Choose Me! How to Get Online Prospects to Love You

Prospecting in the Internet age requires you to find new ways to appeal to consumers who are inundated with names and faces of other practitioners. Here's how to set yourself apart.

July 1, 2008

When I write about how to succeed in this relationship-driven business, I often compare prospecting to dating. After all, courting a customer is similar in many ways to courting a man or woman who may eventually become your partner for life.

So, when strategizing the best ways to get online customers to become your clients, I can’t help but draw parallels to the world of online dating. In both scenarios, you must make yourself memorable in a sea of potential suitors, and then grow a relationship on the Web before eventually meeting in person.

Here are some helpful tips I’ve gleaned from online dating that also apply well to real estate:   

Show them you’re special.

Don’t be common, or you'll simply be overlooked. Online customers are presented with a deluge of Web advertisements of other practitioners. They must narrow down their possibilities before they can zero in on the one they want to pursue. If your ads look like everyone else’s ads, how will prospects remember you? Advertise your niche, which will help you stand out, and provide useful information on your Web site so prospects will visit again and again throughout their home search.

Respond quickly to e-mails.

If you’ve received an e-mail from a prospect, time is of the essence. You must respond quickly and in a professional manner. Remember, the prospect has probably sent e-mails to several other agents, too. The kiss of death is a slow response time; it shows you’re just not that interested, and the prospect will move on to another practitioner. 

Be persistent.

Your potential clients are probably contacting lots of other practitioners about the listings they've seen online, and they may be overwhelmed with response e-mails. They will most likely go through stages where they contact a lot of people and then when they take a break. If you are persistent in your polite and helpful follow-ups (many practitioners use a drip-marketing campaign for this), you can gain a lot of ground during these fallow periods. It’s often not how great you are but how persistent you are that gets the girl – uh, client. Persistence proves you’re interested, and everyone wants to be wanted.

And endearing.

Now that you’re in communication with potential clients, you need to also be engaging and (dare I say it?) fun. Let your personality shine through your e-mail communications. Give them a chance to get to know you better. Offer up white papers to educate them, MP3 recordings on the real estate market or videos of you explaining how the process works and giving them “insider secrets” on how to get the most out of their transaction. The more chances they have to interact with you – even virtually through the web, the closer and more in relationship they feel with you.  

Pace yourself.

Online customers don’t want to divulge too much about themselves at first. Respect this. Don’t require that they give you their phone number or sign an agreement with you before you supply them with some information to help in their home search. Let them take time to get to know you before you take it to the next level.  

But keep moving forward.

But there is a balance to that patience. There is a point at which, if you don’t meet, you never will. Be sure conversation continues to move forward in some way, that each communication brings you a step closer to talking on the phone or meeting. Ideally, you’re looking for somewhere between three to seven e-mails before a call or appointment is garnered – depending on the depth of the detail in the e-mails. If there’s really no “chemistry” between you and the prospect, and you get the feeling that he or she isn’t really interested in continuing the relationship, don’t be afraid to move on.

Don’t forget, there’s still a place for old-fashioned courtship.

The Web fosters a quick exchange of information, and can be invaluable for consumers and real estate practitioners alike. However, just as in online dating, there’s still a need to meet face-to-face if you’re going to take the relationship to the next level. Granted, online customers have to get to know you and become comfortable with you before they’re willing to give up their anonymity, much less meet for an appointment. In other words, give them a chance to hold your hand before you ask them to marry you.

Kelle Sparta is the author ofThe Consultative Real Estate Agent: Building Relationships that Create Loyal Clients, Get More Referrals, and Increase Your Sales(AMACOM, 2005). She is also the founder of Sparta Success Systems , a real estate training company.