There’s a reason why corporations place so much value on data; the more information they have on a consumer, the more targeted they can get with the information (and advertising) that they present to capture them.
The same concept applies when determining the value that could be provided to a potential partner, and when it comes to creating a higher level of value and a deeper level of connection to referral partners, it pays to think outside of the box.
Over the course of her career, mortgage coach, trainer, author and former top originator Cindy Ertman has developed a way to crack the veneer of a potential partner, and learn about their personal stories, as well as their business.
“People actually like stories. When you’re listening to a speaker on stage, it’s much more interesting to hear a story than it is to hear stats. People remember how you make them feel, so I think it’s so important when you’re meeting with realtor partners, you’re engaging. You’re sharing part of yourself. You’re asking the quality questions. Human bonds are created,” Ertman said. “Create an experience for them that they’re not getting otherwise, because we all crave it in such a meaningful way.”
The primary focus of a first meeting should be on getting to know that potential partner. In that meeting, refrain from talking about yourself, your company, your service, your products or your programs at all. There will be plenty of opportunity to do that with subsequent meetings, but there won’t be any subsequent meetings if you can’t get that person to engage on a personal level. Starting a relationship begins with opening the floor to the other person.
Ertman advises leading the meeting with 10 questions about their business, which gets them comfortable. People want to share their stories with others who are willing to listen. Her questions are geared toward real estate agents, but can be modified slightly to suit other referral sources as well.
- How long have you been in the real estate industry?
- What were you doing prior to selling real estate?
- What made you decide to transition into real estate?
- How difficult was it to get started and gain traction in the market?
- What are some of the biggest challenges you’re seeing in the market today?
- What differentiates you in the marketplace? When you’re up against five other realtors, why are they going to choose you?
- How are you currently marketing your business? What’s working? What’s not?
- Do you currently use social media to market your business?
- Are you using video marketing to expand your influence?
- What else are you doing to achieve professional success this year?
This series of questions turns the tables to the potential partner and shifts the dynamic of the meeting. They’re going in expecting to hear a pitch and instead get to share their story, their fears, their plans, and their unique qualities. When someone answers a question and it’s interesting, don’t stop there just to return to the master list. Instead, ask clarifying or follow up questions. Keep probing and following that thread, seeing where the conversation goes.
“This is where it gets great,” Ertman said. “Get comfortable asking deep questions because this is where the gold is.”
Every time if they ask you a question, answer the question and bring it back to them. Once they are comfortable and get talking, then it’s time to find out their personal story. For this, Ertman has another set of questions that she uses to continue leading the meeting. They’re very conversational and again, they can be tailored to suit your personal style and what you already know about the potential partner.
- Where were you born and raised?
- How many years have you lived here?
- Where did you go to school? What did you study?
- Did you ever think you’d be selling real estate when you were young?
- Are you married/in a partnership? If so, how long?
- Do you have children? If so, what are their interests?
- Did you raise family here?
- What do you do when you’re not working? What are your hobbies?
- What are some of the biggest wins you’ve had in your life?
- And the best question is, what is the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome?
Those last two questions are truly revealing because the person has to really stop and really think about them; they probably don’t have a rote answer at the ready. Because of this, a lot can be revealed when it comes to uncovering who they are and what they’re all about.
Ertman says that originators need to show up differently, and that’s not just about showing up making different promises.
“Think about how you feel when someone shows up in your life in a while different level of service and compassion. We’re touched because we’re not used to having people show up that way in our life. So a relationship is powerful and differentiates your product or service, creates loyalty, sets you apart from competitors not willing to invest in building relationships,” Ertman said. “That’s what’s going to drive production through a digital age, because people want and need human connection. We are all energy; they want someone to lead.”
With any luck, there will be a few points where you can really connect with them and provide a very human experience, something different than what they’d get in a meeting with another originator who is bending their ear about rates and service. Create a connection, identify their challenges and how you can help overcome those challenges, and then set an intention to follow up on those action points with a quick coffee meeting about strategy.
“They want leadership, they want our support. They want a partner. They’re struggling and they’re challenged. Give them an experience that other people are not creating for them. It’s so, so incredibly powerful.”