Real estate website chat tools should lose the 'push'

Save it for the delivery room, where it belongs

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That might sound a little “pushy,” but if you sincerely want to build trust with fresh-blooded potential clients, it’s a hard truth that a lot of agents still, unfortunately, need to hear. Not only is the hard sell dead, but also without a pulse is the soft sell, the value sell and every other sleazy sales tactic you’ve ever learned.

It’s time to start waiting patiently for your queue to invite you to chime in, and that process begins with your ears, not your mouth. Too many agents are using their website chat tools to stalk and harass potential new clients.

I was in New York for the Real Estate Connect conference, and the experience reminded me how much I hate being pressure-sold. Of course, none of this happened to me while on the conference floor; in fact, I was on the other side of the table since I was, in fact, exhibiting. We can wax poetic about time and place a little later.

No, for me, the hard sell came out on the streets of New York when I ventured away from the secure comfort of my Times Square hotel to indulge in a little retail therapy. It had been a few years since I had been in the city of Gotham, but the sensation of dread came flooding back to me as soon as I heard the first familiar holler: “Hey, ma’am, you like comedy? You want to laugh tonight?”

A man freezing his appendages off in the bitter cold of January (the historic snowfall never came, but it was colder than Canada down there) was waving a book of tickets in my face as soon as I stepped off the sidewalk. A polite, “Oh, no thanks, I have plans already tonight,” and I moved along.

Three more feet. “Hey, ma’am, you want show tickets? Do you want to go to a show tonight? Come over here; let me show you what show tickets I got.”

“No thank you.” This continued incessantly as I tried to make my way to my destination. My responses got less and less polite, and I started avoiding eye contact until I realized not watching where I was going had a side effect called …  lost in New York.

In the few precious hours I had to myself, all I wanted was to walk along with my coffee, enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, and do a little damage on my credit card. Instead, I was bombarded by salespeople coming at me from every direction offering tickets, passes, CDs and tours to the point that I was forced to call it a day for fear I would either cave and buy everything they were offering or get trapped after dark on my own because I was too polite to say “no.”

After succumbing to purchasing demo CDs from two smooth-talking gentlemen who referred to me as J-Love, I finally chose to accept defeat, and I left. Packed it in. Folded my hand and went back to the quiet solace of my hotel room. I was a little more than annoyed, too. I’m a red-blooded female with an affinity for shoes, and I was a bit miffed that I was scared back to my room by manic sales zombies without the reward of new kicks to make it worth my while. Instead, all I had to show were some autographed CDs for when those smooth-talking artists make it big.

I would rate this experience as a midgrade sales barrage — it fits somewhere in between the beaches of an all-inclusive resort in Mexico … and what I see real estate agents doing to their clients on a daily basis with website chat tools. The push. Not only is it annoying, but it’s also totally obvious.

Don’t get me wrong; agents aren’t stalking their clients while they’re half-dressed on a beach with offers of silver jewelry and phallic drink vessels, but they are pestering their prey by using ill-fitting website chat tools that were designed for the sole purpose of retail support. Those support-based chat tools are designed to help existing, “already bought and sold” clients with issues.

Let’s examine why this isn’t this ideal for an agent or broker.

1. You have to sign in for it to work.

Uh-oh. How many other things that make your life more efficient do you have to sign in to? Your customer relationship manager, website chat tool, website, multiple listing service and portal account? It gets dizzying; that’s why an ideal solution is a chat tool that doesn’t require sign-in and can still open up chat between your website and your mobile device. It means you can capture more potential leads without having to think twice about what your password is for yet another app.

2. You have to push to engage.

Now that you’re signed in to your support-based, one-size-fits-all website chat tool, you have to do some pushing. Hopefully, you enjoy the incessant ringing of a doorbell to tell you when visitors are online. And by visitors, we mean any unique Internet protocol (IP) address, and by unique IP address, we mean you could waste half your day pushing website chats to robots scanning your website for traffic-ranking purposes.

If you push a website chat to a visitor who is actually a real human interested in a property that you have, you run the risk of scaring them off because nobody likes the feeling that they are being watched as they surf through a website in the comfort of their own space. It’s freaky. They know it, and nine times out of 10, they will not only close the website chat tool window, but they will also exit your site as fast as humanly possible.

You’re better off with a chat box that can be called up at the request of the visitor when that visitor is ready to engage with you. Being available and responsive is key.

3. Your website is your sales tool.

If this is true, then your website chat tool needs to be looked at as your conversion tool. You should be able to integrate your website chat tool into every listings detail page. If your website chat tool is not capable of integrating into your Internet data exchange listing data, then it is just another generic chat tool, not a chat tool designed for real estate.

The next time I travel back to the illustrious streets of New York, I’m going to be a little more prepared with some oversized sunglasses to avoid awkward eye contact with unsolicited street salespeople. My question to you is, will anyone come back to your website knowing that you might still be waiting to push an unsolicited sales chat their way?

Jennifer Fuller is the co-founder of Syncro.

Email Jennifer Fuller.