As realtors, our relationships with people are the foundation of our business. Relationships lead to referrals, which make our businesses sustainable. Otherwise, real estate is just a job, not a career, and we are (effectively) unemployed after each and every deal.
The art of establishing relationships is one of most difficult practices to master. It requires a lot of heavy lifting, but it’s well worth the effort.
The key is the understand the one secret to building meaningful relationships (and really, it’s not such a secret): Getting close to people.
I know, that’s a little vague. But before I explain in more detail, let’s back up a bit, and first talk about what actually makes a relationship meaningful.
4 Stages of Building Meaningful Relationships
Meaningful relationships are established over time, and have four key stages:
- Initially, someone is aware of you. The person has heard your name in conversation, seen your advertisement, or has perhaps attended your conference presentation.
- Next, the person knows you. You sat at the same table for lunch, discussed business, compared notes, and traded some personal information.
- In the third stage of the relationship, the person likes you. You have demonstrated who you are and revealed what is important to you and you share some attributes and interests.
- Finally, the person trusts your advice and seeks your counsel. You engage regularly with the person, share expertise and experience, and have demonstrated that you are trustworthy.
Most real estate agents focus solely on stage one, awareness, attempting to attract business via advertising, marketing, cold calls, and open houses. The focus is “getting out there.” Few expend the energy to advance to stage two (getting people to know you), or they make wrongheaded attempts. For example, many agents employ mass email messages, seeking exposure and more direct contact. However, canned missives do little more than grocery cart ads; in fact, such rote attempts typically generate repulsion, an anathema to relationships.
I’m not suggesting you discard those tactics entirely. Just don’t expect to build a lasting business on ads, telemarketing, and eblasts alone. You must also get people to truly know you, like you, and trust you.
So, how do you do that?
Build Relationships By Getting Close
Getting people to know, like, and eventually trust you requires that you get close to people. In all senses of the word.
In social psychology, closeness is referred to as propinquity, and it is used to predict the likelihood of whether strong relationships will be formed between people. There are two types of propinquity, or ways to be close to people: physical propinquity and psychological propinquity.
A person tends to form relationships with those whom he or she is exposed to often. If you need an example, consider an office. Workplace interactions are frequent; thus, close relationships between coworkers form readily.
As a realtor looking to build relationships with potential clients, you must find a place where you can frequently interact with the same group of people. This could be your neighborhood, place of worship, CrossFit box, community center, or yoga studio.
Real world proximity isn’t the only way to be close to someone. Psychological proximity is the notion is that repeated exchange of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs also facilitates relationships. A prime example is the Web, where people from all over (low physical propinquity) bond through social networks, chat rooms, forums, and other online communities.
If you don’t have a blog or a Facebook presence, create one NOW. Posts are your way to expose others to who you are; responding is the others’ way to do the same. Being online can never replace personal presence, but engaging in cyberspace nonetheless mirrors how we get to know, like, and trust people in the real world.
How Much Does “Know, Like, Trust” Matter?
It matters a lot. The figure below pictures the sharp contrasts between someone simply being aware of you or knowing you (a name, a face) and someone actually understanding who you truly are (your thoughts, hopes, and dreams) and liking and trusting you.
Whether it’s in person or online, the more we interact with people (and the higher propinquity factor we can establish), the more we tend to like them and vice versa. Sincerity is what leads to trust, which in turn leads to repeat and referral business. And that is the foundation and fuel for a sustainable real estate business.
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