Every professional sales person knows that the first requirement in selling anything is having a prospect to sell it to. During the boom times of the past years, we had a surplus of buyers, and many of us forgot all about prospecting. Today, so many listings are sitting unsold because we can’t bring a proper buyer to the listing; we just can’t find enough qualified buyers these days.
I should have said that most agents can’t find enough qualified buyers these days, because there is a minority of agents who are continuing to find prospects, to sell and list homes, and to make a good living — from that chronic disappointment, the Internet. Many of those agents are making sales to buyers who find their web site online. This article is my attempt to tell you in an overview how to do this effectively online.
Online Prospecting Is A Fundamentally Simple Proposition
For purposes of this little training session, we are going to assume that your site can be found by Internet buyers looking for a home in your neighborhood (if it can’t be, you need to make it so it can be). Once your site is capable of being indexed and found by Internet buyers online, you will get a certain number of page views and unique visitors each month. Even a few hundred unique visitors can be a solid basis for a successful online presence. In online marketing, it is about converting a solid percentage (10-15%) of those unique visitors into sign-ins to your site, then farming those people regularly.
Converting Site Visitors to Sign-Ins
If your web site provider has no provision to put a sign in box above the fold on your homepage, change site providers, for if you cannot register visitors, what is the point of having a web site? Let me be clear: Clicking on something to find a box somewhere is not what I am talking about, here. You must have that sign in box right there on the homepage where people can see it. Do not listen to designers tell you that it “doesn’t look good.” Prospecting online has certain basic requirements and one of them is good soft lead capture. You must be able to work with and identify interested visitors to your site. How are you supposed to sell things to people you never can identify? Conversely, you need to identify people who are truly beginning (or completing) the process of searching for a home on line so that you can help them move along to a successful purchase. The simplest way to effect this is to offer something of value AND entice them to register to be kept informed. One broker we know offers a $400 credit toward moving expenses for signing in to their site. Another successful broker offers a weekend vacation for registrants who later purchase a home. Yet another offers relocating people a place to stay while searching for a home with them for a weekend. Still another offers to reimburse airfare for the trip to purchase upon closing. Putting this up front on your homepage will get you SERIOUS Internet buyers, which is precisely what you are looking for.
Now, in the past, some agents have told me such things are prohibited by "MLS ethics codes" or some other "standard." I ask you this: if your MLS can receive profit participations on products they recommend to their members, why can’t you offer incentives to people who purchase a home from you? If the National Assn.of REALTORS gets a slice of revenue from Move, Inc. every time a REALTOR buys a page on REALTOR.com, or a web site from Top Producer or any other approved”provider, why can’t you allocate unearned commission dollars to an incentive to earn commissions? Nothing is due until the commission is earned! Every time members buy “approved” things like web sites, e-mail systems, training programs — you name it — most likely, a portion of the sale price is rebated to the MLS sponsoring the product or to the NAR itself.
Additionally, today we have entire real estate organizations “rebating” over half their commissions to buyers (Redfin, etc.). Surely there can be no real impediment to you allocating a small portion of your commission on a sale as an incentive to attract a home buyer to your practice? Try it! Put a little blurb on your site like this: “Relocating to (your town)? Sign in and receive a refund of your hotel or airfare spent to look for your home!” It’s time to break the straightjacket and come up with new incentives to attract buyers to you.
Okay, You’ve Got Visitors and They Sign In. Now What?
You need to contact them within one hour of their signing in, if possible, by phone —not by some auto-responder! Without exception, every successful online agent we know personalizes every response to an Internet lead: if they call and cannot connect, they send an immediate e-mail saying something like “I have many homes that will probably surprise you — they’re well priced and good values. I look forward to discussing them with you!”
Why is this vital? Have you heard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)?
MIT just did a comprehensive study on contacting and qualifying Internet leads and what they found was astounding.
- The odds of calling and successfully contacting a lead decrease by over 10 times in the first hour (that is, the sooner to immediately that you call the lead means 10X the odds that you will contact that lead than if you wait even one hour).
- The odds of contacting a lead if you call the lead within 5 minutes are 100 times as favorable as if you wait one half hour to call that lead.
- After 20 hours, each attempt your people make to contact a lead actually hurts your chances of doing so.
The study goes on to identify which days of the week are best, which hours of the day, and so on. All which I find somewhat inscrutable, for if we must call them back in minutes, we have no control over when is the best time to call, except instantly. Nevertheless, the study does give us a window on Internet buyers that we didn’t have before. We’ll send you a copy of the study, FREE, write and no one will call you.).
Plainly, time is of the essence even more today than ever before. In a world where information is available instantly, consumers expect instant responses. Couple that with every consumer knowing how valuable they are as a buyer in this marketplace, and you can see why alacrity is important in online marketing.
The Other Essential Ingredient
Having a web platform that can be properly optimized and indexed is vital, for without that ability, even the best SEO work will not produce results equal to a site that is able to be indexed and optimized. That topic has been written about in this column many times. However, make no mistake: web sites hosted by sub domain sites and pages on them cannot be properly optimized by anyone. Strong sites from firms like Point2, Advanced Access, Number One Expert, A la Mode and others can be found by search engines and indexed by them. This simply means that subdomain sites don’t work in Internet marketing as well as true domains—that is not opinion, that is fact. If you would like to know more on this, contact us and we will send you the explanation and no one will call you —we are not favoring anyone, we are simply trying to let you know which sites give you a chance to become an Internet real estate agent so that you enjoy the fruits of prospecting online. If your site cannot be found except by typing in its address, it can’t be found by Internet buyers who don’t know you. In online prospecting, there are certain rules, and one of them is that your site must be capable of being properly optimized in order to produce leads organically.
Sales has many “rules” as well, and one of them is that if you do not do your prospecting you won’t be closing sales. The Internet is literally the best prospecting concept available for all real estate professionals to develop as an adjunct to their practice. I hope you will believe and make it work for you. I leave you with this quote from a client, Priscilla Allen of Allen Realty Group (REMAX) made to an agent who wrote to ask about her online success:
From: Priscilla Allen (written May 08)
"Dear Sally, To answer your question, 'Does my web site bring me new clients?' Here’s what my team and I have written in contracts that were from the web site just THIS WEEK: $690,000 to close June 15th, $350,000 to close May 30th, $339,500 to close May 30th, working a $250,000, $130,000, $200,000 at this time. Closing a new home $300,000 May 15th, from a web site client (sold in 2007) referred to me, in fact, we have several of those this year so far. So, I guess I could YES, my web site brings me new clients daily."
Have you got a program producing like that for you? Would you like just a little of that?
(Mike Parker is a principal at the Blackwater Consulting Group and specializes in online marketing for real estate professionals. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com. To request a free review of your web site to determine if it can be found by Internet buyers and if it is search engine friendly click here and it will be evaluated free.)
©2008 Mike Parker