The fourth quarter of the year is now upon us.  I know, technically it’s a month early, and at the same time with all the holidays, most real estate agents shut down from Thanksgiving until New Year’s.  So, for all intents and purposes, it’s the fourth quarter.

So, let me ask you: are you going to reach your yearly goals?

And another question: are ya doin’ lead generation?

Come on, be honest!  Are you consistently devoting specific time each work day to generating new business, week after week?

If you’re not, then you can’t possibly grow your business (and you’re probably not going to hit your goals, that is, if you have goals, which you definitely should).  In good times, your business might grow from time to time, despite you.  Yet, you cannot consistently grow your business on a regular basis if you’re not consistently going after new business.  Hell, you can’t even hope to maintain your business at the same pace from year to year if you’re not consistently going after new business, because you can’t be sure when you’ll get business.

Lead generation is anything that is the act of looking for new business.  So, it’s not incoming sale calls (sign/ad/floor calls).  It’s not repeat/referral business.  It’s really not even networking, unless you are actively pitching each person you meet.

Let’s explore some ways of lead generation:

1. Targeted out-going calls, aka phone prospecting – in real estate that means calling expired listings, calling For Sale By Owners, calling your past clients and your sphere of influence and calling around new listings and new solds.

*This is the most effective way of generating leads

*You better have some scripts, so you don’t wing it (email me at the address below, and I’ll gladly point you in the right direction to help with scripts).

2. Door knocking – With door knocking, you want it to be targeted.  I recommend mapping out expired’s and FSBO’s and creating a map so it’s efficient.  You don’t want to just randomly drive around neighborhoods looking for them.

I’m not so high on just doing door knocking in any old neighborhood, however if you do it consistently, it’s certainly better than no lead generation at all.  In that light, I recommend door knocking as a supplement to calling.  Although, if you replaced one session of calls for one session of door knocking each week, to change it up a little, that would be all right.

*Door knocking Expired’s and FSBO’s can be effective, especially if you can’t reach them on the phone.

*Be prepared.  Again, scripts are key here, as well as any helpful materials.  By helpful I mean market data, recent sales of yours or the company and your business card.  I do NOT mean expensive tri-color brochures, cookies, flower seeds or any other inane thing that doesn’t help you get the listing or sell a home.

3. Thinking outside the box you might try Buyer/Seller Seminars – Hosting buyer and seller seminars is a way to guarantee that you have people interested in buying or selling all in front of you at one time.  Avoid costs as much as possible, get this subsidized by affiliates like title/escrow companies and mortgage companies.

What you do is offer the seminar for free.  For buyers, you might focus on 1st time home buying, or how to get good financing in this market, or first time investors.  For sellers, you may concentrate on FSBO’s or expireds, or just sellers in general.  You need to advertise it, so classified ads would be one way to go.  Give a good lead up time, like 3-4 weeks, and then make sure you’re appealling to them.  It can’t be a trick.  You can’t just have them there for a big all at once listing appointment, for example.  Just trotting out how good you are won’t work.  Consider other speakers, hired or the mortgage/title sponsors, along with financial type people (tax issues, etc.)  But don’t let them go on forever or you’ll bore the pants off the attendees.  Bottom line: you have to offer them value.

*Public speaking scares people, so get over it!  Seriously, you can do it, you make presentations all the time, except it’s usually to two people in their living room or in your office.

*Practice, rehearse and make sure you have good notes.

4. Advertising – Technically this isn’t really lead generation, although it can help generate some leads.  There are many problems with advertising, and I generally advise my clients to either avoid it, or get it subsidized (mortgage/title) to minimize or eliminate costs.

First of all, under no circumstances should you advertise anything other than your listings (or if you’re newer, grab some listings from co-workers, they’d be happy to have the free advertising).  Advertising yourself only is egotistical, extremely costly and a waste of time and money.

It’s costly and a waste of time because for image advertising to work it takes lots of exposure over long periods of time.  Therefore, for people to think of you to call for real estate solely based on your self-advertising, you have to be spending thousands of dollars month after month to get them to think of you.  “Hey, lets call that lady we saw on the billboard!”

In my home town, there’s a weekly paper with classified real estate ads in the back, which can generate some traffic, I suppose.  However, there’s one agent who inconsistently buys a business card sized ad to advertise only himself, and it’s not even in that section, it’s somewhere else in the paper.

