Real estate agents thrive on leads to help their business grow and all of those leads must be screened and validated. As leads pour in from various sources (ex. your website, blog, or third party systems), you’ll discover serious prospects as well as bogus leads or those that simply don’t want to talk to an agent. Regardless, it’s important to make time each day to call and validate leads. Use these leads to help build up your sales funnel and eventually generate referrals and return business. To help you take advantage of these opportunities, and save you the headache of trying to figure out what methods work best, keep reading to learn more about lead validation, or lead qualification, and tips that can make you the to go-to-agent.
Consider purchasing verified leads to save time and money. By purchasing verified leads, you avoid spending exorbitant amounts of time reaching out to leads that don't provide accurate contact information, might not want to speak to an agent or might not be contactable. Having someone else verify the lead’s contact information will not only save time but will help speed up the process of converting a lead into a sale.
A validated lead, or qualified lead, can be defined by varying factors including, but not limited to, the following:
- Valid name, phone number and email address
- Looking to buy/sell in the next 6 months to 2 years
- Has been pre-approved for a loan (qualified)
The combination of these factors defines a “hot” lead but, realistically, most of your leads may only meet the first set of criteria -- valid name, phone number and email address. If that’s the case, know that you’ve got enough information to begin nurturing them into a “warm” lead. Any lead can be a good lead as long as you know how to nurture them. Let’s take a look at some options for contacting the lead and gathering information to get them into your sales funnel.
TIP: Talk to your website or blog host to ensure your online lead generation form is set up with built-in email validation. If the visitor enters an invalid email address, an error message will display asking them to enter a valid email.
Be prepared before making any calls:
- Phone Scripts
Few people love making calls to leads but, once you figure out what scripts work well, the calls may not feel like work anymore. You may find yourself enjoying the process more and more once you find a script that lead responds to; scripts that hone in on the best questions to validate or qualify a lead.
" Hi Jeff! How are you? ['Good, thanks.'] My name is _______ from _________. Thank you for visiting my website and checking out houses in Berklund Heights. That’s an area I’m very familiar with. When are you thinking about making a move?”
Scripts and role playing are essential when talking to a lead for the first time. Be prepared for the most common responses and those that are unexpected. You want to sound like you’ve asked these questions a thousand times vs. sounding like you’re reading a script. Ask an experienced sales associate to role-play with you. You might be surprised at some of their responses. Rehearsed scripts will help you come across as a trusted professional, keep you on track and in control of the call, help you provide better service, save time, and improve your chances of converting a lead into a sale.
During the first call, make it a goal to understand their needs and build their trust. The lead may have received other calls from agents and may not want to take the time to talk to one more. Really listen to and acknowledge their needs and come from a place of helpfulness. If they feel you are trustworthy and helpful vs. a pushy salesperson, they will likely gravitate towards you and forget about the other agents. Once that level of trust is established, they will feel more comfortable sharing their time-frame, price range, and whether or not they’ve been pre-approved for a loan and other qualifying information. Consistently convert leads into sales by taking the time to listen and build trust.
Other factors to consider before making lead validation calls
Where did the lead come from? Asking them about a recent visit to your website, when they have never seen it, quickly categorizes you as someone who is not on top of their game. You may lose their trust and there’s little chance of winning it back. Maybe you generated a lead from your blog and see that this person read a post about mortgage rates. Start the call by thanking them for visiting your blog then mention the article and ask open-ended questions about their mortgage-related experiences. Know the lead source to ensure you make a connection from the beginning. (More on this later.)
What did they look at, before filling out the lead form or subscribing to a newsletter, for example? If they filled out a lead form on your website to obtain a list of “things to avoid when buying your first home”, make sure you focus on that list as you talk to them. Let them know you’re preparing to email it and, instead of describing what’s on the list, start asking questions related to buying their first house. This is a good way to keep them on the call so you can gather more information. Really listen to them and build questions based on the information they provide.
Prepare to come from a place of helpfulness. “I would be happy to do that for you”, “I have sold many homes in that area and, based off of what you’ve told me, I already have a few homes in mind” or “What’s most important to you?” are compassionate, helpful and sincere approaches.
