Video: Real Estate Lead Gen & Conversion
Watch a recorded 60-minute roundtable discussion focused on lead generation and lead conversion in a shifting real estate market. Sierra’s Product Manager, Robert Sagers, Sierra’s Digital Marketing Account Manager Team Lead Crystal Nosal, Ruuster’s Spencer Linquist, Real Synch’s Scott Sillari and Waypost Realty’s Buddy Blake discuss how lead generation and lead conversion strategies and tactics have had to change to keep up with the real estate market. Recorded on February 23, 2023.
Video transcript below.
RS: Everybody, welcome. It is Thursday, February 23rd. The year is 2023 and you have joined the Sierra Mastermind. Are we talking today to some special guests? My name is Robert Segars. I’m one of the product managers at Sierra Interactive, joined, as always, by my esteemed and elegant co-host Buddy Blake. He leads a team in Wilmington, North Carolina. And we have three guests with us today, Spencer, Crystal and Scott. And I would love for you all to introduce yourselves. Spencer, why don’t we start with you then, Scott and then Crystal. Spencer Welcome to Money.
SL: Thanks, Scott. Thanks, Robert. Thanks for having me. My name is Spencer Lindquist. I am on the team at Ruuster. For those of you that don’t know what Ruuster is, if you have ever met with folks, you’re having conversations all the time. Some percentage of those you lose touch with, right? You kind of forget about them. They fall through the cracks. Even with a great system like Sierra, and it’s usually because it’s just a matter of proximity. So somebody else interfaced and got closer to them. So what we build to help solve that challenge are really killer mobile apps that are branded around your business that are deeply two-way integrated with great CRMs like Sierra.
RS: And Spencer, you’re the business development manager at Ruuster.
SL: Senior Business Development Manager is my–very, very, long, wordy title.
RS: Yeah well, I know that I think Scott’s got the shortest title. Scot, introduce yourself.
SS: Scott Sillari, Real Synch. I am the CEO, operator, wearer of a lot of hats for the company. We are the company that integrates all of your systems that you’re using–your tech stack to Sierra. And yeah, we’re the company that you hate the pay, but we unfortunately, you need us to, to connect your tech. So that is us. Yeah. Nice to be here, man. I love it.
RS: Good to see you, Crystal. You’ve got a long title as well.
CN: I do. So I’m Crystal. I’m the Digital Marketing Team Manager at Sierra Interactive. I’ve been here a few years now working on growing our team, growing our services, being more available for all of you, which is a big task to undertake. But we are going full on. So, yeah, nice to be here.
RS: Good. It’s great to see you all. Buddy, let’s check in with you. How are things going?
BB: Things are good. It’s warm. It’s 82 degrees on the coast. Just left, having dinner on the ocean, on a pier. So it was really, really nice. Market has slowed a little bit since the interest rates bump again. But, you know, good weather buyers are coming out and it’s harder for some buyers, but there are plenty of buyers that have financial means to not be quite as worried about the interest rates as the media is.
SS: Buddy, what’s the national average right now based on what you know or the average right now?
BB: They’re quoting–I actually saw on a regular 30-year conventional, it’s right–a little above seven. And for government products, we’re in the mid to upper sixes. And, you know, so it’s basically a whole point more than it was 30 days ago. A whole point less, almost, than it was three months ago.
SS: That’s a win.
BB: Well, well, also on that note, just also keep in mind, most of the people buying right now, they’re either cash buyers or they weren’t buying houses two years ago at 3%. So their context of interest rates isn’t the same. So the shock and all is kind of gone. Yeah.
RS: Yeah, so let’s kind of make a baseline establish: market is shifting or market has shifted. Which one?
BB: Normal, let’s say normalized. We’re back to (20)18, (20)19, pre-COVID.
RS: Okay, and you don’t mean like the 19th century, 18, 19. You mean 2018, 2019.
BB: No, I’m not that old yet.
RS: So it’s normalized. I mean, and hopefully in this coming year, we’re going to be seeing some more stabilization around interest rates and various things that are going to bring more people out, as you said, to be able to feel confident in what’s going on in the market. I want to ask, Spencer, and maybe I can start with you. What are the current pain points that you are seeing, the clients you’re serving? What pain points are they experiencing right now in February 2023?
SL: Across the board, it’s usually an inventory challenge, right? And the best thing that folks can do is be the local subject matter expert for their area and not necessarily fall into from a national perspective. You know, you’ve got one end of the spectrum. This, you know, people will say, hey, home values are going to go up 20% year over year every year. Everything’s great; don’t worry. And on the other end of the national spectrum, you’ve got the sky’s falling. Property is going to crash 25% this year. So really the best thing that I’ve seen folks be able to do is truly understand what’s going on in their area, so that way as folks are coming, you know, with fear of, you know, we’re at a life that we need to move. I don’t want to lose my rate. Is this smart? What should I do? Really being able to educate people so they can make the right decision for themselves has been the best way I’m seeing folks trying to navigate the current challenges right now.
RS: Scott, Do you think that people are experiencing any similar pain points than they would have in 2022 and even into in 1819 previously? Are they are you still seeing some of the common pain points that would have been there in the years past for everything unique?
SS: For the agent teams? You mean all agents? I think it’s a little bit different than what Buddy said in the fact that, like, I think a lot of the teams are agents that I’m working with and again, like my perspective is a little bit different than what yours is and who you’re working with. Right? But they’re thrilled right now for the most part, like 95% of people I work with.
