The best referrals for REALTORS® come from total strangers, not family, friends or colleagues, says Chicago-area REALTOR® Tommy Choi.

His success comes from the relationships he forms with people who are outside of his “friend zone,” who have different interests and different friends. He asks those new acquaintances an important question: “What is one struggle in your life I can support you with?” Then he uses their answers to build relationships with them.

Choi was the guest speaker for the Illinois REALTORS® YPN discussion Wednesday afternoon at the Illinois REALTORS Fall Business Meetings at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard.

The Chicago Association of REALTORS® president avoids asking for anything from his new acquaintances before he can make three “deposits” in their accounts. In other words, he calls them on their birthdays, mails memorable hand-written notes or helps them with their aforementioned struggles.

Choi sets a goal for meeting a specific number of acquaintances in a year and uses his calendar to stay on track. He’s known for fostering new friendships at dinners he hosts in his home. He says his methods will help REALTORS® build inflation-proof businesses but the growth will take time.