By Elizabeth Sidorowicz
One great thing about technology is its ability to bring in potential business. That’s why many agents work so hard and invest so much in creating a strong Internet presence. Attracting leads from the Internet is, however, just a first step. All the leads in the world don’t mean much if you can’t convert a significant number into closed sales.
I’ve marketed extensively over the Internet for three years, and it has allowed my business to thrive in a challenging environment. One key factor in achieving that result was my realization, fairly early in the process, that Internet leads are different in some important ways than the leads I receive from other sources. One difference is that about 80 percent of these leads involve buyers, with about 40 percent of those being first-time buyers.
While there is no typical Internet buyer, I’ve found those who approach me via the Internet are not only more computer savvy than others, they also are better qualified with a higher net worth, more education and a greater knowledge of the real estate market. What’s more, they tend to have a clearer idea of what kind of real estate they are seeking, whether it is a larger home for themselves, a condo for a parent or an investment property.
It is important to note that those who contact me through the Internet often are reluctant to develop a closer relationship. When I first dealt with these leads, I would get frustrated if a prospect didn’t respond to repeated e-mails. Now I understand that the Internet is a tool for the general public and that you shouldn’t take personally a lack of response; you have to give people time.
I discovered a number of basic principles that, when followed, seem to deliver the best results in dealing with Internet leads:
• Track where your leads come from so that you can optimize your exposure. However, you can’t optimize everything because the cost would be prohibitive.
• Generating many Internet leads means you also may attract computer viruses. I use a server equipped with a powerful combination of systems and filters to keep viruses out. Any agent receiving significant Internet traffic should do the same.
• If a lead comes in that has a bad phone number or e-mail address, don’t try to track them down.
• It makes sense to have a standard follow-up program in place for these leads. I use one offered by RE/MAX, where I initially send four or five e-mails to a prospect, usually one every other day. If I don’t get a response, that person will be put on a list to receive a monthly market newsletter that is also supplied by RE/MAX. I let this continue until they unsubscribe or call me.
• Try to gauge the level of interest when dealing with an Internet lead. Leads that begin with a phone call indicate a relatively high interest level. With the Internet, that often isn’t the case. I evaluate the interest level of an Internet prospect by asking the usual questions, but I also check to see which properties a prospect considered online. If the online search is focused, it’s a positive sign. If the prospect looked at homes priced at $175,000 and then at homes cost $1.75 million, chances are that person isn’t ready to look at properties.
One other impact that Internet leads can have on your work as an agent is that you probably will serve a wider area because Internet leads are less likely to originate as close to your office as a phone inquiry or referral might. With the Internet now generating about 60 percent of my business, I drive more than ever.
Elizabeth Sidorowicz is an agent with RE/MAX Signature in the Roscoe Village/Lakeview area. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 773.388.8600.