As lead sources dwindle while we’re all sheltering in place, here’s how you can double down and take the basics of lead conversion digital.

In challenging times, it’s a smart idea to revisit the fundamentals of good business. This April, go Back to Basics with Inman.

Online leads are plummeting, door-knocking is out of the question, and regular open houses are banned by many MLSs. When there are fewer lead sources, it’s time to double down on the basics of lead conversion.  

April is Back to Basics Month at Inman. To succeed in today’s COVID-19 market, determine how you can tweak those basics to fit today’s virtual business environment. 

Lead vs. prospect vs. client

The basic real estate sales funnel goes from lead to prospect to client.

  • A lead is an unqualified contact, usually someone you haven’t met. Examples include Zillow and leads as well as contact information for your geographical farm.   
  • A prospect is someone who has expressed interest in your services. Examples include sign calls, inquiries through your personal website, or someone who contacts you to determine how much their property is worth.
  • Clients are those who have asked you to represent them on their listing or purchase.  

Best practice:

Because it’s much easier for “virtual” clients to roam from agent to agent, always have your clients sign the agency documentation when you first start working together. The reason is procuring cause.

If you introduced the clients to a property and another agent wrote the offer, the agent with the signed agency documentation receives the commission. 

Be first to meet ‘face-to-face’

According to the National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Buyers and Sellers, 75 percent of sellers hire the first agent they meet with face-to-face. Because most of the country is under a shelter-in-place order, video chats, video messages and video emails are the next best thing. 

Even before COVID-19 struck, video communications were garnering better returns than almost any other type of communication. While the email open rate declined to 22.1 percent in 2019, emails using video have been logging extraordinary results.  

Based upon research from over 60 different doctoral studies, Dr. Timothy Stafford found that the open rates for video emails range between 75 to 82 percent and 84-86 percent for video testimonials. 

Best practice:

Open rates influence how many click-throughs your email will receive. A SuperOffice study of over 99,000 emails, published this year, identified the following best practices to increase your open rates. 

  • Include the word “video” in your subject line.
  • Optimize your emails for mobile devices. According to Hubspot, 46 percent of emails are viewed on mobile devices. Even so, the Superoffice study found only 20 percent of the email campaigns were properly optimized for mobile.
  • Email open rates are highest during the week. Peak open times are between noon and 6 p.m. with a significant peak at 3 p.m. 
  • Send your emails using your name, not your company’s name. 
  • Your subject line should describe your email’s content in no more than six to 10 words. 
  • Words that increase open rates include “secrets,” “e-sale” and “awesome.” Words that result in fewer opens include “confirm,” “features” and “upgrade.” Hashtags and question marks also reduce your open rate. 

How motivated are your clients today?

If you work by referral, you’re already familiar with the “A-B-C-D” approach to segmenting your referral database:  

  • “A” for angel — those who will do business with you and make two or more referrals per year. This is the list you want to grow.
  • “B” for people who will both do business with you and make referrals if shown how.
  • “C” for people who will not refer business to you but will transact with you for their own account. 
  • “D” for delete. Those people won’t do business with you, won’t refer and may even be hostile.

Best practice:

Greg McDaniel has modified this approach to assess how strongly motivated his clients are in today’s market

  • “A” is for those buyers who are still calling you and want to see property. Your “A” sellers are prepared to list now and are comfortable marketing their home entirely digitally. An interior inspection can be conducted once an offer is finalized. 

Stay in touch with these leads daily, especially with relevant information such as market updates, new listings, helpful loan programs and more. Actively prospect daily to find buyers for their listings. 

  • “B” is for those who are not actively looking, but will transact now if you find a buyer for their property or the right property to purchase.  

Keep in mind that about 50 percent of buyers have a property to sell. Consequently, be especially diligent about making sure your “B” clients are regularly updated about new listings.

Contact them at least once weekly with a personal video or phone call to see how they’re doing personally. Interact with them on any posts they make on their social media sites.

  • “C” is for those who will transact as soon as the quarantines are lifted, and it’s safe to move about in public. 

For future sellers, proceed with preparing their listing for sale. This includes obtaining property photos, putting together your marketing materials, and making sure they have all the digital documentation to list their home. Keep buyers updated using the tactics in “B” in case they shift from being a “C” to a “B.”  

  • “D” for delete: Those who don’t respond to your calls and communication attempts.

Those are the people you should’ve deleted anyway before COVID-19 hit — dump them now!

A new twist on open house

In previous downturns, agents would organize “neighborhood open houses.” This often involved a progressive lunch where different courses were served at each house. You can tweak this approach to do the same thing digitally

Best practice:

You can conduct your digital neighborhood open house in two different ways. First, have all the participating listing agents share their property videos. Have a video editor splice them together into a single video.

Each agent posts the playback on their social media platforms as well as on sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Oodle Marketplace and Craigslist. Alternatively, each agent has a specific scheduled time to do a Facebook Live walk-through of their listing. 

To kick it up a notch, each agent could distribute a digital coupon from a local business that can be redeemed when the quarantines are lifted. 

For past buyers who were edged out on multiple offers

McDaniel has called every listing agent where his buyers lost on multiple offers. One of them called him back last week because there had been a “hiccup” in his transaction. 

Best practice:

Identify each property address where you were involved in a multiple offer. Check the MLS or property records to see if that property has closed. If it hasn’t, and your client is still interested, contact the listing agent to check availability. 

If the listing has expired, and it’s outside the other brokerage’s protection period, contact the seller directly to see if they’re willing to sign a one-party listing. If so, get the one-party listing signed, and write a new offer.  

Plan a post-quarantine charitable fundraiser or client appreciation event for a local school or other organization

The general manager of my company has been raising money for Relay for Life by holding “virtual tea parties” and other types of themed socials on Zoom.

McDaniel is planning a post-quarantine event to bring his community together at a pizza and adopt-a-pet fundraiser for a local school.

Best practice:

Get creative. Is there some way you can bring people together virtually to support local organizations and businesses? If so, do it now. 

People are paying attention. Now is the time to shine by making a difference where it counts most — where you live. 

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at and her new agent sales training at

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription