Brokers Take Control of Internet Leads

Systems help keep leads from falling through the cracks.

November 1, 2001

Not long ago, brokers and salespeople complained that they weren't getting enough leads from the Internet. Now, with the proliferation of online lead generation companies (Web site providers) and MLS-enabled "Broker Reciprocity" solutions, the opposite is true. Brokers are finding warm leads are falling through the cracks, and it's making them want to take back control of lead generation.

Although 89 percent of Internet buyers use the Internet to gather information before finding a home, they still use a real estate professional when it comes time to buy a house, according to The California Association of REALTORS' latest Internet versus traditional Homebuyers survey. A whopping 78 percent of tespondents say that they found their salespeople online.

Yet, a tremendous gap still occurs between online buyers and sellers and the salespeople who are supposed to serve them. Chip Roach, president of Fox and Roach REALTORS calls this gap a "wasteland of opportunity." Why? The leads are there, but aren't being picked up, he says.

Working with former consultant Ann Bailey of, Roach okayed surveys of his own salespeople and their response to Internet buyers. The surveys found that many leads were being left to wither. He double-checked results from the responses that the brokerage got from using lead capture tool, Showingtime is an appointment setter that is attached to each listing on the company Web site. Through Trend MLS, Fox & Roach is set up with Broker Reciprocity listings, which means that the company has all the MLS listings from participating brokers.

Roach found that when Internet buyers makes an appointment to be shown a home, salespeople are contacted by e-mail, then by fax, and finally by phone until they respond to a lead. An embarrassing 40 percent of salespeople failed to respond to these warm leads after being contacted no less than three times by Showingtime.

"It makes me want to puke," says Roach. "There's no way to ever get those buyers back."

An early adapter of Michael Russer's new salesperson training program, ePowerGroup, Roach plans to do something about the lost leads. The program is a training and support vehicle to get willing, enthusiastic salespeople to work Internet leads and encourage others to do so.

Roach isn't alone in his frustration. Other brokers have also found that leads are coming in faster than they are being picked up. According to Showingtime, as many as 50 percent of leads coming to a broker comes from other brokers' listings, if they are enabled with broker reciprocity listings. That's a lot of leads to follow-up.

But that's exactly why some brokers are taking action to control the leads through a main corporate site. This trend has become stronger with the advent of broker reciprocity with a large quantity of leads coming from other brokers' listings.

At Pardoe ERA, customers can view MLS listings through the Pardoe Passport system where they register to get in. Pardoe salespeople go through a voluntary training program which enables them to handle Internet leads in a certain way. When a consumer comes through the Passport system, then the company forwards the lead to one of the trained salespeople. If the lead is converted into a sale, the salesperson pays a 25 percent referral fee to the company.

"To be in control of lead conversion, you have to sell the company-provided leads back to the salespeople," says Sam Jackson, director of technology for Pardoe. "We haven't had any complaints because these are warm leads."

Prudential California (Nevada, Texas) Realty agrees and also charges a referral fee for company-generated leads. Again, only trained salespeople participate. PCR has a $3 million lead and customer management system in place to capture the leads.

"We don't want to lose any if we don't have to," says Ed Krafchow, president of Prudential California Realty. "This way, the leads are given to salespeople who can follow-up with the appropriate action."

Coldwell Banker Burnet also has a leads capture program--but the leads are funneled through a live human being--a leads manager, who makes the decision on how they should be distributed. If a customer isn't ready to buy, but needs information on updating services, for example, the call can be routed through the Concierge system.

Other brokers are putting leads through their relocation departments, who are already used to handling report-intensive e-mailable data for relocation clients and third-party companies.

Internet lead management may be the next trend toward market specialization. "The idea is that when you build a team, nobody has to be expert at everything - you have a team that can handle everything from waterfront properties to first-time buyers," explains Michael J. Russer, developer of ePowerGroups.

"What you will also be seeing is more accountability and responsibility between the salespeople and brokers," he says.

(c) Copyright 2001 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

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.

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