When your Sphere of Influence Goes Flat

One of the biggest challenges for most agents in their first year in real estate is finding new business before you have built up a resume that produces referrals. The natural place to start is by reaching out to friends and family members, or anyone else you know (don’t forget your hairstylist, doctor, dry cleaner, etc.). This group is often called your “Sphere of Influence,” or “SOI” as I like to shorten it.

Your SOI is the perfect place to start generating business. After all, this is a loyal group of people who believe in you, trust you and want the best for you in your new career, even though you might not yet have a proven track record of success in the field, right? And certainly out of that group, someone needs to buy or sell a property or they know someone else who does. But what do you do when a member of your closest circle professes loyalty to you and then decides to work with another agent instead? Can you keep your business moving forward without taking it personally? Can you still salvage your friendship?

Not long ago, I had a couple of friends let me know that they were planning on selling their apartment – a very nice 2BR/2BA in a great pre-war building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side – and they told me that they were definitely going to use me as their Realtor. I gave a presentation in the fall and our discussion raised some new questions that they needed to think through. To give them some time to evaluate their options, we decided to revisit after the New Year.

A couple months later I received an email from this friend letting me know that they signed an exclusive agreement with another agent at another company, but that they appreciated my time and advice. He then sent me a link to their new listing hoping that I could find a buyer for them and still get in on the action and collect a commission. I was both disappointed and offended. I mean, whatever happened to their loyalty? Aren’t they supposed to be my friends? Did the other agent bring something to the table that I hadn’t?

Once I got over the [admittedly dramatic] feeling of intense betrayal, I calmed down and realized a harsh truth: this kind of thing happens in this business all the time. It was time to grow a thick skin and move on. Here are a couple other things I took away from this experience:

1. Don’t get into the habit of counting your chickens. I had high expectations for this to work out and then I fell really hard when it didn’t. Find the right balance of energy to put into a specific project and then move on to the next one. Keep as many prospects going as you can and check on them periodically. If one falls through, replace it with another if you can.

2. The friendship might be more important than the listing. It might be tough, but when you have had a day or two to let your wounded pride heal, take an active interest in their listing as a friend and ask them how it’s going. Your friend probably also feels awkward about the situation and will be relieved to know that it’s not a topic you will need to avoid. Besides, it’s the professional thing to do.

Your SOI is a great place to start, but don’t assume that it will generate all of your business. Find other ways to market yourself and reach out to people that you don’t know, too. After all, networking and meeting new people is a big part of this business, so get out there and shake a few hands.

And by the way, I’m glad to say that our friendship is still in a good place.

Have you had a similar experience with friends not coming through? How did you handle it? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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