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Ask any farmer—if you want a bountiful harvest in the fall, you have to start preparing in the summer. The same wisdom can be applied to your business.

Think of your clients like a vegetable garden. You have to plant the seeds, water them, and tend them so that come harvest time, they are healthy, vibrant and ready to be picked.

So you have your social media strategy in place. You’ve implemented search engine optimization tactics and click- through rates to your web site are climbing by the day. You’re connected to your local area through direct mailing campaigns and actively participating in community events and activities. Thanks to your efforts, leads are pouring in.

All the seeds are planted. Now, you just have to make them grow.

A critical mistake many real estate professionals make at this point is confusing leads for sales. It can be easy to get discouraged when high traffic rates on your website don’t automatically lead to a similarly high volume of sales, but at this point in the process, the buying or selling hasn’t even begun. These leads are nowhere near “sales ready,” but with patience, persistence and a little time, they can be.

Your first goal is to establish a dialogue with these leads. Find out more about their needs, wants, and expectations so that you can identify the best way to help them navigate the complex world of real estate. Your initial step in doing so is simple and old-fashioned—pick up the phone.

Calling your leads shows your dedication to providing one-on-one, personal attention to your clients. Be careful not to overwhelm them in this initial contact by asking too many questions or being too forceful. Instead, just introduce yourself, thank them for visiting your website or stopping by your booth at the community event and set up a time to meet with them. If they aren’t interested in meeting up yet, don’t be discouraged! This is only the first step in what could be a long but ultimately rewarding process.

After you have made the initial contact by phone, add these leads to your email marketing campaigns. Make sure you aren’t emailing too often as to be a nuisance—you don’t want to end up in the spam folder—and offer relevant, insightful content that lets them know you are a useful resource who is committed to serving their needs. Social media is another great way to nurture these leads. On Facebook, you can keep in touch with many leads effortlessly through posts on your newsfeed and inviting them to your open house events.

While online communication is a great way to nurture these leads, don’t neglect your phone. A phone call every couple months to check in can start a conversation that email newsletters or automated greetings can’t.

Sometimes you land hot leads who are ready to buy or sell immediately, but more often, this isn’t the case. Internet buyers are typically months away from closing a deal. But if you tend your garden with patience and persistence, your harvest will be bountiful.