Your online presence is more important than ever, as face-to-face connections are more difficult and potentially dangerous.
Focus on your SEO strategy and creating blog content that helps prospective sellers feel safe to enter a pandemic-weary market.
Look for ways to identify homeowners who are primed to sell or reach people who may be looking for a new agent.
With the real estate market roaring back after slumping in the initial months of the pandemic, you’re likely looking to drum up more listings as sellers come out of their shell. But prospecting for their business requires a different set of skills than you may have employed before COVID-19 changed the world. As social distancing guidelines lead to a surge in the online marketplace, some tried-and-true in-person prospecting tactics no longer make sense. “I can imagine door-knocking wouldn’t be particularly effective at the moment,” says James McGrath, co-founder of New York real estate brokerage Yoreevo.
There’s nothing more powerful than face-to-face contact to sell yourself as a trustworthy real estate professional, so new and seasoned agents alike must work doubly hard in a primarily virtual world to make a strong connection with prospective sellers. Firstly, you have to be omnipresent online to get in front of them and start a conversation. For McGrath, that means, above all else, investing time and energy into a search engine optimization strategy to appear at the top of online search results for home shoppers. “It’s hard to imagine the top agents in your market are pursuing an active SEO strategy because it takes some know-how and, more importantly, time,” McGrath says. Such a strategy requires consistency over the long term to work, he adds. “No matter how good you are [at SEO], you can’t flip a switch and see results tomorrow, which is why a lot of people give up.”
Choose a key word or phrase that speaks specifically to your business, and use it consistently on your website and throughout blog and social media posts—especially in the title, McGrath says. To make sure you have a good keyword, search for it on Google and see what appears on the first page of results. Try to insert terms frequently used in those results into your online posts, but remember to write for your audience. “As long as you’re writing good content and going through SEO basics, Google takes care of the rest,” McGrath says.
You’ll be posting your blogs and other content on social media to reach new clients, so be aware of the times of day you’re likely to reach the most users. It’s changed since the pandemic has forced many to work from home, giving them more free time to be online. The best times to post on Facebook now are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10-11 a.m., according to social media management firm Sprout Social, which studied how the pandemic has shaped social media behavior.
“Don’t post photos of random Pinterest kitchens or reminders to clean out your gutters—that stuff gets overlooked,” says Ashley Oshinsky, a sales associate with DeDe Properties in River Rouge, Mich. Instead, she focuses on posting actionable tips for her clients to weather the pandemic, as well as personal posts that reveal who she is as a person so prospects can get to know her. “This has gotten me so much business. The power of organic marketing is real.”
Videos also are essential for agents to reach prospective sellers, and if you’re a rookie, you don’t have to have sold a home to make a strong impression, says Khabeer Rockley, director of the 5% Institute, an online sales training company. Your track record in sales isn’t necessarily the message that will motivate sellers to list with you. Rockley suggests making videos that provide important information about preparing for the market, such as the top five things sellers need to do before listing their home. “I would then recommend agents post these short videos on their social media profile and ask their friends and family to tag people who would be interested,” he says.
Some technology can help you identify homeowners who are most likely to sell. Jim Armstrong, a sales associate at JG Real Estate in Philadelphia, recommends Remine, which has a tool that enables you to target market-primed homeowners in a farm area. “Based on their current years at the residence, equity in their home, and ownership status, they are assigned a seller score,” Armstrong says. “Those with a high score are more likely to sell, and you can reach out by email, phone, or mailing address.”
Armstrong says that more down time during the pandemic has afforded him a chance to build a database, launch a new website, start blogging relevant content for various client segments—buyers, sellers, renters and investors—and begin tracking engagements. He expects this work to lead to new listings imminently.
One overlooked way to score listings is to help out with administrative duties at your brokerage, Oshinsky says. Doing so will help you learn all the details of your brokerage systems and build rapport with other agents in the office. “I did this, and I got lots of referral leads from other agents in the office who were too busy to take them,” Oshinsky says.
You also can search for expired listings, says Michael Zizzamia, a broker with William Raveis Real Estate in Windsor, Conn. Many owners of expired listings are still in the market to sell and looking for another agent. This is a great opportunity for a new agent with a fresh marketing strategy to come in and win the business, Zizzamia adds.
James Badia, a sales associate with Pam Harrington Exclusives in Johns Island, S.C., says he used this method to score a multimillion-dollar listing in his second month as an agent. He spotted an expired listing on the MLS that had been previously priced at $3.2 million. Badia emailed the owners a personal note about his company and explained that this would be his only listing, so his full attention would be on marketing their home. The pitch convinced them to list with him.Within 90 days, the home was under contract—and Badia notched his first sale and was no longer an inexperienced agent.