In a marketplace as competitive as the property industry, you may think that generating leads is the most important focus for increasing revenue – the bigger your database, the more opportunity for business, right? Not necessarily.
While it is obviously crucial, equal consideration should be given to the next stage in the pipeline.
The follow-up period is your opportunity to hold a potential client’s attention, convince them that you’re the company to choose and convert them into valuable business.
A recent study for Harvard Business Review revealed that 71% of qualified leads are never followed up on. Of those that are contacted again, most are only engaged with an average of 1.3 times – simply not enough to take a lead from prospect to client, particularly with a transaction that takes as much thought as buying or selling a home.
As with any area of business operation, successful lead management relies on having an efficient process in place to suit your requirements. It should consider your size, sector, in-house resource, opening hours and most common times and types of enquiry.
We’ve broken down the winning formula into four manageable stages to help you begin converting more leads while improving the customer experience and your reputation in the process…
1. Tighten the net
Let’s start with the basics. Lead generation is looked after by your marketing strategy – perhaps you’re active on social media, advertise in the local press or use direct mail campaigns.
Ask yourself if you’re capturing every enquiry that comes your way – even if it’s out of hours – and whether a potential client would feel valued from their first encounter with your business.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and shifting consumer behaviours mean that if someone doesn’t get a good feeling from the offset, they will simply head back onto Google and into the hands of a competitor.
By investing in technology, you can tighten the net and ensure that valuable leads cannot slip through the cracks.
This gives you a platform on which to promote your brand’s personality, build a rapport with customers and generate interesting insight into how and when your target audience wants to communicate.
2. Assess and categorise
Lead classification forms an important part of the process and can mean the difference between a prospect feeling confident in your services or like they’re just another name on a database.
Not all leads will require the same style of response, so assess the enquiries and determine the most appropriate type of follow-up.
For example, if someone is wishing to put their house up to let, it would be a waste of time to send generic sales collateral detailing your valuation process or sales fees. A slapdash approach to follow-ups feels impersonal and makes for a poor customer experience.
For Peter Lawrence of Lawrence Rand Estate Agents, which serves Eastcote, Ickenham, Pinner, Ruislip and Ruislip Manor, it is the ability to link telephone answering services with the business’s CRM system that is so vital to successful enquiry follow-up and delivering excellent customer service.
It ensures that his team can access valuable customer insights and call logs quickly, keep all customer data in one central place and make sure that every follow-up call is informed, efficient, friendly and productive for both his clients and his business.
Outsourced communications providers are able to filter, categorise and rank leads according to priority allowing companies to respond more efficiently and effectively.
3. Initial response
While the current statistics suggest that simply responding to enquiries makes for successful lead management, there are a whole host of other factors that will determine how effective your efforts are.
Firstly, the timing of a response. Someone who has sent an email to your estate agency’s generic email address won’t necessarily expect a reply as quickly as someone who has engaged via live chat or social media.
It’s prudent to set some rules as to how quickly customers should receive a response across different platforms and use this insight to help staff prioritise their workflow.
Matt Nicol at Nicol & Co in Worcester and Droitwich Spa uses telephone answering and live chat services to be sure that his team doesn’t miss out on any enquiries, whenever home-buyers choose to get in touch – whether it’s day or night.
It is the ability to provide such a positive first impression that makes the service so useful for the agency and gives it the edge over its local competition - particularly as customers often remark how helpful and surprising it is for calls and enquiries to be answered at 10pm and beyond.
Next is the frequency of response. Here, it’s vital to strike the balance between forming a relationship without coming across as overly salesy. You want to engage and inform a lead and help them feel supported in the property purchase, sale or rental process – not overwhelm them with sales messaging.
4. Nurture and protect
Securing new business from one initial enquiry or interaction is certainly possible but will most likely be a rarity. That’s where a nurture process comes into play. This will see you keeping in touch with prospects who may not be ripe for conversion right now but could be in future.
A steady flow of useful content – such as information leaflets, blogs and guides – will ensure you remain front of mind while positioning your business as an expert within the field. When the time comes for the individual to require an estate agent, they will know exactly who to call!
*Joanne Tattum is Business Relationship Manager at outsourced communications provider Moneypenny