September 17, 2021
Selling Homes Online – Tips from Industry Experts
Online sales are a highly important facet of today’s sales strategies for new home builders. Achieving success requires strong prioritization of efficient online sales practices and proper systems, but doing so offers an incredible opportunity for builders to offer prospective buyers greater assistance and information that improves lead nurturing and increases the likelihood of new home sales.
If done well, strong online sales programs contribute to a considerable portion of sales for new home builders – accounting for up to even 60% or more of overall sales. To achieve these numbers, several factors are critical including hiring strong candidates to handle leads, providing suitable training procedures, utilizing efficient tools and coordinating robust team efforts from leadership to sales.
With decades of experience in the field of online new home sales between them, Karen Reichert (KMR Marketing Solutions) and Leah Fellows (Blue Gypsy Inc.) are seasoned experts on creating effective online sales programs and they both possess a deep understanding of the how this role has become a greater priority to new home builders. Below, we offer guidance from these industry experts on the various elements crucial to implementing a strong online sales program.
The Value of OSCs
For an online sales program, an Online Sales Consultant (OSC) plays an instrumental role and should act as the face of the home builder on the website. Similar to the way a model home requires an onsite sales agent to represent the builder, so too does the website need a recognizable representative figure to assist and inform buyers. An OSC offers consistent guidance for buyers that are initiating their online journey.
“In many ways, your online sales counselor can be the ambassador to your company. As the face of your website, and being that first fast personalized response, an OSC can set the tone for the entire buyer’s journey.” – Leah Fellows
The ultimate goal of the OSC is to act as an extension of the brand and offer a trustworthy persona for buyers to engage with from whom they can receive information. To fulfill these responsibilities effectively, it’s vital for the OSC to possess a thorough understanding of the builder’s marketing and sales objectives.
“Oftentimes, the OSCs are the first line of communication and the leads’ first experience with your organization; therefore, having the most up-to-date information and good relationships with colleagues is key for an online sales department.” – Karen Reichert
Managing Current Challenges
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the online sales process has experienced altered expectations and encountered new challenges. New home build time estimations have greatly extended in some cases, causing longer wait times and a lack of inventory combined with an overwhelming amount of interested leads quickly filling up interest lists.
“It’s important for everyone to be in the loop on marketing messaging, efforts and what’s going on with new communities, and keep information flowing to buyers. Don’t start VIP lists too early, because if prices are drastically changing, you don’t have a lot to present to prospects and they get antsy.” – Leah Fellows
Despite this challenge of lead overflow, it’s crucial for OSCs to continue providing personalized and genuine follow-up methods to keep buyers engaged and informed during these unprecedented times. As the expected time to complete purchases and home closings have lengthened, a current challenge many OSCs are facing is the responsibility of offering realistic expectations while continuing to build excitement about the builder, community and homes. Our experts recommend remaining highly communicative and understanding to maintain strong lead nurturing.
“Be responsive. Right now, customers across the country are highly frustrated by lack of response. So be responsive, be creative, and understand that one response is not enough.” – Leah Fellows
Keeping excitement high among buyers requires strong use of creative calls to action to stand out. To offer innovative communication, it’s important to venture outside the confines of conventional marketing messaging tactics. One way to do so is by offering greater visual content such as photos, videos or GIFs within messages to prospective buyers. This is much more likely to capture attention and bolster engagement.
“One of the biggest trends for an online sales program and especially for home builders is to have as much visual media as possible and have representatives that know how to use them well. In mass mailing, I recommend using less copy, more incentives, and definitely video or GIFs. In phone calls, you can get inventive in voicemails or use videos and photos in text messaging.” – Karen Reichert
Standing out Against Competitors
When employing online sales strategies, it’s vital to consider how competitors are also reaching and engaging prospective leads. As this sales process takes place online, leads are faced with abundant options by conducting simple, quick searches. It’s important to be aware of their alternatives to derive methods to differentiate the builder and their homes.
“While the internet reaches your leads in mass, you are fighting a lot of other traffic coming your leads’ way. Leads Googling one topic get thousands of results. Any good online sales program should know what their leads are also looking at so that they can build confidence in your organization by overcoming all objections.” – Karen Reichert
It’s crucial to be responsive and offer timely communication to retain the attention of each lead. Buyers have plenty of builders competing for their interest, so it’s important to prove your value and demonstrate efficient skill when guiding and assisting prospects throughout the online sales process.
“Now that online sales programs have made online shopping so popular, an online sales department needs to be speedy because another big challenge is taking too much time to get back to the lead and losing that leads’ attention.” – Karen Reichert
Importance of Strong Teamwork
Although a strong OSC is important to a successful online sales program, it’s also essential that they are well-connected to the onsite sales team to achieve successful lead handoff of online leads to appointments. When lead handoff is performed well, our experts have seen 90% or more of appointments kept. However, it is vital to note that this is only accomplished through a strong team approach with premeditated communication systems in place for the online and onsite sales teams to confirm the appointment.
