High-Tech FSBO Prospecting

A new service makes tracking FSBO advertising in your area a snap.

July 1, 2002

Dear Mr. Internet,
How can I use the Internet to solicit and convert FSBOs more effectively?—Rob Johnson, Century 21 Realty Group Companies, Indianapolis, Ind.

Dear Rob,
I achieved some of my earliest real estate successes listing For Sale By Owners, so the subject is near and dear to my heart! However, instead of manually scanning newspaper classifieds and pasting the ads on index cards, as I once did, today's Internet-savvy sales professional has a myriad of online tools to help convert all those "No Thanks" to "Thank You," with a fraction of the effort.

The first step in tapping into this proverbial pipeline of new business is to have new FSBO ads delivered to your computer’s "door" each day. Here’s how.

Warnock's By Owner is an online service that scours newspaper classifieds, home sale magazines, and real estate listing Web sites daily in over 300 major U.S. market areas to find all the new FSBO ads posted in the last 24 hours. For a monthly fee of $39.00 (as of this writing), you’ll receive daily lists of these ads via e-mail or fax. The lists can even be delivered in ASCII text, comma delimited, format for easy upload into your favorite contact management system. When I think back to the work I had to do to acquire this kind of information in the "old days," I could cry.

A typical Warnock’s list includes the first time the ad ran; the medium, such as newspaper or magazine; the owners’ name, address, and phone number; and a brief description of the property. The briefness of the description is one of the few ways that the service falls behind clipping your own ads. Membership, which can be cancelled at any time, also entitles you to a free month summary of the number of FSBOs in your area and how they advertised.

But just having the list of FSBOs won’t do anything for you; you have to put that information to work. There have been whole shelves of books written on marketing to FSBOs. Their consistent theme is that telling them about your incredible marketing and negotiating skills will not often get you very far. Providing solid, valuable information and insight to help them sell their own home, will. These old principles are just as true for FSBOs you acquire via the Internet as they were when I pasted names on cards.

Any marketing campaign you put together for FSBOs should focus on genuinely helping them to achieve their goal. This way, when they finally come to realize that they need a professional, you are the one they will call. And to maximize your list-to-lead conversion percentages, you need systems that set you apart and do all the work for you. Again, the Internet and other new technologies make the job much easier.

Your FSBO Marketing Machine

Even before you start receiving your leads for Warnock.com, you need to set up an effective system that will help you initially contact and then communicate regularly with FSBOs to gain their confidence and eventually their business. Setting up your FSBO marketing machine requires four main steps.

  1. Hire an assistant to organize, contact, and track the leads from Warnock.com. A virtual assistant is ideal for this task, since the leads from Warnock can be sent anywhere via e-mail. To find a virtual assistant who might be able to help you with this kind of project, just go to the “Real Estate Support Specialists” directory at the International Virtual Assistants Association’s Web site, IVAA.org.
  2. Set up a drip e-mail system that periodically delivers tips of high value to FSBOS—“How to Get More when You Sell Your Home,” for example. To get some ideas on how to set up a drip e-mail campaign, see the May, 2002 edition of "Ask Mr. Internet." Warnock’s also offers a monthly newsletter with tips and scripts for soliciting FSBOs.
  3. Have your assistant contact each lead to get permission to include the FSBOs in your e-mail tip campaign. Your assistant’s approach in the original call should focus only on getting the prospect to opt-in to the campaign to help them sell their own homes, not to promote your services. Make sure your assistant has a good "phone presence" that will appeal to FSBOs. Also--and this is very important--determine if your assistant has to hold a real estate license in your area to do this sort of prospecting.
  4. Use your assistant or your own contact management system to remind yourself to contact the FSBO leads via phone at certain "milestone" points in each homeowner’s marketing process. For example, following up with FSBOs after an open house to ask how the event went. Keep each message in the campaign specifically designed for the FSBO market, and include questions about the process in each message. For example, use the post-open-house to offer some advice on how to make open houses more effective. And don’t forget to ask when the homeowner intends to do next, so you can decide how to follow up next time with appropriate materials. This technique is a powerful, yet non-intrusive, way to lead FSBOs to the conclusion that they could benefit from professional help--yours! It’s also possible that some FSBOs may call you to list their property simply because they received your ongoing selling tips.

It seems that relatively few sales associates want to bother with FSBOs these days. Perhaps they think that it takes too much time and bother to work them effectively. But with the help some online tools and a little creative marketing, you’ll see your FSBO lists turn into a steady stream of new listing business. The "good old days" were never this good!

Tip of the Month

How many times have you sent an e-mail attachment--like a large multimedia file--that was just too large for your virtual assistant’s vendor’s mailboxes? In the past I've recommended Whalemail as your best solution. It works great, but it costs $7.50 a month to send 10 MBS of files. A lower cost option for delivering large file online is Hypersend. This service allows you to send up to 10 MBS of files or 100 deliveries free each month (as of this writing). If you need more capacity, Hypersend charges only $5 a month for an additional 50 MBS or 500 deliveries, whichever comes first.

Like Whalemail, Hypersend uses your browser functions to bypass the problems of sending large files as e-mail attachments. You just upload the file you want to send through your Internet browser to a secure Hypersend server. Then Hypersend sends a special e-mail to the intended recipients letting them know an attached is waiting.

Downloading and installing Hypersend is fairly straightforward. However, unlike Whalemail, your recipients need to have the program installed on their machine as well to receive files. For this reason, the program may not be useful for sending materials to prospects or clients. But if you exchange large files with the same group of people all the time--like your virtual assistant--Hypersend could be a very cost effective option for you.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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