10 things to think about when thanking your referral partners

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Real estate is a people business, and successful real estate marketing is built on the relationships we form. If you polled real estate agents and asked what the best compliment they could receive was, I’m betting that most would say this: When a past client, colleague, family member, or friend recommends them to someone they care about. 

You might be feeling the warm fuzzies right now just thinking about it.

When someone recognizes your value and chooses to share your name and contact information with a friend or family member because they appreciate your hard work, and they trust you to deliver the same kind of incredible experience with someone they know, it is no small matter. It’s huge, and it deserves recognition.


I often coach agents to speak from their heart and not their head, and by that same belief, gifting and gratitude should come from our hearts as well. That being said, here are some things to consider when you’re expressing your gratitude.

10 things to think about when thanking people for referrals

1. Come from a mindset of serving not selling

One powerful concept that I have taught for a long time is to serve, not sell and to coach, not close. This “serving and coaching” mindset comes through in everything you do — every phone call, conversation, interaction and even your “thank yous” radiate your commitment to them.

People are drawn to authenticity like metal to a magnet, so when you make it about them — not about you or a transaction — people can feel your sincerity and will want to connect in positive and meaningful ways. 

2. Write personalized thank you cards

In our “high-touch-high-tech” world, some might think thank you cards are old-fashioned or out-of-date, but let me tell you a little secret: an “old fashioned” handwritten note has gotten more response from past clients than some of the most intricately thought-out social media mentions or marketing drip campaigns.

Why? It’s all about the personal touch. People recognize that you took time, effort and energy to sit down and write a personalized message; it’s the opposite of automated.

Think about how much is automated now, and how surprising it is to even get a human being on the phone anymore.  Not only does the act of writing two to five personalized notes a day make your clients smile, but it makes you feel good, too.

3. Avoid the caption ‘The best compliment I can receive is your referral’

Here’s why you shouldn’t use this phrase in your thank you cards, birthday cards or holiday cards. Although it is a great compliment, asking for a referral in what should be a heartfelt card or letter turns that gesture that should be about them into an advertisement for you. It’s the opposite of thankful and, frankly, ends up sounding a little greedy.

Plus, if you are sending a thank you for a referral, asking for another referral in that thank you note probably won’t sit well with the people you are trying to connect with. I get that it’s something that’s just been done that way since the dawn of real estate, and I believe it’s great to put that in your regular marketing pieces like Just Listed-Just Sold cards, market update letters, newsletters and so on. But it just doesn’t belong in something so personal.

4. Don’t take referrals lightly — ever

While your usual prospective seller or buyer you acquire on your own needs your attention, a referral is an even higher-level responsibility. Why? Because it is based on trust and that is something you should always fiercely protect above anything else.

Someone in your circle has said to you, “Here is a relationship that I have and I want to share it with you because I trust you.” That’s a big deal, so go the extra mile. Treat that referral like it was your own mom, best friend or even royalty.

Make the process and transaction as smooth as possible from start to finish, stay in contact every step of the way, and make sure they feel valued, appreciated and cared for. 

5. Keep your referral source in the loop

Let your referral source know how things are going from time to time. After all, they entrusted you with their friend or family member, and you want them to know it was a great decision. Consider a quick card, call or text to keep them in the loop such as:

“Hey Susan, just wanted to let you know that the Jones family’s offer got accepted and we’re excited to get them through the process swiftly without any stress! Thanks so much for trusting me enough to help them get into their new home! If I can do anything for you, please know that I am always here! Thanks again!”

It can go a long way to maintaining that trust and nurturing that relationship. 

6. Your thanks should never be ‘one and done’

When you consider that top producers report that 82 percent of their business comes from referrals, it’s just good business to make these folks VIPs in your marketing plan each year. Unfortunately, many agents say thanks for the referral to someone, then that’s it, never to be heard from again.

