Discover Leads With The Strength Of Ties


The red book, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent, has given millions of people a path to building a big business and a big life. This is all made possible by one thing — leads.

A business can only sustainably grow by continuing to generate the amount of leads it needs and to convert them into contacts and clients. Leads, as we discuss them here and in MREA, are defined as people who have shown an interest in the services that a business provides, but who haven’t given permission for that business to be in a two-way conversation with them yet. They are potential clients who are truly at the very beginning of their relationship with you.

One of the biggest opportunities for a business is to discover how to generate more leads. This usually means meeting more people and building our direct sphere of influence. This thinking has generally translated to a whole lot of activity. But does it have to be this way?

Our research has shown us that when we think about lead generation, the ways we can go about reaching leads can be less direct and still be just as effective. Let us explain…

Leads Are the Target

In the original MREA, we use the following model to illustrate the goal of lead generation. You want to move people from the outside of the circle to the center, where you ultimately have a one-on-one relationship.

By taking people that you haven’t met and turning them into people that you’ve met and later that you know, this strategic model shows you a clear path to getting to what makes a lead ultimately valuable to your business: the relationship that it becomes.

Relationships Are What’s Valuable

The thing about people is that they are connected to other people. Every relationship we build opens doors to something previously unknown or inaccessible. This means that every lead you are successfully able to build a relationship with and bring to the “target” of the above model is a gateway to new leads.

Think about it like this: each new lead is a seed that you can plant. If you nurture and tend to that seed, a tree grows. From there, that relationship branches out into other seeds. Someone who is impressed by how you helped them buy a home can recommend you to their coworker who is thinking about getting a house with more land for their growing chicken flock. Another business owner who you talked to about an event reaches out to let you know that they’re looking for a co-sponsor for a child’s baseball team. In what is a great win-win, you’re able to help out a group of kids and get introduced to dozens of families who may need your services.

Leads are people. Instead of simply viewing a lead as a transaction to be completed as quickly as possible, think of it as an opportunity to create a relationship where they can become someone who introduces you to more people.

Thinking of people as a gateway to other people is a social theory called the strength of weak ties.

Social Ties = Potential Leads and Relationships

In May 1973, sociologist Mark Granovetter published The Strength of Weak Ties. The study showed that when social groups overlap, relationships overlap. It explains the sometimes-subtle connections between various social groups. When you think about relationships this way, you have the opportunity to leverage the people you know and have worked with to grow your network through shared or common relationships.

In other words, if you have a strong tie with someone, it’s likely that there exists a third person in the group who you are connected with through a weak tie. This new person isn’t quite a “lead” or a “met” person yet, but they also are not a true “haven’t met.” In the image below, this is what the dotted line symbolizes.

Despite its name, a weak tie is a remarkable strength and opportunity for your business. You simply have to connect the dots between you and the potential referral.

The more people in your network who are connected to someone, the more likely you are to have previously connected with that someone, even if it was a “weak” tie. And if you haven’t met at all, you’re likely to be able to connect by building a bridge across your social overlap.

Think about how this works in your own life in natural ways. Maybe you meet a nice neighbor you’ve never talked to at the community mailbox. Because you had a great conversation, she invites you to a happy hour at her home, where you meet a few other neighbors for the first time. These are more than simply “weak ties,” they are new relationships that can help you to build your business.

In the case of businesses, weak and strong ties can help you generate referrals. If you develop a strong tie with someone, you’ll find that you may be associated with other people through that person’s own ties. The trick to making this work is getting the people you have strong ties with to help you develop and nurture the weak ties that overlap.

Strengthen Your Weak Ties

If you’re ready to put this social theory into action, here are a few suggestions that can help your network start generating leads for you:

1. Reach out to contacts you’ve established a strong relationship with and ask them for help. 

People do business with people they know and like, and if they like you, chances are they would help you provide value to another person. Give this framework from Bellingham, Washington top agent Ben Kinney a try:

Hey X, sorry to bother you. We helped you sell/buy your home a few years back. I’m calling to ask for a favor. I’m working with a few families who are having a hard time finding homes in this market, and I made a promise to them that I would call everyone I knew until I was able to connect them with someone who can help. Do you have any real estate related plans for this year? If not, do you know anyone who does?

2. Emphasize that your contacts can bring along friends or guests to any client events you throw.

Rather than thinking of open invites as an increase in the cost of putting on an event, think about it as the investment it is. If even one person brings a friend that you can create a new social tie with or strengthen an existing one, you’ll be getting an incredible return on your investment. You’ll have a new relationship that you can nurture for your business.

3. Find places where different social circles overlap.

If you’ve been diligent about getting to know the people in your database and grouping them based on shared characteristics, you’ve got a goldmine. Simply look at what interests and people overlap and start providing value to those groups. Maybe you’ve identified that first-time home buyers tend to have dogs — you can start a targeted touch campaign that provides information about boarding facilities or groomers in your area. If even one client forwards an email or text about these furry familiars to a friend, you’ll be one step closer to establishing a new social tie.


Keeping the theory of social ties top-of-mind as you think about lead generation and nurturing activities allows your database to start rippling outward, forging connections across social networks that span farther than your original sphere of influence. It also reminds you to keep the people that you serve at the heart of your interactions — and not only because they can be gateways to others. Real estate, like many businesses, is about relationships. Making sure that you’re mindful of those relationships will help your business, and your sphere, grow.

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