S2 EP 21 | Reset Traffic Expectations

Show Notes:

Focus Discussion of the Week:

We’re gonna be straight with ya on this episode. Your expectations of traffic might be a little outta wack after the whirlwind that 2020 and 2021 brought. Matt and Alexis Udine (our Director of Online Sales Coaching) are here to realign your chakras and your benchmarks and put you on a more grounded path to traffic reality. Plus, tune in for tips on how get back to the fundamentals of good lead follow up.

 Hi, and welcome to building perspective with Matt Riley and Molly Elkman. We’re here and to bring value to you and your team by exploring all things, sales and marketing. All from different perspectives.

Matt: Welcome back to another episode of building perspective. This is episode 1,170. I don’t know what it is. 

Alexis: I thought that was real.

Matt: No, no, it’s not real. I just made that up. What did they say? 82% of all statistics are all made up on the fly. That one was made up on the fly. Anyway, I am here with my cohost, Alexis Udine. Alexis, thanks for coming on here. 

Alexis: Hello, thanks for having me. It’s been a minute. 

Matt: It [00:01:00] has it has. 

We are talking about specifically resetting traffic expectations.

And really kind of what we’ve been talking about for really like a year and a half. And we want to talk about where we are kind of the state of the union. What we see from a website traffic, a leads perspective. If you’re models, actually doing normal model home stuff, what walk in traffic looks like?

And we just want to talk through what our expectation levels should be because we’re coming off this like year and a half long high of just craziness. Sometimes that in itself resets the expectation for what’s reality. And we’ve talked about this past year and a half is not reality and be prepared and don’t forget about the basics and some of us have forgotten the basics.

Alexis: And I, and you know, I have a hard time admitting when you’re right, Matt, but you know, you, you [00:02:00] said, you know, at one time things are going to return to normal, whatever that might be, or the faucet that was spilling out the traffic and the leads, was going to die down and dry out and guess what it happened, you were right.

And so it’s now kind of, re-evaluating where we are today from where we were not only last year, but in 2019, and just kind of realigning our goals and our expectations, like you said. 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. 

So when we talk about resetting expectations, you talked about traffic being down, or we hear this in our calls with builders about my leads are down or traffic is down.

And when we’re selling homes, like if you’re a sales person, if you’ve ever a sales manager, if you’ve ever sold. Ever sold anything it’s always about compared to what, what are you comparing my house to my, whatever it is, your widget that you’re selling, it’s all about compared to what? So when we’re talking about traffic being down leads, being down compared to what? Compared to a white hot blistering [00:03:00] make-believe land market.

And when we talk about being dead. We’re still up. We’re still up. And I don’t know about anybody else, but I would certainly take 2019, 2018, 2017. I would take all those years, all the live long day, you know? Yes. You didn’t show up to your model home and people literally throw checks at you. We actually knew how much things were going to cost.

We knew what buyer’s expectations were. Sometimes we still don’t know what things are gonna cost yet, depending on the market you’re in, but we still have a ton of buyers out there. Now I’m in the I’m in the Raleigh area. And I just read an article this morning, did a story on Raleigh, and they’re just talking about what the jobs and stuff that are coming in here, and the companies we’ve got Google and Apple and, you know, like huge, huge Nike and huge companies coming in and adding jobs.

And so [00:04:00] like, we’ve got this massive job and population growth with a massive housing shortage. And so there are certainly markets that are still out there like that, where, we’re under-supplied as an industry, but then there’s certain markets where there just are unbelievably under supplied.

You’re still seeing those price appreciation values go up. But for the most part, we’re seeing things settle back into, do you still call it normal? 

Alexis: No. And it’s funny that you say that because I think anything’s going to feel slow, right? When you’re thinking about where you were in the last 18 months, anything is going to feel slower than it was.

And what I try to talk to builders about when I’m having our calls and our meetings is stop comparing to 2020. There is no point if it’s not a realistic benchmark. And like you said, 2018 and 2019 were good years. So when you’re looking at your numbers, you know, the here now quarter four of 2021, don’t compare to 2020 look at ’19 and ’18.