Prepare your scripts with specific questions geared toward setting an appointment and solving their problem(s). If their goal is to look at houses and your goal is to book an appointment, start by asking questions encourage commitment. “Would you like to look at these houses in the evening or on Saturday?” vs. “Are you available on Saturday to look at homes?”. See the difference? The second question leads to a “no” response much of the time, while the first question gives them 2 options to choose from, resulting in a concrete answer.
Prepare open-ended questions to avoid “no” responses. For example, if you ask “do you have any questions”, they will most likely answer “no”. A good alternative is to ask “what other questions do you have?”. When asking about what they’re looking for in a home, be specific. Instead of asking if they want a double-car garage, ask “what garage size appeals to you?”. This type of questioning stimulates deeper conversations.
Prepare to provide solutions. As you make calls you’ll start to hear some of the same questions from leads. “How much do I have to save for a down payment?” “What type of a loan can I qualify for?” “I’m just beginning to look at homes. Why should I get pre-qualified now?” As you answer these questions, consider using experiences you’ve had with past clients. “I’ve had many clients who were concerned about having enough for a down payment, what I've found….”. You want the lead to feel like they aren’t the only one dealing with this concern. Real life experiences are relatable and help to engage the lead.
Avoid talking about yourself. A brief introduction is enough then move on, focusing on them and what problems you can solve for them. Stick to a script that encourages the lead to talk while you listen. As you answer questions you will find openings where you can interject more about yourself, but avoid droning on and on.
Test and Evaluate Your Phone Scripts
Once you start making calls, you may want to tweak your scripts. Not receiving the response you had hoped for? Are leads trying to get off of the phone fast? Your questions may be turning them off. Record your calls and focus on their replies and tone… as well as your own. Many agents skip this step and wonder why they aren’t having much success. It’s important to understand what’s working and what isn’t and, by listening to recorded calls, you'll start to find answers. Maybe you need to be less direct or more direct. Some questions may need to be eliminated if they consistently produce negative responses. Rework other questions to elicit a favorable response. It takes time to dial in your scripts, but when you start converting more and more leads into sales, you’ll know it was time well spent.
Response Time - Get ‘Em While They’re Hot
When you receive a lead alert, follow up with them immediately, while they’re in front of their computer or have just visited a website on their mobile device. If you contact them within 5 minutes of receiving the lead, you’re 10x more likely to convert that lead. Get in touch with them when they’re at their highest point of interest, which is directly after they’ve filled out a lead generation form or requested an ebook or other relevant information. They will most likely be impressed with your responsiveness and want to work with someone of your caliber, someone who is responsive and on top of things. A quick response time impresses most leads and provide the best chance of getting them on the phone.
Consider the following stats, from a MIT study, when following up with leads:
- Wait 30+ minutes to contact the lead and your odds of getting in touch with them drop by 100
- After 20 hours, every call you make to validate/qualify the lead are actually hurting you
- Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to call leads
- 8-9 am and 4-5 pm are the best times to qualify a lead
- Set aside at least 2 hours each day to follow up with leads, depending on the number of leads you receive.
As mentioned previously, you want to begin by addressing the reason they filled out the lead form. If you’re using a program that combines leads from various sources into a crm or lead management system, it’s important to know where the lead came from in order to avoid confusion. For example, the lead may think you’re the listing agent because they visited a site like Zillow and filled out a lead form which was associated with a specific agent. When they learn you are not the listing agent, they may be confused or frustrated. Having a script in place to handle situations like this, where you’re getting a lead from someone else’s listing, is imperative. Explain how and why you received the lead and how you can be of help to them. Put them at ease. Work to gently steer them in your direction, if they aren’t represented by another agent. Stay focused on the reason the lead filled out the online form and how you can make a difference.
Example: after explaining why you received them as a lead, and why you're calling vs. the listing agent, quickly move forward and give them what they wanted in the first place.
“I’m familiar with this property and will email you extensive property information so you can see more details.”
