The Silent Treatment

There’s no excuse for ignoring online leads. If you don’t have time to follow up, you don’t have time to be in real estate.

March 18, 2015

“It took a year, but we got there in the end.” That’s what one agent told me recently when she and I were talking about her clients who had just bought their first home after house hunting for 12 months. Not only was the agent ecstatic that her clients had finally found a home, but, as she said to me, she now had clients for life. After sticking with them through the entire process, she knew she had won their loyalty for any future home purchases they may make—and they would also be a great pipeline for referrals for years to come.

How did she tap into such a strong reservoir of income potential? The clients came to her as an online lead through a real estate search website. They were the exact kind of lead too many agents ignore.

It’s not just agents in my MLS footprint that let this potential go to waste. In a recent study by the WAV Group, researchers posed as buyers on several major real estate portals and tracked the response rate for all their e-mail queries. The results were staggering: For 384 brokers across 11 states, the researchers found that 48 percent of buyer leads did not receive a response. This projects out to thousands of buyers who are trying to interact with our industry and receiving the silent treatment.

We need to do better than this. It isn’t simply a question of following up on leads so that they can be converted into a sale—though I will be the first to agree how important that is. It’s also about maintaining our credibility as professionals who provide a worthwhile service.

When agents rightfully point out that some of the e-mails they receive via online contact pages are not from serious buyers, that fact brings to mind the Internet concept of the “long tail.” Not every article or Web page is going to receive heavy traffic all the time, but that doesn’t mean the steady flow of visitors over an extended period of time doesn’t matter.

The same principle applies to following up on e-mail queries. Many of those phone calls won’t directly translate to a large payoff, but cumulatively, they garner an agent a deep well of goodwill that will inevitably generate a return on investment over the course of their career. Furthermore, whenever people are looking for an agent, they almost always ask their friends and family for referrals. The agents who take the time to respond to an e-mail query are the ones whose names get passed around. Following up with leads makes a difference more often than it doesn’t, even if it takes a while to get there.

Perhaps the best payoff from a follow-up call is the opportunity it gives agents to demonstrate that, unlike third-party aggregate sites, they are the only reliable source for up-to-date information about the properties. A lot of information on third-party sites is outdated. Even if the consumer has sent an e-mail about a home that has already gone under contract, it’s well worth an agent’s time to respond with a list of other homes that fit the same criteria. That shows the consumer the value of working with a real person who is in the know about what is available. 

Landing clients in real estate has always been a numbers game; that hasn’t changed. The only difference is what the playing field looks like. A five-minute phone call allows you to show your knowledge of what is on the market right now, and it demonstrates that you are a responsive professional who cares about the client. That is, and will always be, what real estate is about.

Andrew Strauch is the vice president of product innovation and marketing for MRIS, a leading mid-Atlantic MLS.