And I think it will be really surprising what people see, right? They’ll, [00:05:00] they’ll probably still be up. They’re just not they’re down from 2020. I think we have to really realign our benchmarks and, comparing year over year is something that we kind of need to get away from to really have that realistic expectation.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. You know, when we look at our kind of combined builder’s website, traffic and leads, and obviously Alexis’s working with builders on sales coaching. And so we’re seeing things, seeing trends. And so for instance, when we pull all of our builder partners and more data together, combine it all, it happened late summer.

We’ve now seen the streams cross, the year over year streams cross. We finally dipped below 2020 levels. Right now that’s still up from 2019, but we’ve, we’ve crossed below 2020 levels. And so when you see this, you’ve had this massive surge of online traffic and even the surge of online traffic was [00:06:00] high quality, high interest level traffic, which then equates to what? 

Alexis: More sales. 

Matt: More sales, more, more leads coming in for the OSCs. Right. And so now we’re starting to see that that web traffic come back down into some form of normalicy and now we have OSEs that are saying, oh, my leads are down or I’m not getting. 

Alexis: Honestly, it was like two extremes because what I’ve found with most of the people I’m coaching, they couldn’t even keep their head above water.

They were doing the bare minimum just to kind of stay afloat, which isn’t best practice. Right. Cause they’re not, they’re not nurturing as much as they could, but that’s all they could do to keep up with the volume. But now they’re like, it’s so quiet. My leads are down. I have no good leads, but you know, talking to people in all different markets, that’s what you’re hearing.

So again, I have to have that, that serious conversation. Stop looking at 2020. And you know, you are just trying to keep your head above water. What best practices, what fundamentals could we [00:07:00] kind of bring back that we, we learned a new and start using them. Maybe the leads are fewer in quantity, but let’s keep the quality up and we can still work to convert them.

Matt: We were getting such an abundance of leads and we were trying to figure out what is the most streamlined way to at least get some information to the people who were inquiring. So we went to like, full on automation mode, right? Like how can we automate this and save our time? And so now the OSCs are like, I really didn’t have to do much.

Right. Like, I didn’t call anybody. I didn’t make phone calls because my phone was ringing off the hook and it wasn’t because anybody was lazy. It was just because that you couldn’t handle it. The volume was so…

Alexis: It was all the bandwidth you had. Yeah. 

Matt: It was all you could do. Well when you do it that way for a year and a half it becomes normal. And then when things start to settle back in you’re you’re out of practice, right? I mean, you’re totally out of practice. I mean, perfect example. So obviously, I don’t know, [00:08:00] everybody knows, but the word is out. Like I’ve now also started my own home building company. And I’ve talked about for a long time, New Home Inc., I’ve talked about for a long time, you know, like how to sell them sales, training, and market, all this kind of stuff.

Well guess who’s selling houses. This guy. Right? So, but you get your it’s one thing to talk about and in practice and another thing to actually go do it. And the first couple of buyers that I took through homes, I had to like knock the rust. Because I hadn’t done it the way it needs to be done in a long time.

You know, I took a couple of buyers through houses, under construction, cause we have no product finished. This is selling literally a dream. There’s nothing to show anywhere it’s paper, but I took a couple buyers through. And then I quickly realized, like I have to like reset and I have to plan out the home of like what I’m going to talk about.

Where, because I felt like I was kind of stumbling over myself a bit. Cause I was trying, I knew what [00:09:00] information that I had to get out and that I wanted to get out and all the exciting things that I wanted to talk about of why my homes are better than everybody else’s. But I had to take a step back and then go back to the basic.

And plan out, like what I’m going to talk about when I’m going to talk about it, where I’m going to stand when I’m talking about it. Right. And then lay out like, okay, these are the different floor plans. So I have to figure out like what I’m going to do in the different plans, because they lay out differently.

Right. It’s it’s the same thing. Right? We have it. Whether you’re dealing with is the OSC. You have to get back into it. You got to knock the rust off and plan out like how you’re going to say it. When you’re going to say it, what tone you’re going to say it in, you know, if you’re selling it’s how do I demo my model again? Right?

