There’s prospecting, and then there’s The Perna Team. These guys have got it down to a science. They know how long to lead generate, how quickly to respond to leads, and exactly what to say. They stick to their top lead sources and refine their systems to convert leads at a higher level. The result: $81 million in closed volume for 2013.
At the helm of the operation in Northville, Mich., is Michael Perna. We caught up with Perna to discuss how he generates and closes hundreds of leads a year.
Q: Where does your business come from?
A: Twenty percent comes from a combination of repeat clients and referrals. Twenty-five percent from farming, 25 percent Internet lead generation and then 30 percent outbound prospecting.
Q: How does your team of 15 lead generate systematically?
A: Every day we are in the office by 9 a.m. and spend two hours making outbound calls and sending emails to buyers, expired listings, FSBOs and circle prospecting. We use BoomTown for buyers and the Mojo Dialer for outbound listing prospecting.
I give a lot of credit to J. Michael Manley for designing the “21 Days of Gain.” He put together a fantastic program for staying on top of Internet leads that didn’t respond to the first call. The strategy is a mix of emails and phone calls that go out over the first 21 days after a lead comes in.
Q: What do you say in the phone calls and emails?
A: At first, we start discussing the property that the client asked about. Then we go into more general topics. Would they like a list of foreclosures? Would they like a list of general homes for sale? Would they like a best-buy list for the city they’re looking in? A lot of people go on our site looking for home values similar to theirs. Would they find a neighborhoo sold report helpful? The goal here is to elicit a response.
For past clients we follow the layout in Michael J. Maher’s book (7L) The Seven Levels of Communication: Go from Relationships to Referrals. It’s extremely well written and packed with info.
Q: How does such a large team manage the leads? How has your organizational structure been set up to support it?
A: We do lead shifts in three-hour increments. An agent is on shift for three hours, and any and all leads that come in during that three-hour period are theirs. They have to be present at the office to ensure that we have a response time under five minutes. If we can respond in under five minutes, we have a roughly 80 percent connect rate at the first phone call. If we can email them in under five minutes, then we generally get an email back within 15 minutes.
Q: What technology do you use to support their lead generation, conversion and management activities?
A: We post 20 Craigslist ads per day. We also use BoomTown to both generate and manage leads. We use Top Producer to manage the listing side of the business. The rest of our leads come from Realtor.com, Zillow and open houses.
Q: What key lead generation numbers do you track to grow your business and how do you hold your team or system accountable?
A: We are averaging a 4 percent close rate. My goal is to get that up to 7.5 percent this year. I don’t necessarily want to get more leads at this point. I just want to do better with what we have. Scripting and dialogue practice is helping to move this number in the right direction. We use the 411 for tracking. More teams should use this! It helps us stay on track and look at that big picture that we’re all working toward. It also helps to hold people accountable. I focus on the personal side of the 411, with the Big Why in front of us daily. The rest sorts itself out.
Q: What kind of training do you use?
A: Every position on my team has a 100-day action plan. Three of us have to sign off on a new buyer agent before they can receive a lead. We have to feel comfortable with the agent, and confident that they know our systems properly, that they can create urgency in buyers and have mastery over the subject matter. It’s about three hours of class a day for the first three weeks. Then they have to sit through two buyer consults, go on two different appointments showing homes, and two inperson appointments where buyers are writing offers. They also have to sit with our closing coordinator for a day and learn the contract-to-close process.
Q: What are two of the most powerful techniques you’ve used to increase the number of great leads your team gets?
A: With Craigslist, the number of leads you put out is completely scalable to how many leads I need. If I put 20 posts in a day, every single day, I’d generally generate somewhere between 80 to 100 leads per month. I can increase my yard sign count. The more listings I have, the more calls I get. Generally, if I have 25 yard signs in the ground at any point in time, I’ll average 125 buyer calls per month direct call-ins.
Finding leads is easy. The hard part is converting the leads and not letting the sand slip through your fingers. I can increase BoomTown. I can put more Craigslist ads out there, but it doesn’t do me any good unless I have a powerfully skilled buyer agent behind the wheel taking and converting those leads. Finding and hiring talent is my biggest challenge.
Q: How do you manage the marketing activities through your team members?
A: I have an in-house graphic designer. She handles the mailings, design work, etc. I hold her accountable with a weekly meeting to make sure all tasks and objectives are met and see if we can improve response rates by tweaking what we’re currently doing.
Q: How do you consistently and systematically market the seller listings for more leads?
A: We use ProQuest, an 800-number IVR. Buyers can hear a recording of the home and it texts the buyers info to our agents. Eight years later this is still one of my most profitable tactics. It runs $39.95 per month and generates about 125 leads a month. Also holding open houses is very successful for generating additional listings in the same neighborhood. Utilizing a professional photographer ensures my listings look better then 90 percent of the homes out there, causing buyers to want to see mine over others.
Q: What else should we know about teams and lead generation?
A: Profitability through accountability. You can generate all the leads in the world but until you’re working one-on-one with your agent to make sure they’re properly trained, they’re responding in the proper timeframe and they’re responding enough times to get that buyer to finally call back and at least say, “Stop calling me!” you’re just going to keep throwing the money and effort out the window.