There’s a real estate team leader who uses a stock-market-like system to manage leads for his agents. He sits at a desk with two computer monitors to accommodate everything he needs to see, and he watches his Zillow leads flow across the screens as buyers and sellers find his agents on the site. There’s no doubt that team leaders find activities like this one tedious at best. And although software exists to help team leaders intelligently assign leads to their agents — BoomTown, Kunversion, Commissions Inc. — soon team leaders will be able to manage this activity by setting rules in their Zillow Premier Agent mobile and desktop interfaces.

  • Zillow has added team functionality to its profile pages as well as several new tools to its Premier Agent app: lead routing, broadcast phone calls, team reporting and self-service ZIP code purchase.
  • The changes are live in some test markets and are expected to be rolled out "broadly by May," according to Zillow Group chief business officer Greg Schwartz.
  • The new tools are included with the cost of Premier Agent advertising.

There’s a real estate team leader who uses a stock-market-like system to manage leads for his agents. He sits at a desk with two computer monitors to accommodate everything he needs to see, and he watches his Zillow leads flow across the screens as buyers and sellers find his agents on the site.

As the leads come in, the team leader assigns each one to whichever agent he thinks is best-suited for the job. He knows he can convert these leads if he follows up, and he wants to make sure his best people are working on the best opportunities.

There’s no doubt, though, that team leaders find activities like this one tedious at best. And although software exists to help team leaders intelligently assign leads to their agents — BoomTown, Kunversion, Commissions Inc., Follow Up Boss and Top Producer, to name just a handful — soon team leaders will be able to manage this activity by setting rules in their Zillow Premier Agent mobile and desktop interfaces.

Today, Zillow is announcing an array of changes to its Premier Agent desktop and mobile apps — some of them already live in test markets. The changes seem largely designed with real estate teams in mind and include new profiles (with team options), expanding the Agent Concierge program, lead-routing, lead reporting and referral tracking, and a new self-service shopping cart with additional metrics available for all agents to review — including an estimate of the cost per lead in each ZIP code.

Agents who use the Premier Agent software can expect these changes to be fully activated “broadly by May,” said Zillow Group chief business officer Greg Schwartz. They’ll be included in the cost of advertising (though there’s no information yet about how that pricing could change).

Here are the details.

Re-launching profiles

“The team profile allows agents and teams to associate with each other,” explained Schwartz. “Production, transactions and listings can appear on both the agent profile and the team profile.”

The new Zillow team profiles.

The new Zillow team profiles.

Consumers will indicate the agent with whom they worked, and the transaction information and the review will appear on both the agent’s profile page and the team page.

While an agent is active with a team, the team and the agent will both “own” the transaction information and the review. If the agent leaves the team, he or she can take that transaction information and review along for the ride. The review and transaction information will also stay with the team if the agent leaves, and they won’t be transferred to any new team or brokerage that the agent joins.

It’s a bit like a resume, said Tim Correia, vice president of engineering and products at Zillow Group. “While you’re with a team, it’s like my employment history while I’m working with someone. The goals, the things we accomplished, they’ll stay both with the employer and with me — they’re both of our accomplishments — and as I move on and join a new team, they come with me and stay with the company.”

Both Zillow and Trulia profiles will utilize the same data, but they have different consumer-facing “skins.”

The new Trulia team profiles.

The new Trulia team profiles.

“Ultimately, if a team wants to aggregate all their content, they don’t have to do it this way,” explained Schwartz — so team leaders can claim all of their agents’ reviews and transaction information for the team if they so desire. “But they now have the choice,” he added.

Team leaders can create teams, add agents to them, remove agents from them and disband the team from the platform. Agents must approve any “add” notifications, and it all appears on the site instantaneously on approval — like Facebook.

Team profiles are expected to be available by the end of April.

Agent Concierge expanding

Currently being offered to about 15 percent of Zillow Premier Agents (according to Schwartz), the Agent Concierge program (initially dubbed Premier Agent Assist) uses Zillow employees to “scrub” phone leads before the call gets routed to an agent.

