller spheres, and you’ll need a game plan that addresses where each group is in the real estate process and what their needs are.
Here’s how to make sure each person in your sphere of influence gets exactly what they need from their relationship with you.
1. Segment and organize your SOI
“Colder” past clients and contacts who don’t have any intention to buy or sell anytime soon
Warm leads who might be 90 days out or more from pulling the trigger
Hot prospects who need to buy or sell their home asap
2. Create a consistent schedule of relevant conversations
Your SOI nurture schedule should match the level of urgency of your contacts’ intent to buy or sell.
You’ll probably want to schedule an email once a quarter for past clients and acquaintances, whereas a “warmer” SOI contact might get one every month, and a hot prospect might get a call or email weekly.
Whatever the schedule, remember that consistency is key. Nothing erodes trust like being here today and gone tomorrow.
3. Show who you are and what you know, but don’t sell
Working your SOI means playing the long game.
Your SOI contacts aren’t interested in a sales pitch. And that’s ok. Take time to craft communications that are personal, provide information, or just brighten someone’s day.
Of course, this advice goes for every contact in your database but it’s especially crucial for the people in your SOI who are counting on you to show up just as authentically professionally, as you do in your personal relationship.
Build better relationships with your real estate SOI
Alright, you’ve got your list and have grouped it into past clients, acquaintances, warm contacts, and hot prospects. Now it’s time to show your SOI who you are as an agent, and why they should get to know, like, and trust you with that hat on too.
As with the previous step, you’ll want to stage different messaging for the different segments of your sphere.
Communicating with past clients in your SOI
Obviously, past clients already know you. But you can keep building up that know-like-trust factor by continuing to treat them as important clients long after the deal has closed.
Think about the information a homeowner might need as well as messages that show you’re thinking about them on a personal level.
Some of the messages that would resonate with past clients include:
Gardening tips and resources
Home improvement resources
Kitchen and bath trends
Birthday or home anniversary greeting cards
Communicating with “colder” SOI contacts and acquaintances
Messaging for your acquaintances and the members of your SOI with a longer buying or selling timeline could include:
News about community events, day trips, or activities for kids
Discount coupons to local shops and restaurants
Funny stories or memes just to share a laugh
Connecting with warmer SOI contacts
Because warm contacts are those you’ve conversed with enough to at least know they want to learn more about the market, and at best are interested in buying or selling at some point — you’ll be better prepared to align your messaging with their interest.
Some ways to do that include:
Sending market updates
Offering a free home valuation
Sharing articles about how to stage a home
Providing tips on improving credit scores
Engaging with hot prospects
Because hot prospects are essentially those that have been qualified and are actively looking to buy or sell a home. you’ll want to narrow your focus, and stay in closer touch with phone calls and texts. Remember that it’s still important to give these members of your SOI a reason to choose you over any other agents they might know.
Some of the ways you can highlight your expertise include:
Sending listings and recent sales in the area
Offering information about neighborhoods (schools in the area, farmer’s market schedules, organized sports for kids, etc.)
Sharing reports and data about housing trends
Give your SOI the real estate experience they deserve
Brokers, team leaders, and agents will tell you that with the right approach, your sphere of influence can be a gold mine of opportunity.
The key is to treat the people in your SOI with the same care, respect and white-glove service you show your other leads and clients.
With the PrecloseGO! Ultimate Client Experience agents never have to take their feet off the gas with client experience. They can provide the same high level of customer care from contract to close, and start nurturing long-term relationships that earn repeat business and referrals.
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