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SELLING FROM YOUR WEB SITE

by Kay and Ralph Hudson

An effectively designed Web site will give you new opportunities to sell homes but, chances are, it won’t close the sale for you. You will still need to develop those leads from your Web site just as you would a prospect coming into your office or model home.

Bringing those prospects to the closing table requires a slightly different mind-set than selling to visitors in your office or model, but with just a few adjustments, the conversion rate can be as good or better than leads from other sources.

WHO ARE YOUR WEB SITE VISITORS?

They’re real people … just like the ones that visit in person. They have made a specific effort to find and visit your Web site and to contact you … they are simply opting for a more convenient way to learn about you and your homes.

They ask questions similar to the ones your model visitors ask. Some will be relocating buyers from outside your area … some local. Of course, you'll get your share of those who are "just shopping."

Your visitors come to get information about your company and your homes. Hopefully, your site has given them enough information to make you a candidate but has also left enough unsaid to prompt them to contact you. They are giving you an opportunity to begin a dialog that may lead to a sale.

ABOUT E-MAIL

Most visitors to your Web site that are interested in learning more about you, will initially contact you via e-mail...your initial response should be likewise.

E-mail is a wonderful way to communicate. It is convenient…no more telephone tag or bad timing. It allows for more thoughtful responses with fewer mistakes or missed afterthoughts.

With a little e-mail and computer savvy, you can send documents, floor plans, photos or drawings … all without postage or long-distance phone charges. Granted, during your dialog with a prospect you'll probably use the telephone, fax and postal mail, but e-mail gives you the benefits of all of these without the cost.

E-mail provides a permanent record of your communications. This can be a real blessing unless you’re prone to exaggerate or make promises you can’t keep…then it can come back to haunt you.

Most e-mail programs have a spell-checker…use it to make your presentation reflect your professionalism and attention to detail.

One drawback of e-mail is that it is less personal than face-to-face or telephone communications, however with a little knowledge of e-mail etiquette, or ‘netiquette’ as it’s known on the Web, you can overcome this. Using a conversational style works well.

Spam, or unsolicited e-mail, is a problem for everyone and it's not unusual for messages to get deleted without even being read. Make sure the Subject line in your response clearly identifies your company name. For example, "XYZ Home Builders / Smith Inquiry." If a phone number has been given, a follow-up call to make sure they received your e-mail is appropriate...also it's a chance to further develop the dialog.

If you have a company Web site, you can usually configure your return e-mail address to include that URL. For example, rather than "johndoe@msa.com", you can use "johndoe@yourcomanyname.com". That, plus a good subject line is more likely to remind the prospect that they have requested information from you.

WEB SITES DON’T SELL HOMES - YOU DO!

Your Web site is only a 'point-of-contact'. Your success in converting leads to sales depends on how you build on that contact. It’s up to you to develop a relationship with your prospect…a relationship that builds a sufficient level of comfort to put you in a position to be entrusted with building their new home.  

A Common characteristic of those builders and sales people that are very consistent in converting their Internet leads is a knack for writing in a warm, friendly style and then following-up.

THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT

The single most important step to take upon receiving a lead is to respond promptly, even if it’s just to acknowledge their request. Thank them for contacting you and answer their question(s) or tell how and when you will get the requested information to them. You are demonstrating your responsiveness and dependability…two important virtues for a builder.

This means checking your e-mail at least once a day, preferably more often. It’s the easiest and most effective way to begin building that high level of comfort necessary to move the dialog along.

The prospect is likely to have also requested information from your competition, and the first to reply is going to get the 'gold star' for being more responsive.

Often the prospect’s initial e-mail is skimpy on detail, giving little to prompt an inspired effort on your part. Don’t jump to conclusions or make assumptions based on that first contact. Just as when dealing with visitors to your model, some require a little more effort to make them feel comfortable enough to communicate.

Ask easy, friendly and not-too-personal, open-ended questions to get the ball rolling. A questions like "What style of home appeals to you?" makes for a good opener.

Asking for too much information too soon will often backfire. Internet privacy issues have received so much negative attention in the media that people are often wary when it comes to telling much about themselves. The time to qualify your prospect is during your follow-ups. Even then, it can’t be rushed.

HAVE A PLAN

Having a ready supply of information that a prospect may ask for will make a good impression and will make your job easier. Maps, floor plans and brochures should be ready to go.

You may want to put some of this type of information online but without connecting it to your Web site. This avoids cluttering your Web site with too much information, yet makes it easy, fast and less expensive to respond to a prospect's specific questions.

Information on local schools, houses of worship and recreational opportunities is usually available on the Web. Having those sites' addresses (URLs) handy and ready to e-mail to your prospects will win more gold stars.

A toll-free phone number is inexpensive and will make a good impression on your prospective buyers. Even though cell phones make most long distance calls free, having the toll-free line demonstrates that you are accommodating.  And, because of the growing spam problems, many of your visitors will be initially reluctant to give their email address.

Most long-distance carriers today have plans that charge a minimum of $0 to $50 per month for an 888 or 800 number that rings right into an existing line. Call charges are credited against the minimum charge, so if it is used enough, you are only charged at you normal per-minute long-distant rate.

If your budget will allow, you can purchase a digital camera so that you can send photos of homes, rooms, lots, etc. that you do not have displayed on your Web site. Likewise, virtual tours of a model can be purchased and put online. The virtual tours usually cost several hundred dollars per model. See our articles, "Exterior Home Photos" and "Interior Home Photos".

WRAP-UP

Today’s technology is giving us new tools to deliver our message. It’s easy to get so wrapped-up in these tools that we forget that it’s still the message that counts. The Internet provides a fast and convenient way to present ourselves to prospective clients but it’s still good salesmanship that closes deals.

Kay and Ralph Hudson are the owners of American Builders Network, a marketing program and directory for established home builders. They can be reached toll-free at 1-877-539-8588 or contact us via e-mail.

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