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Turning Prospects into Customers…for the Long Run

July 16 2013

crm relationshipsAs media reports continue to confirm on an almost daily basis, things are on the rise for real estate. With 2013 panning out to be a big year of recovery, agents across the nation are seeing a significant upswing in business as buyers and sellers get off the sidelines and jump back into the game. With this upswing come more leads, clients, appointments ... and more need for organization and close management of day-to-day demands. According to Karen Werling of Prudential Chaplin Williams Realty in Fernandina Beach, Fla., the right technology and systems are critical to taking care of business and maximizing the opportunities of the market rebound.

As is the case for many real estate professionals around the country, Werling has witnessed noteworthy growth in her market. "The biggest change in the market is that buyers are ready to purchase," she explains. "They're no longer holding off to see what the market is going to do. Inventory is dropping, and prices are going back up, so they're taking action."

Five-to-seven years ago, Werling and her team were prepared for the imminent advancement of technology in the real estate arena. Therefore, they focused on Internet leads and marketing. "Five years ago, home prices were spiking. We've been in the real estate profession for over 25 years, so we knew it was going to be short lived. We needed to prepare for what was to come. As we expected, the economy took a downturn, but we were ready for it," she says.

Over the last year, Werling's market has recovered very quickly, which was also anticipated by her team. "Our inventory is down 30 percent from three years ago and our sales are up 40 percent. This is a result of attractive pricing and rates and the pent-up buyers who are ready to buy," she says.

With this sudden boost in sales, Werling feels a main driver has been the right attitude. "A market like the one we had just experienced is a normal part of the economy's cycle," she says. "As real estate agents nationwide exited the business during the downturn, the true professionals excelled if they were prepared.

To garner the business of this new influx of buyers, Werling has stepped up her emphasis on prospecting and lead management.

"The biggest contributor by far in acquiring new business is the use of end-to-end prospecting and prospect development solutions," says Werling. "You need to have the ability to prioritize your leads based on when they logged into your website, and how often they are actively searching. If you have that information, you will know which leads are hotter than others and may be ready to pounce. We use TigerLead for this. It's 24/7, nonstop. It's always up and going, and it's consistently being used."

According to Werling, the new normal of the real estate business demands that agents get organized and follow systems such as this—it's the only way to ensure increased productivity.

"The one thing I stress for all agents and brokers is that they need to get organized," she explains. "My number one suggestion is to invest in a system to manage the development of relationships with potential clients and customers, for listings, for buyers and for long-term communications that lead to referrals."

Werling and her team systematically stay in touch monthly after closing, send personal letters and cards to former clients, and keep up with the anniversary dates of buyers' home purchases. "Even if they closed 10 years ago, we know who they closed with. All the information for our clients and customers is at our fingertips."

Werling follows up using various sorts of communication—phone calls, emails, social media and direct mailings are all utilized in order to keep in touch and continue her prospecting efforts.

To maintain this consistent level of communication and relationship building, Werling and her team utilize Top Producer, a program she's used since its launch and which she still relies on today for keeping in touch with all of her contacts. "For us, the customers we get are lifelong customers. The regular contact with them is crucial. We use Top Producer for any mass updates and we also keep track of our finances with it; of course, we use it to keep track of closings, as well."

Whether it's a new lead who she's trying to break through to, or a current or past customer, Werling uses a variety of information to help facilitate a connection. "We send all our clients new listings or other engaging information about the area—weather, stats, news about a festival or other events going on in the community. We consistently make sure we have something of interest to send them so they don't forget who we are.

"Your prospective buyer or seller needs to know that you are the expert, not only in real estate knowledge, but also in your immediate area. You need to provide information and responses to their questions in a timely fashion that pertains to their individual needs. They will sense very quickly if you are only sending 'generic' information and if you are not sincere at that moment; they are your priority."

Clearly, Werling's strategy is working. She and her team are on track to do more than one and-a-half times the business they did in 2012. Her advice to fellow real estate professionals is simple yet profound: "The more organized you are, the more successful you will be. Use systems to manage your lead acquisition and to build your referral base. These tools are out there and can be used to streamline your communications and prioritize your activities."

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