With multiple agents all scrambling for the same trickle of new instructions, it’s vital to get ahead of the pack and wow potential leads. But what’s the best way of doing that, and how do you ensure you convert those leads into customers?
Tech to the rescue
The answer lies in technology. With vendors and buyers now searching almost exclusively online, attracting their attention is arguably easier than in the days when mailshots and newspaper adverts were the norm. But making the approach at the right time, in the right way, is critical to success.
There are several companies offering lead-generation services to agents, all offering a slightly different approach. Some focus on capturing hesitant surfers on your website, others use market information and complex algorithms to alert you when a property is reduced in price, or is taken off the market.
Over-valuing new instructions to win business is sadly still commonplace, but it does give responsible agents the chance to jump in when that property doesn’t sell and offer a better service – and often win better fees.
We talked to a selection of experts offering lead-generation services to see what advice they could offer to agents looking to get one step ahead of the opposition.
Andy Soloman, founder and CEO of Yomdel, warns that agents need to be aware that consumer behaviour has changed dramatically in recent years.
“The audience that agents need to reach is not going to stick to the agent’s opening hours – they’re going to be online and they are going to be doing things when they want to do them, 24 hours a day on the device of their choosing, when it suits them.
Live chat works – it comes primarily from ‘seducing the seducibles’ – people who are showing a propensity for doing something but need a bit of a nudge. Andy Soloman, Yomdel.
They are going to be doing multiple things at the same time. It’s very hard to gain people’s attention when they are travelling around the internet.
“The customer more often than not is going to be starting their journey online. On that basis we believe that agents would be well advised on spending more money on developing their digital presence.”
Soloman says every pound spent digitally done well has the potential to bring significant reward.
“It’s about making as many different channels available to your potential customers as you possibly can and the more you make available to them the more likely they are to make contact with you via the channel of their choosing.”
Yomdel offers a live chat service that pops up and offers to help people make a decision. But it’s not just present when people are looking at an agent’s websites – it can also be embedded in emails and generate text messages, too.
Soloman says live chat is now more popular with online visitors than phone or email interaction and he claims his clients typically see a 50% uplift on lead conversions.
“It comes primarily from ‘seducing the seducibles’ – people who are showing a propensity for doing something but need a bit of a nudge,” he says.
“As long as they are getting a really quick response they are more inclined to hang around and share all their information and end up being a fully qualified lead.”
Yomdel is priced from £150 per month and also offers per-lead and per-chat models for larger agencies.
Another approach to lead generation is to use market intelligence to tip off agents when a property changes status.
Agent Software is one of the main players in this arena, with its proprietary software Spectre identifying all properties that are on the market and using complex algorithms to generate potential leads.
It updates on a daily basis and can target vendors when a property first comes on the market, when it is identified as being a slow mover, when there has been a price reduction, when a sale falls through or when it has been withdrawn from the market.
“It will effectively track movements on the portals – when something arrives for sale, when something reduces in price, when something gets sold STC or falls through, all that is publicly available information,” says Spectre’s Stella Nicol.
Spectre tracks movements on the portals and identifies all the properties currently on the market and uses complex algorithms to generate potential leads for the agent. Stella Nicol, Spectre.
Each movement will trigger a different message that the agent has set to go out depending on what has been preformatted by the agent.
“If it’s a reduction they could say ‘Hey it looks like you’ve reduced in price, hope everything goes well with that reduction but if you find you’re still not getting that traction, I would love to come out and have a conversation with you’,” says Nicol.
“If they’ve just hit the market the agent might say, ‘Welcome to the market, hope everything goes OK. Are you staying in the area, if so are you registered with us for your onward purchase?’
“The prospecting that would traditionally take hours and hours to do, Spectre enables them to do with within a couple of clicks, so they can have a drip-feed of new instructions coming through that they haven’t had to work too hard for.”
Nicol is well aware that overvaluing in the industry is rife – “I don’t think anyone is in denial of that” – but claims Spectre can help responsible agents use that to their advantage.
She says industry figures suggest that somewhere between 40-50% of properties are not sold through the first agent, but that roughly 70% are successfully sold with the second agent.
