Earlier this year, I had the great opportunity to present at the International Builders’ Show. As I was preparing, I sent out this message on Twitter: “Preparing the presentation for IBS, anything specific you would like to hear?” In no time, a user responded, “How about you only talk about the stuff that works.”

I laughed, and then realized that this response was right on. It’s easy to get caught up in theory and ideas, preaching instead of teaching. Often people know what they need to do, they just need “real world” examples to reinforce their knowledge and get them moving forward.

In that light, I’m taking this article to the street. I’m fortunate enough to have worked with some of the best Online Sales Counselors (OSC) across the nation. Let’s hear from these superstars on what makes them and their program so consistently successful.

“It’s all about fast, personal service,” Says Leah Kaiz, an OSC from Virginia. “I’ve found that people respond when they can tell you are genuinely there to help.”

One easy way to create higher response rates is to send emails that don’t look canned explains Leah, “I’m not a fan of pretty templates. When they arrive in my inbox, I know they weren’t designed uniquely for me. So do home buyers.”

Russ Klintworth, OSC for Simmons Homes reminds, “Not everyone will respond, it doesn’t mean they didn’t get the information. By sending more specific questions you increase your chance for a response.” Bottom line; don’t give up after just one email.

Kate Jacobs, OSC for American West Homes, using similar techniques says, “People like to talk about themselves. I ask something like ‘I’m curious, what’s changed in your life that has you out looking for a new home?’ Once I added that line in my emails, my response rate increased dramatically!”

Pay attention to customer feedback. When Elena Mora, the OSC for Ideal Homes, hears, “Wow! That was fast! I just sent my request less than a minute ago.” She knows she’s doing everything right.

Customers are impressed when you contact them while still on your website. Elena elaborates, “I respond to my leads in 5 minutes or less, and I have a rigorous follow-up system. I am here to help them with their home search.”

A few simple tricks can make the difference between providing information and creating consistently high conversion rates. Kate’s observation exhibits the need for a detailed personal follow-up system. “The buying cycle is so much longer now that the need for long term follow-up is so important!”

Each OSC has a detailed System. Russ knows follow-up isn’t a trick it’s common sense, “My goal is to answer every email and phone call promptly. The more knowledgeable you are about your product the better you interact with the prospective homebuyer.”

All OSC’s agree that in order to convert a conversation to an appointment, every communication needs to build a bridge from OSC to the onsite managers. “I often say things like ‘that is a great question for Jenny, our site manager, would you like me to set that up for you?’” Says Leah.

Elena explains, “I know which emails and calls they responded to, what they said, and what their hot buttons are so I can develop a script that will motivate them to come out to a model.”

Over the past few years as home search has changed so too has the role of an OSC. “I’ve found that social media has added to the richness of an OSC position. It gives multiple outlets to interact with past, present, and future homebuyers.” Says Leah.

Kate concurs, saying, “With social media taking off like it has, OSCs are seen now as the “face” of the company and serve as a true ambassador.”

“Maintaining a high web presence is key,” says Russ, “given the amount of time buyers now spend on the internet during their home search.”

Isn’t this great. These folks are so smart!

Sit in on a day-in-the-life of a successful OSC, and you’ll notice common traits among top achievers. Consistently high numbers are not luck of the draw. They aren’t due to the outdated belief that the same clients would be swingin’ through model doors anyway.

Let’s face it, those doors are not swingin’ like they used to. With 90% of buyers beginning their home search online, an OSC, implementing a proven process, will insure that qualified buyers mosey into that sales office.

Here are a few of the common traits I see all across the country:

Be quick on the draw. OSC’s know they are 100 times more likely to set an appointment if they catch a lead while still on their website. That means lightning fast response time. Firing off an email when a prospect is still on their computer engages the lead quickly with attentive customer service.

Use a Lead Management System and implement a process. Once contact is made and key information is identified, the OSC begins building a relationship. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems allow OSC’s to create short-term or long-term follow-up consistent with the buyer’s specific needs.

Sell the appointment, not the home. In this position and process, the “close” is setting the appointment. Understanding how to ask and being prepared for the common objections that will follow gives the advantage to those who are ready. It may seem obvious, but that’s what separates people who send emails, from highly effective OSC’s who facilitate sales.

One thing to keep in mind, while not every builder can have a full-time OSC, you absolutely, positively, without question must assign someone within your organization the responsibility of fast follow-up with initial contact from a prospect.

At the International Builders’ Show this year, Myers Barnes, noted New Home Sales Trainer, made a great statement: “We aren’t producing any more customers this year. If you want more sales you are going to have to steal them from your competition” By responding fast and responding right to your internet leads, you will be able to do just that.

This article originally appeared in Sales & Marketing Ideas Magazine

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