How to keep your clients for life

Whether you’re a freshly licensed rookie or a seasoned real estate professional, having a talent for selling and a passion for real estate doesn’t always guarantee a profitable business model.

It takes time, consistency and a considerable amount of effort for a real estate professional to nurture a loyal client base. This isn’t the kind of thing you can deal with on the fly, especially when juggling multiple clients. A disciplined approach, however, can bring rewards, such as:

  • referrals from loyal clients, who will drive further business (in perpetuity, if you’re consistent!) and help you establish a reputation for excellence and client service;
  • repeat clients; and
  • the establishment of your personal brand which, over time, creates its own mystique and, ultimately, its own value.

Relationship building: go big or go home

In her experience as a business coach, Calgary-based speaker and author Sue Styles has found many of her clients have chosen what she calls the “love ‘em and leave ‘em” approach.

“As the agent gets paid out, they move on to the next deal,” she says. “But the problem is that, after 10 or 20 years, they’ll say, ‘Sue, I’m so embarrassed that I haven’t stayed in touch and now I don’t know what to do…’”

A salesperson cannot build upon a relationship that was abandoned years before. Meaningful client relationships take effort, time and commitment.

“You have these agents who are trying to build million-dollar businesses and they’re using hundred-dollar habits. They want to go big, but they’re playing small.”

We’ve put together a short list of workable strategies to keep clients, gain referrals and build your brand.

1. Create a plan of service

Using a client management system (CMS), build a standardized, plan of service checklist. This should include an action list to be followed for every client, to ensure across-the-board excellence. For tangible results, remember this: If you do it for one client, you must do it for all.

These systems need to be maintained and updated on a regular basis. 

In each client’s file, keep detailed notes of specific points that are unique to them. These may be important in terms of the way in which you interact and allow you to cater to individual clients’ needs. 

“One of the first things a client told me was ‘Do not ever call me unless I ask you to. I have two young children. I’m never going to answer the phone.’ So, for me it was about what is the best way to contact you. Do you prefer to be emailed or texted? And her response was ‘Can you please text me?’ So, for the course of our relationship, it’s been about text messaging.”

“One of the biggest strategies I’ve enabled for myself from the very beginning was: It’s not about me, it’s about what can I do to support the client. I listen to them and make a lot of notes around what exactly they’re looking for. Essentially what we’re doing is solving a problem for them, so I’m asking questions like ‘How do you prefer to be communicated with?’ ‘How has your experience been thus far?’” – Carlin Koster, Redline Real Estate Group Inc., Calgary, Alberta

2. Make closings a celebratory event

Remember, whether buying or selling, the completion of a sale is a huge deal for your client. You have played a pivotal role in a decision that has affected their lives in a profound way. Acknowledge it! Whether it’s a gift basket, a red bow on the door or a specially created set of keys placed in a lovely ring box, such gestures mark a significant moment in time.

Bear in mind your gift or gesture should be consistent with your brand, so give it serious thought beforehand.

3. Maintain communication 

“Don’t be a secret agent; be a special agent,” Styles advises. In other words, be accessible and stay in touch. She suggests you make a point of always following up with clients after a sale. Ask clients how everything is going and if there’s anything you can do. And always remember to say thank you. This simple act of courtesy “goes a long way,” she says.

Other ideas can include the following, but use your imagination and your understanding of your client:

  • calls on the anniversary of closing, just to touch base;
  • personalized, handwritten cards for birthdays, house anniversaries, etc.; and
  • a small gift, but choose items that aren’t easily discarded such as something with client’s name on it, or something that serves a useful purpose.

“As soon as the deal is closed, whenever [it’s the client’s] birthday, I would automatically, send a birthday card. We have someone on our team who is a singer-songwriter and we’ll actually send the client a happy birthday video with the music he produced himself.”

“If someone sends me a referral, whether I’ve met the client or not, it’s a bottle of wine that’s delivered to their home with a handwritten note saying, ‘Thank you so much.’” – Sandra Pike, The Pike Group, Royal LePage, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Client relationships are at the heart of your business. If you nurture these connections, you are sure to have a long and successful career built on referrals.

Do you have a favourite strategy for keeping a client for life? Share it in the Comment section.

The CREA Café team is responsible for the official blog of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). The CREA Café is a cozy place for CREA to connect with our valued members and friends by sharing our thoughts and insights over a virtual cup of coffee.

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