By Jim Droz

Add first responder to the tasks required of successful real estate agents. Relax. There’s no need to rush out and get CPR training or learn the Heimlich maneuver. You just have to have a quick trigger finger when it comes to responding to leads.

A recent study by a company called Lead Response Management broke down response times into hours and minutes with surprising results. Agents who respond to leads within five minutes have a 93% chance for follow-up success, with the figure plummeting to 3% for someone who waited half an hour. Even the difference between five and 10 minutes was significant, with the success rate dropping from 93% to 23% during that five-minute span.

The reason an agent’s chance of making contact with a lead is better in the first five minutes is because the potential client is thinking about real estate and likely still on the computer searching for homes. This means they’re in a good frame of mind for a contact and likely have the time to respond to your message or answer the phone.
Also, when you call a lead quickly, the potential client isn’t going to forget that they registered on your website and will know who you are on first contact. If the phone number on the registration form is legitimate, they’re essentially saying that they’re open to being called and serious about looking for a home.

Even though some people might be annoyed by a speedy contact because they were “just curious and browsing,” the majority will be impressed because it shows that you’re prompt. It also fits in with the expectations of today’s society that demands information immediately and expects a quick response to questions and concerns.

Dawn Amato, a HouseHunt agent in Marco Island, Fla., has had good success with her quick responses. She contacts people right away with listings she thinks fit their profile.

“I’ve had people tell me they’re surprised I called so fast,” Amato said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m so impressed. You’re the first agent to call.’ Some are willing to start discussions right away and others tell me they might not buy for two or three years. I just say, ‘that’s OK, I’m not going anywhere.’ Either way, the immediate contact lets them know I’m eager to work with them.”

Adding a personal touch also has been effective for Lisa Hayes, an agent in Fernley, Nev.

“Immediately sending them an introductory letter I’ve designed has worked wonders for me, and then I follow it up with a phone call, hopefully that same day if possible,” Hayes said. “But the biggest thing is getting out the personalized e-mail right away.”

Another response time study, this one by PCMS Consulting, found that “over 70 percent of consumers choose the first company that gets back to them.” That’s why fast response times are so crucial to converting leads into clients. People have become accustomed to the fast pace because of today’s technological gadgets. It used to be desired but now it’s expected. For many consumers in the PCMS study, responses occurring after 15-20 minutes from initial contact were considered too slow.

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