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The importance of repeat business and referrals

April 2015

The importance of repeat business and referrals

April 5, 2015

Woman shares informationSome of Rob Archambault’s favourite real estate clients are seniors who have been referred to him by their grown children.

“Their children bring me into their homes and introduce me, so they don’t really feel that I’m a stranger,” says Archambault, a Toronto-based REALTOR®. “Referrals from a family member carry a lot of weight.”

He recalls helping an elderly couple downsize from a Mississauga bungalow that they could no longer manage. “A day before the closing documents were to be signed, the woman broke her wrist and needed a cast,” Archambault says. “She was in pain, but the couple wanted to proceed, so I arranged for the lawyer to come to them.”

All about networking

Many of Archambault’s referrals come as a result of his membership in a networking group, Business Network International. The group’s focus is on chapter members helping each other to expand their businesses through referrals.

“Referrals are my biggest consistent source of business,” he says. “Weekly, I remind people of what I do and I ask them to keep me in mind. Those referrals accounted for close to 50 per cent of my business last year.” Other business comes from direct exposure to new clients he meets in his neighbourhood or from previous community involvement such as coaching his son’s hockey team for five years. The remaining 40 per cent of his business comes from repeat clients and their referrals.

“Referrals are usually pretty decent leads, because if someone refers me, that means I already have a vote of confidence,” he says.

Archambault, who has been a REALTOR® for 12 years, usually broaches the subject of a referral when a deal is winding to a close. When he works with the seller, he asks for a referral after closing; when he deals with a buyer, he asks about a referral after the offer is accepted by all parties, but before closing. Once the buyers get the keys, he says they are focused on packing and moving, and the role of the REALTOR® is, understandably, less prominent in their minds.

“I tell them it’s been a lot of fun working together and it has been an intense time, but now, I have a void in my schedule and I’d like to provide others the same service I gave them,” he says. “I ask them if they know anyone else who is looking to buy or sell a property.”

Staying in touch

Marta Swiecki, an Oakville REALTOR®, estimates that 50 to 60 per cent of her business comes from referrals. “It’s so much easier to work from a referral, because prospective clients hear first-hand about your qualifications and so they are more inclined to trust you,” Swiecki says.

She stays in touch with past clients using a customer relationship management program on her computer. Swiecki sets up reminders to contact them periodically.

“If my seller clients tell me that they’ll buy me a great dinner after they have accepted a good offer, I tell them that a dinner is not necessary and that a referral is enough for me.”

“There are different ways of mentioning a referral to people,” Swiecki says. “When I’m giving a closing gift, I say that I would love to work with other people like them. If my seller clients tell me that they’ll buy me a great dinner after they have accepted a good offer, I tell them that a dinner is not necessary and that a referral is enough for me. Or I say, ‘If you have friends and family who are moving, please mention my name to them. I’m never too busy to help out.’”

Swiecki believes that some clients are naturals at referrals, while for others, “it’s just not in their nature.” Identifying those for whom it comes naturally is important, she says, and “you can often tell, because you’ll hear them referring other types of services or businesses to you, like yoga studios, for example.”

To date, she has not been asked by a potential client for a reference, but she makes sure to get testimonials from satisfied clients or customers and then posts those comments to her website.

“If my clients make a complimentary remark, I’ll ask them if I can use that comment as a testimonial,” Swiecki says. “I find that closing is the best time to ask for a testimonial because that’s when your buyers or sellers love you most.” 

Jacqui VandenHeuvel has lived in Oshawa her entire life, so she has a strong network of connections within her home town. Approximately 70 per cent of her business comes from referrals.

“Referrals are the Number One source of business for me,” VandenHeuvel says. “Trust is the hardest thing to earn from clients,” she says. “With referrals, the trust is already there. Referrals are more relaxed in that case and there is a better chance you will get the client. Working by referral is the heart of any good business.”

Keep visits short and sweet

VandenHeuvel keeps in touch with her clients so that she is ‘top of mind’ when their friends or family ask for suggestions about a REALTOR®. “I’ll pop by to see past clients or send them emails for things such as the anniversary of their home purchase,” she says. “I try to keep it on the real estate side, because I don’t want to be known as the ‘calendar giver’ rather than the real estate person.

“I try to do a number of ‘pop-bys’ in a day and keep them short and sweet, just five or 10 minutes. I often bring a small gift: flags for Canada Day or pumpkins for Halloween. I get very attached to my clients during the buying and selling process, so I find it easy to keep in touch later on.”

VandenHeuvel asks clients for referrals close to the closing date. As someone who is comfortable with social media, she often asks for testimonials, too, and uses them on her website or her business Facebook page.

“It’s human nature for a satisfied client to share a reference,” she says. “They want to help.”

Story by Elaine Smith

Tips for Requesting Referrals
  • Create a client database, grow it and “mine” it for people whom you may be able to help by providing valuable real estate advice and planning. Then ask those people if they know others who would find your services valuable.
  • With a current client, say to them:  “I'm happy that we have such a great relationship and it’s really great to work with amazing people like you. I would love to work with more people like you so please keep me in mind when you hear of a friend or family member looking to move!”
  • With past or present clients, remind them that you appreciate (d) their business and you're never too busy for their referrals: “I really enjoy(ed) working with you and I'm never too busy for your referrals!”
  • With past or potential clients and supporters, ask: “Do you have a REALTOR® whom you normally recommend? If not, could I be that REALTOR®?”

Sources: Marta Swiecki, Jacqui VandenHeuvel, Rob Archambault

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