“Call Bob, he’ll do the job!” isn’t his slogan, but it’s close.  This is terrible because he’s spending money on himself only so it says, a) I can’t afford a bigger ad, or to run it every week, and b) there’s nothing compelling to call me about, I don’t have listings, so I’m desperate for business.

Same thing with those diner place mat ads.  I’m eating at a diner, and I’m spilling soup on your face, but let me fold up my place mat to keep your number handy because among the 30 other ads on the place mat, I’ve decided I need real estate at this particular moment and I’d much rather call the realtor under my cheeseburger than the one with the “for sale” and “sold” signs I just passed.

With listings, even though all realtors advertise in the same places, at least if you have something appealing you’ll get calls on it.

Then you have the next problem, converting the calls.  Remember, lead generation is not ad/sign calls.  And what’s worse is a very small percentage of those that call are viable leads that will work with you.  Most either have another agent, aren’t really ready to buy yet, can’t buy yet, need to sell their home first but owe too much on it – or want to waste your time looking before putting their home on the market, won’t let you get their information, won’t return your calls, etc.

Chasing ad call leads around can feel like doing business, but it’s a little like working at the mall and running after each customer that comes in to your store and doesn’t buy anything.  And it’s almost just as ineffective.

***No matter what kind of advertising you do, you have to, have to, have to, absolutely MUST track it’s effectiveness.  You are in business.  You need to know what’s working for you and what’s stealing your money otherwise you’ll be out of business.  Even if you get your advertising for free, you need to track it, otherwise you’ll waste valuable time and energy putting the ads together each week/month for nothing.  And, if it’s ineffective, but you still feel it’s worthy of you’re time, then you can change the ads to see if it generates more calls.

***If you’re a newer agent, unless you have a) wads of cash in savings b) a ton of listings DO NOT consider advertising unless you can get the affiliates to subsidize all your costs.

5. Open Houses – Also not really lead generation.  You never know who’s going to show up, if anyone does at all.  If it rains or snows, you’re screwed, and have wasted 4-6 hours for nothing.  If you’ve got a great listing, but it’s not in a well trafficked area, you’re screwed.  Mostly, you get neighbors at these things.  And, according to studies from the National Association of Realtors, very, very few people actually buy the house they walk-in.

Once again, like with sign/ad calls, you then have the pleasure of following up with these people to see if they are, in fact, actual qualified buyers for you.

If you’re just starting out, you may want to supplement your work week with an open house.  Just make sure it’s a good buy, your company advertises it for you, it’s in a trafficked area, and you have good materials to give to walk-ins, like other similar listings in the area.

**Develop a script, so that you don’t wing your presentations.  Make sure that no one gets in or out without signing in, or you’ve just lost a lead.  “We have to present a list to the seller, so they know we were doing our job….”

*********Oh, yeah, never, never, never, never let the seller be there for an open house!  NEVER!!!  Besides the fact that they won’t be happy with the plain truth of how open houses only help you get potential leads and don’t really sell the home for them (which is why you want to have other listing flyers there), they will try to become the salesperson and will annoy and scare off potential buyers.  Plus, buyers never give their true opinion with the seller there.

6. Floor time – This isn’t lead generation either.  This is you waiting for someone to call, and then hoping they’re qualified and that you can convert them (sign/ad calls).  If you were the only realtor in your market, then this would be good because the phone would ring off the hook.  But really it’s a crap shoot, at best.  You’re one of hundreds or thousands of agents working for one of 30-100 companies in your market.  So, the odds of a very good qualified buyer calling the office on a Wednesday during the 3-4 ours of your floor time are very slim.

Some offices make agents take floor time.  I’m simply saying that you still need to do lead generation.

7. Farms – Farms, or farming isn’t great, but it’s better than some of the above.  However, you have to be consistent in your calling/marketing to farms.

The problem with farms are these:

1. People in your farm, don’t know and won’t care that they’re in “your” farm.

2. The other agents in your office can’t go in your farm, so you have a false sense of security, because you tend to forget that every other realtor in your market can and does go in your farm.

3. Most people move every 7-15 years or so.  So you have a very small window if you’re only marketing to 200-500 people.  What are the odds of all the people in your market that these people are all in their 15th year and looking to move?

4. You miss expireds and FSBO’s because they’re not in your farm.  They’re a huge source of potential business.

I’m sure I’ve missed some stuff, so please email me or comment if you can think of anything.  Actually, feel free to comment on anything you’ve read.

The bottom line is that to be in business, to maintain your business, to grow your business, you need to do generate new leads on a consistent basis.  Go get the business because the business isn’t coming to you.

Scott Friedman