Give an agent a fish, or teach an agent to fish…

FishingPondOur industry is besieged with shiny objects. Brilliant and dazzling displays of how we should be working and what tools we should be using. We are also, and ever increasingly, offered plentiful shining leads. Yes, there are homeowners on the other side of our iPhone screens with their hands up, just waiting for us real estate agents to sweep in and sell them the perfect home. But this comes with a price. Cue the creepy music and enter Vincent Price to explain further…

These home buyer and home seller leads are piling up behind companies like Zillow, BoomTown, and more. For a monthly fee or commission split, these leads can be yours to contact, nurture and close. Wait! Is it that easy? No, of course not! Closing online leads takes a lot of effort, time, and discipline. (Side note: Be honest, we’ve all heard or said this before – “I want to become a Realtor so I can have a flexible schedule…” Pro tip: Flexible and Discipline are not the best of friends.) Let me repeat, closing online leads takes a lot of effort, time, and discipline. Calls must be made within minutes of the lead registering. Follow up must be continuous and consistent. Flexible is not an option and discipline is a must.  If you are skilled and have some luck on your side, you may have a pipeline built in 6 months with a few closings under your belt. You will also have paid a hefty monthly price or given the bulk of your commissions away to your managing broker, team leader, or other source who paid for the leads.

Converting and closing online leads is such a daunting task we are also offered, for a price, systems and coaching on how to best work these leads to the closing table. Further evidence there is big money to be made with this model of real estate. Some agents/groups/brokerages are closing 100’s, even 1000’s of online leads per year with their efforts. Here’s the thing, the average real estate industry conversion rate for online leads is about 1%. If an agent is converting 2% they are a bonafide rock star. Working online leads is truly a numbers game where discipline and consistency over time is the only way to succeed.

Technology has shifted our industry from a people facing industry into a screen facing industry. Or at least I believe the lead generation companies would like us to believe so. These data rich companies want to keep us comfortably fed and occupied by funneling home buyer and seller leads to us, the real estate agents. And the more we consume the fish we’re given, the more we are not cultivating our own spheres and contacts. And in turn, the more our spheres head to the internet rather than contacting us with their questions and needs. The more we dine on the take out fish, the less we learn to fish on our own. While learning to convert online leads is valuable, I do not believe this is teaching an agent how to fish in their own pond.

If we spend our time and resources chasing the online leads we are sold, we are losing valuable time in deepening our relationships with our own spheres and creating our own leads. Given an equal amount of time and effort, which will create more business? Working a list of 3000 leads whom you’ve never met, never seen, and as of yet have never spoken with… Or working a list of 300 contacts you’ve met in person, who have a shared interest or friend with you, and whom you have had at least a minor conversation with? If you are an agent who entered this industry because you love working with people and love helping them solve problems and achieve goals, is it time to rethink online lead generation?

On the flip side, if you’re motivation is not people based, but numbers based, then online lead generation may be best suited for you. My own beliefs have gone back and forth. I started my team on the premise of cultivating online leads. Now I’m growing my team and our business by cultivating our sphere of clients, friends and contacts.

Our industry trends and technologies change at the speed of thought. Competition is fierce. There’s no right or wrong way to grow your business and every agent has their own set of very particular skills. Skills that are suited for various business models and functions. And truthfully, it’s wonderful to have so many options, tools and technologies to help us. As an industry though, I hope we are not collectively letting our entrepreneurial spirit be led by shiny objects to a corporate catch and release pond.


About the author: In the true sense of fishing, John Furrow can barely bait a fish hook and once casted his entire fishing pole into the water, but he is a pretty good Realtor.

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