Sales trainer Myers Barnes has no patience for sales agents who say they aren’t getting enough leads on prospective buyers. Barnes makes the case that there are plenty of leads, but many leak out of the system and many others are never mined to their full potential.

As evidence, Barnes, along with online sales and marketing consultant Mike Lyon, offered these statistics at the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday.

During 425 new home mystery shops, 53% of all visitors received no follow-up e-mails and 86% received no telephone calls.

In fact, said Barnes, 48% of sales agents never follow up on visits, 25% make two contacts, and 12% only make three.

That’s almost never enough contact to sell a home, said Barnes, because it takes between five and 12 contacts with customers to sell 80% of homes.

“If you do nothing else, follow up calls,” said Barnes.

One part of a solution employed successfully by some builders is to hire an online sales consultant whose job is to immediately answer online inquiries and to set up appointments for potential buyers to visit a sales center. Since 90% of home shoppers start their hunt for a home on the Internet, these consultants are necessary, he said.

Marketing directors of two successful builders told the audience how their online sales consultants help to successfully turn leads into sales by helping interested buyers narrow down location, product, and getting them to commit to visit a sales center.

Kevin Oakley of Heartland Custom Homes in Pittsburgh and Steve Shoemaker of Ideal Homes in Oklahoma City both told how their online sales consultants have made huge contributions to their companies’ successes.

But an online sales manager is not enough to ensure more sales, said Barnes. Often the baton gets dropped in the hand-off between the online sales consultants and agents, he said. Builders need to set up systems to make sure that prospects get into the sales center and are treated appropriately when they arrive.

For success, a builder needs several more pieces to the puzzle in addition to the online sales consultant: cracker jack on-location sales agents who are trained and follow a specific sales process,  a well-designed website, and a leads management and creation system that includes a strong connection between the online sales consultant and those in the field.

“You need all pieces of the puzzle,” he said.

 Teresa Burney is a senior editor for BUILDER magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.