Every new agent has heard the admonition they absolutely must contact everyone in their circle of influence when they start out. This is certainly good advice because when you are just starting out, you are going to have a tough time getting clients. You will not have past clients to recommend you, signs around town with your name on them, or print ads displaying your listings. All of these methods, and many more, combine to bring a constant stream of clients once you have been in business a number of years.
Because none of these are available to you, you will have to work with what you have got. And what you have got is a vast collection of friends, relatives, and acquaintances you can look to for your first deal. This is your circle of influence (COI).
So, where to begin? One of the first things you will want to do is begin compiling your contact list. The list should include everyone listed above and anyone else you can think of. Do not forget past co-workers, people you went to school with, and casual acquaintances you know from your bank, the grocery store, the dry cleaners, etc. Make sure to note as much information about each of them as you can. You will want their name, address, phone numbers, birthday and anniversary dates, and any other information you want to include.
A standard tool for agents, and one you really cannot do without, is some type of contact manager software. There are many different choices on the market and they range in price from free to several hundred dollars. There are even packages where you pay a subscription fee every month.
You may be tempted to try one of the free or low-end packages but you should consider this carefully. A well-known problem with this type of software is the malicious code that often comes with it. This can include spyware, adware, malware, and any number of viruses.
You will be better off if you go with one of the mid-priced packages that allow contact information, expense and other custom reports, letter and flyer management, and can be upgraded in the future. You will want to start using any package you go with as soon as possible.
If you want to start making some money before making another purchase, just use the Mail Merge feature in Microsoft Word. You will be limited to basic name and address information but this can help you address your letters for mailing. Make sure you handwrite the address on the outside of the envelope. This helps separate your letter from the junk mail everyone receives. Your first letter should announce your new broker affiliation, and do not forget to include a few business cards.
Something you should keep in mind whenever you are mailing anything is that you can improve the response immensely if you follow this, or any other, mailing with a personal phone call or visit. In fact, you should make sure you mention your visit in the letter. This gives you the advantage of having your letter remembered and firmly ties its message to you. You will want to mail as many letters as you can follow up on as soon as possible. Direct mail, even to friends, has a notoriously low response rate so make sure you do everything possible to be remembered.
Brokers know you are likely to find your first deal this way and will certainly encourage you to pursue this. The unscrupulous among them will want you to push yourself on these people harder than you might think proper. In fact, many brokers are willing to take on inexperienced agents because so many of them are able to pull their first (and sometimes only) deal out of their COI.
Be careful with your approach. Remember you are in this for the long haul and it will certainly do you no good to make a pest of yourself. Gauge your technique with the response you are getting. If it is generally negative, tone it down a little, but keep in mind, not pushing hard enough can be just as bad. Ultimately, contacting your circle of influence is just one of the many ways you will be prospecting for clients but it just might turn out to be the one that gets your career started in the right direction.