Expanding Your Brokerage Team Through Leads

In the past five years, Greg Garrett of Greg Garrett Realty, has expanded his brokerage team, due in large part to the leads he’s converting through Realtor.com. Find out how he manages agent accountability and how he using his lead program to recruit quality sales associates to his brokerage. He also discusses how Realtor.com helps him with agent retention.

Tracey Velt

Thanks for joining REAL Trends on our Meet The Influencers podcast. So, tell me a little bit about your growth and how it interplayed with your online leads. Also, where you were  five years ago with your expansion?

Greg Garrett

Well, first off, coming out of the economic downturn of the big recession that started around 2007, 2008, in some parts of the country, the Hampton Roads area, which incorporates Norfolk, Newport News, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg area, was the last area in the entire country of the major metropolitan areas to recover post-recession.

So, one of our problems here, except for one of our 15 cities, prices still today in 2018, are lower than they peaked in 2006. That’s really put us at a competitive disadvantage when we’re looking at growth compared to other areas. So, we decided to make a decision about four years ago that we were going to go for it. We were going to roll up our sleeves and do whatever we had to do to create traction in a marketplace where there really wasn’t much traction at all and values at that time were still about 20% below the peak, which was just devastating for us.

That’s when we decided to make a huge commitment for online leads and that was going to take us forward. That was in a marketplace that we were experiencing what I think of as what we’re experiencing around the country and that was that the signs were not making the phones ring anymore.  That’s when we started a major commitment of growth, that with the number one strategy to bring in online leads for our team.

When you started your expansion, did you bring in Realtor.com to feed your team or did you have an abundance of leads that dictated that you needed to recruit agents to handle that volume?

We’d been losing agents, losing revenue, losing money every month and so we brought in leads to stabilize the bleeding and we brought in leads to help our agents be profitable, start the growth cycle again, to really kickstart the overall growth cycle, and ultimately, to bring in more agents.

Are you at that point now where your lead program is directly working to helping you recruit agents?

Absolutely. Going back before the recruiting component of that, we have grown rapidly and just continued increasing virtually every month for the last three, three and-a-half years. Our spend on new leads as we see it working and as we see it feeding our agents and being really the pump primer for our agents’ careers, both agents that were restarting, agents that were coming back to us, agents that were coming to us from other companies. But, many seasoned agents took advantage of the leads that were coming in and really took their career back to a significant level where it had been before.

Do you market that you offer Realtor.com leads? Do mention it in your recruiting interviews? Tell us a little bit about how you’re getting the word out that you’re offering this type of benefit to new agents.

What’s interesting is we really don’t market it in a visible way in the marketplace, but the conversation has really gotten out. We’ve hired more experienced agents from other companies in the last 12 months than we did in the prior 12 years. So you think about that, and a lot of that is just word of mouth.

There’s been cultural changes in the company. There’s been leadership changes in the company. We brought in two new junior partners in the company that were people that had been here and they were just elevated to that position, but the big, big change that benefited our recruiting that brought in agents from other companies, that brought people back to us that used to work here, is the online leads.

Because in the case of one gentleman that was working for another company, his first eight months, he had received training. It’s an excellent company in our marketplace. One of the big independents that does a great job really training and marketing, but he was there for his first eight months and he sold four houses.  He came with us and in the next eight months, he sold 21 houses and in his third year, I think, he’s going to be in the range of 50 houses. In those 21 houses, I believe the breakdown in those 21 houses was 11 of those were direct leads from the company, online leads.

Then, two of those were leads from those leads, which he didn’t pay a referral fee on, and then the rest were self-generated business. So, he did in those eight months, somewhere around eight transactions of self-generated business.  He doubled what he did in the first eight months of his career, where he had done four, he did eight self-generated leads, but those other 13 is what really, really made the difference. The 11 plus the 2 of the online leads and then the two people that came from those leads that he sold houses to. He’s one of the top agents in the marketplace in his third year.

He had all the talent, he had all the personality, the work ethic. He had that. He had really excellent training from an excellent company, but he did not have the people to get in front of. So, that’s what he’s telling everybody that he meets in the marketplace. He’s saying,

“This was the difference. This is why I came over here to Greg Garrett Realty and it’s why I’m staying. It’s why I love it here.”

That’s a great success story. Obviously, you’re taking a risk to purchase online leads for your agents. So, what are you doing to keep them accountable and make sure that your agents are taking the right actions to succeed with those leads?