RS: And why is that?
SS: Because all the agents that suck, no offense, are getting out of the business and it gives it allows them to get hyper-focus. They cut the loose ends of the team members that aren’t doing a good job. They focus it on their business. They focus in their lead gen. They’re going after solid leads like they always do, because it’s always that game of get control of the transaction. And they’ve, like Spencer said, they’ve adjusted their language because they know how to handle it. The teams that are successful, in general, know how to make an adjustment. Buddy has seen this for his whole career. There’s been adjustments that he’s had to make every few years, depending on the market. It’s just a matter of what those adjustments are in your business right now. You’re having to adjust how you talk to buyers because the interest rates are double what they were in 2020. Right? I bought my place at 3.1, right? And so that conversation’s different, but it’s still a great market and that’s what I’m seeing. I don’t I think it’s just how you’re going about generating those seller leads, how you’re staying in touch. And we’re seeing a lot more like inward-type of business being done, right? And what I mean by that is like, yeah, maybe we’re not quite spending quite as much money on online leads, but you know, you’ve built the database like, what are you doing to to generate the business out of the database that you’ve built?
RS: There’s a good point there. And you were a little cautious around using the word “sucks,” but you’re not the only one who’s used that recently about this market. There’s a quote I’m going to pull from an article the other day, Gary Keller was speaking to 10,000 agents — watching his state of the housing market address on Sunday. And he said, “I truly believe that 2023 will be a really tough year. It will be very, very hard. And if you don’t work hard to match the hard, your year is going to suck. It will.” That was the close quote. That’s what he said. Buddy, what do you think about that? Working hard to match the hard–you think that’s accurate? I mean there is probably a component there around working smarter in addition to…
BB: Yeah, well you have to figure out where you’re going to deploy your assets to. And you know, unfortunately, agents that have got in the business the last two or three years, they’re going to really struggle the most. I mean, I’ve been doing it for a long time, but it’s hard to get my head out of my butt to to kind of get back to doing the things that I need to be talking to, you know, not actually customers, but talking with my agents and things like that. But I think that, you know, the old rule of thumb has always been if is if there’s half as many buyers, you got to call 2 to 3 times as many people. I mean, it’s just a function of your database. I think it was Scott that mentioned database. I mean, everything is about your database. We’re seeing more independent solo agents starting to flee to teams because they can’t do the lead gen and it’s become cost prohibitive for them to do it in many cases. And then, you know, I know that we just had a merger to go to a brokerage house. And in the last week I’ve seen seven other people that I was in another group with years ago, large teams that have done the same thing, people going back to the Keller Williams. going back to the there. Because what they’re trying to do is offload their over their fixed overhead so that they can keep the they can invest and double down in lead gen because market share goes on sale right now and I can add agents because they’re more multiple and I can, you know, as time goes, the Legion’s going to get a little bit cheaper. I mean my PPC average has gone down $2 in the last 60 days per conversion just in that model. But I think that it happens everywhere. There’s going to be a period of transition that’s going to suck because you’re trying to figure it out. I don’t know if you all remember the two months before COVID was announced. I mean, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just opened a brokerage and left, signed a three-year lease and I’m like, “Oh, gosh, what did I just do?” And then, of course, the world “exploded.” I think if you positioned yourself to be there when the business comes… Now, the biggest thing, the anomaly on this one is usually when velocity of sales slows, inventory rises dramatically. That is a different animal that we’ve never seen before. So we’re having to lean more into new construction. We’re having to become more–now, not a lot of metros don’t have new construction the same way we do, but we’re having to go farther and we’re having to build bigger relationships with even the nationals–the deal work and the policies and things like that. We’re having to know that inventory as if it’s our own because that’s where, you know, a lot of the inventory is going to come from in a lot of places in the country.
RS: Buddy, I appreciate the way you said that. COVID was announced like it was, you know, Apple’s quarterly earnings report or something like that.
RS: Crystal, talking about lead generation now. So Scott mentioned around generating seller leads, right? Owning that conversation. This is what you are in day in and day out. Buddy mentioned that his cost per lead is dropping $2 per lead over the last 60 days. And that’s very market specific. But I’m just curious what you’ve seen with your data that you’re looking at for clients across the United States and Canada. Is that what you’re seeing as well? You’re seeing cost per lead go down or are you seeing people pull their spend back as they’re thinking about their budget right now? What’s going on?
