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RISMEDIA, June 17, 2010—Two months ago, I wrote about this topic and received a lot of great feedback and requests for more information. It’s an area of our business that is ripe for change and as the market begins to thaw, one that is begging for our attention.

Last fall, as part of our Camp REinvent™ coaching program, we “secret shopped” eight of our clients to see how quickly their agents responded to Internet leads. We randomly selected five agents from each company and sent e-mails asking to be contacted. The message specified the part of town we were interested in, the amount of money we were willing to spend and the approximate timing of our move. Pretty qualified lead, wouldn’t you say?

Out of 40 total e-mails sent, we got one response within an hour, one five hours later, one 10 hours later and one 24 hours later. Believe it or not, 36 of the 40 e-mails went unanswered! NAR stats are not quite as bad; however, it is pretty well accepted that almost half of Internet leads go unanswered and most of the balance called one or two days later.

Imagine letting someone sit in your lobby without addressing their existence. After a certain period of time, they would get up and leave, disgusted with the poor service.

That’s probably happening right now with your online consumer unless you have some sort of system in place to handle those leads. It’s just too easy for a consumer to get information nowadays, so if you don’t get back to them in an acceptable period of time (under an hour, in my opinion), they are just going to type in your competitor’s URL and give them a shot…possibly writing you off forever.

NAR also tells us that only 7% of consumers are ready to buy within 30 days. Agents know this and since most of them are only interested in “hot” leads, they let many Internet leads fall through the cracks. According to an MIT study, the probability of converting an Internet lead decreases six times after the first hour, so whoever gets to that consumer first is going to win. By the way, they win 93% of the time, according to NAR.

Consider this, depending on the size of your company, you may be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every year driving traffic to your site and hosting it. When a lead comes in, many of you are leaving it completely up to the agents to follow up. That is not a good strategy if you want to win over the online consumer who is becoming more and more prominent every day. You have three choices:

-Keep doing things the same way as the market gets better. Unfortunately, as things get better, many will take this approach, not accepting the world has changed and Internet lead management is now critical to their success.

-Hire someone internally to be your Internet lead management department. However, unless you are one of the large regionals or a national company, you probably don’t have enough lead volume to justify a real call center and will only be putting a Band-Aid on the problem.

-Outsource your Internet lead management to a call center. In this scenario, you are sharing a professional call center with other clients, thus allowing the expense to be spread out over many companies.

The world has changed these past few years and we need to change with it. If there is one area I see over and over again that brokers are, in effect, leaving to chance, it’s this one. How much more money are you willing to leave on the table?

Jose Perez is the president of PCMS Consulting, a full service consulting, sales and management organization that specializes in real estate industry issues.

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