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How to handle inbound real estate leads

2018-08-29

By: Shawn Breyer

When you send out direct mail to prospects in real estate, it's inevitable that you're going to get calls from seemingly unmotivated people. If you're not drawing motivation from your leads, then your competition will be converting your leads instead of you.

Related: How to follow up your real estate direct mail campaigns

Based on the process I use for my own business, this article will teach you how to answer calls from inbound leads and how to handle appointments.

Follow a call frame

A lot of gurus will provide everyone with a script, but if you're following a script and the conversation steers away from it, you're going to sound salesy and unnatural to your leads. You need to have a frame to work with rather than an exact word-for-word script, because the nature of your calls will be dynamic.

We follow a call frame that looks like this:

  1. Set your time frame.

  2. Set your agenda.

  3. Determine your outcome.

This makes your conversations feel more natural, giving you room to implement strategy as the opportunity occurs (instead of trying to bend the conversation to your will).

Set your time frame

Whether someone calls you in response to your direct mail campaign or you're just returning their call, the prospect has no idea what to expect. Our goal is to inform them, so we put them more at ease.

Of course, sometimes the timing isn't ideal. What if your prospect was taking a break at work when they called you, and by the time you call back, they're hiding in their cubicle and whispering to avoid being overheard? You won't be able to take them through the entire sales process on the call, cutting yourself short.

To avoid being cut off, we always begin the call by letting them know it should only take about 5 to 10 minutes, and we make sure that works for them. Most of the time, it does. On the rare occasion that it doesn't, we schedule a time to call back when they're able to talk. We want their full attention—so they aren't focusing on when they have to get off the phone.

An example of how this introduction might sound:

"This call will take me 5 to 10 minutes to answer all of your questions, ask you some of our own questions about the property, and explain what the process will be moving forward if we decide that this house would be a good fit."

Set your agenda

Along with setting the time frame, the introduction needs to tell the prospect what will be happening on the call. Remember, they don't know what to expect. Most likely, they're on guard.

We set the agenda of the call by acknowledging that they probably have a few questions for us, assuring them that we will answer their questions. We add that we have a few questions for them, and that if we are a good fit for them, we'll proceed to the next step in the process.

When you set an agenda with your prospect, you're building credibility and trust. You're handling the call in a professional manner that sets you apart from your competition—especially when they're getting handfuls of direct mail saying "We buy houses." We've gone to appointments where homeowners had stacks of direct mail from real estate investors. Going the extra mile to build trust will definitely help you stand out.

Acknowledge their questions

When you mention that you're aware they probably have questions, you're giving them permission to ask all the questions they want. After all, selling a house to an investor is a big deal.

People traditionally sell houses through a realtor, which can take months to close. With an investor, it could take only a couple of weeks. There are lots of questions lingering in a seller's mind, and they deserve to ask and be reassured that this is right for them. Transparency will only help you.

Inform them of the next step

Near the end of the call, we usually know whether or not it makes sense to move forward. This is where you remind them that, if this isn't a good fit, it's totally okay to say no. People love being able to say no because it gives them a sense of freedom and comfort in the process. They know that you won't pressure them if they decide this isn't the route they want to take. Once you take the pressure off, you can really dig into the motivations of the seller.

"If you'd like to get our best offer on the property, we'd have to come out to see it and verify that the conditions match our repair estimates. The appointment should only take 30 minutes to an hour. We'll just walk through the property and check out the condition. After that, we can make you an offer, down to the penny. If that works for you, I can schedule the appointment for Monday at 1 p.m. or Tuesday at 9 a.m."

Determine the outcome

Do you ever find yourself hanging up the phone with an inbound lead, wondering how the phone call went? Determining your outcome on the phone and setting expectations provides clarity on what you need to do next in the process—whether that's determining it's a dead lead, dropping them into the follow-up process, or going to an appointment.

So, you've determined that the prospect needs your services while on the phone. You'll want to explain what the process looks like at the appointment. This includes how long it takes, what you'll do at the property, when they can expect to receive an offer, and what their options are. After explaining this process, set the appointment. Now you and the homeowner have a clear idea what's going to happen next.

If you determine that your services don't align with the homeowner's needs, then explain to them that you don't want to waste their time and you don't believe you're the best solution for them. Always genuinely offer to point them to a service provider who could help them. Offer your network of real estate agents, property managers and contractors to see if you can help them further.

Determine their motivation

The goal of any call with a prospect is to determine their level of motivation. One way to gauge this is to "go negative." This simply means to pull back from them throughout the conversation.

The analogy goes that, if you chase a dog, they will run away. But, if you run away from a dog, they will chase you. Going negative will help you determine if the person is a legitimate lead, meaning you'll know whether they have a problem your company can truly solve. Simply put, you just act a little less interested in your prospect to see if it makes sense to do business together.

Examples of going negative:

  • "It seems like a great property. I'm not sure why you would want to sell it."

  • "It seems like this property would make a great rental. Have you considered just keeping it and renting it?"

  • "It sounds like you're looking for top-dollar on the property. Have you considered listing it with a realtor? It'll take a little longer, but you'll get the most money."

There are two benefits to using this strategy. One, you'll flush out all the normal objections a potential seller could have by bringing them up first (prompting them to justify why that won't work). For example, you might hear something like, "No, I hate working with realtors. I just want to sell it and be done with it."

Flushing out the objections will clear a path for you. As investors, we have to make lower offers so that we can turn a profit for our business. If you don't flush out the objections, you will get responses like, "You know what? That's a little low. I think I'll just keep it as a rental or list it with a realtor." After you've flushed out these objections, they can't use them anymore. They just told you they didn't want to keep it, rent it or list it.

The second benefit is that you determine their motivation. Sometimes, we cover so many objections that sellers just say, "I don't want to do any of this. I just want to sell it to you guys and be done with it. Give me an offer." In the seller's mind, you've become their best option.

"Just give me an offer."

We encounter it daily. People will put on their negotiation mask and demand an offer over the phone. When we started up our business, we'd always try to justify why we need to see the property to verify its condition. It hardly ever worked.

So, we switched up our approach. When someone demands an offer from us right away, we ask, "Would you rather have an offer, or would you rather have our best offer?"

The obvious answer is that they want our best offer. At this point, sellers usually quit hassling us about getting a quick offer. We explain that, to make an intelligent offer, we need to see the property and make a list of repairs needed to get the offer down to the penny. This flushes out people who are simply shopping offers, and it saves your company time and money when you avoid them.

Key takeaway

Now you have a call framework to draw out motivation from your direct mail inbound calls. Don't get caught up in the nitty-gritty of a script. Instead, focus on getting your prospect's guard down, setting expectations, going negative to gauge their motivation, and setting an appointment with them.

Want more great tips on how to set up real estate marketing campaigns? Check out our comprehensive real estate marketing guide for ideas & inspiration.

Real Estate Marketing Guide

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Shawn Breyer

Shawn Breyer started Breyer Home Buyers with a mission to empower people to enjoy life by simplifying and solving their property issues. He and his wife flip 35+ homes in the metro Atlanta area every year.

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