Sara Williams of Heartland Homes was the deserving recipient of NAHB’s first ever Online Sales Counselor of the Year Award this January at IBS. Sara is an astute sales professional whose responsiveness, follow-up and lead nurturing skills result in nearly half of Heartland Homes’ total sales each month. In 2012 she personally contributed to 150 closings.
Sara attributes her success to an efficient CRM system, accessibility, outstanding customer support and a strong onsite sales team. In the past five years, Sara has grown Heartland Homes’ online sales team to include three full-time OSCs who actively manage a database of 4,000 leads.
In this interview with the nation’s top Online Sales Counselor, we’ll discover just what Sara does, how she stays organized, and her tips to achieve sales success – both online and off.
Congratulations on winning OSC of the Year! How does it feel?
It feels amazing! I strive to do my best every day and to be recognized among my peers. It was a thrilling and overwhelming feeling, and I am so grateful that I got to be a part of it.
What prompted Heartland Homes to hire an OSC?
When we hired a new marketing manager, he asked how our online leads were managed. In his experience and research, a builder could increase sales by hiring someone whose sole job was to nurture the leads coming through the website and schedule appointments for the onsite agents. I was the first person at Heartland Homes to be placed in the OSC position.
How many communities and sales agents are you responsible for?
28 communities and 18 sales agents.
How does an OSC help the onsite sales teams?
The job of the OSC is to schedule qualified appointments for the onsite sales teams. We work with leads and help them narrow down location, floor plan, and answer any general questions. This saves a lot of valuable time for the onsite team. Our intention is to qualify the leads before they step foot in the model home. We communicate our findings with the onsite team so they understand the customer’s needs before ever meeting them. The best feeling as an OSC is when the appointment you scheduled signs a contract during their first meeting.
How quickly are you able to follow up with a lead once they register on the website?
I usually like to get back to a lead in the first 10 minutes. If I can contact them the minute they register, I absolutely do. The faster you respond the better your results.
Do you use an automated follow-up process? Absolutely!
What are some of the steps in a typical follow-up plan? I don’t like to give away too many of my secrets, but I can tell you that I contact a new lead nine times in the first 30 days (if they have not responded after my initial contact). I like to switch up my follow-up: email, phone call, eye jot video email, etc.
How does your CRM system help you organize your leads?
I use Lasso CRM and it is very user friendly. I have a rating system in place for my customers, categories that I can place them in (depending on their interests), custom lists, a notes section that I can keep updated on my conversations, and a history section, so I can see the last contact I had with them. I also use the activity function, which allows me to schedule future activities for my leads. This helps keep me organized on a regular basis.
How do you break up your day in terms of tasks and reminders?
I use my CRM to guide me through my day. When I am not on a call or generating an email, I look to my Lasso activities that are scheduled for the day. This is my favorite! There is no way to remember thousands of people and what you want to do next with them…unless you have a tool like this. I might have 10 activities scheduled or 25 – it just depends on the volume of leads and the amount of scheduled activity. Staying up-to-date on these activities is key to an OSC’s success. If you fall behind, you get what I call “task fatigue.” This is the feeling of being overwhelmed by your to-do list, and wanting to shut down rather than get going. Getting all your scheduled activities done in a timely manner is important to see better results.
Using an OSC, how long does it take for an online lead to convert to an onsite appointment?
This is a great question. It varies. I have been able to call a prospect back in five minutes, get them on the phone, and set the appointment for later that day. But I also have clients who I have been talking to for three years who might not be financially able to move forward yet. Lasso CRM has allowed me to stay in touch with these folks without ever forgetting about them. A CRM tool is so important to keep in touch with your A and B leads, but also your C and D leads, too. If you stay in front of the C and D leads, they eventually move up and become buyers over time. If you are not using a CRM tool, you would forget about these leads and another builder could possibly get them instead.
What advice would you give to a builder who is still unsure about hiring a full-time OSC?
Take a look at my statistics. We have only been doing this for five years and our online sales team contributes to at least 40-50 percent of our monthly sales volume. My team maintained above 40 percent for over a year and ended 2012 with contributing to 50 percent of all company sales. This month we are converting 50 percent of all online leads to appointments. [Author’s note: that’s double the industry average!] Builders will recognize immediately that with an OSC, they are accelerating the sales process and will see fast results. Heartland Homes maintains consistency in sales on a monthly basis, and our sales teams consistently hit and exceed their goals. Heartland Homes works as a team; we follow our proven process and make sales. I don’t know what builder does not want to accelerate the sales process or maintain consistency in sales. I truly feel that an OSC plays a huge role in making that happen.
Congratulations Sara! For more information on how an Online Sales Counselor could boost your sales, download the OSC white paper by online lead expert Mike Lyon and Lasso CEO Dave Clements, or visit DoYouConvert.com.