Not returning emails or phone calls from potential clients seeking to buy a home or gather information of a Real estate brokerage in a timely manner — within 30 minutes — is the same as “leaving money on the table.” That was the consensus at a Leading Real Estate Companies of the World seminar on cultivating e-leads at the organization’s annual conference, held in Las Vegas last week.
The seminar focused on the correct uses of customer relationship management software and how best to handle online communications with potential homebuyers, and three panelists — Howard Chung of John L. Scott Real Estate in Bellevue, Wash., Elizabeth Messier of Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I., and John D'Ambrogio of Baird & Warner in Chicago — agreed that no matter the size of the brokerage, online leads are substantial to a thriving business.
“I really feel there is gold in the trash,” said Messier, who added her difficult challenge is to convince her agents of that.
Residential Properties has five offices and about 170 agents. The company does not have the resources to handle online leads in the same capacity as the other two, so it falls to relocation specialists to follow up with every inquiry. Residential Properties has a swing-shift position that allows one employee to work on weekends and after hours to quickly respond to all emails and phone calls.
“Small or large, there are ways of getting this done, within or budgets,” Messier said.
Chung compared online conversations to open houses and subsequent contact, through CRM software, as post-open house phone calls. Customer relationship management software allows Chung’s agents to learn about their clients, he said. John L. Scott staffs a special phone answering service of licensed agents to answer client inquiries after hours and on weekends.
“We have all these new terms, like SEO, and SEM and CRM (and) incubation,” he said. “Ultimately, everyone who enquires online; just think of that as a 24-hour open house. And instead of just our listings, we can service all listings.”
His company’s strategy using CRM software is not to push potential clients, which tends to end with them unsubscribing from email alerts, but to send out fun emails that naturally elicit a desire to respond, such as “what color will your next house be?”
Splitting the difference between Chung’s and Messier’s companies, D'Ambrogio said his company hires part-time actors from Chicago’s famous The Second City improve theater company to speak to potential clients.
“(The) can do an unscripted show for 45 minutes,” he joked. "They can convince someone that Baird & Warner can help them.”
If an agent does not respond to a potential client within two hours, specialists make an effort to connect the client to the agent. Brokers monitor and measure how quickly contact is made. If an agent does not respond within two hours, there is a desire to find another agent.
It’s “leaving money on the table,” D'Ambrogio said.