October 19, 2017

Turning leads into relationships


You hear a lot of talk about lead conversion, but before you can turn a lead into business, you first need to turn it into a relationship. How do you do that? How do you guide a lead though their buying or selling journey, turning it into a customer relationship as you go?

80% of all home buyers are searching online (NAR). 
Buyers are looking online for their future homes and they want to know every detail possible about the home before they go see it in person.
The market has shifted and more and more buyers are turning to their computer and mobile devices to do their real estate research. While it doesn’t mean that they won’t need or want an agent, they most likely will find you and their future home through online research.

88% of first time buyers are buying homes through an agent (NAR). 
Just because these first time buyers are looking online for their homes, most of them will still turn to an agent when it comes to making the big decision. Keep in mind these first time buyers are most likely millennials or long term renters and will need as much guidance in the home buying process as possible.

The average real estate agent converts only 1% of their web leads (p4prealestate.com). 
That seems crazy, right? Why is that number so low? If so many people are searching online, and we are generating lots of leads online, why are we still converting so few of these online leads? Perhaps the problem is that we are looking at leads all wrong. We mostly think that leads are anonymous people, sending us fake info.

The reality is this - leads come from everywhere. Everyone you know, everyone in your database, each person you meet, is a potential source of business. A lead is simply a person who has put up their hand and said, “I have a question.” When we stop thinking of leads as leads and start thinking of them as people, we’ll be on the right track to start turning those leads into relationships. This mindset shift also reminds us not to focus all our efforts on anonymous online leads, and start better serving the people we already know.

The best way to turn those people with questions into loyal customers is to first understand where they are in the buying / selling process. Then, provide them with the information, education, and expertise they need, depending on which stage of the process they are in.
Often we focus only on those in the later stages of home buying; when the customer is ready to purchase. But by refocusing our efforts on those in various stages we build a lead pipeline that will feed us continually. Depending on where a customer is in the cycle, their expectations for how salespeople should treat them are going to be different.

The Lead Lifecycle

1. In the awareness phase, a lead is just starting to think of making a move, but doesn’t always want to be bombarded with information by a salesperson. They have just started to think about buying or selling. Maybe they have had a change in circumstances that has led them to think “maybe I need to buy a house?” or “maybe I should sell my house?” Typically, in this phase, the person is “just looking.” Many of the online leads you receive will start in the awareness phase. Your value in this phase is to provide valuable, searchable content. For people in the awareness stage, valuable content can include things like school information, neighbourhood info videos, and statistics about the demographics in their areas of interest. These are all pieces of information that will be useful to someone who’s just thinking of moving. Stats show that buyers and sellers start searching online and asking questions an average of 90 days before contacting an agent. If you were a buyer or seller in your area, imagine the things you might search or ask about… do you have these types of information available to be found?

2. Most buyers and sellers start their Real Estate search weeks and sometimes months before reaching out to an agent. Once they made that decision in their mind to move, they begin the research phase. Part of that research is choosing which agent to reach out to. This might be based on a personal referral or could very well be somebody they just happen to come into contact with through online browsing. Once they make contact, they start asking questions and looking at houses. This is the stage where a lead wants and needs real information. In the research stage, your value is in providing education. It’s your job to determine what they need in order to make decisions, help answer questions, and solve problems. Often, they don’t know what they don’t know! Your role will be to guide them towards the next step in the process. Most of your leads are going to come to you in the research stage. Ask a lot of questions, listen, determine their motivation, and help solve their problems.

3. In the evaluate phase, the lead is ready to move forward with a listing or a purchase, and are evaluating which agent will best suit their needs. If you haven’t skipped over the first 2 phases, you will already have a good shot at getting their business. If you have missed those 2 steps and the lead is coming to you at the evaluation stage, matching your value proposition messages to their needs will be key. During this phase, instead of focusing on how many houses you’ve sold or how great your track record is, try focusing on what you can do for them that nobody else will. It’s time to tell your story. You’ll explain the buying or selling process and what your role and responsibility is – how you will help them through the process and how you have helped others in the past. You’ll tell them about your team of vendors, industry partners and resources that will make their transaction smooth and profitable.

4. Once the lead turns into a customer, they have different needs. You are no longer converting the lead into business, you are now serving them as a client. In the buy / sell phase, the customer has to make big decisions. They will need you more than ever to bring your experience and expertise to the transaction. Use your negotiation skills to get them the best price possible, and constantly be communicating with them about what is going on as the transaction progresses.

5. The last stage of the cycle is the advocate phase. This is not the end, it’s just a brand new beginning! When you get to this stage, you now have future business of the best kind! Referrals.
And while this is the end of the buying/selling cycle, it shouldn’t be the end of your communications with that client. Now, your messaging to them will change. It’s time to focus on valuable messaging that they can use to inform others. They will now be the ones being asked for advice. Remember, the cycle continues. Past customers will have future needs. People will move from the advocate stage back into the awareness stage. Don’t stop communicating.

Understanding the lead lifecycle is only half the battle. You also need to keep track of each lead, which phase they are in, and their individual needs, questions, and touch points. The customer experience is a journey, and a good CRM provides the map you need. The first step is adding your leads to a CRM and start noting their needs, wants, fears and frustrations. Your value will be in meeting those needs as you go, creating lasting customer relationships.