A tremendous amount of energy and money has been invested into moving consumers from a digital experience into an agent relationship. Consumer research performed by the National Association of REALTORS® regularly indicates that consumers start their process of buying or selling online before connecting with a Realtor®. I do not think anyone denies it.
Just last night, I observed a friend looking on the web to get an idea of his property value because he is working through a divorce. Pathetically, he went to his broker’s website first but could not get the information there. So he headed over to Zillow.
I showed him how to look up Zillow accuracy for his area and explained the difference between AVMs and Appraisals, along with valuations created by a Realtor. In his future, there will be a listing and two purchases. One purchase will be for his wife and family and other for him. Because I was there to explain the differences between Zillow and his broker’s website, he is likely to use both. In his market, Zillow’s Zestimate® accuracy is 2 stars and by my judgement, about 5% over market.
My friend is going to reach out to his broker to discuss his situation. In that regard, he will become a prospect with a high likelihood to transact. From the perspective of a listing lead, he will move from the start of Chutes and Ladders all the way to the position on the board that is one space away from closing the listing. But there is a twist. Perhaps his wife will be the one to list the house. That would send him all the way back to the beginning of the process and move her to his position on the board. Both of them will also have a piece on the board that will represent their repurchase process.
In this journey, you can see how movement happens in a singular circumstance of a real estate transaction. The reality is that consumers blend the gathering of information online with the experience of working with one or, more likely, multiple Realtors. When you reverse the perspective and look at the journey from the agent’s perspective, you can appreciate how customers who may engage with a Realtor will be a lot like the game of Chutes and Ladders. The customers move all over the board and will often get close to a transaction one or more times. They are just as likely to slide all the way back to a cold lead at the beginning of the journey.
Break the Sales Funnel Thinking
Real estate has adopted the popular sales funnel process of understanding the customer journey. Often, agents do not foresee that sellers are buyers and that buyers are usually sellers (first home and second home buyers are the exceptions). Agents are also trained to look at the customer journey as linear, with a start and a finish. Keynotes for training agents need to consider the following new paradigms:
Customers will move back and forth though the sales funnel. It is incumbent on the agent to stay in touch and move the customer into the right part of the funnel so that the agent stays connected with where they are.
Customers are usually buyers and sellers – agents need to consider parallel journeys for each and realize that they will move around in the sales funnel along their journey.
People should be considered contacts or customers for life. Stay connected to them and always aim to deliver the right information and level of engagement as defined by their stage.
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