Real estate leaders Sydney Waits, Kevin Markarian and Keith Dunham all grew their businesses with internet leads. In a nutshell, these three smart agents shared their amazing insights with the online community either through StreetText’s Facebook Group or Active Rain. We’re releasing a multipart series to share these insights with you in an actionable format.
Before we get started, here’s a quick introduction of who these agents are and the amazing results they are achieving.
Marker Real Estate
Real estate leader since 2002 (Team)
Kevin Markarian, of Marker Real Estate, grew his real estate volume from $14 million in 2013 to $80 million in 2015. “I decided to go all in from 30 leads to 300 leads within a month,” Kevin says. “It forced me to build a team of agents to follow up and reach out to the inquiries and then assign those clients to people of our team.”
HomeCity Real Estate
Real estate leader since 2006 (Team)
Keith Dunham, from HomeCity Real Estate, manages 2,000 realtor.com leads per month. He drove his business from $4 million in 2014 to a whopping $50 million in 2015. “If you are going to run your own business, you’ve got to go all in,” remarks Keith. It is clear from the interview that Keith sees lead generation as an investment worth making and worth nurturing. “When you realize how expensive leads are, if you want to stay in this game you have to follow up and stay in touch with them.”
Real estate leader since 2014 (Individual Agent)
Finally, Sydney Waits, from RE/MAX Heritage, grew her real estate business from 15 transactions her first year to over 60 within her 3rd. She believes in providing amazing value to her potential clients. If she doesn’t reach them, she’s dropping off a gift — a box of brownies is her favourite — to win them over. That’s the kind of zeal Waits has for her business. “Facebook is by far my most profitable marketing using StreetText,” she notes. “The StreetText platform is amazing.” “There are certain neighborhoods where I really, financially, invest in. Because I want them to know my name. Even if they don’t plan to sell for 10 years. I send them stuff seasonally, or on holidays, or when I’m chasing down a listing.”
How are you turning leads from sources like Realtor.com, Trulia, Facebook and Google Ad Words into referrals?
When you read the reviews on Trulia leads you get mixed stories.
Kimshai S. Hooks, an Agent based in Los Angeles, CA posted, “When I first started out utilizing Trulia they were the greatest and [received a] vast response with buyer leads, but this was a few years ago. Now I may receive 1-2 buyer leads around billing time and I cover 20+zip codes at a 4% up=1200 views per month, I don’t care for the buyer lead service, as its just a large bill far outside of my budget in 2015.”
Whereas, David Woods, an Agent from San Diego, CA writes “I have been very successful on Trulia for lead generation. My Team and I have received over 20 solid leads since Nov 2014 (and 50 less solid) and we are excited to continue working with Trulia in the busy season of 2015. With some online training provided free from Trulia we have learned how to cultivate the leads into stronger leads. It takes about 5 months for a lead to actually close. Perseverance, follow-up and tracking are key!”
The same is true when you Google reviews on Realtor.com leads as well.
Bary Stewart, an Agent out of Watertown, NY says, “I use realtor.com and it is probably my best source of leads other than recommendations from previous clients. Realtor.com is relatively inexpensive at $200 per month for a guaranteed 8 leads per month. When they send you a lead you are the only agent getting that lead and if that same person does a second, third, or fourth inquiry it will come to you since you started out with them on the first one. The quality of leads has been heads and shoulders above Zillow and Trulia and my conversion rate is way higher.”
Yet, Terry Dyer, an agent from San Diego, CA says, “I’ve been paying for Realtor.com leads for over a year. Am hoping to build a team so I’ve been investing a LOT of money…more than $5000 per month. After months of asking my account rep Mary Padilla sent me a spreadsheet of my leads. I deleted the duplicate e-mail addresses and found over 500 duplicates. […] I’ve been billed $25,000 for the same information..the same buyers…..over and over…..Realtor.com says they consider one person can be multiple leads.”
So how is that Kevin, Keith and Sydney are able to grow their business so substantially from the same lead providers?
It turns out that it has to do with the way they are following up with their leads.
Keith Dunham, of HomeCity, Kevin Markarian, of Marker Real Estate, and Sydney Waits of RE/MAX Heritage continued to follow up with their leads for over a year.
“You can’t just say, ‘I didn’t get anything from [these leads]. You have to attack it from every angle,'” says Sydney.
Initially, they respond with the information they inquired about. Whether it’s a buying wanting more information about a property or a seller curious about their own home. Kevin explains, “We give them info about the property. I saw you inquired about 123 Mainstreet, are you still interested?”
