Online-Reviews-5-starsThe goal of most Realtors is to get to the point where they are working 100% by referral.  It’s a noble goal and one that 95%+ of agents will never reach.  That’s not a slight to hard-working agents, it’s just not realistic for most agents, for several reasons.  First, in an effort to grow faster, most agents, regardless of the amount of effort put into building a referral engine, will advertise or market one way or another.  Second, in the online world and workplace, people will find you out of simple, dumb luck.  Finally, because most agents don’t really do the best job keeping in touch with their circles of influence and past clients (numbers proven by numerous NAR and independent studies), they become forced over time to seek alternative lead generation strategies.

Let’s assume for the purpose of this exercise, however, that one of your goals this year is to create a better referral base than you had last year.  To do so, we also need to take on a level of empathy with our prospective buyers or sellers.  Finally, we need to go back to being a teenager and remember the influence of our peers on us.

Social proof is becoming an increasingly powerful tool in garnering new business and establishing credibility in one’s service.

Consider for a moment the last time you made a major purchase.  More than likely you went online and looked at both expert and consumer reviews of the product.  Which one had more influence on your purchase decision?  Why is it, do you think, that sites like Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, and an increasing number of others publish by the thousands the reviews of their consumers?  It’s because they know that consumers take the opinions of other consumers to heart more so than the opinions of so-called experts.

So, let’s consider for a moment that instead of making a major purchase, you are about to make THE major purchase of your life or THE most important sale you’ve ever made.  You’re not totally sure how to choose the right provider.  So, you ask around, get some ideas and then go online to check it out, right?  Just like if you were buying a washer or car or new TV.  Now, let’s assume for a moment that you’re online checking out agents and you have two referrals from friends.  The first person has a nice website, has all the requisite social media profiles, and looks very professional.  The second one has much the same online presence, but also has numerous reviews on LinkedIn, has published testimonials on their website, and has third-party survey results from verified clients published.  Which would you call?

If one of your goals for this year is to create a stronger referral base, part of that needs to be ensuring that those referred by your circles of influence and past clients actually want to call you.  More than a fancy website, more than posting all kinds of social content, having social proof of your service will paint the picture of what kind of agent you really are.  The great news is that getting these reviews is relatively easy.  Here are some tips:

  1. Use LinkedIn – In addition to being a great site to put your credentials on, LinkedIn offers you the chance to let others review you.  Invite past clients to leave you a review.  Little known fact: LinkedIn is the third highest weighted site on Google, so it’s guaranteed to show up high in search results, making your reviews easier to find.
  2. Make it Independent – Reviews mean more if they are administered by a third-party and not just something you’ve written on your website.  If your local association doesn’t offer a tool for this, there are some third-party companies that can do it for you.  Most popular among them is Real Satisfied.
  3. Make Sure Your Reviews are on Zillow, Trulia, etc. – As much as you may or may not like them, there is fairly decent proof that the more rankings you can get on the aggregators, the more likely you are to get business from them.  Like LinkedIn, they show up high on the Google charts.
  4. Don’t Get Down if You Aren’t Perfect – You aren’t perfect are you?  Don’t worry about the occasional less than perfect review.  Acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and do better next time.  Also, there is some research that shows that people inherently distrust perfect ratings and find slight imperfection more appealing.
  5. Toot Your Horn – If you’re going to go to all the trouble of getting the review, make sure they are published and out there for the world to see.  Share them on social media and your website.

Social proof can be the difference between a referral calling or not.  Fortunately, it is easy to get, easy to display, and easy to use as a tool to promote your services.  If, as we have assumed from the beginning, one of your goals this year is to build your referral pipeline, make sure to incorporate social proof in your plans.

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