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By Daniel Kaiser

RISMEDIA, Feb. 1, 2008-As a real estate agent, you must think like the CEO of your own business, because in reality, that’s what you are-responsible for everything!

Let’s face it. We all know that the current market has slowed, and for some, this has hit too close to home. Whether you’re the agent that says, “most of my business comes from referrals,” or the agent who, “gets most of my leads online,” there are ways to concentrate your efforts and increase the percentage of leads converted to income. NAR states that approximately 77% of all home buyers start with the Internet. In other words, this is where they enter your world.

Let’s start by asking yourself… What is the recipe for success with e-business? How can I cultivate electronic leads into face-time?

As the CEO of your business it is up to you to utilize all of the amazing new tools, and have faith in your good old-fashioned salesmanship, and open new doors.

Understanding that sales no longer fall in your lap, is the first step in realizing that you can’t continue with the same old plan, and expect new results.

Understanding the Value of an Internet Lead

The key to success when capturing Internet leads begins with an understanding of the subtle, but important differences between an Internet lead and a traditional lead. The sales cycles are very different because an Internet lead comes with a different timeframe than traditional buyers and sellers.

Very often, an agent makes the mistake of not seeing the value in an Internet lead, thinking it’s a waste of time. But you must start understanding that E-consumers are your future, and necessary for your survival in such a volatile market. They are necessary for your business to be a success!

What Is an Internet Lead?

In sales, we all expect instant gratification, so it’s easy to dismiss leads because they aren’t “low hanging fruit,” and require cultivation. To better understand the motivation of the e-consumer we must define a lead. An Internet lead is an e-consumer that is simply researching information.

If you don’t recognize the difference in the sales cycle of the Internet buyer versus the traditional buyer, you will most likely lose the potential sale.

Most agents won’t work a lead if they aren’t ready to move now. Therefore, understanding the sales funnel process of a lead is essential to success.

The Sales Funnel System

The most important thing to remember is that a lead is simply a seeker of information; and that you have no ownership of these leads.

Lead: An e-consumer that researches information

Prospect: A lead that has the potential of working with a real estate agent

Client: A prospect that has chosen an agent and has an established relationship of trust that can lead to a closed transaction

Lead Capture

The number one reason consumers visit real estate website is to view listings. Every agent should have a corporate or personal agent website that captures leads from an IDX view and distribution system to deliver the leads to you.

Response Time

A common mistake often made by agents is to not understand the sales cycle of the e-consumer, and the need for a quick response to an information request. Remember-the best method of response has always been the telephone. While e-mails responses and drip e-mails can be effective, when a lead doesn’t respond back, these are far too often used by agents as a crutch. It is much better to talk to someone in person; otherwise it is more difficult to begin building a relationship of trust. This is best accomplished by a personal approach. It can be a public relations nightmare if you are not responding quickly and effectively to these potential leads.

E-Team Agent Defined

The E-Team agent should possess an understanding and be willing to accept the differences between Internet and traditional buyers; and the sales cycle process .

The E-Team agent should be E- certified, and be willing to assist leads and response to all requests immediately.
You need to have substantial phone skills, rapport and relationship building; and use all of the traditional selling skills in combination with high tech knowledge to work diligently toward converting leads into closed transactions.

Distribution of Leads

A broker will often ask – “should I distribute Internet leads to the entire agent population or only to an E-team?”

The value of an e-team is that you have a group of agents specialized in, and dedicated to the service levels necessary to move a leads through incubation to a closed transaction. Distributing leads to all agents may result in most leads being cast aside as not valuable because not all agents have the time or dedication level to work the lead effectively and appropriately.

Contact Management (CRMs)

The single most important factor in having a more successful business is capturing leads and cultivating more prospects. Success is long-term action that is built from a process, and building a successful business does not happen overnight. It is important to have a lead generation system that will automatically build and maintain long-term relationships with hundreds of prospects at once. This will create a waiting line of prospects available to buy or sell; which will decrease the peaks and valleys in income.

Even the most organized agent is not consistent in managing and delivering information to prospects. Distractions are the nature of the industry and most agents find themselves behind in their follow up campaigns and soon lose interest and eventually may lose the prospect. The company that is steady and systematic in follow up that keeps their name in front of the prospect minds; will be the firm/agent of choice; when it is time to buy or sell.

Drip E-Mail Campaigns

What is a real estate-related DRIP E-Mail Campaign? DRIP e-mail campaigns are a means to send potential individual clients a steady flow of correspondence over a specific period of time. DRIP campaigns initially gained popularity with real estate agents as they attempted to keep in touch with clients during the passive stage of the home-buying process. It also can be a method of keeping your name and branding in front of your clients. However, it is unlikely that a closed transaction will result from simply a DRIP campaign of unsolicited e-mails. So is it really an effective marketing tool? As real estate professionals we should take the high road and reconsider DRIP as a marketing tool.

Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have recently tightened up their e-mail restrictions on SPAM. This has caused the need to develop systems ands programming to meet these new requirements for delivery; including an opt-in and opt out options.

The DRIP messages must appear to come from you and not from a mass e-mail server or will automatically be classified as SPAM. The recent CANSPAM Legislation provides rules for commercial e-mail. Internet Service Providers are able to block any e-mails that they consider to be SPAM and each may have a definition of what constitutes SPAM. Since most DRIP e-mails are not opt-in, by definition they are SPAM. The fine for SPAM violation can be substantial, so is it really worth the risk? Good old fashioned selling skills are much more effective. Try not to use DRIP e-mails as a crutch. Call them! They will be surprised someone actually made an effort to get back to them.

E-consumers Are Your Future

Many firms take this e-business very seriously and convert in-excess of 25% of the Internet leads they capture from websites. You want leads, but not all agents know how to effectively run a business. Think like a CEO, run your business, and then you will convert more leads.

About the Author:

Daniel Kaiser has over 25 years of experience in the Real Estate industry. He began his Real Estate career with John L. Scott Real Estate and then at Prudential as a trainer and consultant for affiliates. Over the last ten years he has authored and presented courses on Internet Technology Marketing for REALTORS.

For more information, e-mail or call 480.612.2863.