CN: Right, so, it’s interesting. We’re we’re in like all markets pretty much in U.S. and in Canada–Calgary, Edmonton area a lot. And so we always see a drop in cost per lead this time of year for the past six years. We have not seen it as dramatic this year as we have in the past. And there’s a lot to unpack there. I don’t think the inventory hasn’t spiked nationally like it usually does around this time. And with an increase in inventory, you get an increase in search volume. So its cost per lead is very, very, very market dependent. So you either have high demand in low cost or low demand and high cost. And then you also have this is out of left field, your competitors right, who can just double, triple, quadruple their budget and all of the sudden your cost per lead doubled. Right? This is this is what you’re dealing with out there. So you definitely–I love how you use the market share goes on sale this time of year. I’m going to start using that I think–that quote. It’s true. It, historically, has been true, but then you have things like homes.com. Costar recently announced as of yesterday–and we are seeing this and it’s funny that I see this announcement–that they are going to invest into homes.com. They’re not going to acquire Realtor, they’re going to invest in homes.com more. Guess what we are seeing in almost every market? Homes.com went from having 10% impression share to 50% impression share. So that happens in your market your cost per lead just tripled maybe you know like it and what are you going to do. You can’t compete. You can’t keep up with the Joneses. Right. So what are you going to do? You have to do what’s best for your bottom line. When you’re looking at cost per lead, this is really like a budgetary tool, right? There are things that you can do like post-COVID, right after COVID. Lead cost was so, so cheap that you could run all these subdivision campaigns, all these neighborhood campaigns. You’re getting cheap leads that are higher quality because they have this very specific location that they’re looking at. But now those leads are unaffordable. So if that’s what you’re finding, then maybe you need you need to adapt to the market. Maybe you need to use more high volume keywords that have higher search, because that’s because you can only afford so much, right? And you need to provide your agents with a certain amount of leads. So it might be time to change your strategy. If you’re finding that your cost per lead is not–you just can’t manage it anymore. You can always diversify your sources too, like we have Facebook, remarketing and retargeting and we have Facebook lead ads. You can market your own listings if you’re a brokerage that has more than ten listings and so there are opportunities there to lower your cost per lead if that’s your goal. Right? And I think another pain point–cost per lead is always this focus that everybody’s on. But really that doesn’t point to the success of your campaigns. Cost per lead does not mean your campaigns are doing bad or good. It’s more of a budgetary tool, but lead quality, right? These things go hand in hand. They’re like, “Our leads. They’re not good quality anymore.” Well, you have to think like what has happened over the past few years. You lead quality was probably great when interest rates were 3% because people there was pressure, right? There was a sense of urgency, like they need to make it happen. There’s really not that pressure anymore. So when people say there’s, you know, these are all tire-kickers, well, it’s the same people, the same searches. They’re just not–they don’t feel that urgency like they’re taking their time. They’re still bidding on houses that have five bids and they’re going over asking. It’s a different time than the last four years. And I think that’s what I would tell people to consider.
RS: I personally I appreciate the point about adapting your strategy so you can adapt your strategies in some of the ways that you mentioned around your lead generation strategy. One thing, though, as you’re talking about, people are not as urgent. Spencer, You mentioned that it’s important to be a real local expert, right? An expert in your market. So people are hearing way out here and they’re also hearing way out here around what’s going to happen. Right. Just almost conflicting view points. And you’ve got somebody who can really provide value to say, this is what I am seeing in this area. Right. Who really knows? What would you recommend to agents to help ensure that they can provide that real local expertise? What do they need to be looking at? What do they need to be spending their time on? What kinds of information do they need to be gathering so that they can win? Those opportunities rise. Gosh, like don’t miss them now, right? That they can really provide value to people.
SL: That’s a great question. And there’s fortunately a ton of different resources. Right. So, I mean, for no matter how you feel about the portals, the portals provide a ton of public data that Realtors can take advantage of to keep track of kind of housing as a whole. You know, certainly paying attention to weekly mortgage application demand. That’s public information. And a lot of those big public information tools are broken down by other folks. For you, Broke Agent Media has a–I think they call it the hot sheet. Every morning they break down international news. So that’s the way to keep a pulse on what’s happening nationally and then obviously collecting data in your local area is going to be helpful as well. What is going to yield the best return on figuring all that out is piecing it together and creating content. You know, it’s funny just how attention ebbs and flows and where the areas of opportunity are for outreach. And seven or eight years ago, I remember talking to folks and saying, “Hey, have you thought about making video? Have you have you thought about leaning into social?” And now a lot of folks are doing that and they should continue doing that. But plenty of folks have forgotten to sit down and write a weekly email to, you know, to get out to everybody. And you’re seeing a lot of folks having success with email. Again and just seeing how that ebbs and flows no matter what channel you’re using. And I would consolidate that data and just get it out in front of people and bring that value to so that you’re keeping them informed and staying in proximity. And whenever a life event happens or rates drop or that motivation increases, you’re there and ready for the transactional opportunity.
RS: Thanks, Spencer. And you know, Buddy, I know you’ve done that in the past. And by the way, thank you, Spencer, for that tip around Broke Agent Media. I have not seen that. I pulled that up in the background and I’ll be signing up for this. Thank you. My daily source of news is typically Inman and and then our clients but this is in a YouTube video that buddies in my way this is very helpful thank you.
RS: Yeah, right, I hear you on that. Buddy, you’ve done that. I mean, you’ve walked–you’ve done video, you’ve done emails that link to videos that are market overviews and this kind of thing. Do you find that has been effective? When do you use that strategy? Do you use it for all leads or only when you’re really working with one?
BB: Well, we use it kind of once a month. I do a rap market wrap, but we do a more intense one where, you know, we’re like developers, builders, bankers and seller leads, you know, like we’ve been we’ve been doing home value leads for ever. And we just never quit because it takes a long time, but they do come to fruition. But I would tell you, like I think I showed you last week, we’re always trying new things. We’ve had some really good feedback. Obviously, you know, we were early adopters to HomeBot a long time ago, which is good. The open rates are incredible with that.
RS: I open that every time when you’ve got me set up on one Yeah.
