How a Conversation Between Anthony and a Friend Turned into a Life Lesson – May 2014

Anthony and Alex started taking Karate a few months ago as we were looking for a winter activity for the boys. They have friends that take karate and decided it was something they wanted to try. Now Kicks Karate is all about the referrals and if you refer someone to the class you get a prize/incentive. When Anthony and Alex joined they told the head instructor, Mr. Lee, that they were referred by their friends Nathan and Nick. Guess what? The incentive that month was an Under Armour Kicks Karate shirt.

Both Nathan and Nick received shirts. They were thrilled!

A few months go by with the Boyz going twice a week and they are really having a good time and are progressing nicely with karate and improving their skills. Lessons take place in a large room and the parents sit against a wall and watch the kids. At the end of the class all of the kids sit down and listen to the instructor as he ‘cheers’ them out, but this time is also for the parents as the instructor is always cross promoting something unique. It might be a special referral promotion, ‘bring a friend Friday’, or their summer camp. The point is that Kicks is always cross promoting another program and is always asking for referrals of friends and classmates.

Their promotion for February and March was that the kids would get a ticket or tickets at the end of the class if they demonstrated a move correctly or had an excellent class. The tickets go into a big raffle, just like you see at the Carnival, and at the end of the week, Mr. Lee –the head instructor- churns the barrel of tickets and draws a ticket. That child wins a prize. The prize might be a trophy, a lunchbox, a T-shirt nothing extravagant-but nonetheless something the kids appreciate and enjoy receiving.

It’s not so much the actual gift as it is the recognition of being singled out and having your name called in class.

So Anthony and Alex probably receive 6-8 tickets over the first 5 weeks of the promotion, and at the end of the week they anxiously await the results of the drawing to see if their names are called. Each week, disappointment. Someone else’s name is called and they win the prize.

I can’t remember if it was the 6th or 7th week of the promotion, but Anthony had been talking to his friend who he has known since preschool. They know each other well and are good friends. They share the same interests, and are always palling around at school. Anthony must have been talking up Karate at recess one day because one Monday his friend from class and his mom show up at Kick’s Karate, and he’s is going to give it a try to see if he likes it as much as Anthony said he would. Anthony and I introduce his friend and his mom to Mr. Lee and tell him that he is in Anthony’s class.

His buddy jumps right in and takes the class, enjoying it and signing up to continue.

The next week when Anthony, Alex, and I go to class the kids are sitting on the mat waiting for the instructor to start the class. Mr. Lee walks out of his office and says, “Anthony, did you see the winner from this week’s drawing on the board?” Anthony checks out the board and sees his name. He was grinning from ear to ear as Mr. Lee told him that his name was drawn as this week’s winner. Now his prize was nothing fancy, a Korean picture frame, but it was the recognition from Mr. Lee himself, in front of his peer that made Anthony feel special.

Mr. Lee explained to Anthony, that his friend (who Anthony referred) earned him 10 tickets instead of the usual 1-2 they might get per class. Anthony and Alex had been good in class and had followed instructions earning minimum tickets, but 1 referral of a friend that joined Kicks earned Anthony 10 tickets and, in-turn, he won the weekly prize.

I, as a parent and a business owner, try to find ways to weave life experiences that the boys have into a larger picture of how the world works.

I thought this occasion of Anthony receiving 10 tickets in Karate from a referral as a perfect time to give Anthony a business, life, marketing tip.

A few days later Anthony and I were talking about winning the picture frame and why he won. I asked Anthony if he knew why/how he won? “Yes, my ticket was pulled.” My reply, “Yes, technically you are correct, but there is a larger reason. You were talking at recess about how much fun you had at Karate and your friend went home and told his mom that Anthony was having a blast at karate and he might like to try. He trusts you and your opinion, as you’ve been friends for 5 years. And when he signed up and registered for class you received 10 tickets, instead of the 1 or 2 you were receiving each class. You see, your buddy trusts what you told him and you two are friends and have common interests. Do you think he would have been as enthusiastic and told his mom he wanted to try Karate if some other kid that he didn’t know as well told him about Karate?” No.

