Broker/owners seem to have a love/hate relationship with online internet leads. They often struggle with the feeling of obligation to deliver leads to their agents, and with the high cost to generate leads and the unfortunate management that glean little results.
The lack of success with internet leads is usually based on the real estate agents who should be responding to and nurturing those leads, but instead, complain that internet leads are bad. I assure you, they are not bad. There is no type of online inquiry from a human being looking at properties that is “bad.” The inquirer may not be ready to pull the trigger at that very moment or they may not have enough for a down payment at this time, but they aren’t bad. As long as there is intent, it is viable. There are many agents and teams that have wildly successful business models that include internet leads.
I had a front row seat to developing a process to manage internet leads at a corporate level in 2002. That was the year the company I was working for asked me to start up the internet lead management program. I didn’t know anything about internet leads, or the online shopper, and I had never managed a call center. Zillow wasn’t a thing yet, and there were not any brokers who had figured out how to effectively manage leads.
The consumer was starting to show interest in looking at properties online. Unfortunately, the agents were not showing the same interest in responding to those inquiries.
Fast forward to 14 years later. We had evolved the program to have nine full-time staff working seven days a week facilitating over 50,000 online leads a year in five states. We were earning over $4 million dollars in profit annually in the internet lead department from referral fees and millions more in company dollar retained in each company and paid out to agents in commissions.
I had a hard-working staff leading the program that was creative and unafraid to try new things. If something didn’t work, we scrapped it and moved on to the next strategy to improve nurturing and conversion.
The consumer, agent and the lead aggregators have evolved dramatically since 2002. The pandemic has pushed even more consumers online to search for homes. Many have determined that living in a crowded metropolitan area or a small apartment may not be for them any longer.
Virtual tours are here to stay and may shorten the house hunting time by giving the shopper a more real viewing experience and allowing the process of elimination to be virtual, instead of in person, which saves the agent time.
There is a lot more data science, artificial intelligence and algorithms that factor in now, but some things haven’t changed. Many real estate agents still don’t value online leads, so they don’t engage the prospect long enough to achieve success. If the inquiry is made on a listing that is no longer available, then the listing agent will often ghost the prospect. It’s not just about selling a listing, it’s about securing a new client. So many buyers being ignored. To have a successful online lead management program as a broker, there are some things that must take place.
Brokerages need to:
– Contact people fast, really fast—within 15 seconds of the inquiry.
– Make sure your website is easy to use, engaging and informative so the prospect has a rewarding digital experience.
– Seek out your team of eAgents who understand and will patiently court and build rapport with the online shopper for as long as it takes.
– Offer the listing inquiry to the listing agent, but if they don’t accept the lead within the designated time period, route it to an eTeam agent for immediate response.
– Have a highly trained staff (in a call center environment) that is tenacious and willing to try new things to move the needle on conversion. If you want to outsource it, make sure you have control on how your leads are managed, scrubbed and distributed.
– Get some routing and lead management software, and a call center phone system that all seamlessly integrate.
– Actively coach and observe, through management software, the eAgent’s interactions with the prospect.
– When an agent marks a lead dead, don’t let it die there. Have your call center reach out to the prospect and reassign it to an eTeam agent if it’s still viable,
– Constantly monitor the performance, through reporting, of the eAgent team and make changes to remove team members who don’t meet established metrics.
– Don’t get hung up on how long an agent has been in the business. Some of the best eAgents are newer to the business.
– Monitor leads seven days a week with extended service hours—24/7 is even better.
– Offer easy-to-use marketing tools and scripts for the agents to generate customizable drip campaigns and keep the dialogue and engagement moving forward.
– Provide best practices to the eAgent team to share success stories and training tips
– Communicate with your eAgents regularly and provide report cards and acknowledge successes
– Establish a decent SEO budget to ensure your company website shows up in searches
– Make sure your website has your call center contact information on every page and a call to action button.
– Develop partnerships with outside aggregators whose only job is gathering online leads and distributing them out to brokers. Some are now working on referral fee-based models versus per-lead fees. Make your peace with them, they aren’t going away.
– Have a strategic plan and someone at the helm that is motivated to achieve success.
I hear real estate agents talk about lead fatigue. The field is crowded with everyone fighting for the same leads, but if you have a solid plan, an easy-to-use website, excellent software and marketing, a strong lead management staff, and an enthusiastic and dedicated eTeam of agents, internet leads can be a very profitable business line for a brokerage and their agents.
Teresa R. Howe, founder of TRH Real Estate and Relocation Consulting, has a 30-year track record of developing and managing highly profitable programs and services for the real estate industry. For a free assessment of what services might be right for your company, contact Howe at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit teresahowe.com.