They will send them some more information that relates to their needs. Such as, new listings coming up in the area as well.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Mike, another real estate leader from HomeCity, continues, “We actually provide quite a bit of content. Anything from market days, from DIY tips, hot new restaurants. These are things we believe will keep them engaged.”
But the key, Kevin says, is to base it around starting a conversation. We send content with 1 or 2 sentences. “Hey, we are just checking in…”
“Then we use email to track opens and clicks. We take that list and sort it by most opens, most clicks, etc,” says Kevin. That informs them about who the most engaged prospects are.
So you would attribute your results to your follow up activities?
“The leads aren’t loyal to anyone, they came through the internet. If you don’t follow up someone else will,” says Kevin. “We have a 32 day follow up schedule.”
For example, “We had five inquiries that came in on the same day. Using our follow up schedule, within 17 days all of them had been touched with an email, text message or phone call 26 times. All five of those people, after they had been touched on the 17th day, all five raised their hand and finally responded.”
Keith agreed and explained that you need to, “be consistent over a 30 day period of time.” Because ultimately, “that’s the person [the prospect] wants to do business with.”
“The majority of what you mail out is going to be thrown in the trash. You need to be aware of that. But I’ve gotten a listing appointment this summer and the client filled out the StreetText, I sent them a RPR, they never even opened it, because I track all my emails. Then I get a call later in the week. ‘We would love to meet with you and have you come look at our house.’ When I got to the house they said, ‘You know it’s so funny, I don’t know how you knew that we were wanting to sell our house. But we were just talking about wanting to sell our house and then we got your postcard in the mail. They requested a value, but they never even opened the report. But that post card got them to call me.” Sydney Waits
How do you validate your leads?
It’s simple, says Keith. There are 4 key attributes he looks for when having a conversation with his prospects.
- The person has to buy within 12 months.
- They are not working with another real estate agent
- Must be creditworthy
- Willing to give us the business
One of the key insights that were shared was that they don’t ask whether or not they are working with another agent. Instead, they ask, “are you committed to an agent.” They explained, a person may have contacted 5 agents already, that doesn’t mean they are committed to any of them.
Sydney strategy is a bit different. “There are some leads that I put right in the trash. First of all, I go through and vet my leads.”
“I search their address in the MLS and see if it sold within the last year. And if they just moved into the house I’m going to put it really low on the priority list. It keeps me from chasing leads that honestly just are curious,” says Sydney. “Sometimes I pull houses and I see that they are actually active … I get 8 or 9 leads per day, on average I get 3 per day, there is plenty of time to do this.” This ensures she’s spending her time following up with people who are most likely to buy or sell within a reasonable timeframe.
Do you treat leads from internet sources different than referrals?
Keith says,”the industry average conversion rate is 1% of every online lead. We shoot for 3%. That allows us rate of return. Calling, calling, and following up. We call them referrals after they have been through our [inside sales agent].”
He continues, “When you realize how expensive leads are if you want to stay in this game you have to follow up and stay in touch with them. If you are going to run your own business, you’ve got to go all in. What is your time worth? As technology evolves you are going to continue to need to set aside your budget or you are going to miss opportunities.”
Mike Pritchard explains, “When you look at leads that register at a website. Historically they are a 9-month close. From Realtor, Zillow, anyone who makes a property inquiry that is a 3-4 month close. They are up the funnel. ROI is a simple formula, what did I pay for the lead, how many leads did it take to get a closing, and what did I get paid for that closing.”
Internet leads are different from referrals in that they need to be nurtured and contacted. Kevin and Keith were all adamant that every lead can turn into a solid referral. But it can take anywhere from a week to a couple years for them to do so.
Sydney has a different approach. She treats every lead as a client. She follows up with, puts them on her mailing lists, and lets them know she is available to help them.
How do you handle immediate follow-up and scrubbing/qualifying the leads?
“It’s about leveraging technology to convert more business,” says Keith. “I know what’s important to Realtors. At the end of the day, it’s about transactions. It’s working with people are ready to transact with us. We put a system in that allows agents to focus on the low hanging fruit, while we focus on the back end and follow up.”
“Most brokers expect agents to follow up with a thousand leads. Get the lead, sell the lead, then service lead. We would rather put real opportunities in their hand.”
