The right equation of tools and time can harness major industry success. Read the following interview with Richard Tocado of the Tocado Realty Group to learn several winning real estate tips and tricks.
The Tocado Realty Group
Years in business: 12
Region served: Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Atlanta Metro Area
Number of offices: One brick and mortar plus virtual agents in other regions
Number of agents: 50
How have you fueled and expanded your business through online leads?
The Internet has changed the real estate landscape. The guys who control the leads are the ones who are going to be big. When I first got into the business, the Internet wasn’t around much and people didn’t use it the way they do today. Now people are picking houses out online, and in hot markets, they don’t want to wait. They call an agent and ask to meet at a listing and agents are walking out the door with contracts. The Internet opens up business for me nationally. I couldn’t do business in Atlanta 15 years ago, but now, agents in other markets work for other firms but are part of my group. They contract with me.
Can you tell us a little about where you were and how you have grown your business in the past couple of years?
Two years ago, we had to learn how to work with and be successful with Internet leads. I began working with realtor.com® 45 days ago (at press time), and right now, realtor.com® has the best leads I can buy. In the past, people were asked to register, but that gave you a watered-down lead. They didn’t really want to talk to an agent—they just wanted to look. With realtor.com®, these are people who are actually interested in a house and have actually made an inquiry, as opposed to just registering. We close seven out of 10 leads on realtor.com®, whereas it used to be one out of 25.
What is the art and science that makes someone successful with online leads?
A lot of phone calls have to be made and there needs to be a lot of follow up. We have checks and balances in place by using an outside call center in addition to the agent. The human condition assumes that if you haven’t heard back from someone after 2 – 3 times, that they’re not interested. But that’s not the case—sometimes you have to call 10 – 12 times.
Most importantly, you have to have the right agent. The agent has to have tenacity and know how to ask the right questions. Real estate looks sexy from the outside because of the opportunity to make a lot of money. What a lot of agents don’t realize, though, is how many times you have to work with someone to get a sale, and how stressful and demanding it can be. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it process—it’s not like I write a check to realtor.com® and the money just comes flowing in. The best thing an agent can do is get the lead on the phone and get a conversation going. Then they need to stay in touch using a CRM drip campaign. We use Top Producer and BoomTown. You have to provide constant communication in a way that gives them information, such as a newsletter or information about the market.
How important is response time in converting online leads?
Agents are required to call a lead back immediately. They’re not supposed to take a lead unless they can call the person the minute it comes in. People want information immediately—if they have to wait too long, they will go somewhere else. Top Producer makes it so easy to transfer leads if a sales associate is not responding. It’s very important for any firm that you live inside of these CRMs.
Do your team members get discouraged when online leads don’t respond? How persistent do you have to be?
It’s all about experience—it’s called the hard knock school of real estate! When agents call a lead and they’re not really interested, it plays on their psyche and attitude. With realtor.com®, every time they call someone, it’s a real lead and they’re interested and happy the agent called. This creates a much better mindset for the agent.
How do you qualify an Internet lead? What do you do with the leads that are obviously not going to move right away?
We determine if they’re ready to make a move within 60 days. If not, we set them to future status and put them into a database and into our marketing machine. Over time, month after month, we send them emails. Basically, the only way we stop contact with someone is if they tell us never to call again…and then they have to tell us a couple of times! Buying a house is a huge process and you don’t talk anyone into it—so there’s no reason for them to ever feel pressure from us. My people call and say, “Richard Tocado wanted me to call you personally to see if you or anyone you know is in the market to buy or sell a house.” Just by doing that, we have three or four people a day who say, “I’d like to look at something.”
How do you handle leads where the customer wants to buy in an area too far to service from your office?
We work with a Keller Williams or RE/MAX office.
When it comes to closing leads, what is it that agents don’t do well that you can help them with at the brokerage level?
They don’t really understand the mortgage process or the closing dates based on first contract. They don’t follow up and communicate with the lender, appraiser and inspector. There are a lot of pieces that have to come together to close on time. One thing we can do is help them work with the right appraiser and inspector. As a broker, it’s imperative to have vendors you trust.
Does your online lead system help you recruit agents?
Absolutely. We do a 50 percent split, because we invest a lot and do a lot for our agents, so they can be successful. We’re all about transactions. If you work for me, you’re going to make a good living—otherwise, you’re not going to work for me. I look for agents that are driven. I don’t care what your experience level is, or what brand you came from—I want a new agent who is hungry and wants to work.
For more information, visit www.marketing.realtor.com.