Long-Term Success in Real Estate Comes from Relationships (Not Cold Leads)

It’s simple when you think about it: People like to do business with people they know, like, and trust. The evidence for this is everywhere 

Have you needed a babysitter, a landscaper, or a dog walker?  

Chances are you probably started your search with people you’re connected with and asked for recommendations and referrals. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about trying a new restaurant in town – but when your coworker says the food was terrible, you decide you won’t go. We all do it to avoid risk.  

The same can be said when buyers and sellers chose an agent to work with. Buyers and sellers lean on pre-existing relationships to find their agent. 

Sphere marketing vs leads

Now, compared to each other, dropping some Benjamins and waiting around for cold leads to pop up in your inbox is easier than proactively expanding your sphere and getting to know people. Sphere marketing takes time and energy, while converting leads takes time, energy – and money.  

Before you drop your hard-earned cash on new leads, think about the networks of people you’re already connected to, and how you can leverage them to grow your business. It’s truly more profitable than you may have previously thought. 

Sphere-Focused, a Proven Method

Sphere-focused real estate isn’t a new theory. The great real estate philosophers like Ninja’s Larry Kendall, Brian Buffini, Matthew Ferrara, and more all remind agents that success comes from relationships. Still, we get distracted by “disruptors” and “innovators” and think the industry will be turned on its head. 

Regardless of distractions, you’ve hopefully been keeping in touch with your sphere (also known as your network, your contacts, your database) so that you don’t lose out on business you thought you’d already won. 

Sphere-focused real estate business fills pipelines and builds longevity that’s exponentially more dependable than begging for top-of-funnel leads. You need to be actively communicating with your sphere of influence (SOI) to stay top of mind. This way, the next time one of your contacts is even toying with the idea of making a move, you’re the first one they’ll call and you’ll be there to help before they even consider working with another agent.  

Be the first and last real estate agent they think of

The National Association of REALTORS® annually publishes a report on buyer and seller behaviors and trends. If you aren’t reviewing these surveys, we highly recommend you check them out. Check out the latest NAR report on consumer behavior here. Among the (not so) surprising facts: most people only interview one real estate agent during their home search.  

So, unless you’re reaching out to them first, it’s unlikely you’ve going to be able to grab new business without an existing relationship. Consistently keeping in touch, staying in flow, is about doing more than a once-annual home value report and a sports calendar in the fall.  

NAR surveys also show that a huge percentage of homebuyers find their agent via referral from a friend, neighbor, or relative, or they used their agent from a previous transaction.  

This proves that people trust recommendations. If most buyers and sellers only interview one agent and most find their agent through a referral, then being that connected real estate agent is practically guaranteed business.  

Distracted Short-Term Sprints Leads to Stress


Despite the hugely powerful concept of repeat and referral business, brokerages and their agents are still often distracted by the next transaction. They know they need to stay in contact with people but have yet to create a system that prioritizes a relationship-first business. Their day gets filled chasing tasks, and soon, the agent has lost contact with the people who know, like, and trust them.  

This forces agents into a vicious cycle that many vendors take advantage of. The stressed, over-worked agent is told, “Don’t worry, we’ll find you leads and give them to you at cost.” Agents expect the business to come rolling in while they care for current transactions, but in the end, these cold leads take more energy and convert less frequently than if the agent had focused on their sphere. It stresses agents out and brokerages are left constantly fighting agent churn due to low productivity.  

Some brokerages have even built extensive departments focused on lead qualification and routing, even though data shows that most buyers and sellers work with an agent through referral or one they knew previously. With everyone processing new leads and not paying much attention to past clients and sphere, money was surely left on the table.  

2 Steps to Change Your Business for Long-Term Success


The inventor of the phrase “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush” could never have envisioned it applying to modern real estate. This adage reminds us of all that every agent has a bird in their hand: their sphere of influence (SOI). If you aren’t keeping a clean, organized database (a CRM) for your sphere, step one is to start.