Agents Decoded: How to grow your sphere of influence
Building your SOI is critical to long-term success in real estate. Veteran agent Jay Thompson offers practical tips for growing and nurturing your sphere.
The direction of your business depends on decisions you make every day. Agents Decoded can help you by presenting the perspectives of seasoned pros who have been there, made mistakes, and found success.
The ink on my real estate sales license wasn't even dry when my broker sat across from me and said, "You can get a lot of business from your SOI."
"What is an SOI?" I mumbled, hoping I wasn't the only person who didn't know.
"Your sphere of influence. People you know, like your friends and family. You should mail them letters, letting them all know you're in real estate."
Yes, letters. As in, written on paper with a pen, and mailed in an envelope with a stamp.
"OK, I'll do that. Thanks!"
Great. Yet another thing to add to the ever-growing list of, "I've got my license, now what?"
Sitting down to compile a list of people in my sphere, I realized that most of them lived well outside the area where I'd be selling real estate. I needed to grow my sphere of influence — and determine who should be in it.
Who does your sphere include?
Your friends and family are a given, but that group is limited in size. Expand your thinking, and you'll expand your sphere.
Your neighbors, people that attend your church, parents of your children's friends, your kid's soccer coach and teachers, the barista at your favorite coffee shop, your hair stylist, doctor, local business owners — all can, and should, be included in your sphere.
Add former co-workers, even if you're years removed from a past career. LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to find and connect with former colleagues.
Every single past client should be in your sphere, and you need to communicate with them regularly.
Every business contact, past and present, is a member of your sphere. Lenders, appraisers, attorneys, inspectors, title reps, your CPA and financial advisor, contractors you use and refer to clients — if you've met and done business with them, put them in your database.
Your local community is a rich source for growing your sphere. Join the Chamber of Commerce or take part in local events. Sponsor a youth athletic team or your community theater. Volunteer to be an elections clerk, or work in your local library. Take cookies to first responders. There are countless ways to connect with your community. Sure, they may not all lead to direct sales, but you're building a presence as an active community member. And you'll meet lots of new people.
All those followers you've built on social media? They are forgotten members of your sphere. If you use community-based content in your social media posts (you should), you will naturally attract community members. Nurture and develop those contacts like any other potential client.
When should I start building my sphere?
Always! Just as you should always prospect for new clients, you should always work on expanding your SOI. It doesn't matter if it's a buyers or sellers market, or if interest rates are rising or falling.
You always need clients, and since your sphere is such a significant source of clients, you should always be building, and developing, your SOI.
I have a list of people for my sphere. Now what?
You can have a list of a thousand names, but it won't do a thing for your business if you don't use it. Just because you know someone is "in your sphere" doesn't mean they do.
You need a database. That may sound technical, even frightening, but it doesn't need to be. A database is just a way to store information. In the case of your SOI, that information is someone's name and contact info. All you need is one contact method, though more is better.
You can use a spreadsheet, the contacts app on your phone or a pad of sticky notes. But consider using a Customer Relationship Management system, or CRM. It's just software that helps facilitate finding, connecting with, and nurturing clients and prospects (remember — anyone in your SOI is a potential client).
CRM software ranges from incredibly cheap to stupidly expensive, as well as user-friendly to needing a degree in computer science to operate. What's the best CRM system to get? The one that you'll use. Seek recommendations from your broker and your agent friends. Get a demo or a free trial, and understand there is always a bit of a learning curve.
What do I say to my sphere?
Once you have your database or CRM loaded up, you are ready to reach out to your SOI and make those sales "touches" that so many coaches preach about.
You can contact everyone at once, or tailor your outreach to individuals or smaller sub-groups.
Not sure what to say? Keep it simple. You can go with traditional content like neighborhood "just solds" or market reports, discuss market economic dynamics and interest rates, or offer free CMAs (Comparative Market Analysis) or info on home improvements — the options are endless.
You can also just work on building a relationship with the people in your sphere: Wish them a happy birthday, send a holiday card, like a cute picture of their kids on Facebook. There's no need to be salesy or spin the "know anyone looking to buy or sell a home?" line.
Sure, you can remind your SOI that you sell real estate. But if you grow and nurture your sphere over time with the intent of building a personal and professional relationship, those folks will know that you're a real estate agent. And they'll reach out to you when they're ready. They'll tell their family and friends about you. You'll find yourself doing business with people that you like, and who want to work with you.
It doesn't get much better than that.
Jay Thompson is a former real estate agent, broker-owner and industry outreach director. He is currently an industry consultant and sits on several boards. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author.