Expanding your real estate company takes time, dedication, and focus. In the following interview, Vicki Eisel Starinsky Owner/REALTOR® with EXIT Today Realty in Columbus, Ohio, discusses breaking new grounds and fueling company growth.
Vicki, you’ve been in real estate for 12 years, managing a small office with half a dozen agents. You recently began reaching out to a larger market area, recruiting agents to join your team. Is it true you plan to fuel this rapid growth with online leads?
That’s the main objective. My plan is to expand into additional satellite offices with inside sales agents (ISAs) who are working the online leads. So it’s a three-point approach: Increase online leads, recruit great agents, and build infrastructure.
What would you say to an agent considering joining your team? What can you offer them?
Agents are looking for two things: training and clients to work with. The biggest thing that sets me apart is the fact that I have more buyers and sellers right now than I have agents to work them. I also offer a lot of other perks, including the use of paperless documents, electronic signatures, digital marketing and free websites to help my agents be more productive and efficient.
If you’re breaking into new territory, does this mean you’ll source leads from adjoining towns or are you thinking bigger?
I’m focusing on counties now since I’ve gone so broad in the state of Ohio. I have bought leads by zip code in the past, but I’m finding a lot of success with a broader approach obtaining leads in counties across the state.
You mentioned “ISAs” and infrastructure. As you expand and bring in more agents to handle your lead volume, how will you keep track of who is working what lead?
I keep track of all my leads with tools called FiveStreet and Top Producer. Not only do these programs help me oversee who’s getting what lead, they also act as communication tools so that I can touch base with the team leader in each of those areas.
Can you tell me how agents receive a new lead from you and what procedures you put in place so they’ll be able to react?
When a new lead comes in, agents receive both an email and a text so they can claim the lead right from their phone if they aren’t in the office. The lead is distributed to the agent who is most available to handle it by responding quickly, meaning to make phone contact immediately. It’s all about building rapport and ensures our success with these leads.
I assume these online leads are closing and you’re able to keep your expanded team busy enough where they’re sustaining themselves?
We’re receiving a lot of really good buyer and seller leads from realtor.com®. In fact, the first realtor.com® lead I accepted and worked with just closed recently. All of my agents have leads that they’re working, and there are plenty to go around as the company continues to grow. My plans are to dominate the Columbus market.
How are online prospects communicated with if they don’t buy right away?
Communicating with prospects who aren’t ready to buy is an important piece of the puzzle, and I use Top Producer, which makes it easy to stay in touch. If the lead is interested in receiving listings, they’re put into our MLS database, and will continue to get listings until they’re ready to buy. Top Producer also allows us to put prospects on campaigns so that we can stay in touch and send out newsletters and other marketing materials.
You mentioned that you get your leads from realtor.com®. Why this choice? Have you compared lead quality with the others?
During my time as an agent, I have used numerous lead-generating sites; however, the leads I received from these sites weren’t warm. In most cases, the leads didn’t even expect a call back. With realtor.com®, it’s as if the leads coming in are begging me to show them properties. In addition to the buyer’s eagerness to see properties, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the legitimacy of the contact information with the leads coming from realtor.com®. At least 98 percent of these people have given legitimate/correct contact info—phone and email—indicating that these are serious prospects. While realtor.com® is one of the main places prospective buyers search for homes, people are educating themselves way before they ever contact a real estate agent. Realtor.com® also updates their information quite often, which makes a big difference when it comes to lead quality and the accuracy of the property information on which they inquired.
You seem geared up for success with these products. What kind of support do you receive from realtor.com® to help you plan and implement your programs?
They have walked me through this from the beginning. Michael Lerner, new business broker consultant at Move, has helped me with a lot more than managing the leads coming in from realtor.com® and getting FiveStreet up and running. He’s made himself available if I have questions and he’s been instrumental in coming up with ways to help me succeed and make my business more profitable.
How do you train all the new recruits and your present team on these evolving lead systems?
I make it a point to take advantage of as much free training as possible, and the training offered by realtor.com® specific to these leads at a broker and agent level has been great. It’s crucial that my agents and I take part in any and all training surrounding these various programs so that I know everyone is handling leads the same way. We have trainers coming into the office for hands-on training, as well as webinars and, of course, personal coaching.
What else are you considering adding to your mix to make your expanded team more successful?
I’m planning on incorporating MarketSnapshot into the mix in the very near future. Having used the program in the past on an agent level, I’ve found that going out of your way and giving people something of value will ultimately make them more loyal. I’m also adding more training events to help my agents stay on top of the ever-changing market.
For more information, please visit www.realtor.com.