BB: Well, we got another one now that people are opening like crazy right now is Alto’s Research. Have you guys seen those reports? They are. They are. They’re updated every 24 hours. They’re cool and it’s typically–it’s kind of like a broker metrics for the whole model for the whole market. But it goes through and it has these gauges and it kind of shows you buyer’s market, seller’s market–breaks it down by a zip code, county or a whole bunch. So what we’ve done is we’ve added those and so that the right reports go to the right person and it gives you an email–kind of like home, but it does when there’s an engagement. I mean, people want to see that because there are so many sellers out there trying to figure out, yeah, I want to move. I’ve had a kid or I’ve had a negative change of life, downsizing. Somebody’s passed, divorce, whatever. I need to do something, but I’m scared because I can’t find anything and I don’t want to, you know, and I’m worried about my house losing value and I’m worried about what I’m going to pay. So I think that there are people starving for good local information. They’re getting bombarded with national crap. And, you know, but you need to be the person–I don’t know if it was Spencer or Scott who said it–you have got to be the person that when they think about the most knowledgeable person in your market or where they live, you’re top of mind. Right? And we started mailing these things to the higher intent people basically mailing the report to them. Is it hard? Yeah. Is it cumbersome? Yeah. Can you automate it? No, but those are the things that stick with these people, especially somebody over 50, because they will hold on to physical things. They still relate to physical things and they typically have the most wealth, so that’s where your customers, or a lot of your high-wealth customers are, so anonymous.
RS: It’s Altos research. It’s Altosresearch.com If you want to check that out and we’ll put links to Broke Agent Media which again all of y’all might have already known about it.
SS: I just signed up for the subscription.
RS: I know, man. This is already providing the value thing.
BB: Yeah, I just signed up. I had not heard of that, but I can relate to broke agent…
RS: Scott, so we just talked about things you can’t automate, but they talked about one of the things that you can stand out if you really are an expert in your market, you can utilize some research. He mentioned Altos Research, physically printing it and sending it. And that’s one way to stand out. Right. Automation is wonderful. I personally am very biased, but do think the Sierra internal automations are fantastic. I know, though, that there’s going to be things like the the doing the manual work that stands out combined with automations to do some of those background tasks or increase your efficiency. That’s where the real magic happens, right, is when you can do both. You don’t want to. I think to major one or the other is really going to make you uneven. If you can bring them together… You’re working with them every day. Like what you do is you’re automating tasks, you’re connecting the services. What are some of the things that are most important that you think just kind of “bam, bam, bam” that people should be considering? This is something that can be automated. You can focus your time elsewhere if you do these things in an automated fashion.
SS: So, I think there are a few things. I mean, I still can’t believe how many people I run into that have random lead sources that aren’t parsing into Sierra automatically, which is something. Then they’re manually entering the lead to get it on like, you know, get a welcome email–not automation. I mean you have all this amazing automation in Sierra and need to have the automation of the lead in Sierra, right? So I would say, that’s something that you’re doing right now, call Sierra or call us and we can set all that up for you. It’s very easy to do and that’s just one little simple thing, right? The other thing I would say is one of the things within the last six months, or four months, or whatever it’s been, we rolled out an integration with Google Contacts with Sierra, which basically is like, forget that Google even exists in that scenario. Like it’s your phone to Sierra and you, roundabout adding someone that your phone automatically goes in this. I think that’s a really great way to just alleviate that forgetfulness of like, “Oh my Gosh, I just met someone. I have a million things going on as I’m running around the middle of the day,” to where it’s just automatic. And then of course you got automation there, right? So just like these are like little things that you can do to make sure that you’re getting this lead into that top of funnel and you’re not forgetting about it. And you have all the automation that Sierra provides working for you, right? Then, you know, there’s a couple of other solutions that are newer. One, have you guys heard of Fello? So, Fello, we’ve integrated with Sierra as well, which is super cool. They’re basically trying to reactivate your leads through, you know, email marketing and widgets on your website. Also are all home value, you know, driven, trying to whether it’s giving a cash offer or just reactivating the seller leads. So I think that’s another great tool. It’s just a different way to market to people that you’ve already generated. Right? And then as Buddy mentioned, sending physical… If there’s solutions out there that you could use to–whether it’s a handwritten card or something into a farm area where you can generate leads. We have another integration coming with Sierra–and I know I’m promoting myself right now with the integrations that we have; I apologize–I think these we only integrate with applications that people are using. So I think they’re useful tools. Audience.co – I think there are a few other handwritten note solutions out there. That’s one that we’re going to be bringing this year as well to where you can, send cards out to anybody that look handwritten with a QR code scan or you can use it for farming, which they have an amazing farming solution and then that gets you leads back in Sierra, essentially. If you have someone that has put together lists for you for farm areas that you want and then when they engage the card, it gets into your Sierra [CRM] for digital automation. So you’re going from handwritten to digital, right, and generating a lead that way. So, you know, those are a lot of the things that we’ve been working with that were involved with right now that we’re seeing people use and gain traction with. Again, it goes back to just being in front of them, you know, being the newscaster of your community and neighborhood. Right? Being the person that they come to, where all your content is very community driven and that you’re leading with service and not asking for things. Just being a person that’s providing value for your area that you’re trying to focus in on and working.
