The Blueprint for Building a Badass Vendor Network
When you are a real estate agent, the business vendors you work with become the lifeblood of your business.
As a Realtor that closed over 300 properties a year, I know there is virtually no limit to how you cultivate your business. With that said, I worked primarily by referral and discovered that it produced the highest yields and was the most effective way to increase my gross commission.
Referrals, unlike farming or buying leads, have a personalized element. Strategies other than referrals are cold. There’s no introduction, there’s no connection. I focused on giving superior service to each of my clients and then asked them to spread the word. Instead of spending time knocking doors, I spent time providing real value to my network. Think about it: you’re investing your time and money in people who already love you and you’re solidifying their loyalty.
So why vendor relationships?
3 REASONS TO LEVERAGE VENDORS
- Like you, vendors and service providers have a large sphere of influence. They see tons of people every day and their reach extends far beyond your network. Think: reaching tons of people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with.
- Your relationship with a vendor is reciprocal. Vendors benefit from your referrals just as much as you benefit from their referrals. They need a good Realtor just as much as you need a good roofer.
- The more vetted and trustworthy vendors you have, the more value you can provide to your clients by recommending a good plumber or attorney or dentist!
Vendor Case Study #1
I built an awesome relationship with a local lender. When her clients were approved for a loan, she would celebrate the milestone by gifting them a mini bottle of champagne. We realized that if we teamed up, we could double-down on our efforts. I made her my preferred loan officer and she made me her preferred Realtor. Now, instead of a mini bottle of champagne, we would deliver a full-size bottle of champagne, balloons, and a personalized card. She purchased the champagne and balloons and I paid my field runner to deliver the items. And to top it off, we both gave each other TONS of referrals.
Vendor Case Study #2
One of my favorite vendors was Mr. G. He owned the local pizza parlor. I loved his pizza so much that I started ordering his pizza for all my clients on move in day. One day it dawned on me–if I connected with him maybe we could help each other out. I was already telling everyone I knew about how good his pizza was. Maybe he could help me out. When we sat down to talk, we struck a deal. For every pizza I delivered to my clients, he would throw in a free pizza and coupons that were branded to my business. I also got him to agree to put a branded sticker on the pizza box every time someone used a coupon. I brought Mr. G’s pizza parlor lots of business and he helped me impress my clients. Win-win!
As much as my clients loved and referred me, the majority of my referrals came from my diverse network of local vendors that I developed rapport and established relationships with; one vendor at a time. Want a prosperous and fulfilling career in real estate? Build relationships with vendors! Let’s get started.
1. IDENTIFY NEW AND UNTAPPED VENDORS
You want to select the best network of partners for your business. These partners should be diverse. You want to reach outside of the typical industries. Most Realtors are connected with painters, plumbers, and landscapers but do you know a graphic designer? What about a dog groomer or car mechanic? If you already have these vendors, keep thinking.
Here are a few vendors that might help get your creative juices flowing:
- Print shop
- Dry cleaner
- Gym or yoga studio
- Flooring specialist
Write down as many businesses you can think of that you don’t have an established relationship with. Maybe you had really great service the last time you had your tires rotated or the local librarian is always really helpful when you take your kids to the library. These are people you can build rapport with.
You don’t want to pick a bunch of business owners that you already have relationships with. That would defeat the purpose of getting more referrals and increasing your gross commission! You have to get outside your comfort zone.
Are you drawing a blank while trying to come up with someone? Trust your friends and family to connect you with the best in the biz by asking for their help on Facebook, Nextdoor or other social networks.
If you can’t think of any businesses in a particular category here are a few resources you can use to help you:
- Use Facebook to see if your friends, family or audience has any recommendations (there’s even a feature now that lets you ask for recommendations)
- Quiz your clients about the businesses they love
- Yelp is a great resource if you want to do your own research
- Check out Angie’s list
2. PREP FOR THE PITCH
You have your list of vendors but the idea of cold-calling them, without knowing what to say, can be intimidating.
It’s really important that you practice what you are going to say. Roleplay with a colleague or friend. I know, it feels silly but seriously, it’s the best way to prepare for the phone call. You can also practice by leaving voice memos on your phone and then play them back to hear what you sound like.
New relationships have unlimited potential! You only have one chance to make a first impression so don’t blow it by coming in unprepared. You want to establish who you are and why you’re calling before asking about their business and scheduling a meeting. Always be cautious of sounding too sales-y. Remember, your first objective is to help their business.
Feeling stressed already? Don’t worry, I’m going to help you out. Here’s a script that you can use when practicing.
>>WHAT TO SAY WHEN CALLING A VENDOR FOR THE FIRST TIME
3. MAKE INITIAL CONTACT
Before you get started, you’ll need a few things:
- A phone
- You calendar
- Notepad and pen
- A great attitude
Now that you are all prepared because you practiced the script, it’s time to start calling the vendors you wrote down. Introduce yourself, explain why you are calling, and set up a time to meet in person.
It’s really important to meet with each vendor in person, belly-to-belly, so you can build a mutual relationship and learn more about them. Who knows what you might discover!
After your phone call, be sure to follow up via email confirming your appointment details. Your email should include the date, time and place of your meeting, as well as a calendar invitation link or attachment. Your signature can even include links to your website, social media channels, Yelp reviews, etc.
