Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.
What Do You Do with Too Many Leads?
Programs help practitioners with lead management
October 1, 2001
California broker Barbara Simmons had the kind of problem most salespeople wish they had--she was getting too many leads on her Website. So, she turned to her Mastermind Group, and collectively, top producers from across the country came up with lead management solutions for her. Simmons is a two-year customer of Best Image Marketing, a Web site design and lead generation program that includes search engine placement, banner advertising, and directory placement.
"We had so many leads every day, and we would respond to them," Simmons says, "Then, if we didn't hear back, we didn't know what to do with them because we had the next day's leads to deal with. So good leads kept falling between the cracks." Simmons brought her problem to her Mastermind Group--a collective of a few dozen top producers around the U.S. According to Simmons, many of these salespeople were experiencing the same problem. Led by salesperson Tom Conway, the Group designed an automated lead management "drip" system that uses repeated e-mail contacts to keep a real estate professional's name in prospects' minds long after the first inquiry. The utility program they created, Intersend.com, automatically e-mails a series of follow-up letters at regular intervals for a year after the initial contact.
Without a prospect follow-up system like InterSend, Simmons says she could never handle the volume of strong leads her site generates. "I just got a new client who had been sent automated messages for three weeks," she says. "The woman said, 'I'm really sorry I didn't get back to you. Here's what we want.' That client would have fallen through the cracks otherwise." Simmons also uses other follow-up systems that are provided on her Website. For example, a button on her site's menu reads "MLS Trac," and takes people onto a page where they are invited to sign up to receive e-mails or faxes about the latest listings to appear on the local MLS. Actually, MLS Trac consists of three software programs developed by SOAR Solutions that automatically search an MLS to send property information to buyers and prepare CMA updates for sellers. Based on criteria the buyer enters on Simmons' MLS Trac page, SOAR provides effortless updates as often as twice a day. Simmons also learned about SOAR through the Mastermind Group.
For most practitioners, the hardest part about getting a Website going is gathering dynamic information: photos, community information and links, to put on the site. Not so for Simmons. She was able to find great photos, including aerial shots of her community, for her "Check Out My Town" page. And she pulled the various government, civic and school district links that appear on her pages off her previous site.Now, when out-of-town buyers e-mail her with questions or requests, Simmons is confident they've already been to her site, have read her community information and have seen photos of her towns and her homes.
Interestingly, the question she's most often asked is, "Do you have school test scores?" And she refers them to her site for that data, too. "A lot of vendors try to sell that stuff to salespeople," she says, "but you can get a direct link to test scores yourself. On the Internet, it's free. You just have to search for it." After more than 20 years as a successful salesperson and broker, Simmons says that 1999 was her pivotal year in the business, because it's the year she decided to learn the new technology she would use from now until retirement. "I wanted to move ahead of my competitors," she says, "and I have. I probably have a five-year jump on them, just by taking advantage of technology."
Most salespeople haven't yet embraced technology because the market's been so good to them that they haven't had to, she says. "But one day," Simmons argues, "when the market changes, the 2 percent of salespeople and brokers who are technologically savvy and have great Web sites will own the market, won't they?" So how does she get all those leads? Simmons credits her Best Image Marketing Web site. "It has a pop-up feature called Be My Guest™ that appears automatically whenever a visitor clicks on a particular property on my Listings page," explains Simmons. "Be My Guest asks the visitor to fill in their name and e-mail address prior to viewing the next screen."
Simmons also adds other brokers' listings (by permission) and FSBOs so that her listings are more comprehensive than her competitors. "If you don't have inventory, you won't be successful," says Simmons. When she receives that initial form in her email, Simmons responds by, first, thanking people for visiting her site – and using her site's domain name in the response, because those people may have visited other sites. Then she asks if they would like to receive e-mails of homes currently for sale in the area. Most say, "Yes." She then writes back, "If you give me your parameters, I'll be happy to email those homes to you." Simmons then scours her MLS for homes that fit those visitors' needs, and emails those listings from the MLS.
"I think I'm one of the few salespeople in my area who knows how to e-mail listings that way," she says. "It's a feature of our MLS, and you just have to be able to access the MLS, learn how to attach and download the homes, and send them out with photos." "When I ask buyers if they want me to e-mail them listings, they often say, 'I didn't know you could do that'. But it's better than faxing, because people aren't always allowed to get faxes at work.
"Now, if they don't have e-mail, I usually don't work with them," says Simmons.
(c) Copyright 2001 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.
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