That’s a great question. That’s evolved. Basically, we’re still building the airplane flight. We made a commitment that we were going to buy the leads, knowing that we were going to be wasteful, knowing that the leads were going to go possibly unresponded, knowing that we were going to be relatively inefficient in the way we handled those. If we don’t subscribe to the philosophy of ready, aim, aim, aim, aim, aim. We’re pretty much ready, fire, fire, fire, fire, fire. So, what we’ve found is, through buying the leads, bringing the leads in, we’re now bringing in to a 65 agent company, we’re bringing in over 1,000 leads in an average month.  By doing so, it forces us to become efficient with those leads.

We started doing things to create accountability. We’re rewarding agents that have the better performance. We’re recycling the leads to somebody that doesn’t {respond} quick enough. If somebody doesn’t fill in the CRM to tell that they’re working with the leads, we’re recycling the leads and allowing other people to call behind them. We’re certainly honoring the leads and preserving the leads for people that are effectively working with people, with the customers, but if they’re not working with the customers, if they’re not responding and filling out the information on the CRM that we’ve acquired during this process, then we actually recycle them. We call behind them and we do a lot of things to make sure we’re maximizing the opportunity for all of our people.

While, at the same time, we’ve created a tier system that almost anybody in the company can receive the leads, but we have three different levels. If you’re doing a great job closing the leads that are coming in, you’re in Tier One and that means you’re getting the highest priced leads of people qualifying for the highest prices or at least the people that call in on the highest priced properties. If you’re in Tier Two, that means you’re doing an effective job, but you’re not the best and therefore, you’re getting the medium-priced leads. And, if you’re in Tier Three, which means you haven’t proven yourself yet, and that could be somebody that either has been getting leads and not going a very good job or somebody that’s relatively new with the company, you’re in Tier Three. Then, you can claw your way up to the top tier by performance, but while you’re proving yourself, you’re getting the lower priced leads.

Now, do you have all of your leads come into a central place where you use maybe an internal sales agent or an inside sales agent?

Yes, we do. We have three inside sales agents. We have FollowUpBoss, as our CRM that we’ve evolved into. We had a couple of other CRMs that we tried, but we’ve evolved into FollowUpBoss. So, everything drops into FollowUpBoss and is monitored by and the first responders are our ISAs.

How important are they to the success with your leads?

Crucial. We could not have the control over the leads without the ISAs. I do respect some of the brokers that are doing this without ISAs, and their philosophy is that the agent is the best person to make the first contact. While I don’t dispute that, if you have excellent ISAs, then there’s a lot more control to make sure that the quality level is there at least on the first response.

We see all these statistics about how important it is to respond in the first few seconds. So, holding ISAs accountable to respond in those first 15 seconds, is a lot easier than holding excellent phenomenal agents to that same standard because if they’re in the middle of a conversation with a customer, if they’re showing a property, if they’re on a listing appointment, they just cannot respond in those first few seconds that are crucial to beginning the relationship and providing that information that the consumer’s expecting and now really demanding.

Have you found that that helps you grow the careers and retain good agents for your brokerage?

We’ve been in business for 33 years. Our retention is better than ever. Our recruiting is better than ever. There’s no question that an absolute foundation of those two stats changing are the online leads and how we’re handling that and how we’re feeding our agents every single day with those leads and how that’s working really as a pump primer, as I mentioned before, for them. So, recruiting and retention is better than ever.

What are four things you should always make sure you or your team does in order to convert those leads to sales?

The most important four things are number one, follow-up. Number two, follow-up. Number three, follow-up. And number four, be nice.

Literally, there’s almost nothing that beats follow-up. … just nothing. That is the absolute critical, critical key to doing a good job and during that process, if you’re nice, if you’re kind, if you’re accommodating, if you go out of your way to be friendly with the customer and to talk to the customer as if you know them. If they’re speaking fast, speak a little faster. If they’re speaking slow, speak a little slower, but just be kind, and nice, and assume the best about that person.  I hate it when I hear somebody say that they were a bad lead. There are no bad leads. There are no bad people. Everybody, if they cannot qualify, even if they’re not ready to buy, they have a sister or a mother or a cousin or a nephew or a friend that is ready to buy. If you build a rapport, build a relationship, and take care of them, they’re going to send people to you.

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After earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida, Tracey set out in the real world at Florida Realtors in 1994 as a communication assistant, working her way up to editor in chief of Florida Realtor magazine. In 2004, she left the association to start her freelance writing and editing business. One of her first clients was REAL Trends, and she started working for the organization in 2005. In 2014, Tracey was promoted to editor in chief of publications for REAL Trends. She handles the writing and editing of all REAL Trends publications and marketing materials, including LORE Magazine, the REAL Trends newsletter and the blog. She is also the primary podcast interviewer where she conducts interviews with top real estate industry leaders and affiliated industry leaders. Tracey is married with two children.

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