You’ve put the lead at ease by coming from a place of helpfulness and giving them exactly what they asked for. From there, you can gauge whether or not they’re willing to provide additional information. Regardless, offer to add them to an email list that sends new listing alerts, blog posts, or your newsletter. Focus on nurturing them and keeping them engaged.
Give Them What They Ask For
Give them what they ask for vs. qualifying them right away. When you’re on the phone and they ask about a property, let them know you can get them in to look at it (if that’s truly the case) then circle back and ask other, qualifying questions (how much are you looking to spend, have you been pre-qualified for a loan, how much do you have for a down payment, etc.). You don’t want to turn them off by asking questions that have nothing to do with the reason they filled out a lead generation form in the first place. There will be time for more probing questions once you’ve given them what they asked for and, hopefully, after they've set up an office appointment.
Example of a lead who wants to see a property:
“I can get you into 123 My Street this afternoon. Let’s meet in an hour. How does that sound? ['Great!'] By the way…”
This response is straight to the point, giving them what they asked for. After they commit, continue to share information related to their question (ex. talk about other properties in the area you could show them).
No answer? Follow-up with an email
If you cannot get them to answer the phone after numerous attempts, follow up with an email. Keep the email short and make your point in the first paragraph. You can always add a bit more information in a second paragraph, including a link to your bio or blog, a testimonial from a recent customer, an opt-in for new listing alerts, or add a video.
My name is ______ and I wanted to thank you for visiting my website, XYZ Realty. I noticed you searched for houses in the $300K-$375K range. I’ve got exclusive access to a number of homes that fit your price range and will hit the market soon. Let’s get together this week, before word gets out on these properties. You can reach me on my cell, 000-000-0000.
Also, you might find the following blog article helpful as you search for a new home: Tips On Home Buying In Pennsylvania.
Have a great day!
Other factors to consider when writing an email:
- Catchy subject line (Corny New Homes... Built on Cornfields)
- Focus on their needs and what they’re looking for
- Keep it short
- Include a video to improve engagement
- Link to a blog article reflecting their needs (ex. first-time homebuyer)
- Do not focus on yourself (your credentials are in your email signature, right?).
- Wow them! They may have registered on various other websites and will probably receive emails from those agents too. Make your email stand out by dazzling them. For example, include a link to your website that references the outstanding features of the neighborhood they're interested in. Better yet, record a video of yourself standing in the preferred neighborhood talking about the community pool, amazing parks, high ranking school district, etc. Add that video to the email and they will not only watch it, they will most likely be impressed. A neighborhood video can use again and again with future leads, on social media, and your website.
When the lead opens your email, watches a video or opens a blog article, refer to this information during the next phone call (or email). If you aren't sure if they've clicked on a link in your email, refer to the analytics in the system you use.
“I noticed you watched the video I sent on pricing your house in today’s market. What questions do you have?"
At some point, set up a drip email campaign to nurture leads you’ve talked to and even those you haven’t reached. Drip email campaigns save valuable time, provide information leads are looking for, keep them brand aware and nurtured.
A Note About Texting Leads
In today's world, texting is a favored form of communication, but be careful about texting leads unless you’ve received permission to do so. Check their phone number against the Do Not Call Registry. To avoid violations that could exceed $40K, keep a list of contacts that are on the DNC list and label them as such in your crm system.
When should you disqualify a lead or consider them junk?
As I mentioned earlier, any lead can be a good lead as long as you know how to nurture them. Unless you have no valid contact information, continue to follow up with leads. I know an agent that has his newest agents call leads that are 2-5 years old. You might not believe it, but he actually converts some of them. You never know when you might get a “yes” from a lead that you’ve kept in your pipeline for years. Don’t give up.
Validating, or qualifying, leads takes work but once you see your sales funnel grow, you'll be patting yourself on the back. Get used to making calls to validate leads; it gets easier once you've got effective scripts in place. If you don’t have time to call your leads, hire someone to do it for you so you don't miss out on opportunities to convert them into sales. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Have great phone scripts in place
- When you cannot get a lead on the phone, follow up with a drip email campaign
- Think long-term. You might call a lead from 2 years ago and learn they’re suddenly ready to buy.
Get on the phone and convert some leads! You've got this!