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77 Year-old Brokerage Has Modern Approach to Lead Generation

February 13 2020

rdc keefe real estateTalk about longevity: founded in 1943, Keefe Real Estate has been selling real estate in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois for over three-quarters of a century. One of the keys to their success? They know how to adapt--and that's just what they did with their lead generation program.

But as any brokerage manager will tell you, not all agents are willing to adapt and change at the same pace. Some agents already have their own lead generation programs in place, while others would need to be held accountable on lead follow-up in a new system. So Keefe Real Estate teamed up with, which manages accountability for real estate firms and distributes leads in an unbiased manner.

Tom Keefe, President and CEO of Keefe Real Estate, shares how they introduced this program into their firm, its track record of success so far, and how it's helped their most motivated agents close on millions of dollars per year.

You have definitely been in it for the long run. What's changing at the company now that half of all homebuyers are finding the home they ultimately purchase online?

We're in our 77th year now. The whole culture has been more referrals and more traditional marketing to build business. Some of our agents would invest in purchasing and working leads, but it was really an individual thing.

We had been talking about doing more leads, but we had a lot of concerns about our ability to successfully manage the accountability side of it with follow-up.

What made you decide to go with the lead system?

We had been talking about doing something, and we liked and what we heard about the lead development aspect of their program. It takes on the management of leads and demands accountability from agents. It is performance-driven and unbiased in how leads are distributed.

We've been successful for a long time and didn't want to completely throw out what we were doing, but we wanted to add this into our business.

Change is sometimes difficult in an industry dominated by independent contractors. How did you weigh the risks and benefits?

When we decided to go for this, we started out with a test. Now we have the results for about nine months. The program "self selected" a group of agents who are showing proficiency and success. They love the results and we've extended the contract for another year. We also like the benefits of changing the culture a little bit within the company and that also benefits the agents.

Typically when a program goes well in a brokerage, that gives some lift to recruiting and retention. Has this been the case?

We haven't really focused on the recruiting side of it so much because we wanted to make sure we were going to be on the program long enough that if we recruited someone, we could ensure they would have it. But recently, we brought on an agent from a different company who has taken to the lead program very quickly. She said in the months that she's been at our company, she's gotten more leads than she had received in two years at her previous brokerage.

As far as retention goes, when the agents succeed there is a retention benefit that has been positive for us as a brokerage. As examples:

One agent will end up closing two or three million dollars this year through just the lead program. I think that's what he would normally close in a year on his own, so for him it's really transformed his business. I think his first deal was $800,000 and he closed on it.

He loves the program. Every time I talk to him about it, he just raves about it. He is someone who is definitely taking his business to the next level.

There's another guy in our Illinois office who is a brand new agent in a second career. We did not know how this would work out for someone learning a new business from scratch, but he is one of the top three to five agents on the program. He could potentially be struggling without it as a newer agent. Now he can obviously convert and he is getting enough opportunities to develop really good closing skills.

Is overall acceptance positive? How did you bring your agents along with you in this?

Before we signed the contract, we called a special advisory meeting with about eight of our agents who have been with us for a while and vetted it through them. We got them in a room and talked through what we were going to do with referrals.

We met with agents by going to all of our offices and presenting on it. Support people from came out and we got as many people signed up as we could. In the first couple of months, we monitored it closely and called people consistently to find out what was going on and shared what was working or needed adjusting.

We seeded the program with enough engaged people to build success and gain momentum. It took a bit of involvement from our management in the first two or three months, but since then it more or less will run itself until a new person joins. We will do maybe two or three trainings a year just to keep it fresh and keep best practices going.

So overall a success?

We see more agents are going to move in the direction of engaging with the lead system than away from it. Some agents are great at going out and getting their own business and some agents are great at handling it when we provide it to them. That's what we like about the program and why we want to keep it and continue coaching our agents to be better at it.

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