RS: Yeah. Thank you, Scott. Spencer, we’ve talked about snail mail. Now, do we want to call it “snail mail,” Buddy? What do we want to call physical mail? Do we want to call it “physical mail”?
BB: We just call it “mail.”
RS: Okay. Electronic mail. It’s even been shortened to “email.” So we’re talking about email, physical mail, any other way. We haven’t even talked about the phone and text messages. Anything unique or people thinking about what it is that is going to be the best avenues of communication, which you said I think you said they ebb and flow, Right. Anything else that you can think of that folks should really consider right now in terms of timely communications?
SL: I’m going to follow Scott’s lead and shamelessly mention what we do. One one area that’s incredibly overlooked by a lot of real estate professionals, but heavily used by every other industry is push notifications. So whether that’s an app or view or app based tools that are delivering your message via push notification.
RS: “Uber. Your ride has arrived.”
SL: Right there, nearly 100% read, so that’s extremely effective. Text is obviously awesome as well. I don’t think any one of those is better or worse than the other. I think these are all tools in a complete marketing solution and what you need to do is track everything, track all those numbers, and that way you can be constantly manipulating which one of those levers you’re pulling on, letting off of and being able to exploit the areas that other folks are ignoring. You can ramp up that particular channel.
RS: Thank you. Crystal, we talked earlier about quality leads. So, thinking about communications with leads and–not to get into the Glengarry Glen Ross: I want the good leads– you know, in terms of quality leads, is it always about the quality of the lead or is it sometimes about clients having certain processes in place to be able to follow up with those leads in a timely fashion, provide value beyond just you paid for a lead that came into your system?
CN: I think it’s the second there. Most people are going to buy a home at some point. And so I’d say that and you can go two different ways, right? I mean, I think it’s a numbers game for me. I think. The way I’m looking at it, the people that have the most success with PPC, they’re getting the most leads. It’s a numbers game for them. So if you’re going to close maybe 1% of your leads–if you have a larger number of leads, you’re going to close more deals, but not everybody can play that game. So I think that once you get the leads in your system, there’s a chance at some point, I think it’s like 65-70% of people that are going to buy a home at some point and you want them to buy a home with you. If it’s not with you, it’s going to be with somebody else. And I think that this is where all of these tools come into play. This is where the CRM comes into play. So you just got a lead for $5, $10, even $20. I mean, that’s so cheap in the scheme of things. And now you’re going to use your action plan, your automations. You really have to have that system dialed in in order to support the ability to nurture that lead and turn them into a sale. So this idea of a “quality lead,” I don’t love it, you know, because most likely that person is going to buy a house at some point. Did they register on a listing that you would like to sell? Like, is it $250,000 and you’re not interested in that? So those are things that we can play with, like we can target by income, we can target by location. There are things that we can do to tweak your campaigns, to try to reach an audience that you’re more interested in communicating with. But then that’s the thing you need to get them to communicate after they become a lead. And that’s where the challenge is. So getting the lead is super easy. You know, that’s the easy part. It’s turning them into a deal. That’s the hard part.
RS: Yeah. And modifying some of those aspects in terms of who you’re targeting is like one spice in the soup. Right? But there are other ingredients and thinking about systems. Buddy, if somebody is talking to you–because agents are talking to you all the time. Right? They’re reaching out all the time because you’re famous, because they know that you have experience in the industry and they want to know what you think and they trust you, which is awesome. When somebody comes to you and says, “I don’t know if my systems are dialed in,” what does that even mean to get my systems or my automations or whatever it is dialed in? How do you help them think through that? What do they do next?
BB: Well, I mean, I think the biggest thing is removing distraction because the most important thing that somebody can do is be in front of somebody. Okay? When you can’t do that, the next most important thing you can do is have a conversation with somebody and then it kind of trickles on down with the communication method. But the first one, they’re fine with, you know, you can meet somebody at the house or meet some at a coffee shop. That’s not a big deal. The huge resistance is the phone call. And, you know, we have to get back to understanding that sales should be–all the results of your automation, all the results of your electronic communications, your texting, all of that’s goal is to get a conversation and to build a relationship. It is not to replace it. So the problem is we all do it. We spend 80-90% of our time and money and energy on focusing on how to get these people to get the coffee ready, but nobody pulls the pot off the coffeemaker and pours the coffee. I mean, we’ve lost the skillset. We quit doing it because it’s the hardest to do in our mind and it’s not fun to do. But the bottom line is sales means communicating with people. And the one thing we know, the more people you talk to, the better your chance of selling something. I don’t care what you say and all the automations. I’m a huge tech guy. I love automations. I don’t like automations replacing my conversations. What I want automations to do is help me understand who is the most important person for me to get through. That’s it. Stop there.
RS: Yeah. Scott I mean, you work in automation, so. But has anybody come to you and say, “Scott, so I can pay you and you basically will make it so that I make money now?”
SS: No, thank God they don’t say that.