I think Anthony is seeing my point here about trust and referring friends, and I follow up by asking him, “Do you know what dad does for a living?” Anthony, “Yes Dad, you sell homes and help people buy new homes.” I say, “Yes, that is correct, but do you know why people come to me to help them?” He says, “Well, most people who you help out you are friends with.” -How does he know this? When clients come to our office, inevitably Anthony and Alex will pop in and meet the new people that Dad is talking to about selling and/or buying. And in Anthony and Alex’s eyes it seems like we are life-long friends. Sometimes this is the case, but more often than not it is usually the first or second meeting with the people. We act like good friends because, ultimately, these new clients are referred to me either from a past client whom I helped sell/buy or are referred from someone like YOU, a reader of The Eric Verdi Letter. And you and I have a personal relationship. It might not have started out that way, but as a subscriber to the newsletter I consider you a personal friend, and I hope the feeling is mutual. – I tell Anthony, “Yes, I help people sell and buy homes, but the business I’m really in is the relationship business. And not in the business of selling homes. It is about forming true friendships and relationships. Once we have a bond it is strengthened over time.

Thus referrals, like you telling your friend how much you enjoy Karate and referring him to Kicks, just happen naturally and people send their friends to Dad.”

How this typically happens is someone will hear a friend or family member talking about buying or selling their home. Well then my friend says, “You gotta call Eric. Three years ago, in a depressed market, he helped us sell our house. And he did exactly what he said and although the market was bad was able to sell our home.” Or maybe they say, “We were first time home buyers, and were scared to death. We were overwhelmed with the entire buying process. We didn’t know where to start. From the time we sat down with Eric initially, he laid out a plan about how the next 3 months would go and he was there advising us every step of the way.” Or another one I get is; “My wife and I just had our 2nd child, and we’re looking to move out of the house you helped us purchase 8 years ago and move up to a bigger home. We’re unsure of how the whole sell and then buy thing works. Eric brought his team of experts: his Stagers, his professional cleaner, his photographer, and he made our home stand-out. Not only did he smoothly sell our home, but he transitioned us seamlessly into our new home.” These are just a few examples of typical conversations that my friends have when referring their friends to me. Then when I meet with these new clients there is already a built in trust factor, and I NEVER have to sell myself. Frankly, I don’t sell myself, my past clients and friends sell their friends on me, and if someone comes to me that is not a direct referral from a friend I put them from a screening process to make sure they understand what they get with me and my services.

Just recently, and this is typical of how I get new clients, I was helping a young couple (Matt and Bre) who were referred to me from Annie, my photographer. I meet with them, and it is like we are old life-long friends. They trust what I tell them and know that I’m going to do my best for them in their transition from their current home to their new home as their family is expanding. I do my typical meeting, initial consultation at their home and this is more of a get-to-know-you meeting. I NEVER do any selling on these initial consultations. I don’t take a listing presentation as many Realtors do. I feel that it is important to know the people on a deeper level, find out their “why”. Why they are moving? What motivates them? What is most important about selling? Then from this initial meeting I go back to my office and provided a detailed individualized written analysis or ‘game-plan’ for their unique situation. I believe that no 2 situations are the same, so to come with a canned script or listing presentation is idiotic and an elementary way to do business. This is probably why most Realtors are looked at as Sales people and not trusted advisors.

About a week later, I get a call from Bre’s parents asking me if I can help them sell and downsize to a smaller home…. No selling…. No chasing business…. I ask them why they chose me. “Eric, we saw what you did for Bre and Matt and it was a unique ‘business like’ approach to selling a home. Frankly we had in the back of our mind selling, but when we saw what you did we decided to move up our time frame. We have friends that are Realtors, but they don’t approach the business like you do and we don’t want to have to fire a friend.”

The above example is typical of how I get new clients.

I’m sure that Bre, Matt, and Bre’s parents will become lifelong friends as they are AWESOME people. You know what they say any friend of yours is a friend of mine. That’s why I truly love my clients and what I do. I get to meet so many awesome people!!!!! So what started out as Anthony and Alex taking a Karate class this winter turned into, more importantly, a life lesson that I was able to teach my Boyz about relationships and how the world works.