Your Dirty Dozen - Connecting through adding value

by 30 May 2012
(TheNicheReport) -- Whether you’re recruiting an agent into your company or selling property, real estate has everything to do with making connections, and through those connections, building relationships.   In this rapid-fire world of hyper-technology, we no longer connect the same way we used to.  People broadcast instead of connecting.  They add names to long lists and generate drip email campaigns or tweet 20 times a day, often pushing their message out with little regard to the actual person receiving it.  We may have 1,000 touches on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, but that number of contacts doesn’t translate into a strong foundation for your business.  Ask yourself this: if you were looking for an investment (whether an investment in where you’re going to work or a house you want to buy or sell), would you place your trust in someone who pushes their own agenda?  Would you entrust your long-term future, your nest egg, the home where you’ve bathed your children, to someone you haven’t connected with?  Probably not.   Studies prove time and again that people want to feel like they’re a part of something better.  They want to matter. Even infants who are clothed, fed and sheltered fail to thrive in the absence of human connection. As humans we are inherently connectors.  As good as video and other technologies may be, if we don’t connect in a real and genuine way, we don’t grow.

So how do we build these connections in the real estate business (and in life)? We do it by adding value.  When you add value to someone’s life – genuinely and unselfishly – they feel like they are a part of a larger community.  They know that they matter.  They feel appreciated.   For now, forget about the hundreds or thousands of friends, followers and contacts in your database and start with what I like to call your Dirty Dozen.  Carefully review your sphere of influence and choose twelve people who work on the business of real estate but not in it; people like appraisers, home inspectors, mortgage brokers, bank presidents, state or city elected officials, etc.  This group can fill in the gaps of your own knowledge and provide you with a wider perspective.  Together you can better serve the public. The big difference between the way you’ve been connecting up until now and the way you’re going to connect with your Dirty Dozen is this:  they can’t (or won’t) help you unless you’re genuinely interested in them, their business and what they’re trying to accomplish.   Start your new connection strategy by reaching out to this group. Ask what their plans are for the coming year, and ask how you can help them to achieve their goals. Is there someone with whom you can connect them?   Daunting?  Not at all.  Here’s where technology can aid in the relationship-building process – the whole thing can be systemized.  Here’s how it works for me.   Many years ago I started with a Dirty Dozen, and over time I’ve built strong relationships to the point now where I have a Dirty Twenty-Five.  I’ve Googled and set up Google Alerts for every one of them and their companies.

I’ve friended them on Facebook and connected with them on LinkedIn.  These technology connections help me to know what’s going on in their professional lives, and I keep track of it all on a spreadsheet – yes, a simple spreadsheet, because that’s what works for me.  You might use Outlook, an app or index cards – the key is finding what works for you. I use the spreadsheet, not to dehumanize the process but to make sure I don’t drop the ball.  I’m genuinely concerned about these people, and what happens to them is important to me.  I don’t want to forget anything.   Annually, I write each of my Dirty Twenty-Five a letter sharing with them what I want to accomplish in the coming year and asking about their plans and goals. I tell them what I appreciate about them and that I value their opinion.  I ask if they have any suggestions of people in their spheres to whom I should reach out, and if they can recommend any courses I should attend.  I make a point of adding value to them by offering suggestions of a couple of things I think they could be doing in their own business to work smarter.  I offer to connect them with others in my network who will benefit them.   After I send the letter, I connect with them after reviewing my spreadsheet.  Most people on my list reply with their goals, both personal and professional.  It’s important to note that each person has his or her own preferred method of communication – some prefer phone, others email, and others still, Facebook.

I make a note of each person’s preference on my spreadsheet.  If ever you have the opportunity to meet in person, do so.  Live is always best.  Watch for those opportunities through trade shows, REALTOR® association meetings, business networking groups, chamber of commerce meetings, etc.  If you can’t get together live, then utilize video conferencing such as Skype or Oovoo.   Then schedule a monthly phone call with this agenda:  How’s it going? Is there anyone I can connect you with? How can I help you? Always look for common ground and keep your eye out for connections and resources that will be of benefit to them.   I have followed this method for years, and over time the people on my list feel truly connected to me.  They start to volunteer their plans and dreams and they become part of the solution. They feel cared for and valued because they are. They start offering valuable ways I can work smarter. I update my spreadsheet after every encounter, making note of what is important to them and what they’ve accomplished.

These are people I want on my team rooting for me – but I have to root for them first. It’s like Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”   When you stay connected with key people over a span of time, your relationship is elevated.  You’ll find that when you ask “how’s the market?” you’ll value and act on their insights.  They’ll act on your suggestions when you recommend a book to read or offer to introduce them to a contact.  Over time, some of the people on my list have made hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of my helping hand.  Other times, our relationship has been that of trusted advisor or a shoulder to cry on.  Whether I’m providing the right words at the right time or sending them a funny card or an interesting book to read, it’s all about adding value.   After you’ve established your first Dirty Dozen, build a list of a dozen peers with whom you can connect every four to six weeks and from whom you can learn best practices.  This will become your own Master Mind Group.  Share with them what you want to accomplish and, more importantly, find out what it is they want to accomplish on a professional and personal level. Always follow the principle of providing value first.

Soon you’ll be building lists outside of your direct real estate business; after all, it takes a village to make someone successful.  I’m on 150 planes a year, which takes a lot of organization and planning.  On more than one occasion, my dry cleaner has met me on the side of the highway to give me my clothes.  Another time she met me at the terminal at Logan Airport.  She goes out of her way for me because I make a point of showing her how much I value her. I write her a thank you note at least once a year and occasionally send her a funny card or a bouquet of flowers.   You can also extend the idea of a core group of connections to your client list.  Review your database and choose the 25 people who are most likely to give you referral and repeat business. Find out what’s important to them.  Sales activity in the area?  Community development?  Charitable causes?  School reports?  Set up Google Alerts for their interests and reach out to them (by their preferred method) with relevant updates.   When you start to view your database in terms of core connections like your Dirty Dozen, your peer group and your key 25 clients, you can effectively deepen those relationships by adding value.  Because you add value to them, they start adding value to you, which helps everyone become better.  The bar on the real estate industry is raised, and thereby the consumer is served by a better-educated, empathy-oriented group of professionals.    And that’s the real value.

Tami BonnellTami Bonnell, President, US Organization, EXIT Realty Corp. International. Bonnell's real estate career spans more than 25 years during which she was instrumental in building three major brands. Ms Bonnell has been featured several times in major industry publications across the country.  Since becoming President of the US Organization for EXIT Realty Corp. International, her focus is on growth and profitability for Regions, Brokers and Agents.



Is TILA-RESPA a good or bad thing long term?