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By Sean Black

With more people than ever searching for homes on the Internet, online real estate search companies such as Trulia are emerging almost daily with new opportunities for real estate professionals to get online leads. The dilemma for many brokers, however, isn't getting more Internet leads; it's converting those leads into closed sales. Common challenges we hear include:

• "The bulk of my leads go unanswered by unresponsive agents" or
• "I have little or no incentive to enhance my agents' listings online because there is no clear way to track the results or measure payback."

An obvious solution is to redirect listings back to your own call center to qualify them. But many brokers are hesitant to redirect Internet leads from their agents' own (non-IDX) listings.

But the reality is that most real estate agents do not have the resources, processes and systems to successfully qualify, nurture and manage large volumes of Internet leads. In fact, Business Week reported that 80% of all Internet leads are lost, discarded or never responded to. Realtor.com reported that 71% of their leads to agents go unanswered. And the National Association of Realtors cites "lead response" as a critical issue for the industry. The lack of centralized, consistent customer service centers now results in thousands of lost sales and millions of dollars in lost commissions.

Solution: Rapid Response Real Estate

With the goal of turning more Trulia surfers into buyers, Prudential Georgia Realty created the Rapid Response Real Estate program to enable their call center to qualify leads for their listing agents for free while still giving their agents the first opportunity to establish contact with those leads.

Working as an inside sales partner for the field agents, the call center responds to every lead within minutes, answering routine inquiries on the spot and obtaining more accurate contact information.

Qualified buyers and sellers are forwarded to the listing agent, who then has the right-of-first refusal to service the lead. Prudential Georgia utilizes a lead-management process that notifies the agent via e-mail and text message. If the listing agent declines the lead or does not respond, the call center assigns it to another available agent. In some cases, the listings agent even gets a 5% referral fee if another agent in the company closes the deal.

Prudential Georgia benefits in multiple ways:

1. Brand building through fast, quality response to consumer inquiries
2. Increased commissions by letting fewer leads escape
3. Future revenue through customer loyalty
4. Recruiting and retention tool for agents
5. Ability to fully track Trulia leads to transactions

Prudential Georgia has increased annual gross commission income by over $1 million, decreased its average lead response time to 15 minutes, improved internal lead generation and tracking and delivered thousands of incremental leads to its agents. RE

Sean Black is the vice president of sales for Trulia.com. For more information, read the full "Rapid Response Real Estate" case study at www.trulia.com/truth.

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