The Zillow employees are given state-specific lists of questions so they can ensure they aren’t running afoul of any state laws. Concierges ask leads if they’re interested in buying or selling and whether they’re already working with a real estate agent.

If the lead is a valid buyer or seller who doesn’t have an agent, the Zillow employee will ask to transfer the call to the agent.

Schwartz said that Agent Concierge will soon be available to all Premier Agent advertisers.

Lead routing within teams and brokerages

There will be two variables that team leaders can use to route leads (location and price point), and Correia said the company plans to add more as they get feedback from agents.

The new routing rules interface on the Zillow Premier Agent software.

The new routing rules interface on the Zillow Premier Agent software.

Email leads can be evenly distributed among team members, and team leaders can also use percentages to attribute email leads to their agents.

The “phone lead broadcast” is also new. Phone calls have been “the hardest lead to respond to” for Zillow advertisers, said Correia, and Schwartz added that voicemail is “extremely destructive to conversion” — most consumers will hang up before they leave a message.

Zillow's phone broadcast tool.

Zillow’s phone broadcast tool.

Using the broadcast tool, team leaders can select the pool of agents they’d like to respond to any and all phone leads. “Anyone on the team can qualify for the lead — for the phone call — and they can accept the client,” said Correia.

The phone call is sent to every agent’s phone number at once. The first agent available will be prompted to press “1” on his or her phone to be connected to the consumer, and when that happens, the phone stops ringing elsewhere.

If the team leader decides that the agent who’s claimed (or been assigned) a lead might not be the best fit for that particular consumer, then he or she can move that lead to a different agent using both the mobile and desktop Premier Agent interfaces. The new agent will receive a push notification that the lead has been assigned.

Lead routing will be available by the end of April.

Lead reporting and referral tracking

Once those leads are assigned, according to Schwartz, keeping track of where they are has traditionally been a monumental effort, particularly for expansion team leaders.

He uses referrals as an example. “If you’re an expansion team leader and your team member is another agent you know, and you’re referring a lead from Zillow to the agent, who happens to work at a different brokerage or a different office — that agent is going to pay you a 30 percent to 40 percent referral fee if he closes a deal,” Schwartz said. “You just have to trust the agent to remember to pay you that.”

How do the referrers currently track that information? “Excel,” said Schwartz. “They write the lead in Excel and have someone call the agent hoping to get an update.”

Now, agents have the ability to classify leads in both the mobile app and on their desktops — as “new,” “hot,” “warm,” “cold” and “sold.” They can also add notes to the lead to help them remember specific requests or conversations.

Agents and team leaders can manually add non-Zillow leads into the Premier Agent app, too.

Tracking leads in the new Premier Agent interface.

Tracking leads in the new Premier Agent interface.

Team leaders can pull up the full list of leads and see who’s responsible for it, when it was last updated and the status. They can also sort by agent — if they’re interested in seeing what one specific person has been up to — or by status.

This is where Schwartz is hoping the changes will help with referrals. Expansion team leaders will be able to easily sort out their “sold” leads and follow up only with the confirmed sales.

It’s dependent on agents maintaining and updating the lead status in the app, of course. Schwartz suggests a simple solution for team leaders dealing with scofflaw agents: If they don’t update the leads they have, then they won’t be receiving any more.

There’s also increased reporting available for team leaders who want to see exactly how their agents are doing with the Zillow leads they receive. It’s called a “team snapshot.”

Zillow's new Team Snapshot

Zillow’s new Team Snapshot

“You can see the new phone calls that have come into your team, and you can see if it was answered, listen to the audio and make sure your team is following up on that,” said Correia.

The “snapshots” can be generated for individual agents, too (those are called “report cards”). They will show how many leads were sent to Premier Agents and how many were picked up or responded to. They will also include average sales price and an estimate of the missed opportunity (in dollars) based on a 3.5 percent conversion rate and a standard commission rate.

