Mining for Leads

 Verl Workman  |    May 07, 2015

All of these phases describe a relationship we have with our buyers and sellers. Agents are spending more on lead generation and lead incubation than ever before, looking for ways of “finding gold” or “panning for gold.” With resources like Zillow, Trulia,, BoomTown, Tiger Leads, Commissions Inc., Prime Seller Leads and many more, the opportunities are literally endless. As if you were panning for gold, you have to sift through a lot of sludge before you ever find those golden nuggets or golden leads.

Most miners give up before they ever hit gold, and unfortunately the same is true with agents. We see it every day. Agents chase shiny objects only to find they are running around looking for the magic pill to solve all their problems when the secret to success was right in front of them all along.

Client retention

As coaches, our job is simple: first, we find where clients are leaving real money on the table, and we plug those holes in their business; second, we introduce new ways of generating revenue and creating an optimal lifestyle.

The question I ask all of you is this: Do you believe it is more expensive to find a new client or to keep an existing one? The answer is simple. Working to keep a client is much easier and less expensive than focusing time and efforts on finding strangers for new business. So why do we spend so much of our time and money trying to find new business or attract strangers? 

Almost 20 years ago, I became an “automated agent.” That means I wanted to increase the number of touches I had with my database and decrease the number of touches it took to accomplish that task. That’s right, I bought the Top Producer CRM software and installed Dave Beson’s letters in the program. My goal was simple: I wanted to be at the front of the mind of my current clients, past clients and friends so that when they thought of buying or selling real estate, they thought of me first. This same principle applies just as much today as it did then.

The most important technology you should own as an agent today is your real estate Client Relationship Management (CRM) program. Before you spend one dollar on other lead generation techniques or tactics, let’s focus on your contact manager and other activities you should be doing to make sure you keep the business you feel you are entitled to but currently are not winning. That’s your database!

In the spirit of panning for gold, the real gold in this business is found in the relationships you have in the following categories: friends, current clients, past clients, geographic farms, differentiated leads, and what I like to call your “Sphere of Influence,” or SOI. Each of these categories should be set in your CRM so you can quickly sort and search by your relationship to every client. 

CRM organization

Now what? I look at each category as a farm, or sludge. My job is to start panning and sifting through the piles of contacts to extract the gold. Here are a few steps you can take right now that will separate the gold from the chaff. 

1. Everyone in your database should be categorized: Knowing who is who in your database helps you sort, customize and communicate with specific messages that make people feel you not only know them but truly care about them. For example, I can send a mass email to all contacts in the database who love dogs, or who have investment properties, or who live on the lakefront. The more you communicate with people through target messaging, the higher the likelihood they will call you to help them list or buy.

2. Each person should be on some kind of follow-up plan: This is critical because we can’t remember to follow up, so we must rely on our systems to do this for us. Putting people on a follow-up plan is just a few clicks in Top Producer or one of the other good real estate CRM programs. You can’t customize and perform such a follow-up plan in Outlook or iContacts; you must have a real estate-specific CRM program. The types of plans easily applied include seven- to 10-year client follow-up plans, open house follow-up, holiday greetings and many more. The bottom line is to launch a plan and execute the plan. Your database will produce hundreds of thousands of dollars in return.

3. Call through your database four times a year: I’m not sure why this is so hard for so many people. Many agents would rather cold-call a FSBO or expired listing rather than call people they know and ask for business. I like to say you have nothing to lose by calling acquaintances; they already are not using you, so pick up the phone and see what’s up! Call through your database at least four times a year. On a monthly basis, I block the week of the 22nd every month to call through my SOI.

4. Learn the 66 things you should know about every person with whom you would like to do business with and build your knowledge base: Chapter 3 of Harvey McKay’s book Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive discusses the 66 things you should know about every client you do or would like to do business with. I’ve followed McKay’s plan for 20 years and have built an incredible database of people with critical information. Each time you make a call, work on getting a few more of the 66 questions answered until you truly know your client or friend.

Contacts will appreciate you and be impressed at how great your memory is. I tell people I don’t have a great memory — just a great CRM! 

5. Give real value: If you really want people to remember you and choose you as an agent, you can’t just send recipe cards and fridge magnets out once a year and expect their business. We send information about what makes us great and why clients should choose us, but more importantly, the most valuable thing we can provide them with an answer to the question, “what’s in it for me?” Customers don’t care what kind of car we drive, how big our hair is, or how cute our dog is (I care). The reality is they want to know what they will receive if they choose you. Your job is to provide market information including what’s going on in and around their neighborhoods, recent sales, and things they should think about if they are considering a move. Over time, this information begins to change the way they think about you. I want clients to know I am like them: I live in the community, I care about the neighborhood, and I am a professional. 

6. Sign people up on Market Snapshot: Market Snapshot is a tool available through Top Producer in most markets, but you don’t have to be using Top Producer to use it. You can subscribe to the program through as well. This simple and powerful tool accomplishes almost everything outlined above in step 5. The more clients you have receiving your customized and branded market snapshots, the more business you will retain in your database. 

7. Whenever you have a touch with a client, always schedule the next touch: This nugget is legit. I once met one of the owners of Franklin Covey on a flight and asked him if he had any advice for building a database that had real value. He said this: “whenever you have a touch with a client, always schedule the next touch.” The owner said those few words with such confidence, and the application has been immeasurable. The most common complaint from the real estate consumer today is “agents don’t follow up.” Guess what? That perception exists because most agents don’t follow up. It’s embarrassing to track the lack of follow-ups and see how bad we really are. Don’t be average. Be exceptional and follow up using systems to help you be better than you really are. Eventually your value in the eyes of the consumer will improve. When you hang up the phone, always — and I mean always — schedule the next touch.

8. Connect with your friends and SOI on social channels, listen more than you speak, and respond. If it’s important to them, it should be important to you: We seem to get caught up and flustered doing our best to say something of value to all of our Facebook and Instagram friends, but the reality is they don’t really care what we are up to on a minute-by-minute basis. They care about themselves. So listen more than you speak on social channels and comment on what your friends say or feel is important to them. Remember, your job is to stay at the front of their minds, so when they think of real estate, they think of you first!

9. Treat leads with respect and never, ever quit: Follow up until they buy or tell us to die. In the Buyer’s Agent Mastery Program I teach, I instruct agents to follow up with prospects “until they buy or tell us to die,” and to put systems in place to make sure everyone follows up. In my office, the system works like this: “A” leads are clients we have an appointment with; they don’t require a follow-up because we have a scheduled appointment. “B” leads are not ready for 30-90 days, and we call them twice a month during the weeks of the 1st and 15th. “C” leads are 90 days or more out, and we call all of them during the week of the 8th of the month. And last, we call through our SOI during the week of the 22nd. Everyone on the team or in the office should follow this proven system to convert more leads and earn more gold.

10. Provide exceptional service at all times and in all places: Don’t make fat pockets your ultimate goal. Don’t walk around with commission breath. Instead, do the right thing and provide a high level of excellence in everything you do. The business will follow. 

The bottom line is there are hundreds of ways to generate leads, but if we customize our databases to focus on generating client retention, repeat business and referral business, we will begin to understand the true value of a client and realize we often over-complicate the road to success. 

Whatever you do, make sure you do it with enthusiasm, professionalism and a true desire to serve. Your life will be fulfilled with golden nuggets that will sustain you personally and professionally for years to come.

Verl Workman is a veteran speaker, trainer, consultant and coach who has helped thousands of sales professionals throughout North America build their business, advance their careers and change their lives.

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