THERE ARE ANY NUMBER OF SOFTWARE PROGRAMS that can help builders more effectively manage Internet sales leads, but Hovnanian Enterprises' California and Arizona group, based in Ontario, Calif., decided that what it really needed was a person.

Hovnanian hired Serena Imbrogno a little more than a year ago to work as a community information specialist. In this newly created position, Imbrogno sends e-mail follow-ups to prospects from about 150 Web leads a day. Typically, she tries to customize the response based on the buyer's request.

The goal: Respond to sales leads within 24 hours and guide prospects to an appointment with a Hovnanian salesperson.

“They might ask about a Plan 2 model, so I'll give them specific information on the community, including current pricing,” says Imbrogno, who is responding only to California-based leads for now. “I'll also send them electronic brochures, local maps, directions to the community, and city information.”

RAPID RESPONSE: Serena Imbrogno's goal is to respond to Internet sales leads within 24 hours and set up appointments with Hovnanian sales reps.
RAPID RESPONSE: Serena Imbrogno's goal is to respond to Internet sales leads within 24 hours and set up appointments with Hovnanian sales reps.

Mike Dwight, the division's group vice president, says the new system helps Hovnanian salespeople close sales that they more than likely would not have closed. Dwight says that from May 2004 through February 2005, Hovnanian in California received 19,121 Web leads and made 222 sales. Of the 222 sales, 113 of the buyers have closed and are living in the new homes.

“If we can engage prospects who come to us via the Web, they are more likely to buy than a walk-in customer,” Dwight says. “We don't think we're going to sell a house over the Net, but we can not sell a house over the Net by not responding to customers and not giving them the information they ask for.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.