Frequently Asked Questions About Online Sales Programs

FAQ's about OSC programsThere are many questions I get when we are looking at starting or evaluating an existing program, especially when it comes to hiring an OSC and setting them up for success. Frequently asked questions:

Can’t we just move an agent from sales to online sales or hire a seasoned realtor? 

The answer is sometimes. Not all sales agents, or realtors for that matter, will want to do the ongoing repetitive task handling that is part of the processes an OSC must do in order to nurture all the leads. Likewise, not all sales agents or Realtors are tech savvy. Which is a very important part of the OSC skill set. And lastly some agents who are used to visual ques and love face-to-face engagement may not like the long-term transition to online sales.

Shouldn’t we just look for people with previous OSC experience?

The answer is not always. While it may seem like this would shorten your time for implementing the role there are many factors to consider. First, even though the role has been around for almost 20 years now, there are still a shockingly small number of builders that implement this lead development program. And even less of those have been professionally trained or are successful. Just like there are good and bad salespeople out there, the same goes for OSCs. Being one, doesn’t automatically make you a good one, and you need to vet an OSC just as well as you would any other salesperson. There are a lot of people out there that possess the skills of an OSC and yet don’t work in the new home building field. Sometimes bringing in someone who is new to the industry can inject new ideas, and energy.

Since it can be remote can’t we just hire someone from anywhere in the country?

Sometimes when I’m hiring for new home builder, they ask if they can open it up as a remote position. And while, yes, an OSC can work from anywhere, there is value in having them come from the areas that coincide with where you build. A feeling for the local area, an ability to build rapport face to face with your team, and being able to visit the models, the agents, and the office can be a huge factor in integrating an OSC into the company culture. And it helps provide that personal touch for your client engagement. It doesn’t mean an OSC needs to be in an office cubicle 8 hours a day but having some connection to the agents and the area, also helps you understand the unique intricacies of a buyer. A new home buyer in Des Moines Iowa has different needs and characteristics than a new home buyer in Washington DC. And sometimes it takes being a part of the local culture to better understand your buyers and what they need.

Can’t we just get an OSC up and running in 30 days?

While 30-day Quick Starts are great and can help an OSC learn the fundamentals of the position, it takes time, effort, and investment to cultivate all the knowledge and skills it takes to be a strong team member to a builder.  The first 30 days of any new position is like drinking through a fire-hose. That ongoing support, refining the process, coaching, and consulting is the sweet spot between a mediocre online sales program and one that has high performance.

If the metrics are good isn’t everything okay?

We of course use benchmarks and metrics to see how things are going, but in today’s COVID world, where demand far outweighs supply, we can fall into a false sense of comfort with the way leads are being handled. If we mistake this role for simply being an appointment setter and not focusing in on customer experience, or long-term customer communication, we will see long-term effects on reputation management, as well as people’s likelihood of reaching back out to us in the future. While there is no doubt that appointments are important, there are many other factors that go into a successful online sales program.

Can’t the OSC’s just turn over the leads quicker to the agents?

While I hear this a lot especially with the waning of walk-in traffic, sending leads to the agents that aren’t qualified or aren’t ready to buy can break the process. Which leads would you like to be handed off to the agents? The ones that aren’t responding? That’s pointless, as the agents historically will only try once or twice to contact and then let that lead go dormant, while OSCs have ongoing lead nurturing campaigns for those that are non-responsive. The responsive leads are being asked if they want appointments and when someone says they do they are being set into an appointment. But do you want people with 410 credit scores, or 100K below your base pricing sent to the agents? Why would you send bad leads to them to take up their time when they can be focused on cultivating relationships with stronger appointments? And if you are not generating enough traffic to get strong appointments you should be re-examining why.  Not throwing any lead at the sales agents to see if it will stick. We must get away from this idea of quantity over quality. It frustrates buyers, it frustrates, agents, and it overwhelms the OSCs with useless leads.

These are just some of the questions I get when setting up a new or evaluating an old program. It’s important to hire strong people, that aren’t necessarily real estate experienced, but have the skills to deal with technology, analytics, people, and processes. You have to give them flexibility in their work environment but yet still have them be a part of the