By Julie Escobar
Since we’re exploring the must-have skill of building a sphere of influence this month, I thought it would be fun and enlightening to turn to my good friend Ken Bennett for his two-cents! As someone who has been in this business for 34 years and as an agent, manager, general manager and now Senior Vice President at one of the most respected companies in the business, Watson Realty Corp., I knew he’d have a thing or two to say about the strategies successful agents are using to thrive in ANY market. When you want to know the REAL skinny on how to succeed, ask someone who’s literally been there, done that in markets of every size, shape and economic level.
Here’s a look inside our interview…
Q: Hey Ken – as always, it’s WONDERFUL to catch up with you. I thought of you immediately when we were broaching the subject of sphere of influence. You’ve got such a wide spectrum of experience to draw from as an agent and from a management perspective I knew you could help shed a little light on best practices! Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and the team that works with you at Watson?
A: Good to be able to talk with you again and yes, I’d be happy to tell your readers a little bit about myself and our Watson Realty team. I was first licensed to sell real estate in Northern Virginia/Washington, DC, in 1977, and had a very successful career in sales for seven years before obtaining my broker’s license and entering into management in 1984. Although, I enjoyed sales tremendously, I found my niche in general brokerage management and have been doing it ever since. To make a long story somewhat shorter, I relocated to Florida in 1994 and eventually went to work for Watson Realty Corp., one of the country’s largest independent companies with forty offices throughout the state of Florida and Georgia, and upwards of 1,200 sales associates. Our company is a prominent member of The Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LREC) and has been in business since 1965.
Q: I for one am glad you did migrate south! How else would we have gotten to know you? As one of the most respected (and funniest- just saying!) VPs in this business, I venture to say there’s not much you haven’t seen. Good markets, bad markets, (REALLY bad markets) and agents of every kind. In terms of the agents that have risen to the top and STAYED there – would you say making their sphere of influence or referral base their top priority is the biggest common denominator?
A: In a word, yes. Most real estate trainers and educators stress the importance with new licensees of focusing on their Sphere of Influence (SOI) as a way to generate business as they start off in their new career field. Family, friends, acquaintances, literally everyone that they know can be very helpful in getting a new sales associate off to a quick start. That said, it’s critically important for the new associate to continue to grow or expand that SOI each day as their initial list is normally somewhat small and will not sustain a career over an extended period of time. In terms of the top experienced sales associates throughout the country, most all of them have become masters of growing their SOI through networking and as such, enjoy working off of personal referrals from within that SOI. Some of the top associates I have known over the years effectively maintain and profit from a SOI of literally thousands of individuals and accordingly, don’t have to spend nearly the time as they used to in terms of cultivating new business leads or prospects.
Q: You’re so right. What is that statistic? It takes six times the money and energy to generate new clients versus maintaining the relationships you already have? That said, what would you say are the top three strategies agents use to consistently stay in touch with and grow their sphere?
A: Well, there are several ways to do it but I’ll mention the three that I’ve seen used most prominently and in fact have used myself. First, I would have to say that my experience with most successful sales associates, given their hectic schedules and heavy workloads, are not the best at keeping in consistent touch with their SOI. They all start off with good intentions in wanting to follow-up with past clients on the phone and/or with newsletters, but somehow the job just doesn’t get done consistently and consistency is the key here. Once they realize that it’s difficult to be effective with their client follow up, they get someone else to do it for them! There are several well-known national companies that will gladly take on this task for a sales associate for a small transaction based fee, and send out numerous mailings/e-mailings over a period of several years in the sales associate’s name. Every time a mailing goes out to the past client, the associate is notified by the company and then they have a reason to call that past client… call reluctance, or the sales associates inability to make a follow-up sales call to a former client, is usually based in their feeling that they don’t have anything to say to the past client and/or they don’t want to intrude into their private time at home. Through this type of program, that problem or obstacle has been removed. In fact, many of our associates use your MLSmailings.com program to automatically send their Just Listed and Just Sold postcards automatically!
Next, I would say that a well-organized Social Networking program is very effective in today’s market.