“When that time comes that a vendor is feeling disheartened they will pick up the phone to the Spectre agent, and as they are often successfully achieving a sale with the second agent the Spectre agent is the one that achieves the fee.
“In many cases the Spectre agent will never have been invited to the valuation in the first instance.”
Nicol says the second agent will often achieve a higher fee than the first. “If they chose the cheap and cheerful agent first time round the second agent can go in and justify a higher fee, because they have been burned.”
Spectre has now been on the market for five years and clocked up £10bn worth of new property sales instructions, and Nicol claims an average return on investment for users of 3,000%. Contract prices vary.
Brief Your Market, one of the longest established, tried and tested powerful customer relationship management (CRM) tools that allows agents to control every aspect of their journey with the client.
When a potential buyer or seller makes an initial inquiry via an agent’s website their details are automatically captured and a new contact created in the database.
Within 24 hours the new client will receive a welcome email, and if they click on a call-to-action button on the email the agent will receive a notification about that, too.
“That continues right the way down the line,” says Marketing Manager Paul Davies. “Five years down the line we’ve still got those records – we can say ‘Did you know you’ve been in your property for five years, can we provide you with an updated valuation?’ or ‘Are you looking to release equity?’.
The company has also now launched a market intelligence tool called Build Your Market that dovetails seamlessly with the existing CRM software to provide a complete package for clients.
Five years down the line we’ve still got those records – we can say “Did you know you’ve been in your property for five years, can we provide you with an updated valuation?” Paul Davies , Brief Your Market.
“You can see if you’ve given your client an appraisal and they’ve gone on to list their property with another agent; you can also see fallen-through sales, sold STC – any status change to a property within your postcode area or your district area, all the market opportunities – and make contact via email, SMS and letters,” says Davies.
He claims the new platform is 48 hours quicker than any of its rivals in generating new leads, and that if a contact is already within the Brief Your Market database it can send out an email or SMS instantly, without the agent having to lift a finger.
There is hardly a homeowner in the land who isn’t curious about what their property might be worth and free valuations are a tried and tested way of bringing new properties onto an agent’s books.
Rightval takes this one step further by offering instant online valuations. Potential vendors will click through from an agent’s site to a Rightval page that is branded with the agent’s own logo and colour themes, enter a few details about their property and receive an instant automated valuation.
The kickback for the estate agent is that they then get the details of the vendor they can then follow up to hopefully convert into an instruction. Matt Sutton, Rightval.
The minimum-maximum price range the customer receives is generated from automated data, including a combination of major portal current asking prices and Land Registry sale prices, and works 24/7 without the agent having to get involved.
“The kickback for the agent is that they then get the details of the vendor they can then follow up to hopefully convert into an instruction,” says Rightval’s technical director, Matt Sutton.
“It’s an excuse for an agent to ring up and say, ‘You have your instant valuation, we’d like to be able to offer you a more personal one that factors in any improvements you’ve made to the property’, and so on.
“From the agent’s point of view, as long as the valuation is in the right ballpark, it’s a conversation starter.”
Rightval has up and running for less than a year, but has already processed inquiries worth £1.5bn in valuation terms. The product is very much focused on grabbing people’s attention via social media channels.
“It’s designed to be a very ‘low-touch’ product, with minimal information required,” says Sutton. “It lends itself to someone sitting on their sofa browsing through their Facebook feed. It’s literally a two-step lead capture.”
Rightval is also able to show agents where their potential geographic opportunities are, with postcode demand ratings so they can target advertising to specific locations in their locality.
“We can help them laser in where there is potential opportunity to secure new business,” he says. “We integrate everything from normal tracking tools like Google Analytics – it’s not just a case of put it out there and hope for the best. They can actually see the return on their investment.”
Rightval is currently offering a 14-day free trial followed by a £29-per-month deal with no minimum contract period.
Don’t miss out
The market may be tough out there at the moment, but there have never been better and more sophisticated tools available to help agents generate new leads – and the software is getting better all the time. If you’re not already investing in lead-generation technology, you had better get a move on – because you can bet your bottom dollar competitors are doing just that. It’s the next big thing, and you can’t afford to miss out.