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“I had someone reach out to me today and I called them within five minutes. We set up a showing in the next three hours, and scheduled a listing appointment for tomorrow because they need to both buy and sell,” says HomeLight Elite agent Tony Baroni. “That all happened within 10 minutes.”
Baroni is an agent with 15 years of experience in and around Tampa, Florida. While he’d always been mindful of the benefits of responding quickly to new leads, a Tony Robbins business mastery seminar in 2015 further drove home the urgency.
“Robbins talked about how if you contact leads within five minutes, you have an 80% chance of doing business with them. If response time takes 10 minutes, it drops to 5%,” recalls Baroni. “It was that point when we decided to start an inside sales department for our team.”
While it may seem obvious in conversation, in day-to-day practice it’s easy to lose sight of why speed-to-lead is more crucial than ever to success in real estate. In this article, we’ll dig into data to spell out the importance of an ultra-fast response, and speak with three top agents to learn how they work to improve their response times.
A digital world demands speed-to-lead
A 2019 report by the National Association of Realtors indicates that 80% of millennials and 78% of Generation X home buyers found their homes on a mobile device. With 68% of baby boomers also finding properties from the palm of their hand, it’s clear that mobile connectivity has changed the way people shop for homes — meaning that agents must be responsive to stay competitive.
“If you don’t respond within the first two to three minutes of getting any lead from any lead source, you’re just not going to get in contact with that customer,” says Mike Constantine, a Trinity, Florida-based agent of eight years and winner of a 2019 HomeLight Achievement Award.
Constantine emphasizes that HomeLight leads, like those from some other sources, are distributed to multiple agents. If you want first dibs on that potential client, you’ve got to beat other agents to the callback.
“I generally respond within 30 seconds of any lead coming in, unless I’m in an appointment. If I’m in an appointment, I’ll send a text message or I’ll have another agent call on my behalf,” says Constantine, whose team remains in constant communication to ensure that a new lead is always attended to as quickly as possible.
Constantine remembers how even just five years ago, agents could easily wait up to 30 minutes to call back a new lead and it was no problem; but as the data shows, the times have changed.
“Within the past two or three years, it’s gotten so incredibly competitive that you’re not going to get the client if you wait that long,” he says.
The power of process and technology
It’s all fine and well to commit to answering your phone and responding to emails right away, but during the hectic workday of a busy agent, this is often easier said than done.
That’s why top agents like Mary Murphy of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, implement efficient strategies to improve their speed-to-lead.
Murphy uses Chime, a customer relationship management (CRM) system that allows her to set up automated responses via email or text message. She also connects quickly with potential clients through the use of chatbots on her team’s website. She believes this gives her a competitive edge over other agents, while also catching the interested party when they’re in the right mindset for discussing a home.
“You want to get people when they’re thinking about it at that exact moment,” says Murphy, who has sold nearly 150 homes since joining the industry just four years ago.
“When they click a link or they want to see a house, they’re looking for an agent and that is what is on their mind at that minute. If you wait even a few minutes, they may be at a point where they’ve moved on to something else and may not be open to really having a conversation with you.”
This may sound suspiciously fleeting — after all, if someone is serious about buying or selling a house, surely they won’t have changed their mind within the hour, right? Well, consider that a 2018 Microsoft study demonstrates that the average human, who is constantly inundated with stimuli in this digital age, now has an attention span of approximately eight seconds.
We’ve all been there: Absentmindedly picking up our phones to scroll through social media while watching TV, or opening a new tab to Google something only to realize we’ve already forgotten our search topic. With this in mind, perhaps it’s not so hard to understand how that lead from 20 minutes ago may have already expired — even if another agent isn’t the culprit.
Find what works best for your business
Not everyone loves a CRM-generated auto-reply email. If automation isn’t right for you or your team of agents, there are other ways to improve your speed-to-lead.
In Baroni’s case, his inside sales department consists of three people whose number one responsibility is to respond to leads. Between everyone, the team has active coverage from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM every day of the week, and after-hours voicemail lets callers know that they can expect a callback first thing the next morning.
“I just kind of hit capacity to do it all myself,” Baroni remembers. “Then I was trying to leverage other agents on my team, but they’re out showing [houses] everyday so it’s like, okay, here’s this predicament of, ‘How do I do this?’”
Baroni took the idea of dedicated inside sales seriously after that 2015 seminar. He flew to Houston to shadow a team of agents and learn how to implement their strategies with his team back home in Tampa.
“We put our own twist on it and we’ve done it consistently since then,” says Baroni. “We respond immediately [to leads] and we answer their questions. We see if they want to set up a showing, we go ahead and make sure they’re pre-approved, and we do all of those things prior [to showing a home] to avoid wasting anyone’s time.”
Though Baroni highly recommends hiring someone in-house to answer your phone during the times you’re unable to do it yourself, he acknowledges that this option may not be financially feasible for everyone. In that case, he suggests hiring a call center to document information with a live human, giving you a better opportunity to contact the lead as soon as you’re available.
Advice to heed for speed-to-lead
It’s inevitable that even the most well-prepared, well-connected, hyper-responsive agent will sometimes miss a lead, but it’s worth stepping back and reevaluating your current response strategies if you suspect that there may be room for improvement. Try asking yourself (and your team, if applicable) these questions:
- Where are my leads coming from?
- How quickly am I responding to new leads?
- Am I reading the important notes regarding the lead from the lead source?
- When I can’t reply to an email or answer the phone right away, how do I establish contact with a lead?
- Do I have the budget to incorporate a CRM, inside sales agent(s), or a call center?
These answers can help you paint a clearer picture of where you may have opportunities for upping your lead-response game.
Alternatively, you could take Mike Constantine’s advice:
“I’m more than happy to call, so, you know, go ahead and take your break, go to the gym, do whatever you want to do — I’ll make the call!”
Header Image Source: (Rohit Tandon / Unsplash)