Remember when you were a child and your parents told you “It’s better to give than to receive…” ? Quaint as the proverbial phrase may seem, the principle behind it lies at the very core of any successful business. Entire economies, in fact, are built on this simple, powerful concept of exchange, or reciprocity. And your real estate career is really no different.

Reciprocity is the key to attracting more listings, but many agents focus on costly lead generation services and tactics that promise a high return on your investment. The reality is that converting cold leads into motivated buyers and sellers often takes months of nurturing.

Of course, you can invest in market research, better technology, more resources and time management tools, but none of these will build relationships for you.

More than any other factor, the quality of your relationships will determine your success as an agent.

If you are taking the time to cultivate strong relationships with everyone you encounter, the law of reciprocity will work in your favor naturally. You’ll attract leads, instead of chasing them. You’ll spend time on more qualified leads, and uncover more opportunities as your sphere of influence expands.

67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

What is the law of reciprocity?

Identified by Dr. Robert Cialdini in his best seller, Influence At Work, reciprocity is one of the six principles of persuasion successful businesses and entrepreneurs live by.

When we do for others, others feel obligated to reciprocate. Simply holding the door for a peer, or offering to pay for their coffee, elicits an emotional response of gratitude. The feeling of gratitude motivates us to reciprocate in kind.

Reciprocity is a form of social currency that we use everyday, almost unconsciously. You graciously hold the door open for someone, or help a stranger with their bags up a flight of stairs, for instance. You do it because others have done it for you, and because it generates goodwill which you hope will return in your favor.

3 Types of Reciprocity

  • Emotional – make people feel good and they feel obligated to reciprocate
  • Material – help someone physically (lending your lawnmower) and they want to reciprocate
  • Financial – pay for coffee, cover an expense, makes others feel indebted

Illustration of Law Of Reciprocity

Law Of Reciprocity illustration

67 Strategies to Get More Referrals

Real Estate Is About People Not Houses

help homeowners and they will reciprocate

Newlyweds in search of a starter home; retirees seeking to simplify their lifestyle and downsize; families looking for a neighborhood to raise children; your clients are real people taking a huge financial and emotional risk to pursue their vision of happiness.

People are the foundation of your real estate career, not houses. Homebuyers and sellers in search of a property are people with dreams, hopes and ambitions.

If they are motivated to sell or to buy, it’s not because of your mad selling skills, your charm, or marketing savvy. It’s because you have built a relationship of trust with them. They trust you to help them fulfill their dreams.

Trust is built through a series of exchanges over time. Each exchange is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your value. As you cultivate the contacts in your database, you should strive to offer value with every exchange.

Find Ways To Be Of Service To Your Local Community

business women

Recognize that your real estate expertise is only one way that you can offer value. Build a reputation for being a problem solver by understanding the challenges your prospects are currently facing. Staying top of mind with homeowners on your farm will be easier if you show an interest in helping them with their current problems.

Partner with local business owners to craft unique offers that appeal to targeted segments of your database. Segmenting your database will help you target the right contacts with the right message. A free haircut at the local salon might not be relevant to everyone in your database, for instance. Free yoga classes you may be promoting in partnership with a local instructor may not be of interest to the retired veterans in your database.

Email blasting your entire database with news about an open house is not a thoughtful way of building relationships. Each email, newsletter, blog post or text you send to your clients should be strategic, relevant and timely.

Consider some of the ways you can be of service to prospects in your farm now:

  • Am I educating my clients with useful information that matters to them?
  • Can I help my clients save time or money on their current needs?
  • Do I have resources that could help my clients?
  • How can you best serve the homeowners in your farm?
  • Who among my contacts have I motivated, encouraged, or inspired today?

Focus on being of service in these 3 key areas:

#1) Knowledge: Create podcasts, blog posts, infographics, eguides, and open house events that educate and empower prospects in your farm.

#2) Motivation: Seek out ways to motivate and inspire local residents with positive messaging by connecting with mentors, influencers, success coaches, and other inspirational resources.

#3) Financial: Find other professionals who can help your prospects save money on their current needs (ie taxes, childcare, insurance, entertainment)

With a strategic drip campaign in place, you can routinely schedule email delivery to targeted contacts in your database every month. You’ll stay top-of-mind with more clients this way, which will lead to a greater share of referral business.


As a real estate agent, your role is more than a facilitator. Your expertise and knowledge of the housing market are assets you place at the disposal of your clients for their benefit. If you help them achieve their dream, they will naturally reciprocate with gratitude.

Seek out key players in your community – business owners, mentors, influencers and brands – that you can partner with to offer relevant solutions for local residents. Promote the businesses and professionals in your farm, and they will promote you.  

By being of service and demonstrating value to residents in your farm, you’ll establish a reputation for being a problem solver, not just a real estate agent. You’ll build social credit and valuable social proof in the form of referrals, testimonials and reviews.

With consistent effort, word-of-mouth will spread about you and before long, you’ll have more leads than you can follow up with!