By Esther Muller

New York Real Estate Journal
March 15 – 21, 2005

Can you lose a million dollar listing because of a relationship? Read on for the answer.

A colleague of mine, whom I’ll call Anne, knew the seller for years. She considered him a friend as well as a business associate. She even sold an apartment to his mother. But over time, her contact with this gentleman lessened.

When Anne learned that his mother passed away, she called to offer sympathies. During the conversation, her friend/client mentioned that his mother’s apartment was on the market. He invited her to pitch, which she did. Anne left the meeting, feeling that the listing was hers. Wrong. He called Anne the next day and said that another broker was getting the listing. She was hurt, upset and angry. And confused. What happened? Anne took a step back and realized that she – after all her years in the real estate business – had made a mistake that many brokers make: she neglected a valuable relationship.

Anne’s error allowed another agent to step into a vacuum that she helped to create. And that realization was reinforced when the seller said just as much in her follow-up conversation with him.

It is my belief that an ongoing relationship between a broker and a client is one of the most important tools in generating listings.

My son, who lives in California, has a real estate agent who is in regular contact with him, even though she sold him his home many years ago. She is always available. When my son needed her thoughts on renovating his home, she went to his house over a holiday weekend to offer her recommendations. She has become so integral to his family that she was the main topic during a family dinner. And at that meal was a guest who was interested in selling her multi-million dollar home. She contacted the agent based on my son’s enthusiastic recommendation.

You can gently weave yourself into your clients’ lives without becoming a nuisance. Keep track of important dates in your client’s life such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. Send cards or handwritten notes to mark those occasions. Use email to send articles of interest, your newsletter and market information. And call your clients every three or four months to see how they’re doing and to invite them out for a non-business breakfast or lunch. Demonstrating the importance of the relationship can make a substantive impression on a client. For example, the current listings shortage has created a catch-22 situation: people who want to sell but who are nervous that they will not be able to find an affordable new home. Some agents are addressing this hesitancy by providing their clients with a two-pronged strategy. They will assist with both the sale of their property and the purchase of a new home. This “extra step” tactic, where you are investing your time and energy all for the client’s benefit, vividly demonstrates to your customer that you take his welfare as seriously as he does. I know several brokers who have taken this relationship-based approach and have gotten listings as a result.

It’s easier and less expensive to generate listings from a client with whom you have an established relationship than it is to prospect for new clients. And if you don’t believe me, ask Anne – she has a million reasons why you should.