Do You Suck at Follow Up? 8 Rules for Mastery
The answer to that is most likely “Yes!”, so let me help you. Here are my eight rules for follow-up. Obviously, there are other things to consider when following up, but these are what my team actually does for consistent results.
Rule 1: Following up is a relationship-building and appointment-booking process.
In lead follow-up, my goal is to build a relationship with that person and eventually book an appointment. I am connecting with the person to find their level of motivation, make contact, convey information, update them about the market, bond with them, open up a dialogue, keep in front of them, get my name out there, but at the end, I want to schedule a meeting. So when they say, “I’m just looking”, that’s okay because it’s part of the pattern I’m expecting. The worst thing you can do is just give up when someone says “I’m just looking”.
Always focus on the relationship and when the opportunity is right, then ask for the appointment. Always! Every person is at a different stage when you talk to them; some are more ready than others. Think of it as dating. When asking for a date, what’s the worst thing they can say? “No.” And sometimes they may say “yes”, depending on if you’ve built enough rapport and they like you.
Your office is the best place for a meeting, but if it can’t happen there for any reason, set it up at a neutral, public site like a coffee shop or a hotel lobby. Not everyone agrees with me on this point, but I believe I will have more control at my real estate office or a neutral site than I will at their home or at the property they’re interested in. They will lose interest in you as soon as they realize they don’t like the home, so if you can meet them at your office or a neutral location, please do that.
Rule 2: Follow-up allows you to disqualify.
Qualifying people is just as good as qualifying others — in essence, to get rid of leads so you no longer have to invest time in them. It’s important to focus on leads that want to talk to you and those that want to invest time talking to you for the purpose of building the relationship for a future purpose. Many times when I look into an agent’s database, I find it’s full of junk.
I’m not talking about people who are past clients or in their sphere. I am talking about people who have hit your website, have visited an open house, called in from a sign call, or come from somewhere in the last few years as a buyer or a seller. You’ve warehoused them and e-mailed them, called them, direct-mailed them, or “dripped” on them in some manner for a long time with the hope of converting them.
We need to understand that in a lead follow-up game, a “no” is as good as a “yes”. We are looking for the “no.” We want to confirm that “no.” If we can confirm they aren’t interested, we need to invest our time, resources, and energy in a better prospect or in finding more and better prospects. So when someone tells you, “I’m just looking” it’s time to ask better questions.
Rule 3: “No” is sometimes better than “Yes”.
For years we’ve been conditioned to push our prospects to say “Yes”, but I recently learned from Chris Voss (FBI, Expert Hostage Negotiator) that being pushed for a “yes” makes people defensive. They fear that it’s a trap. Our world has been conditioned to feel defensive. Lawyers call it “cornering.” Who wants to be cornered? I know I don’t. But saying “no” makes people feel safe, secure and in control, so trigger that instead. Ask no-oriented questions, like: a “Is now a bad time to talk?” or “Have you given up on this project”?
The truth is there are only three possible responses that a prospect can express. Those responses are “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.” The killer time and energy waster is the “maybe” answer. We often beat ourselves up when we don’t convert a high enough percentage of “maybes”. Get a “no” today rather than a “maybe.” People need to be able to say “no,” and then we can move on. A “no” is as good as a “yes” because of the uncertainty in both cases is removed.
When people think that you are willing to take “no” as an answer, they are willing to talk with you.
Consumers fear being talked into buying something from a salesperson. They believe that all salespeople will use verbal judo to pin them to the mat. The best approach is to let the prospect know upfront that it’s okay if they say “no.” You won’t be offended if that’s their answer. Your scripts must be designed to give them the ability to say “no” early in your conversation. This lowers resistance, enhances trust, and builds a bridge that enables them to convey their true objectives and goals. When someone tells you, “I’m just looking”, it’s time to take that “maybe” and ask questions that can help them to either get to the “NO” or the “YES”. One of the best responses to, “I’m just looking” comes from my friend Barry Jenkins. His response is something like this: “Ah, my wife and I love to window shop, sometimes we just look at homes online and see what we like inside and what we don’t like. It’s just fun, so I get it. But, what brought you to this specific area?” Here’s where you’re probing and asking why HERE after you’ve neutralized the infamous, “I’m just looking”. They will answer your question more truthfully and you can take it from there.
Rule 4: If you don’t reach a prospect, vary your method of contact before you give up.