Kevin and Keith use internal sales reps [ISA] to call their leads. They then hand those leads over to their agents after they have been qualified. At that point, they call them referrals. “The customer service team is focused on calling, calling, calling.”
Most agents don’t have internal customer service teams. What are the best practices they can implement in their own business?
Kevin says, “Because we are generating so many leads, there may be a time when a person may not be able to respond. We use FiveStreet which allows us to send an automated text message and automated email.”
Keith agreed, “Our response time is minutes, not hours. We are to the table first.”
“The other thing we do is call.” Continues Kevin, “People want info about a property, so we are going to give them info about the property. Then there are two things we always ask in this conversation. Are you committed with an agent and can you get pre-approved.”
They then book an appointment with the prospect. “We want to keep the conversation flowing and keep the green light going,” explains Kevin.
How do you get confident calling your leads?
Sydney recommends finding courses and webinars online. “There are a lot of resources available online, and they are not necessarily real estate specific. There are basic calling classes. There are webinars you can take. Role-playing, things like that. It’s having the appropriate scripts. I’ve developed my own script over the years.”
What about the leads that come in without a phone number, how are you able to get a conversation started that way?
Sydney explains, “In our brokerage we call it gorilla style lead follow up. You get a hold of that client, no matter how you have to do it. You email them and end it with a question. You Facebook message them if you can. You send them something in the mail. Show up at their house. It’s about being aggressive, not giving up on the lead after the first try.”
“You have to think about the mentality of the client. Majority of clients are selling in 6 months plus. They are not all that interested in talking to you right now. I approach my clients with the understanding that, ‘Hey, you’re not ready yet. But let me help guide you so that when you are ready, you’re ready to go.'”
“So I try to meet with them as soon as I can. Not in a sales pitch way. But I try to come in a place of offering assistance.”
“I have a pre-listing guide that I have had printed like a magazine. So I use really high-quality print materials. Every time I contact someone I’m stating, I understand you’re not ready right now, but before you make any changes to your house, give me a call so I can make sure you’re making smart investments.”
“It’s about making those buddy-buddy relationships. And sometimes you luck out and they are ready to go right now.”
When do you stop following up with your leads?
“After a few months, if I get no response, or they say, ‘Leave me alone, stop contacting me.’ Then I’ll say, ‘Okay, I’ll delete you.'”
How do you keep yourself and your team accountable?
It’s important to track not just your own activities, but also where your business is coming from. Sydney explains, “I ask every person I work with, ‘How did you hear about me?’ It’s important to track your numbers. I have a whole P&L sheet that I use to track all my sources.” Often she is pleasantly surprised to see that her calls were prompted from the follow up activities she has in place.
Keith Dunham, “We measure not only if you are in contact, but how many clients have you met with. Because if you are not meeting the clients, you are not going to close anyone.”
Keith shared that they use Line2, “What it allows us to do is put a separate line on your phone. You can see how many calls were made, how long the calls were, and it allows you to see the texts.”
The numbers can be revealing. “1 person did 7 calls and one did 44 calls in the same amount of time.”
“We had to buy a CRM,” stated Kevin, “It allows me to keep people accountable and make sure those leads are being followed up on. We track our activity through the notes. It’s not rocket science. We use the note system to ensure the agents are following up. Essentially they need to be taking notes and provide details about their conversations. It allows us to be more accountable, and in that accountability, it turns into more conversations and conversations as a result.”
“Having a dashboard is key. One where you can see where a deal is at. It has a lot of accountability,” continues Kevin.
What is the most important metrics to manage to increase the number of leads you convert?
Kevin breaks down the following as important activities to track and measure to be accountable to yourself.
- Making sure you have touched your clients enough times, in ways that make you stand out from the rest of the agents in your marketplace.
- Measure that you are in contact with potential clients
- Measure how many clients you have met
- Managing your pipeline (transactions)
Keith breaks down the following as most important.
“First, agents need to be notified of new lead opportunities.”
You want to be able to
- Improve lead response time
- Increase conversation rates
- Know the status of each lead (hot vs long-term) to create plans for each
“[Then] you need transaction management to measure how busy the agent is. That’s just as important as getting leads to them when they need to be fed.”
What tools do you use to generate and manage leads?
Reach new clients with StreetText today. Facebook Advertising to attract new opportunities. Sales CRM to manage and convert your opportunities.
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Passionate about helping leaders grow their business, Jonathan Whiting is co-founder of StreetText. In addition to StreetText Hub, Jonathan has written for TechVibes and REM Magazine.