Converting Online Leads: This Time The Hare Beats The Tortoise

Posted by: Matt Malmgren on May 29th, 2009

At 8:58 pm last night, I received a call from a Kitchen remodeling company who wanted to follow up on the estimate they had provided me; in June of 2005! It took this company (I’ll save them the embarrassment of being named) 4 years to execute a basic follow up which has to set some type of record. There had been no contacts, no drips, no anything and then a call out of the blue. Even though four years is quite the exception than the rule, it did get me thinking about responding to Real Estate leads.

For four years, HomeGain has told its agents that to win business, you need to get back to your leads quickly. We would preach that response to buyer that registers on a website should happen within the first day or not all. If a phone call can’t be made; a personalized follow up email is just as good as long as the effort is made. More times than not, a customer would interject and dictate that the reality of lead response depends on the individual and not overall best practice. Some agents only take calls during particular hours; others are often busy with showings while many more claim they are just too busy to make the calls until their schedule allows. 

Was our advice about quick response wrong? Should reality replace best practice as the key to acquiring and converting online buyers and sellers into leads? I was beginning to think so until I stumbled upon a fascinating survey conducted by Dr. James Oldroyd at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and later MIT.

Dr. Oldroyd surveyed over 500 companies across all aspects business to see how they generated and converted leads on their websites.  The organizations from different industries, country of origin, yearly revenue and size all reported the same theme; not responding as quick as you can to online leads severely diminishes your opportunity to convert and close the leads. In fact, if you wait long enough to call you’re actually causing more harm than good the longer you wait!

Let’s look at some of the findings:

  • Those companies that didn’t respond in the first hour their likeliness of converting a lead drop 13.2% and 8% in terms of potentially closing business. For each additional contact attempt that did not lead to conversation, the chances of conversion drops another 5%. When you combine a lengthy delay in calling with unnecessary call attempts, a negative multiplicative effect occurs. The study showed conversion likleyhood drops another 13% when both of these factors come into play.
  • If you wait to call a lead 30 minutes after it comes in vs calling within the first 5 minutes, you’re 10x LESS likely to making contact. Even waiting 10 minutes to call drops your chances 5x.
  • Being the first to contact a lead can increase your conversion chances by as much as 238%
  • Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to contact a lead while 4pm to 6pm is the best time to make contact with a lead.

Is this information transferrable to the Real Estate Industry? I’d like to think so…most brokerages have some sort of a lead response team which is able to return calls and inquiries within a matter of minutes. 

Many of HomeGain’s most successful BuyerLink agents work out systems to ensure fast response team. While the individual agent may struggle (another reason why teamwork makes sense) to maintain 24/7 availability for phone calls; there’s no reason why email can’t sent.

Agents that are quick to adopt to these trends are the ones surviving in a turbulent market while those slow pokes are left in the dust wondering what happened.



3 Comments on “Converting Online Leads: This Time The Hare Beats The Tortoise”

Portland Real Estate

I have helped friends setup instant messaging and instant callback forms for their websites. One of my buddies gets back to almost all of his clients within 10 minutes or less and he has received great response from this.

El Paso Market

Not sure how valid this survey was as it relates to non-commerical property. The MIT survey was probably for B2B. I used your advice for the last 2 months, responding immediately to all online lead (and I get many). Unfortunately, not one has been converted to a sale.

Mitch Ribak

Interesting study, I know this post is old. We have found that as long as we call within a 4 hour period our lead conversion and contact rate is fairly good. These days, most of the numbers we get seem to be cell phones. However, I do know, from a calling center I do some work with in the real estate business, that they get a 60-70% contact rate and they call within 3 minutes of receiving the lead. I have two members using this service now that have been extremely happy and successful with the program.

I believe that you must be the first one to call back to win the business. The reality is, most agents will never call their Internet lead and if they do they will try to get hold of the customer only once and not try again. Then they do nothing with the lead. Without a proper online response follow up system and phone call system, sales just won’t happen.

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