Proven, Road-Tested Ways to Get Real Estate Referrals

Gabrielle C. King

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7 Stay Paid Podcast Guests Share Their Strategies

The 4th and final part in our series: How Real Estate Agents Can Optimize Their Referral Marketing Strategies

It’s not often you find a resource that will give you a truly tested and proven solution to a problem. You’ll easily find “ideas,” “suggestions,” “tips,” and the like, but when was the last time you got a genuinely fantastic—and above all practical—answer to any of these questions:

  • How do you increase referrals in real estate?
  • How do you ask clients for real estate referrals?
  • How do you get referrals without asking?

The answers you’ll find in this article were shared by guests of our podcast, Stay Paid, hosted by the president of ReminderMedia, Luke Acree, and our CMO, Josh Stike. Each guest is a notable professional in their own careers, and during their interviews, they explain what they’ve done to grow their referral business. You’re encouraged to listen to their interviews (I’ve included links to each), where you’ll hear the full context and details of the activities they’ve used to get referrals from past clients.

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But before sharing these winning referral-generating tactics, let’s dive a little deeper into the three questions listed above.

1. How do you increase referrals in real estate?

The number of referrals you receive, whether in real estate or any other profession, is directly related to two things:

  • How well you performed in service to your client.
  • How well your past clients remember you.

If you’re looking to get more client referrals, then it stands to reason that you either need to up your game or stay in more consistent contact with your clients.

For help with the former, you may need more training, a coach, or a mentor. It’s possible you may need better systems or some additional people on your team, such as an inside sales agent (ISA). You might also consider listening to podcasts produced by great agents and savvy business people for strategies that will improve the quality of your services.


As for the latter, previous articles in this series have discussed client appreciation events and gratitude marketing as marketing strategies meant to keep you top of mind. The first in the series explains the psychology of referrals and how you can use social norms such as the principle of reciprocity to garner referrals and generate more leads. I’ve also written about what science says real estate agents and other service professionals can do to be more memorable since clients can’t refer you if they can’t remember you.

In all instances, the key to more referrals and being remembered is to be consistently in front of your clients. It’s the frequency with which clients see you, your name, and your brand that impacts how likely and how well you’ll be remembered. A little later on in this article, I offer ideas about how you can more easily carve out the time to make regular contact with your clients.

2. How do you ask real estate clients for referrals?


Barb Betts is a successful REALTOR®, broker, CEO, educator, speaker, trainer, and podcast host with a passion for all things real estate. She’s known as an influencer and is highly involved in the industry at the local, state, and national levels. We were so impressed with her interview, her approach to relationship marketing, and how she asks for referrals that we feature her in one of our e-books about how to get referrals. (You can get the free e-book here).

To make asking for referrals in real estate less awkward and to put her clients at ease, Barb has discovered that if she asks clients to “introduce her” to someone rather than “refer her,” she gets more positive responses. It’s so simple, but she says it makes all the difference.


I’ve written about Brandon Hegg in this series’ article about gratitude marketing, but in addition to talking about how to reward clients who provide referrals, he also shares his system for making referral requests a seamless part of a larger conversation.

He calls it IPA or Improve | Praise | Ask:

  1. You begin by asking your clients how you can improve your service.
  2. Next, you look for an opportunity to praise your client.
  3. Finally, you ask who else they know that has that same characteristic for which you praised them.

It takes a little practice to get comfortable with the flow, but the process works flawlessly once you do. Listen to Brandon’s interview, and you’ll hear the details for fleshing out these conversations—as well as when to have them and how often.

3. How do you get referrals without asking?

I remember one particular Halloween when I was a kid.

I was seven years old and making the rounds with my friends—a motley crew of ghosts, zombies, witches, princesses, and cartoon heroes—walking to decorated houses in the neighborhood, making a killing on the candy haul. At one point in our journey, I walked up to a house where I found the owner sitting outside with a plastic bowl that looked like a carved pumpkin.


It was brimming with full-size chocolate bars . . . the good stuff.

I stuck out my pillowcase (it was a really big neighborhood) and waited for him to drop one in. Nothing.

For an awkward moment or two, we just looked at each other.

What was he waiting for? Why wasn’t he forking over the goods?

Another few seconds ticked by. Still nothing. Eventually he asked, “What do you say?”

I knew the answer wasn’t “thank you” because you only say that after you get the candy, and “please” didn’t get me the desired response.

Confused and embarrassed, I was about to turn around and move on to the next house when he said, “Trick or treat.”