New shopping cart

Zillow will be launching a new shopping cart, too, so that agents can purchase their ZIP code ads through self-service. “And we’re giving them a whole bunch of data that they can trade in and mess around,” said Schwartz.

Agents can see their total advertising budget on the screen, as well as all of the ZIP codes where they are currently purchasing advertising and the available ZIP codes near them. There are estimates available of total monthly leads generated in that ZIP code, the average cost per lead in the ZIP code and the average home price in the ZIP code. All of that information is fed through an algorithm to produce a “return on investment” in the ZIP code — an “estimate,” Schwartz concedes, but he believes it’s a “conservative” one, based on a 3.5 percent lead conversion rate, calculations of available impressions and agent ad spend.

“If you have more reviews, you get more leads, and your cost per lead is lower,” he explained. “That’s why this is an estimate, because it’s not guaranteed.”

Agents can also see their “share of voice” in any ZIP code — where they stand in comparison to all the other agents advertising in that ZIP code — and adjust their spending accordingly. And they can see which ZIP codes are currently available near them without having to pick up the phone.

Schwartz said his hope is that team leaders will be able to identify potentially promising ZIP codes nearby — and possibly hire new agents to work those areas of opportunity.

The new shopping cart will be rolling out “over the next few months,” according to a Zillow press release.

Will prices go up?

There is no additional charge for the tools — they’re included with the price of advertising. What will happen to that price?

“We’ve largely priced on supply and demand,” said Schwartz. “I can’t even speculate what prices will be. Our leads are growing quite quickly. Where we have lots of folks wanting those leads, there’s more demand. Where there are fewer folks wanting them, there’s less.

“We think with the addition of Premier Agent Concierge, and software, and profiles, they’re going to make much more money and have less stress,” he added.

“We are building these tools to help Premier Agents convert more of the customer inquiries into actual transactions,” said Amanda Woolley, Zillow Group communications manager. “We want to provide as much value to our Premier Agents as possible so they see as much return on their advertising investment as possible.”

What’s next?

Inman asked Zillow if the company had plans to potentially integrate with dotloop to help team leaders better manage the classification of each lead. Could there be a point in the future in which dotloop “tells” the app (and the team leader) which leads are hot, cold and sold? “Nothing to share at the moment,” said Woolley.

Although these tools have been shaped to help support real estate teams and team leaders, J. Philip Faranda, broker-owner of J. Philip Real Estate and a member of Zillow’s agent advisory board, said that he thought they could also work for a small brokerage. He thought the tools would be difficult to scale beyond 30 or 40 agents, however.

What’s the feedback?

Veronica Figueroa, team leader of The Figueroa Team in Orlando, Florida, said she has been using new market-based pricing tools for more than a year, but she’s most excited about the new team profiles. “Our agents will be able to build on their personal reputation through our team profile. It’s a win-win for a team lead and also the individual agent. Consumers will be able to understand who they are connecting with while still working with a team.”

Schwartz said that the agents on Zillow’s agent advisory board “loved the profiles” and were “pretty excited about the team software.”

“Many have invested in their own CRM relationships, and they wanted to know if we wanted them to drop their own CRM provider and use this exclusively,” he noted. “If they’re tuned into a great CRM, we’re still going to support it with our Tech Connect program.

“The critical contribution our advisory boards made was, ‘Don’t tell me what I have to be — let me choose how to represent myself,’” Schwartz said. He emphasized that the changes (especially surrounding team profiles) are all optional — these extra tools are included with the purchase of ZIP code advertising, so he’s hoping that agent advertisers will find them useful.

Faranda said that the new suite of tools “should really do a lot of violence to the notion that Zillow has some sinister plan to disintermediate agents.”

If real estate agents are police officers, then Zillow wants to be the company that makes the uniforms, badges, squad cars and handcuffs, he added.

Email Amber Taufen.

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