SS: Real estate companies are not SaaS platforms, okay? You’re a service company, you have to be talking to the person–what Buddy said. Right. So all these things that we’re talking about, Buddy said it perfectly: is to help you navigate who you should be talking to at the right time. Having that conversation. And the more you can have these systems doing that for you to tee you up so that you’re not calling people that aren’t ready or you’re not calling people with bad data or bad numbers, that you’re calling the right people at the right time. That’s what it’s all about. You have to be having conversations. I’m the same way. I end up doing so much different stuff. The only time I really make money for my company or add a lot of value for my company is when I’m on the phone calling the right people and getting all of them and having conversations. It’s all about or having zooms or whatever. I mean, it’s so much value. I can’t tell you. I mean, we probably experience all of it. We all experience the same thing. When you get off a call and you’ve created a deal in some form or fashion, you,, it’s like that. Why not do more of this? I show you this all day long because that’s what you need to be doing. We’ve all experienced that. And it’s the same for these real estate teams, just, you know, making sure that all of these other things that you’re doing, as you talked about, are getting you talking to the right people.
RS: Crystal and I were at an event recently. Sierra had an offsite in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. One of the images–and you all probably have seen an image like this or a variation of it– was around rocks in a jar. You have your big rocks, which are your big things you need to focus on. They’re big and they might be hard. Then you’ve got all these little pebbles and if you’re not careful–I’ll say this for myself. Those pebbles end up taking all of your day when the real rocks are what you should focus on. So the deal about the jar is if you pour in all the pebbles and then try to stick the big rocks on top of the pebbles, nothing is going to fit. If you put the big rocks into the jar first, pour in the pebbles, everything fits around it. So the image I thought was telling and helpful. Being on the phone when we agree, making calls, doing the hard work. Those are the big rocks.
CN: The systems just in general. Those are the big rocks. You have to have your systems set up and in place before you bring in the leads. And I feel like the leads in this case might be the pebbles, right? I mean, they’re going to push everything.
BB: Crystal, what the biggest thing is–I feel like an agent and I’ve found this thing the most exciting thing that can happen is when I spend some money and get a lead. Oh, that’s like a huge deal. That’s a winner. But we throw away all the other people that have been there. But I mean, we’re going back to–I’m taking my team through. You’re going to laugh at this. It’s been around for a while. Brian Buffini’s 100 days to Greatness. And you can’t get more old school than that. But it’s the conversations. It’s for your heart, for your really good customers. It’s mailings, it’s Popeye’s. We used to get popcorn cans and we would take the whole week before Christmas and go out and deliver them everywhere. So all our past customers and we couldn’t do anything like that. And I’m not saying that’s the solution, but I think there’s a whole lot of folks that have never learned how to sell well.
CN: It’s a production line when it comes down to it. I mean, you can’t just focus on the new leads that are coming in and and I think that’s one of the struggles that our clients that I talk to have, is agents are really excited about these new leads, so they don’t really put the time into the old leads because now there’s a new lead on the table, so this is a new opportunity. So if you think of it as a production line, you really need to be able to push the old leads through at the same time as handling, and trying to make connections with, the new leads.
RS: Yeah, and just to throw that up there, I think Scott’s having a good time. But sacred shells, you know, your wife will pull shells off the beach and write some sayings inside–of Bible verses inside of the shells. And that’s something that you would send out as a physical mailer. Buddy, you’ve got the, of course, I don’t know what the coffee is. Maybe it’s the Monday morning coffee that he’s tying in, or maybe he’s talking about the coffee pot, which if you’re using the French press, Buddy, be sure not to put that on a pot. It’s got a port in the thing and then press it. It’s going back to your analogy. But Spencer, I’m curious. Like all this, some of this hard work, the stuff that can’t be automated. Any other tips that you would suggest that folks can do in terms of–what do what we call it? We call it “the manual work”? Do we call it the job, the actual job work? Guys, I’m looking for any ideas around what to call it, but it’s the non-automatable things that are good because then you’re actually providing real value. You, as a person in your job, you have an automated yourself out of work. You actually can provide with your personality, with your smile, with your time spent mailing something–anything else that you would suggest that folks think about?
SL: It’s really we’ve just been in a multi-year stretch where you could get away with not doing the basics. I think no matter how you slice it, we’re normalizing–to use Buddy’s word–back to a place where you can only focus on that newly exciting new lead. The goal is in the follow up. You’ve got to do the basics. So leveraging any number of the tools to help you know where to focus that energy or ultimately to get through 2023. It’s going to be about focusing on the basics. And if you’re a team leader, it’s going to be about focusing on people.
RS: Yeah, and you’ve said that, Buddy, multiple times, everything out there. Spencer, to your point, is about back to basics, right? Getting back into the basics of the job, exactly what you said. Spencer It’s been a time of feast. We didn’t know that when COVID was “announced” to use your language, Buddy, back in 2020, when COVID was spreading throughout the world as a disease and things were on pause, right? Things were on pause. March 2020. And I remember it was like the week after our Sierra Summit, things shut down, right? And it was wrong. All right.
RS: Yeah, I mean, it was wild in terms of what things were going to be, but then it didn’t end up being nothing. Right. Ended up being like a wild time and starting–I don’t know when it was, May, June 2020–interest rates were nothing. Scott, you mentioned 3.1. I mean, they were.
SS: Bought in June of 2020.
RS: I was in July and it was a wonderful time for us as well. And that’s going, as you’ve mentioned, multiple times, that is going to show itself in coming years because when the Sillari family and the Sager family and typically, just based on the averages, would be in a few years thinking about moving again, we’re going to think twice and maybe even more because our interest rate is so low and who knows what it will be when we’re thinking, you know, when we might normally think about moving again. That’ll come through. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out in the coming years. But I wanted to ask you, Buddy, we talked about automations being in service to surface the opportunities, the people you should be contacting right now. What are you doing in terms of setting things up so that maybe one or two or three things that are high-intent opportunities because this is not the time to miss them, right? You do not want to miss opportunities when they arise at this moment.
