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“A referral is the greatest gift a client or colleague can give to a real estate agent—and agents need to show their gratitude in return. Referrals are the most integral part of our business,” says Margaret Reifer, Real Estate Associate with Sotheby’s International Realty – Westlake Village Brokerage.
Jessica Adams, Global Real Estate Advisor with ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, says her business is almost entirely based on referrals. She credits this strong relationship-building as the reason she has become one of the top agents in Miami.
So if referrals are the catalyst for creating a market-leading business, how can you show your referrers how much they mean to you? Reifer and Adams have some suggestions.
Always genuine, never generic
“I don’t think you need to be over-the-top—a small gesture is plenty,” says Adams. But she warns against thanking clients with conventional gifts that come across as thoughtless, or seem like they were part of a bulk buy, noting that products from local businesses may offer a more meaningful gesture.
“I actually go to a local farm up north in Vero Beach, which is about two hours from here, and I have these pecan pies made for my clients. I give fifty of them away the week of Thanksgiving, and I write little notes to deliver with the pies, just to say thank you.”
In a world so driven by digital and virtual interactions, moments like these are all the more vital—and as Reifer observes, they can also be incredibly strategic.
“Taking time to thank a person who refers a prospective client is a fantastic way to reconnect and catch up on your client’s life and activities—but you can also uncover the needs and desires of the person they are referring to you,” she points out.
Show them that you know them
Authentic, personalized service is essential in luxury real estate—and so too is genuine personalized acknowledgment. “The best gifts are those that have the referrer’s lifestyle in mind, such as favorite books, dinner delivery, cleaning services, or tickets to a local event,” says Reifer.
She provides numerous examples of specific gestures for clients with specific needs—dinner delivery for a busy family with a newborn, food festival tickets for a known epicurean. “The list is endless when you know what could put a smile on your referrer’s face.”
Adams also follows this approach. “It’s the personal touch—if someone has dogs, you can find a local place that makes dog treats and send them a little ‘thinking of you’ gift with their names,” she says. “It’s going above and beyond to show you’re actually listening to them when they speak to you, and you don’t just value their referral, but you value them as human beings.”
Recognize peers who refer you
Referrers aren’t just clients—they can be real estate agents too. Having cultivated a global network with Sotheby’s International Realty, Adams cites an example where an Arizona-based agent knew a buyer moving from Hong Kong to Miami and referred Adams.
Thanking these referrers is just as critical—and it’s both straightforward and fun to find creative ways to do it. “I called her assistant to find out what kind of chocolate she likes, or whether she has a favorite salon,” says Adams. “It’s so much better than sending a text message.”
Punctuality is a powerful thing
Be ready to respond when referrals come. “Always thank your referrers quickly after they’ve recommended a potential client,” advises Reifer. “Don’t wait to see whether the referral will result in a closed transaction. Be sincere and gracious.”
Adams adds, “Follow up afterward to make sure they received your gift, and make sure they liked it. Get feedback.” It’s a great opportunity to turn one referral into recurring interactions.
Be the gift that keeps on giving
“My customer service doesn’t end when I finish the transaction—it continues afterward, and I send gifts a month after, six months after, and a year after,” says Adams. She notes that she makes herself available as her clients’ first point of contact for any contractor or maintenance services they need going forward.
“Connect and reconnect often with your clients and referrers,” says Reifer. “They took time to recommend you, which is the highest honor an agent can receive. Find a way to thank people that reflects your personality as well—make it special and unique to your brand and your business.”