Of course! To get candy, you need to follow the protocol and ask!

No matter the conventional expectations, how routine the process, or how great your service, if you don’t ask for referrals, you aren’t likely to get any.

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to blurt out, “Hey! Got any referrals?” As my Halloween experience demonstrates, there are better and worse ways to ask for what you want. I’ve shared two of the better ways to ask for referrals in the previous section, and I’ve provided additional examples in the other articles in this series, so check them out.

And, just like there are better and worse ways to ask for referrals, there are better and worse referrals. Let me review this last point with you, and we’ll get on to what I promised you: proven ways to get real estate referrals.

You don’t simply want referrals; you want proactive advocates

It’s worth noting the difference between an “I-gave-your-name-to-a-buddy” referral and a “clone-of-my-best-client” referral. The former will likely die on the vine. The latter could produce new business for years to come.


Dan Allison, a highly popular Stay Paid guest from two years ago, and his team of consultants at Feedback Marketing Group help organizations successfully grow their business by strategically creating a base of proactive advocates who deliver outstanding referrals.

As part of the largest nationwide survey on consumer behavior, Dan discovered that while the majority of clients are willing to provide referrals, they don’t know how to do so effectively. So he and his team developed a comprehensive process that shows businesses how to identify their best clients and tactically turn them into proactive advocates of their services.

After nearly 20 years, they’ve discovered that the best advocates are clients who:

  • see so much value in their own experience doing business with you that they would confidently take the risk to refer someone very important;
  • understand the comprehensive nature of all you do and can convey your value proposition in a way that makes an impact;
  • have a clear idea of the type of person who would be an ideal client for your business;
  • understand that a personal introduction is needed to make a referral occur;
  • are comfortable providing referrals.

Of course, there’s not a client on the planet who possess all five of these characteristics; you need to create them. When you listen to his interview, you’ll hear Dan explain the steps required.

Now, let’s move on to review what selected and successful Stay Paid guests do to get referrals.

Will Penney

President, Penney Real Estate Company


Stay in contact with your sphere.

In 2020, during the pandemic and when Will Penney first appeared on Stay Paid, he attributed 90% of his business to referrals. Typically, he said, it’s about 70%. Today, his team of five agents sell approximately 200 homes each year, representing about $40M in sales volume. His strategy, then and now, is to consistently reach out to the people in his database and to encourage clients to post online referrals.

It’s a strategy, he says, that costs him nothing, allows him to successfully compete against big-box brokers, and drives referrals and repeat business.

During the days of isolation and social distancing, Will was reaching out to his sphere twice a week using text messages and emails and closing deals. Today, Will posts information about a wide range of home- and community-related topics to a private Facebook group that, back in February 2022 when he made his second podcast appearance, included 910 past clients. He engages with these clients daily and continues to receive most of his business from referrals because he is repeatedly in front of his sphere and remains top of mind.

Will isn’t the only podcast guest to have used private Facebook groups to his advantage. Joe Kampert of Redwood Insurance Agency also uses them to connect with other insurance professionals. However, Will is the only one who created his own company, Social Orchard, to help real estate agents use Facebook groups to grow their businesses. His turnkey solution allows agents to sustain the same consistent contact with their clients that Will enjoys with his and generate referrals.

You can find Will’s 2020 interview here. To listen to his most recent interview, click here.

Jay Baer

Customer Experience and Marketing Expert and Advisor


Give away what you know.

In his conversation with Luke and Josh, Jay Baer reviews the ideas you’ll find in his book, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype [#ad]. Essentially, Youtility is a marketing strategy whereby you give away your secret sauce for free and a little bit at a time, with the goal of becoming the most helpful professional in your area.

As Jay explains, there is no such thing as a true secret sauce because people already have it, can get it, or can figure it out. So why not be helpful and share what you know? Sharing is a marketing strategy that garners you goodwill, increases your credibility, and helps you become known, liked, and trusted. Essentially, the more you give, the more you get.

Another significant point Jay makes is about creating raving fans. When you think about the experiences you’ve had as a customer, you’ll realize that you don’t rave about the providers who did the job you paid them to do . . . no one does. It’s businesses that do the unexpected and go above and beyond to create outstanding customer experiences that create the word-of-mouth advertising and referrals they want.

You’ll find Jay’s interview here.

Glennda Baker

President and CEO, Glennda Baker & Associates, Inc.


Build relationships.