BB: Well, I don’t think anything is new for us. I mean, a lot of it’s making sure you got your notifications set up and your automation set up to identify the people that are coming back to your site after a long period of time. There’s something that happened in their lives to drive them back there. I mean, they didn’t just say, “Hey, let’s just go to Buddy’s site today.” I mean, you have to pay attention to those things. You have to–I think you’re selling leads. I mean, Scott, you made a comment about Fello. I mean, I’m working with Ryan and them right now. I mean, trying to do whatever can be only fear with having so many systems is over-contacting people. And, you know, we’ve had to pull back on most of our automated text because the unsubscribe rates are going through the roof. So, you know, we’ve got to be careful with that because I don’t want to lose people getting my message over something that one of my agents that picked up the phone and called them manual text. If you got 40,000 people in your database, you’ve got to figure out a way to use the automation, to use the tools, the services. You’ve got to find a way to identify who is the best candidate for you to call today because you can’t call them all.
RS: Do you know how many leads you have in your database, Buddy?
BB: I think in Sierra, somewhere around 30,000. And in our Monday morning coffee, probably 110,000.
RS: So yeah you can’t make 110,000 calls in a day.
SS: No. I mean I think a lot of it has to do with, like, who’s engaging now and moving them around on lists or ponds or whatever you guys call them within Sierra to where they’re, you know, the new ones are, you know, floating to the top in a sense that are already in your database based on the type of contacts you’re making with them and going back to what Buddy talked about a little bit ago was, you know, you can’t blame real estate teams for training their agents to work the hot leads because there are so many of them over the last few years. But reality is now you have to retrain them to go door-knock. Like Buddy said, you got to go actually produce the business. You’re not going to be handed it because we can’t afford to potentially spend all this money on so many leads that aren’t really ready right now.
RS: Spencer, what are some of the things that you would say, “This signifies a high intent lead”? Buddy mentioned coming back to the site after so many days away, Automations and Sierra can surface those leads, assign a task, apply a tag, send an email, any number of things. What are some of the things that a lead might do, a client might do to say, “I am raising my hand right now”?
SL: Really any engagement with your market update email, or if you’re putting QR codes on mailers, you see that they click the link from the QR code, if you see that they’re opening up the Sierra property search–all of those things are great indicators, but you can’t know intent until you pick up the phone and have a conversation and be genuinely curious and figure out that they’re moving because they’ve got a four and a two year old, another on the way and they don’t have enough house, like you can’t find that out through automation. You know, those are all great tools with Sierra being a great place to filter those activities to the top, so you can spend your time getting to the bottom of why does this person open that email or looking at properties. But you know, again, ultimately it’s back to basics and it’s picking up the phone, having conversation, being in proximity.
RS: And having the curiosity to say, “Hey, what’s going on in your life right now?” And find out some of that information. What’s got you thinking about making a move, some of these questions that people suggest. Yeah, it’s like really get into it and find out what’s going on with them so that you can serve them where they are. Crystal, I think that anybody who’s watching this is probably going to be curious about it. So, I’m just going to ask you to talk about seller leads right now. Right. That’s where folks got mentioned near the top, like they’re wanting to they’re wanting to they want the seller leads. Right now, low inventory markets. Can you target towards seller leads? Is that successful for people?
CN: We do have seller ads. They are seller valuation ads. You have to set up seller lead sites within Sierra and you get up to 25 with your account.
RS: You get 25 of them. A lot of seller lead sites. Yes.
CN: You don’t really need to 25, but you have them. Seller valuation. So, “What is my home worth?” These are the types of searches that are happening when interest rates dropped that were bringing in a lot of people trying to figure out what their home is worth so they can try to refinance. I feel like we’re kind of out of that right now. Basically, it’s like geotargeting. With buyer ads, you can reach people like, Buddy is in Florida–you can reach people anywhere in the U.S. to try to get leads, and that works for a lot of different locations. You can target statewide, you can target countywide. You can say, “hey, everyone from New England moves here, so I’m going to target New England.” Sellers are different, right? That doesn’t make sense for seller ads. You really want people that are local to your area who are saying, “What is my home worth?” And they would land on your seller valuation site. They’d fill out that form and then they become a lead in your system. And if you’re in the U.S., you get an instant estimate. There’s a couple options for you to choose when you set up your seller site where you would like that data to be pulled from, and then it’s in your hands to nurture them.
RS: And I’ll say just a kind of a side note, it’s not the worst thing in the world. If somebody is filling out a seller valuation site thinking about refinancing, especially if you’re working with a lender partner, that is a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with a lender. And I know that you work closely with a lender. You’ve got them in Sierra, so I’ll just throw that out there. I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world. But just to say that we’re coming away from that now as people are searching differently.
CN: You get your share of people that have that thought process, Robert, where like, that’s not a bad lead, that’s something that I could utilize. And then people that are just not interested in that at all, so there’s always a balance.
