Few industries have undergone more radical and tumultuous change than real estate. Today, listings and shopping take place online, and the ability to match buyers and sellers is heavily dependent on digital tools and technologies.
"It's an extremely challenging business and IT environment," observes Kenneth Allewelt, manager of database marketing at Homes & Land, a provider of franchised marketing services to real estate professionals.
The company, founded in 1973, handles about 1.6 million listings from Multiple Listing Service (MLS) feeds every day across the United States and Canada. Homes & Land attempts to bring together both home buyers and sellers. The firm showcases properties in more than 15,000 communities nationwide across 229 print and digital publications.
A key differentiator for the company is its hands-on and high-touch method. "This is what sets us apart from other services that are automated," Allewelt explains.
A couple of years ago, the company's sales staff found itself struggling to sell to broker agents and publishers. Typically, an agent in the call center would blindly call prospective buyers and attempt to set up appointments.
"We really didn't know anything about the agents, other than the fact they were agents," Allewelt says.
Making matters worse, everything took place on a manual basis, using spreadsheets and dialing manually. The result? A slow, cumbersome sales system that led to conversion rates of around 5 percent. "We were mired in an archaic business framework that simply wasn't feasible," he recalls.
Migrating to CRM in the Cloud
In September 2013, Homes & Land migrated to a cloud-based CRM system from Infusionsoft and integrated it with call center software from 3CLogic. The latter provides robust analytics and reporting features, as well as the ability to run filters based on a wide variety of criteria, including geography, the number of listings an agent holds and the dollar amounts for the listings.
As a result, sales agents can now pull up relevant data about a broker and personalize the sales approach—something that immediately boosted the success rate to about 22 percent. "Suddenly, sales agents could see who they were dealing with and adapt the conversation to match the situation," Allewelt explains.
For instance, if a particular real estate broker has, say, three listings, and the average value of a listing is $567,000, the salesperson can focus on a luxury approach rather a more basic method associated with $200,000 listings. As a result, "Our sales team has far more confidence and is far better prepared," he says.
The system also allows Homes & Land to use other innovative features, such as a call-back system that lets its agents call a prospective customer but leave the number of the publisher on the Caller ID, if they have permission to do so. If the recipient wishes to call back, they are connected directly with the publisher and can close the deal.
"Innovation is critical," Allewelt says. "We're competing with the Trulias, Zillows and Realtor.coms of the world, but we operate at a higher price point. The key is to add value and make real estate agents' lives easier and better."
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