Today we have a greater variety of methods to reach a prospect than ever before. Just 20 years ago, there really were only two methods of contact: direct mail and landline telephone. Now, along with those two you have cell phones (voice and text), e-mail, social networks, and still others. So STOP being lazy and try different methods!
Rule 5: Determine if they need your services, not if they’re just “interested.”
Too often, we are trying to determine the interest of the prospect. Don’t be fooled into thinking their interest alone has value to you as a salesperson. By itself, the prospect’s level of interest is meaningless.
The factors that matter most are:
Do they need your services?
Do they want them?
Can they afford to take action?
Interest may be beneficial to you, but it’s also something that many buyers and sellers use to evade committing to you or anyone else.
When someone says they are interested, they may actually be saying, “If you could sell my home for $1000,000 above market value and find me a home to buy for $100,000 below market value, I would let you represent me on those transactions.” That’s not necessarily the kind of consumer interest you’re looking for.
Rule 6: Categorize the lead in time frame and commitment level.
This is where a lot of agents and brokers stumble. They don’t have a clean categorization process. They don’t have the ability to see the inventory of leads they currently have in their possession. Most of them categorize leads based on time frame.
That’s a step in the right direction, but more information is needed. For example, they could create categories like “A” leads who will likely do something in 30 days or less, “B” leads who will take action in about 30 to 90 days, and so forth.
Another major issue isn’t typically factored into these kinds of systems: the lead’s level of commitment. How dedicated is this person to working with you? Will they at least give you an interview to represent their interests? To me, “committed” means that I would bet my car or my house on the chance that I would get an interview with them or that they were going to list or buy with me. Obviously, not everyone is going to be in that category, but the ones who have great value to me and my business.
The next category would be those who will “probably” do business with me. A probability is something that happens 51 percent of the time or more. Now, there’s a wide gap between 51 percent and the “committed” level of 98 percent. But people make a lot of money on probabilities because the odds are ultimately in their favor. Casinos play the probability game, and so should you.
The last category is a “possibility.” This refers to something with even odds or less, going as low as 1 percent. That is still a possibility, but you’d better have a Plan B if you are going to operate with such low odds.
Your follow-up plans need to be based on your ability to accurately assess the conversion probability of the prospect. If you can combine the typical real estate pro’s time-frame categorization system with a commitment scale, you’ll have a process that will enable you to maximize the return on your time, energy, and effort to increase your conversion and income.
We are in an inventory business: When you are out of inventory, you are out of future business. Leads are your lifeblood. Be sure you follow these rules to be effective in your lead strategy and follow-up systems.
Rule 7: Ask if you should stop reaching out.
If you have followed up a minimum of 15 times and still haven’t heard back, it’s worth directly asking if you should stop following up. After all, you don’t want to waste your time, either. I’ll sometimes say, “Pardon my persistence as I know both of us are busy, so if my communications are not welcome or warranted at this time, please let me know.” Most people respect honesty and don’t want to waste someone’s time, and they’ll many times let you know one way or another.
But don’t be fooled by those that don’t respond back at all. We’ve had great clients who never respond until they are ready. So leaving messages for those and continuing to email property is hugely important. This is where I love automation. Even though we don’t personally follow up, we have our automated process routinely reach out in an authentic manner to stay in touch until they raise their hand and need help.
Rule 8: Ask for referrals or create enough value for the client to want to refer you to others that want to transact.
I believe in two different styles and don’t believe ONE is better than the other. I think both work and it all depends on your style.
The first one is easy for some people but can also come across super sales Yu so be very careful with your approach and tonality. Just asking for referrals is one of the easiest things to do, but the one that most people forget. It’s a limiting belief to think that you can’t ask for referrals before the lead becomes your client. It’s all on your approach. One of the common ones that Buffini uses is, “I really enjoyed talking to you, thank you for your time. You know, I like working with people like you, do you by any chance know of any friends that may be looking to buy or sell any real estate?” If that doesn’t fly for you, then try a script that does. The point is to ASK for referrals.
The other one is inviting your database to client appreciation parties or yearly events where you have a party with food, drinks, entertainment, where you have a cool location or an awesome house. Having events gives you a reason to call your database and invite them to come. If they show up you show them a good time and they love you more, if they don’t show up you call them and let them know you missed them and ask if they would like to attend your future events. Both people will send you referrals if you remain consistent with this, the people that show up to your event will send you referrals because you made them feel amazing at your event and the people who didn’t come feel guilty for not coming and will send business your way.
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