Top Earners Share Their Proven Lead-Generating Strategies

Often considered the holy grail of real estate success, effective lead generation is essential for generating a successful and sustainable real estate business—a topic discussed during RISMedia’s Real Estate’s Rocking in the New Year virtual event on January 11. Led by Ken Baris, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Jordan Baris Realty in New Jersey, the session titled, “Lead Gen: What’s Working, What’s Not,” featured panelists Jillian Young, president of Premiere Plus Realty in Southwest Florida and Jennifer Bowman, REALTOR® and sales manager at JBGoodwin REALTORS® in San Antonio, Texas.

The trio shared their various lead-generating strategies. Baris emphasized the importance of creativity and consistent follow-up in generating quality leads. Bowman highlighted the importance of establishing personal connections with past clients and staying top of mind through social media interaction and small gifts. She also recommended open houses as a great source of lead generation for new agents. Young discussed the emerging trend of demand generation, which focuses on creating awareness and interest in the agent’s value. She also emphasized the importance of getting out of the office and developing relationships within the community. All three stressed the importance of discipline, planning and follow-up in converting leads.

“What I always say is mindshare leads to marketshare,” began Baris. “You can have people when they’re selling or buying think ‘I need to call you,’ as opposed to ‘Who should I speak with?’ Or if somebody is thinking of buying or selling and has nobody in mind, that you are one of the considerations. They don’t have to feel like they have to list with you, but they have to feel like they need to speak with you. Nothing that you do, nothing is going to work unless you have long-term follow up.”

Bowman agreed, noting that referrals are her primary source of leads. 

“I spend a lot of time establishing that personal connection with past clients, and then they refer other clients to me,” she said. “I do that in a lot of different ways. I do quarterly pop-bys where it’s a little gift that I leave at their door. I do a lot of social media interaction. I really pay attention to what’s going on in their lives. If they send a kid off to college, if they have a baby, anything that prompts me to be able to reach out, pick up the phone and have a conversation. I try to stay top of mind with my current sphere. You need to identify what is within your reach when it comes to lead generation, because there are so many possibilities.”

As for the gifts themselves, Bowman noted that expensive is the opposite of what’s necessary.

“We like to say the cheesier, the better,” she explained. “A good example would be at Thanksgiving you can order online pie servers and you put them in a baggie with some candy. You print out a little card with a cheesy saying like, ‘No matter how you slice it, your referrals are important to me.’ It’s memorable, doesn’t cost a lot of money and doesn’t take a lot of time.”

Young’s most effective lead-generation strategy is actually something she terms demand generation.

“Demand generation creates an awareness and interest that you exist, that you have value, and that you have value to (current clients),” she said, “so that you can be top of mind. If we’re imagining the top of funnel input to be geared toward demand generation, we do that through providing paid lead sources. But agents don’t want leads, they want appointments. We nurture those leads so that when they’re ready to make an appointment they already know who they want to work with.”

Baris related that he was once a pro tennis player, then used that for generating leads in real estate. 

“We had another professional tennis player who was with our firm for 25 years and he once had the fastest serve in the world,” he said. “He beat Jimmy Connors at the US Open. He and I would play tennis with people every Monday night. It generated an outrageous amount of business, and we marketed ourselves as the fastest service in real estate.”

Bowman then shared advice for new agents trying to generate leads. First off, she encouraged them to “start where they stand,” meaning going for leads within their immediate reach.

“Try to make your plan of marketing and lead generation focused on what you can gather quickly,” she advised. “A lot of agents will say, well, I don’t have anything. I have a stack of business cards and a desk but I don’t know anyone, and that’s okay too. I suggest open houses as a good source of lead generating. Sometimes it’s a long game, but typically people who are going to come to an open house, they’re coming in there because they have some sort of interest in either buying or selling real estate within the next six to 12 months. Make sure you advertise it, make sure you invite the neighbors. I’ve gotten several listings just from knocking on the doors and saying, ‘Hey, just wanted to apologize for the traffic. We’re going to have a lot of people come through. We’d love to have your feedback.’ If you can have any kind of face-to-face connection with someone, that’s going to be a good lead.”

Baris added that at open houses he makes it a point to mention that he’d be delighted to follow up with attendees.

 “When anyone’s doing an open house, we tell them to thank everyone for coming, and if they’re looking at buying, they also may be thinking of selling,” he said. “So I’d love to come take a look at their property and let them know what it would sell for.”

Simply being out and about in an area can stimulate conversations, according to Young.

“What really works for our agents is to get out of the office and walk around the neighborhood,” she said. “One agent walks their dog, a cute little pug, at varying times. She sort of calculates the amount of interactions she has with her dog. She calls her Patsy the property pug, and they dominate the new construction community they are in right now. She has a thriving top producer-level business in their community, and swears that 90% of the leads come from walking the dog and getting into conversations.

“We can all be keyboard warriors and tweak paid ads until we’re blue in the face. But the truth of the matter is people do business with people. So make sure you are someone that is known, liked and trusted in your community. And you can’t do that if you’re just sitting in your office.

“The other thing agents can do for success is partner up. Get with another agent in your company and tag team. You can tag team events. You can tag team pop-bys. You don’t have to be an official team or partner, but you’re going to need someone to have your back when you go out of town anyway. So you need to be developing relationships within your network so you can set yourself up for success by getting a buddy and doing lead gen script, role-playing and things like that together.”

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