Rethinking “Relationships First” In Real Estate

July 5, 2024

Let’s talk about the “RELATIONSHIPS FIRST!” bit that headlines almost every IG bio, every website, every marketing campaign in Realtorland.

There are a million iterations of the phrase. Such as:

“It’s all about the relationships for me.”

“Relationships BEFORE sales.”

“Relationships first, transactions second, always!”


Other than the sheer fact that these phrases are now SO overused, they struggle to hold their meaning (topic for another day), there’s a deeper issue at play with this kind of messaging that is — in my HUMBLE opinion — possibly steeped in myth.

Like if we scratched at it hard enough, it would dissolve beneath our fingers, revealing a different kind of lead-to-client-conversion process than we’d previously considered.

One that actually doesn’t start with “relationships first.”

What do I mean?

I’ll pose it to you as a question.

What if this was actually a big, fat real estate business MYTH — that personal relationships lead to effective selling?

Now, I understand that a fair amount of agents would lose their ever-loving minds over this. You all are high affiliation folks who sell on relationships; I get it.

And sure, that whole idea — that relationships lead to sales, relationships come first — is not universally untrue.

Still, sometimes I wonder if it’s an unhelpful way to look at building a client-based business.

Let me defend myself.

There’s this quote I love from Neil Rackham, the founder of a global sales training organization, author of SPIN Selling, and possibly the individual who has done more research on B2B sales than anyone else on the planet.

His line is: “Relationship is the reward for delivering value.”

What he’s saying (and the research underpins this, especially in high-complexity sales environments) is that you don’t build a relationship and then hope that the relationship results in a sale.

Instead, you FIRST sell by challenging the person’s notion of what the problem is, and what the solution might be.

You sell by delivering value FIRST.

And then the relationship, ultimately, is the reward of value delivered.

This is the methodology I’ve applied in my own highly relational business of working closely with hundreds of equally relational Realtors.

I build many close, beautiful relationships with our studio clients. But, my goal has always been to challenge perceptions and add value first 

I do that primarily through this email list, and our content-rich blog.

I don’t aim to befriend the Realtors who come our way. Even though befriending them DOES become an organic byproduct of our services process, and I cherish this.

Instead, I first aim to make Realtors think differently…

I want them to have a genuine experience with my / our expertise that changes and enriches their worlds.

This happens first.

Once that happens, THEN the relationship blossoms. Friendships form that benefit me for life, just like your buyer and seller friendships — and the referrals + undying trust that spring from them — benefit yours.

In other words, I see “relationships” as something that comes AFTER I’ve proven that I can add value to Realtors looking to be challenged – then supported – in their branding perspectives and implementations.

Maybe I’m rambling a little here, but isn’t this at least food for thought?

On the chart of “Real Estate Marketing Myths That Deserve To Be Challenged,” I wonder if we can at least hold the “relationships-first!!!!!” lines closer to the light, really examine them.

Then ask ourselves —

Should the order be reserved here?

Should we look at building sales by challenging others in ways that reveal our expertise and add value, FIRST?

And THEN expect those sales activities to lead to personal relationships that grow referrals and our bottom lines?

And IF all of that is true — how does it change our marketing and branding?

There’s the big, practical question.

I think it changes our marketing immediately by demanding that we create more thought leadership content that positions us to challenge others well and actually add something to their lives.

So, how is your email newsletter going these days?

Are you sharing less fluff? More substance?

Are you positioning yourself as a thought leader?

Are you speaking truth that challenges people instead of delivering Realtor Kool-Aid platitudes?

What kind of long-form materials can you create and provide to your audience for free — long-form Guides that actually educate the buyer and seller, or thought-provoking blogs that tell the truth in an uncertain marketplace?

Just something to marinate on today.

Are you trying to befriend buyers and sellers, or challenge them?

Which should come first, the chicken or the egg?

And if you decide that challenging your audience SHOULD come first…

Then how do you need to rework your content marketing plan and your messaging to support the kind of value-adding narratives that make your people stop, think, learn, and want to lean on you for more guidance?

Hope this was worth the read (let me know).


P.S – What’s BLUEPRINT, again? 

We’re a gaggle of designers, writers, and creatives on a mission to change the branding narrative in real estate.

We offer a signature branding service and the industry’s most elegant and high-converting digital products to help modern, stylish Realtors do three things:

➝ Communicate their worth;

➝ Become the obvious choice;

➝ Tell the right stories to stand out + SELL more.

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