Glennda Baker is a tremendously successful real estate agent in Atlanta, Georgia. For 30 years, Glennda has committed herself to relationship marketing, believing (and proving) that the most lucrative way for service-based professionals like real estate agents to grow their businesses is to build solid, authentic relationships with the people in their spheres.

Part of what makes Glennda’s interview so valuable is that she explains how she operationalizes relationship marketing in her business:

  • Every week, she calls 25 people. (She explains her easy 10+10+5 system for making calls.)
  • Every month, she completes no fewer than 40 pop-bys where she and her team visit with clients in person.
  • Every 60 days, she ensures that her entire sphere receives either a call, text message, or video text from her.
  • She maintains a schedule on social media with her podcast and with personal posts to Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.
  • She hosts a ton of open houses.
  • She promotes her just listed/just sold homes with geofarming to accelerate her credibility.
  • She sends our personally branded magazine.

The host of details that Glennda shares are pure gold, and it’s where you’ll find out how she makes her touchpoints authentic, meaningful, and effective in generating referrals. (Hint: It’s not about making yourself interesting; it’s about being interested in your clients.) She also discusses her use of social media and how she’s using different platforms to connect with people who enjoy different formats.

Get access to Glennda’s interview when you click here.

Stephen Acree

President, Acree Brothers Realty Team


Be visible in your community.

Stephen Acree has made four appearances on Stay Paid. He has a real estate business in Lynchburg, Virginia, and also happens to be one of Luke’s brothers. During his most recent interview, Stephen shared a woeful tale about losing half his agents and what that did to his mindset. But, more importantly, he talks about what he did to recover his optimism and his business.

In an effort to get back to basics, he and his agents went knocking on doors with a purpose: they were collecting food donations to support a local food bank. The team decided to support a local food bank where a colleague’s mom worked, which made them feel invested in the effort. They used postcards and social media to promote the event and got a phenomenal response.

From a business perspective, the beauty of the idea came from having each donor’s contact information, a face-to-face interaction, and a great experience before ever approaching them about real estate. Now, when Stephen approaches them down the road with a free market analysis or other lead generation tactic, he’s already got a foot in the door. Donors know his team because they’ve met and spoken with one another, like them because of the halo effect associated with the goodwill and generosity of the food drive, and have made inroads to being trusted.

There are dozens of ways you can be visible in your community. Stephen has also partnered with a local bakery to distribute free pies. Other podcast guests have spoken about renting ice cream trucks for a few hours, sponsoring pet adoptions, supporting kids’ sports teams, writing for the local newspaper, and hiring companies for paper shredding events.

You’ll find Stephen’s interview here.

The key is consistency

Every successful marketer will readily tell you that the key to referrals and repeat business is to be consistently in front of your audience. This is especially true for real estate agents and other service based professionals who may close one deal and not do business with that same client again for several years. You must ensure during the intervening period that you aren’t forgotten AND that you stay top of mind.


But to be unforgettable takes time and effort—two resources that are in short supply for busy professionals.

And staying top of mind can mean costly marketing as you strive to create a ubiquitous presence in your market.

The way we help our clients (some of whom you just read about), is to provide automated, cost-effective, print and digital marketing.

If you think you’d like your own version of the personally branded magazine that Glennda Baker uses, you can get a free, no obligation, PDF sample here. We’ll mail an issue every six weeks to your exclusive list of clients for less than the cost of a typical greeting card.


If you like Will Penney’s use of social media and want an endless supply of topical, value-laden social media content that you can post as often as you wish and schedule weeks in advance, then check out a 30-day free trial of our digital marketing platform.

IMAGE 13: Digital marketing platform | Custom image

Regardless of whether you want to use your own sweat equity or choose to select our or someone else’s solution, the key to success is to make sure you stay consistent in your effort to remain in front of your audience.

You can read the complete blog series, How Real Estate Agents Can Optimize Their Referral Marketing Strategies, using the links below:

How Real Estate Agents Can Use Psychology to Get More Client Referrals ""
How Million-Dollar Agents Use Client Appreciation Events to Get Referrals ""
How 5 Top Professionals Use Gratitude Marketing to Boost their Referral Marketing Strategy ""


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Written by Gabrielle C. King

I’ve spent my 30-year career making complex and unfamiliar ideas easy to understand. Today I routinely write 2,500 words or less to help entrepreneurs like real estate agents, RIAs, insurance agents, and others better understand marketing and feel a renewed confidence in their ability to close more deals and retain more business.