“The relationship between online and onsite sales teams is critical when it comes to a successful lead handoff to appointment and appointment conversion. It’s a team effort and everyone plays their part in a successful sale.” – Leah Fellows
The OSC requires the contribution of the onsite sales team to receive the most useful and up-to-date information that is passed on to leads. The priority of this cooperative relationship should be ensuring that OSCs can communicate effectively with buyers and offer all leads accurate information needed to make purchasing decisions.
“The onsite team should want to work well with the online sales team as they are proven to send qualified traffic to their communities. The best way to have this symbiotic relationship is to have weekly meetings where updates and information is exchanged that is helpful for the onsite and online sales team to make each lead have a consistent and great experience with your company, as well as set proper expectations for all.” – Karen Reichert
Consistent, Timely and Thorough Communication
Strong communication is an incredibly important key to effectively engaging and developing leads. From consistent follow-up to well-timed responses, good listening and knowledgeable answers, buyers should experience an effortless communication process with OSCs during their online journey. At every turn, there should be opportunities for homebuyers to easily engage with OSCs to receive answers and learn necessary information.
“The most important strategy for an online sales department is to set up systems for follow-up and continuous communication. These systems should answer all the ’what if’s’ as well as the ‘if this happens, then this needs to happen’ questions and objections. Oftentimes, this is a drip/automated eblast campaign along with phone calls.” – Karen Reichert
Part of providing exceptional communication is allowing buyer preferences to guide where interactions take place. Each buyer prefers different types of communication, and OSCs should always be willing and capable of meeting those expectations.
“It’s important to have a variety of touchpoints. We must be ready to engage with people where they start and give them options. Some potential buyers want emails, some phone calls, others want text messages. We need to make sure to give them options when communicating with us so that we can meet them in their comfort zone.” – Leah Fellows
The best way to convert leads is for OSCs to demonstrate to buyers that they are good listeners and problem solvers. All OSC messages should include as much specific information as possible delivered with a tone that is personal, genuine and transparent.
“Engaging leads is easy! Let the lead do the talking! Listening is so important. You can really find out a lot with a silent pause! Additionally, being very informed about your organization and knowing how to use all the tools that are provided so that you are informed. The lead will have more trust overall in your organization by answering all their questions with confidence.” – Karen Reichert
Creating confidence in online sales and building trust is all about strong and timely communication habits. OSCs should be knowledgeable and quick by answering the lead’s questions thoroughly and responding in less than an hour by phone. Tools such as text messages and personalized emails should only be used as back-up contact methods or when conducting text marketing campaigns.
To offer leads the most appealing information, expert Karen Reichert recommends testing interest by experimenting with mass mail subject lines and subheaders to gauge what is appealing to certain leads. After doing so, OSCs can use that messaging appeal consistently to capture the lead’s attention and direct them to the next step in their buying process. This can also be used in calls, whether warm or cold, to personalize messaging.
“New leads that come in through the internet are normally looking for one piece of information that they could not find online, or they are trying to get exclusive information that no one else has; therefore, your messaging should always try and answer these issues.” – Karen Reichert
Effective Tool Recommendations
When utilizing tools for the online sales program, our experts recommend finding a strong CRM system that offers several tools that successfully aid in managing the influx of leads and offer an abundance of accessible resources that support online sales strategies. Utilizing an assortment of tools helps handle and continue to nurture lead relationships.
“A good online sales program needs to have a CRM with built-in tools to help with reporting, automation, template creation and a good follow-up system. It is always helpful if your CRM talks to your ecommerce site or contracting system as well!” – Karen Reichert
It’s important that these tools both complement the online sales and communication process with buyers and maintain a strong personalized feel. It’s important to utilize automation that offers a personal, warm touch when handling various leads. Although this automation cannot fully replace the value of a fast, tailored response by phone, text and email, it offers a helpful method to indicate to prospective homebuyers that someone is available to help.
“A successful online sales program is the right blend of personalization, automation, speed, and long-term follow up, with a lot of genuine care mixed in.” – Leah Fellows
Achieve Your Online Sales Program Goals by Partnering with Milesbrand
Accomplishing your online sales goals requires the coordination of several elements from a solid OSC to strong teamwork efforts, effective use of tools and exceptional communication strategies. Implementing effective online sales practices offers prospective leads beneficial access to assistance and information that takes them further down the buying journey.
At Milesbrand, we create outstanding branding campaigns and powerful marketing strategies to differentiate your brand and master-planned community. Contact our team today to learn more about how we can support your online sales and lead nurturing strategies.