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Taking the time to connect with Jay Thompson

With Jay Thompson Director of industry outreach at Zillow

The real estate market in the United States is massive and Zillow is a giant real estate website with 110 million properties – that’s right 110 million.

Jay Thompson, Director of Industry Outreach at Zillow, explains, “We have almost virtually every property in the United States on Zillow, whether it's for sale or not. About 110 million. It’s really a big, giant database of properties in the US, some of which are for sale, most aren't, with all kinds of neighbourhood information, school information, real estate statistics. It's a data repository for consumers. Agents advertise on Zillow, and we try to connect consumers with agents that can help them buy or sell a home.”

While owning an estate brokerage in Phoenix, Arizona Jay developed a strong social media presence, and from there leapt into Zillow. He says, “I was a real estate agent and I owned a real estate brokerage in Phoenix for four or five years. It was a small independent brokerage so we weren't affiliated with a franchise. I had a pretty strong social presence and through that presence met a lot of people at Zillow and they made me an offer almost five years ago now, to kind of act as a liaison between the broker agent community and Zillow. Inside Zillow, I try to help Zillow employees understand the broker-agent psyche and mindset and what brokers and agents need out of the products that we offer.”

Within a crowded marketplace, Jay understands the pivotal role connection plays with conversion, particularly in this age of expectation of immediate contact and service. Agents who practice and excel at making warm connections stand out from the crowd. There are lots of different ways to get leads and contacts but as he says, “It's what the agent does with that contact afterwards. You don't want to bug people but it's super, super critical to respond to an internet contact instantly. That's just the psyche, the way that the internet consumer thinks. They think, ‘Well I'm going to click a button on a website that says, Contact an Agent,' and they expect to be contacted really, really fast.”

Don't go in for the hard sell

Jay says, “It's important I think not to do the hard sell when it comes to a contact because you really don't know this person. How can you hard sell somebody if you haven't even established any kind of relationship? Establish a relationship, get face to face. That's the most important thing."

Have a system in place

He says, “The agents that are super successful at internet lead conversion almost universally have some kind of system in place that allows them to contact that person immediately. That can be as simple as an auto responder that'll just be set up to say, ‘Hey you know what? I got your information and I'm in the car,’ or, ‘I'm with a client and I'm working. I'll get back to you in 30 minutes or an hour’, or whatever that time may be.” Other agents go as far as to set up small call centres so that leads are routed to somebody.

"How can you hard sell somebody if you haven't even established any kind of relationship?"

He continues, “There's all kinds of processes and systems that can be put into place but the key is to have that system because if you get an internet contact and you look at your phone and go, ‘Yeah well I'm busy right now’, for whatever the case may be, ‘I'll get back to him in an hour or so’, that lead is probably lost. Not necessarily but you've lost a big, huge window of opportunity to be the first person to reach out and make contact."

Get in front of people

Real estate is an incredibly personable and a relationship business so Jay tells agents, "You're good at what you do. You work with people - that's what you do so get in front of the person. If you can get around from behind the electronic screen and behind the email and meet the person face to face, you're going to have a much better chance of building a relationship with somebody and ultimately turning them into a client and a commission cheque."

Send useful information to create contact

He suggests that agents offer value. He says, “Try to make that face to face connection even if it's just a cup of coffee. Send somebody an email or pick up the phone and call them and say, ‘If you got time, I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee just so I can understand your needs better and so I can help you more’. You need to give something of value to that consumer, not just keep bugging them saying, ‘Hey I'm here. Can I help you?’ There are agents that send market reports. You can send similar listings. You can set up searches for a consumer and then when new homes come on the market those listings go straight to that consumer. That's a really valuable tool and we can do the same thing on Zillow with auto listing alerts. That provides the consumer some value. It's not just an agent bugging them and tapping on their shoulder electronically letting them know that they're there - but providing something of value."

Send out auto listing alerts. Current listings, changed listings, market information. How long homes are staying on the market, pricing trends. Any of these provide the consumer some value. Jay says, “Take some of that workload off the consumer and provide some little piece of value. It doesn't have to be huge and expensive or anything like that but just provide something of value to the consumer."

Real estate at the end of the day is local.




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