Secrets to converting phone leads into real estate clients

The goal is to engage in a conversation, not 'give away the farm'

Former realtor.com President and CEO Allan Dalton once observed that the real estate industry is great at generating leads — it’s converting those leads that is the issue.

With inventories being tight and loans harder to obtain than ever, you’re probably wondering how to maximize your income over the next few months. The most important step that you can take is to maximize the return from the leads you receive.

Telephone image via Shutterstock.
Telephone image via Shutterstock.

1. Juggling live appointments with incoming lead calls
Agents walk a fine line between attempting to respond immediately to incoming leads vs. being completely focused on their clients during appointments. Here’s how to handle this situation:

First, have a designated “hotline” number that you use on all your signs. If a call comes in on that number, you know you have a potential buyer or seller who is probably sitting in front of the property. This is the best possible opportunity for lead conversion.

Second, explain to your clients that you want to be completely focused on them. However, if a call comes in on your “hotline,” that means you have five minutes to respond or your seller will lose that lead. Use the following script to explain the situation:

“Mr. and Mrs. Seller, when a potential buyer for a property calls from your yard sign, there is a five-minute window in which to respond before that lead goes on to another property. Would you be offended if a hotline call comes in on another one of my listings and I take that call?”

If they take offense, the best course of action is to turn off your phone. If you use a Google voice number, you can always have the call forwarded to a virtual assistant, another agent you trust, or even back to your office receptionist.

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If the sellers say they would not be offended, then you can take the hotline call. How you handle the call is extremely important, because it will allow the sellers to have a firsthand experience of how you would handle inquiries on their property. Here’s what to say:

Mr. and Mrs. Seller ... would you be offended if a hotline call comes in on another one of my listings and I take that call?”

“Thanks for calling. That’s a terrific property and it’s generating quite a bit of interest. I am at an appointment and can call you back in about 45 minutes to discuss the details. Is this the best number to reach you?”

If they say “yes,” you probably have a good buyer or seller lead. If the answer is “no,” they probably weren’t a lead in the first place.

Here’s another script:

“Thanks for calling. That property is in excellent condition and is well-priced. I am just wrapping up another appointment. May I call you back in 45 minutes to discuss the details?

2. How to follow up: an oldie but a goodie
One of the biggest mistakes that agents make is how they handle follow-up calls. The best strategy dates back to floor duty training from the last century.

The strategy is that you never give out any information until you find out what the caller really wants. The caller’s one goal is to disqualify you and/or your listing so that they don’t have to talk to you any longer than necessary.

When the caller says, “What’s the price?” you don’t give the price. Instead, the secret to converting that caller into a potential client is to ask “how” and “what” questions. Here’s how it works.

Caller: I was calling on your listing at 123 Main Street. What’s the price?

Agent: That’s a terrific property that has four bedrooms and 3.5 baths and an updated kitchen. How many people are in your household?

(Always ask about their “household,” not their “family,” which can be a fair housing violation.)

Caller: My husband, myself and two children.

Agent: How old are your children?

Caller: Our children are six and eight.

Agent: Did you know that the elementary school that serves this area has been rated as exemplary by the state? It has a great reputation and the people who live in the area really like it.

Caller: We want good schools. What did you say the price was?

Agent: The price is $329,000. Is that the price range in which you were looking?

Caller: Our maximum budget is about $280,000.

Agent: There’s a lovely three-bedroom home that just came on the market in the same area — it’s in the same school district, and is in good condition. Would a three-bedroom home work for you?

Caller: We had hoped for four bedrooms — or three bedrooms with an office.

Agent: The property has an office right off the entry. Would you be available to see the property at 3 p.m. or 5 p.m. this afternoon?

The most important element of this script is how you answer the pricing question. The way to do this is to give the caller the price and to immediately follow up with a question about the caller’s price range.

Here’s another example of the same approach: If a caller asks, “Does the property have a large backyard?” reply by saying, “Is having a large backyard important to you?”

Asking the question helps you to uncover whether the person really wants a large backyard or a yard with little or no maintenance.

This proven approach is just as effective today as it was 50 years ago. Your goal is to engage the caller in a conversation, to explore his or her wants and needs, and then to close for a showing on a property that best suits those needs. That’s the best way to convert that caller into being one of your buyers or sellers.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles and two best-selling real estate books. Discover why leading Realtor associations and companies have chosen Bernice’s new and experienced real estate sales training for their agents at www.RealEstateCoach.com/AgentTraining and www.RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.


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