Make sure you are reaching out to them with “thank you’s” through the transaction and closing, of course, but also throughout the year with touchpoints such as newsletters, birthday cards and pop-bys. 

7. Hit the road with pop-bys

We love to help agents deliver smiles all year round with what some call pop-bys and we call smile stops: simple ways to recognize clients throughout the year. SMILE is an acronym for:

  • Service
  • Meet face-to-face
  • Invite them to share any questions or needs
  • Leave behind a token of gratitude
  • Elevate the relationship 

Some of my favorites for these are:

  • Pretty potted flower plant: “Thanks for helping my business BLOOM! I appreciate you!”
  • Ice cream scoop: “Want the scoop on what’s happening in our market? I can help! I appreciate you!”
  • Pie plate WITH pie: “Any way you slice it, you’re appreciated!”
  • Rolls of wrapping paper: “Thanks for helping me wrap up the year! I appreciate you!”  

Have fun with these. Personalize them. Make them special. When you do, your clients will remember you (in the best possible ways). 

I do think there are a few things to be mindful of, however. You might think, “Give a gift? No problem! A bottle of wine or box of chocolate is classic!” Yes, they are, but they don’t stand out as unique or memorable, and they only last until these items are consumed, then they are gone forever.

Better to give something that has some shelf life so that every time they use it, they will think of you. I love the idea of things that can be personalized to their family especially, such as

  • An engraved door knocker
  • A charcuterie board etched with the family name
  • Monogrammed barware
  • Set of customized kitchen knives 

8. Deliver your thank you in person

Whenever possible, give your gifts in person. I know how easy it is to click on an Amazon link or call a florist. It’s way easier, but easier doesn’t mean better because easier is usually not as memorable.

Even if you aren’t able to buy something locally and need to order gifts online, send them to your home or office, then package them in a way that will help you stand out and make that real face-to-face connection when delivering. Call ahead, of course, and say something like,

“Hey, I really appreciate your referral and I just wanted to stop by and bring you a little something as my way of saying thank you! What would be a good time?”

9. Reciprocate whenever possible

Savvy real estate pros know what occupations their clients have and even what their special interests and hobbies are. Should you have the opportunity to send a business referral back to them, do it. In fact, actively seek out opportunities to share referrals among your network. Put people together. Be a matchmaker.

For example, if you have a pediatrician in your referral network and you have a family that is moving into the area with small children, you can offer, “Do you all need a referral to a great pediatrician? Let me get you a contact number.” Dentist? CPA? Restaurant manager? Get creative!

10. Don’t leave your fellow agents out

You might be thinking a lot about thanking your past clients for their referrals, but don’t forget to send a thank you to your fellow agents for their referrals. I’ve heard too many stories about agents who get a referral from another agent, then either think, “No problem, they will get paid a referral at closing. I’ll do the best I can but I don’t have the time.” Then that referral never heard from them again. 

I can’t stress this enough: referring agents can be a steady stream of income for your business but only if you gain a good reputation. Send a card off. Give great care to their referrals. Keep them in the loop. Give a small gift. Reciprocate when possible.

Do that, and develop a solid reputation for being an extraordinary agent who takes care of their referrals. You know what happens then? More referrals.

Part of being an exemplary real estate agent is creating real and lasting connections with people. While you might be thinking, “But it’s too much time and effort” or “I’m just too busy,” it’s vital to your success. The agents at the top of the charts in your market know exactly how many are in their referral network, and they work hard to stay top of mind with their people so they feel valued and recognized.

What’s even more important is that these top agents don’t lose sight of the fact that most of their business comes from referrals. That means they don’t have to prospect as hard for new business. They don’t have to call a FSBO or navigate an Expired. They don’t stress about paying their bills or putting food on the table. 

When you invest time and energy into caring for those who support your business — your former clients and your network — your business will thrive. These people are invaluable VIPs who can significantly boost your career, and their referrals will be the lifeblood of your business’s success.

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