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How to Convert Online Leads to Sales

by Tracey C. Velt

Lead Generation

When Marge Bennett, ABR, CIPS, CRS, a sales associate with RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers, FL, gets a call from someone who saw her on Trulia, she immediately calls back. "I ask them what they're looking for, but my goal is to get them to meet with me," Bennett says.

"I want to sign them up on either my Market Leader account or on Listing Book." Both are lead incubators that allow Bennett to continually keep in touch with prospects until they're ready to buy.

With the advent of Zillow, Trulia, Market Leader and other online lead generators, real estate professionals are sometimes inundated with leads that range from hot to cold. The problem is figuring out how to follow up and convert the leads to sales.

Garrett Frey"A lot of agents look at leads wrong," says Garrett Frey, owner and "ninja master coach" with Ninja Coaching in Redding, CA. "Just because a lead says he's not moving for a year doesn't mean it's a cold lead. In fact, that person should be put on your warm lead list. More often than not, that person is just confused or something is holding him back. Maybe they haven’t found the right school."

That means any lead you receive is worth chasing. Here are some tips for converting those leads to sales.

1. Call immediately. "Agents spend tons of money for leads, and they don’t immediately follow up. It's a killer," says Frey. "I knew one agent who would [if she was able] call the minute the lead hit her desk. Her goal was to call the person before that person even left the website." For Bennett, she calls immediately to create a sense of urgency.

Tami Bonnell"Most people will deal with the first person who communicated with them, and if they’re satisfied, you've created a client for life," says Tami Bonnell, CEO of EXIT Realty International.

2. Google, and then get face to face. "Every new person who comes through my lead generators automatically gets searched on Google and added as a friend on Facebook. I want to know more about him or her so I can tell what may be important to that buyer or seller," says Bonnell.

Then, get face-to-face. "Find out what they want and deliver it to them in person," says Bennett. "If someone is an investor, I schedule a meeting and come prepared with information that applies to the investor's interests. You don't talk about condos to a person who is interested in 10 acres of land."

3. Personal contact is important. "Anything you do must be personalized," says Bennett, who finds that 50 percent of her business is from online leads (the other 50 percent is referral).

Bonnell agrees. "You must build a relationship. Leads should be thought of as people. Too many agents don't think of the people behind the Internet lead. These are real people with real moving vans, and they want to matter."

Frey recommends the FORD conversation:

  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Recreation
  • Dreams

"Call your leads and start the conversation." Keep that conversation personal.

Marge Bennett"Be personable and let them know you care," says Bennett. "Really listen. People know when someone is paying attention, and they will dismiss you if you treat them with dollar signs in your eyes."

4. Create a follow-up system. "I recommend agents have a six-week action plan personalized for each lead. Make a list of your leads and plan when follow up will occur," says Bonnell. "The best system is the one that works. Don't overthink it," says Bonnell. Bennett uses a contact management system where she categorizes people by type of buyer or seller. "That helps me target different groups so when I send a newsletter, I send it to the right people. People find it irritating to receive a promotion that doesn't apply to them," says Bennett.

This system allows her to touch and nurture a contact. "I had a deal close earlier this year that took over a year to get to that point. I called every month just to chit-chat, and I sent them targeted information," she says. "When they were ready to buy, they called me."

5. Add value. "I always ask myself, 'What can I do to add value to this person today,'" says Bonnell. Then, she passes along information that is specific to the person's interests. For example, "If they're looking at three-bedroom homes in a specific neighborhood, I will call them to let them know the school district or give them some statistics on recent home sales in that neighborhood," says Bennett, who also answers buyer and seller questions on Trulia Voices, an online forum on real estate.

Converting leads to sales comes down to one thing: personalized and consistent follow up. You've heard the saying, "People do business with people they know and trust." Build that trust. Foster that relationship, and your online lead conversion rate will jump.

Tracey C. Velt is an Orlando-based freelance writer.

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