BB: Well, I was going to say, Crystal, on that. I’m not going to say it’s too late to play, but when it comes to seller leads, it’s March. And you know, for this year, you should have been doing this for the last two or three years and generating them because it takes their level of intent–it starts with, “I wonder what my house is worth. I wonder what my house is worth. I wonder what my house is worth. I wonder what my house is worth.” And then finally it’s like, they’re talking to somebody. “Well, Buddy said,” or “I got this email from HomeBot” or I got whatever, and all the lenders are using that a whole lot. Wow. So they’re getting this stuff. It’s I mean, it’s time and time and time with a home value lead. I hope that people understand when they’re doing those that is a long-term play in most cases. On the short-form auto evaluation, we’ve had quicker conversion with long-form, but short-term you’re going to get more leads. So.
SL: I’ve just got a question for you. When it comes to the listings, you guys are generated from digital marketing. It’s 75% of of buyer leads that sign up when they fill out a questionnaire, they indicate they have a home to sell. In your experience, what’s the breakdown of the listings you guys get off Internet leads that come in through a “What’s my home worth?” form versus just getting a listing out of a buyer lead?
BB: I wish I could answer that question. I don’t track that if it comes in as a buyer lead. I mean, we don’t tag that or track it that way. I mean, I know that probably close to 22% that came in last year were home value, Old home value leads that were over a year old of people that came in. So they were the ones that most people quit on, and some of them were five and six–I mean, they were back when I had guaranteedsold.com, which was five or six years ago. That’s when they came in and they’ve been getting a market update. And here’s the deal. If people aren’t going to take–and it takes time, Crystal–because if somebody comes in and they got a house over in Mill Creek Estates, whatever, you got to go in and you got to create that. If you’re not going to take the time to create that and look at that lead and see what it is and create it, you just well, don’t run any ads, but a lot of people just don’t do anything with it.
SS: I was going to ask, Crystal, how important–and I know how important it is–but can you tell the viewers how important it is to be remarketing using remarketing ads for their website visitors?
CN: Yeah, sure. So remarketing is a no-brainer. You’ve already paid for these people, right? They’ve already come to your site because you’ve pushed them there. And also there’s organic traffic too. So you want to capitalize on that. There are two different types of remarketing that we do. One is lead nurturing, so these are your existing leads in your database and basically what it does is it produces a dynamic e-alert that shows up in their Facebook feed. So, it’s very similar to an e-alert. Shows up in their Facebook feed, utilizes dynamic pixel events to match listings that they’ve been looking at on your site. So one way–I mean the conversion rates on that, and I mean, like, they see the ad and they land on your site to look at a listing there like 20% it’s huge you’re paying like $0.10 per listing view. So it’s a no brainer there. And it’s so cheap, you know, it’s maybe $100 a month for a budget to reach thousands of leads. And then the other campaign is people have been to your site, but they didn’t register. So they came in through Google, PPC, they came in organically. However they came in, they did not fill out the form to become a lead. So now you’ve captured them through the pixel audience and now you can send them the same type of ad that shows them listing that they’ve been looking at on your site. And the goal is to capture that lead, but it’s still there. A long nurture. I think internet leads in general, like you need to go into it being like this is going to be like 12 to 18 months. And if you get something before that, that was lucky. You were lucky. That’s not the norm. And I think that’s something that people really need to internalize because if you can internalize that, now you’ve got your production line and now you’ve got it for $10 a lead and not a $100 lead, right? So this is where you’re going to be more profitable over time.
RS: You know, you’ve got the right mindset and framework to know how to then put systems in place for a long term nurture. Right. All right. We’re coming up on our time. I want to go around and do two things. Scott, and start with you, Crystal, Spencer. Say how someone can get in touch with you if they want to and the second thing is, last thing, you would leave everybody with. Scott, go ahead, start us off.
SS: Scott@realsynch.com and the thing I leave you with is pick up the phone and start dialing.
RS: Thanks. Crystal, how about you?
CN: So firstname.lastname@example.org goes to my team and we’re here for you to answer all your questions, onboard you, get your ads launched. I would say you really need to look internally into your systems and make sure that they’re dialed in and that you capitalize on what’s available to you. Check out that accountability dashboard, make sure that these leads are actually getting worked. That would be my advice.
RS: Okay. Yeah, we didn’t talk about agent reporting today and accountability but again again insight. Spencer, how can somebody get in touch with you and one thing you’d leave everybody with?
SL: Yeah, so you can reach me digitally Spencer@ruuster.com. You can come meet me in person–shout out because it looks like Scott is watching–going to be in Louisville next week for Real Estate Distilled so hopefully I will see some of you guys there. One thing to leave you guys with is simply just remembering to get back to basics and be an expert in your area and leverage all of the tools that you have to keep your clients close.
RS: Thank you. Buddy, how about you?
BB: Well, I’m just coming from the agent perspective. These guys are way smarter than me. But I mean, you just go to work, do work, call people, talk to people, you know, consider an accomplishment for you to talk to ten people today that are in your database and let that be your goal and everything else will take care of itself.
BB: The other thing I learned is, Crystal, I need to do the remarketing. Send it to me. Send it to me for a penny in for a pound.
RS: All right, Thank you, everybody. Wonderful to chat with this group of folks. We’ll look forward to seeing you the next time we’re together. Spencer, I’ll see you in Louisville. I will be there as well. Thank you, again, and we’ll see you next time. Thanks so much everybody.
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