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The Venn-Zig-Burg Trilogy: Growing a Relationship Business via Venn Diagrams

Venn DiagramBy Colleen Barry, CEO of Gibson Sotheby's International Realty 

The number of real estate transactions has shrunk over the last 12 months. This was inevitable, as the real estate market follows cycles and is affected by external factors, like interest rates. We had two years of high sales volume, which could not have continued at that pace. The rising interest rates just hastened the end of that boom.

During challenging market cycles, successful agents often tell me some version of this statement: "Thank god for referrals -- they really kept me afloat!"

Why are referrals so important?

When the market shifts, there are always people who need to move. However, they might not be in your sphere of influence. So, what is the best way to expand your sphere? Create a Venn diagrams with other people's spheres.

A Venn diagram is a set of overlapping circles. Imagine your sphere overlapping another agent's sphere. Then imagine another and another... Each of these spheres is a group of people who are connected to one another in a meaningful way. So, when a member in one sphere needs help in your marketplace, they will refer them to you!

Whose circle should you overlap?

When looking for a referral partner, you need to be a giver and to find another giver. The process of creating overlapping Venn diagrams is a collaborative process. Both professionals need to see the value in the other and need to be looking for ways to help the other. This reminds me of the old Zig Ziglar quote, “If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.”

There is an excellent book about honing this skill. It's called "The Go-Giver" by Bob Burg. Within it, Burg tells the story of a salesman who is trying to create success in his business. His mentor shares with him The Five Laws of Stratospheric Success:

  1. The Law of Value: Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.
  2. The Law of Compensation: Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.
  3. The Law of Influence: Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first.
  4. The Law of Authenticity: The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself.
  5. The Law of Receptivity: The key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving.

As a Sotheby's International Realty affiliate, our entire network is built to create value through collaboration. Every agent in our firm who has attended any of the Sotheby's International Realty regional or international events has come away with several meaningful relationships -- and, eventually (and sometimes instantly), referrals.

This also happens with people outside of your industry. For real estate, we can start with people in related businesses, for instance portfolio lenders. Portfolio lenders tend to be part of wealth management groups and, therefore, are called in to advise clients before they select a real estate agent. If you set aside 30-60 minutes, you could probably come up with several roles, like portfolio lenders, with whom it would make sense to overlap.

Building a successful business is a heavy lift -- too heavy to do on your own. The goal is to build a team so you can all lift together.

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