And because I love you, I’m giving you another script that you can use.
>>WHAT TO SAY WHEN EMAILING AN APPOINTMENT CONFIRMATION
4. GET BELLY TO BELLY
You’ve made the call and confirmed the appointment. Let’s get ready for the meeting!
Here Are 5 Steps to Ensure a GREAT Meeting:
- Have excellent conversation starters
When it comes to conversation, you’re a natural! I mean, this is real estate and a big part of your job is talking to people. Hopefully, you can chat up a storm with just about anyone, you’re a pro at listening and you love meeting and connecting with new people. But when it comes to starting that conversation? This could be a different story. Here are five foolproof questions to get you started:
- Tell me about yourself. What’s your story?
- What personal passion project are you working on right now?
- How did you get started in business?
- What’s the biggest frustration in your business?
- What would you like to be known for?
- Listen, mirror, and adjust
This is the time to really listen. You invited them out and asked for their time, so prove your interest in their business by asking great questions (we’ll get to that next) and actively listening to their responses. Try repeating back what you are hearing to confirm you understand their thoughts correctly.
- Getting to the meat of the conversation
There is an agenda to this meeting and you have yet to cover it. Below are some questions to ask to learn more about their goals, business strategy and how they might (or might not) fit in your vendor network. The questions are designed to learn their business objectives and uncover if they will provide value to you with referrals. Remember, you are looking for MVPs.
Examples of leading questions:
- Tell me about your business.
- Where does the majority of your business come from?
- Who is your biggest competitor and what sets you apart from them?
- What goal/s do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
- Do you have any challenges I can help you with?
- If I send a referral your way, what happens next? (This lets you see if they have a process for referrals and how they track them. If they cannot articulate this to you, it may be a red flag. You want someone who will take the best possible care of the person you send their way.)
- Referral test: If your sister/brother/etc was buying a home, do you have an agent you would refer her to? (This is a fantastic question to see if they are even available to give referrals. If they have someone, you want to find out who and why. If they don’t, you just found someone to build a relationship with)
- After you meet with the vendor, immediately write down some notes and takeaways.
The key items you learned and a few personal details (names of spouse/kids/pets, their quirky coffee order, etc). I know Real Estate agents are busy, so the last thing you want to do is put it off and then have it slip your mind.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up
Time to shine! You just finished a great meeting and now you need to reinforce why you are the Realtor they should refer. Make it a goal to send out a personal note within 24 hours of meeting and always include a business card.
I want you to execute so I’m gonna give you ANOTHER script.
>>WHAT TO SAY WHEN SENDING A FOLLOW-UP EMAIL
If the meeting went really well, consider sending a small gift.
- A book on a topic they mentioned (goal setting, small biz marketing, motivational), or one of your favorite business books.
- Did they mention a hobby or activity they love? Put together a small pack of related goodies, like a nice bottle of olive oil, pasta and a dishtowel for those who love to cook
- Something fun for their kids or pets, like coloring books, squirt guns in the summer, squeaky toys or a chew bone.
If you meet a vendor and you aren’t impressed, that’s ok. Start looking for a replacement. You always want to be on the lookout for new vendors.
Here are a few places to find awesome vendors:
- Attend charity functions or volunteer your time
- Find a local Meetup that interests you and attend regularly
- Attend City Council meetings
5. CONTINUE TO PROVIDE VALUE
Just because you have a great network of vendors, doesn’t mean the work is over. Once you and your vendors are past the getting-to-know-you phase, it’s crucial to establish reasons why you need to stay together.
There are three ways to stay in touch with your vendors and remind them that they are valued:
Each month, call or visit your vendors to see how things are going. Keeping the communication flowing with your network is critical, not only to the health of your business but theirs as well. Learn the objectives that your vendors are tackling and offer to lend a hand.
Host a fun and entertaining social functions with your vendors. This is an opportunity for vendors to engage with each other and develop networks amongst themselves.
Tracked who gives you the most referrals. Host the top 20 referring vendors to an annual VIP party. People who do an awesome job like to be acknowledged so don’t be shy about who you consider the invaluable people. Treat your vendors well and they’ll do the same.
WRAP UP & REVIEW
Agents get into real estate for many different reasons, but many are motivated to get their start in this industry for the freedom of becoming your own boss and brand.
Becoming an agent is essentially starting your own business. This is why creating a local vendor network is critical to your success. You’re a small business owner and you rely on other business owners for support and mutual gain.
As we wrap up, keep the following in mind:
- First, building rapport has nothing to do with what you’re bringing to the table in terms of financial benefit. You need to develop relatable connections with vendors. You want to understand their business so that you can mutually benefit each other. Nobody is expecting the world on a whim, but vendors DO want to see the potential in YOU. Outline your plans and ambitions and let vendors know how they might fit into your success.
- Next, while scripts can be a useful guide to navigating various situations, they can also potentially undermine those interactions. Relationships are complex. People have unique personalities, life histories, and goals that don’t fit into one boilerplate script. Be flexible enough to go off script and tailor your presentation to individuals.
- Lastly, it is crucial to set goals for yourself so you have some form of measurement. While building relationships, tell your vendors what level you’re at now, and where you plan to be. If you believe in yourself, vendors will believe in you as well.
There’s a lot of information in this post so let me know if you have any questions, and good luck!