Although many builders are aware of the essential elements of an effective website, even the most compelling site can be a sales bust without the correct handling of online leads. BUILDER senior editor Jennifer Goodman talks with online marketing expert Mike Lyon about how to turn online leads into prospects that become buyers.
What are the ways that builders receive leads online?
The answer to this question has actually changed over the past few years. It used to be that an online lead or e-lead was generated when a customer filled out a form on a builder’s website requesting more information or leads from third-party listing services like NewHomeSource.com or Realtor.com.
However, most online sales programs now incorporate all leads generated by a variety of online sources. This will include a phone call from someone who saw your site, a Facebook or Twitter comment, an e-mail, or an online brochure request.
About 25% to 30% of all leads today are generated from online sources versus walk-in traffic. That’s a significant number and should command a focused follow-up and follow-through process.
How should online leads be handled?
A prospect should be responded to in five minutes or less, via email or phone, receive seven to nine contacts in the first month, and then one email and one phone call every month until the customer takes action or tells the sales executive to take a hike. Don’t worry about alienating potential buyers—customers will tell a salesperson if they have moved on or are no longer interested.
Why is it so crucial to convert these leads into customers?
Data show us that these types of leads are the most qualified and educated, meaning that these clients have done their homework and are prepared to buy. Online leads convert at a 300% higher rate than your standard “walk-in” traffic. So builders ignore them at their peril.
How can builders do a better job of working these leads?
Successful lead conversion must include the following:
—Speedy responses. Statistics show that the faster the response, the higher the conversion rate.
—A specific process for short- and long-term follow-up. Having an established process such as the five-minute response plan above ensures that prospects are cultivated according to a proven approach.
—Targeted messaging. Prepare targeted responses for every scenario so that the language is consistent, focused, and effective. The targeting can be based on the lead source, community of interest, or even the prospect’s interest level.
—And perhaps most important: a dedicated online sales counselor (OSC) who is trained to effectively interact with online prospects. How does the online sales counselor facilitate the sales process?
The OSC is key to making the Web-generated prospect understand that the next step in the process of planning their home is to work with the sales professional. The OSC should introduce the prospect to the on-site salesperson via phone or email. This doesn’t mean the OSC steps completely out of the picture. He or she should still provide support as needed.
Why do you say that 50% of online leads are mismanaged?
A 2013 online lead follow-up survey lays out the results pretty clearly. Out of some of the top 227 home builders in the country, 41% of sales agents did not respond to leads via email, and 74% did not respond via a phone call. Only 4% sent more than two emails and called the prospect more than once over a period of 30 days.
These numbers—which, by the way, have not really changed in the past four years—present a powerful opportunity for the builder who decides to follow up in the way I’ve outlined above.
Mike Lyon is the author of Browsers to Buyers: Proven Strategies for Selling New Homes Online. He uses his real-world knowledge of online marketing and sales to help builders nationwide generate and convert more leads. Click here for more information.