Alexis: Right. Well, that’s why I think like for me, the ongoing coaching and trading, it just kind of explains why it’s it’s, you know, you’re always learning and ongoing coaching is always necessary because, you know, market shifts and [00:10:00] people get reactive to the market that they’re selling and, and that’s absolutely what we saw.

And so some of these people have been online sales counselors for years, and I listened to some of their calls. They’re forgetting the basic fundamentals. They’re not qualifying, they’re not even asking for the appointment. They’re not doing the hard close because they didn’t have to. And so it’s so interesting as I’m listening to these calls of these, you know, experienced great online sales counselors who just forgot the fundamentals.

And so that’s where coaching kind of comes in. It’s been awhile. It’s been a minute, right? Like, just like you said, let’s go back to the basics. Let’s remember how to speak to a customer. Let’s remember how to qualify them. Let’s not be scared to ask for the sale or work for the sale a little bit. And when that appointment doesn’t come through right away, remembering our tactics, remembering our ongoing follow-up, right.

Like, you know, we might have to reach out to them eight times before we get them to commit to an appointment. We didn’t see that in 2020, but that’s what we’re seeing today. And so we have to make sure that we have those basic follow-up [00:11:00] processes. Like you keep saying the basics and the fundamentals there to kind of nurture and work these people because we’re going to have to work a little bit.

Matt: From an OSC perspective, what are the top one or two things that you think, what are the OCS are right now missing and, or should focus on? 

Alexis: So you’re not getting an influx of new leads, right? Or you’re getting less than you had before. So I think you have to remember, you have this huge database, right? You had leads coming through in your CRM.

Don’t be scared to go back to the people that have been in there for awhile and attempt to re-engage them. And so leads that are. Plus, or 120 days old. Go back and, you know, kind of find out where they are and their new home search. Many people made a move, but others didn’t. And so I think it’s important to kind of re-engage past leads, nurture them a little bit more and kind of go back to this huge database of prospects that you have.

I think, you know, we’re only, we are focusing on the knew what was coming in and in front of us. And I think now we have to go back to this huge database that we have, [00:12:00] and re-engage these older leads. See if we can kind of excite them. I think a lot of that is also being really hyper-targeted with your content, right?

So rather than just sending like a mass email, go back to your CRM, see their notes, what floor plans were they interested in? Let’s get that floor plan in front of them and just really be a little bit more targeted in our content to excite these people. And re-engage them. 

Matt: As you were saying that I was sitting here thinking through, we talk about going back through your list, right?

Your database. I think there’s a couple things there. One we have to evaluate had we been following the full process? So now that we have more time, because we have more reasonable amount of leads coming in, like double the amount of leads coming in, I just want to reiterate, are still great. 

It’s not like freak out. Like we have less leads. Oh my gosh. This is. 

Alexis: It’s a manageable amount. that’s what it is. 

Matt: A manageable amount. It’s not an [00:13:00] underperforming amount. It is a manageable, at the appropriate level. Maybe still in some areas, still a little too high. But it’s, it’s less than bonkers, right? So reevaluate. Where have I left off? What did I have to skip on? Because I just felt I just flat out didn’t have the bandwidth to do it. 

Alexis: Great point. Well, you know, we say it takes six to eight touches to generate a viable lead. So I would go back and see, did you even touch these people six times? You know, like that’s like kind of what you say, see how many times you said, how many emails and you’ll might see that there’s a huge hole there and a lot more opportunity to kind of reengage them.

Matt: There were a couple of things that as we’re talking through this that I remember what we were having to do with some builders is we were pulling calls to action off the website. We were reducing the amount of calls to action throughout the website. You couldn’t find a contact us on a home page.

You like, we hid a lot of them. Right. We’re still funding them. [00:14:00] And so like, if, if you need your lead volume to pick back up, have you brought those same calls to action back in that we may have reduced? Go through and say, Alright what have I not been doing? And I need to reinstitute these practices and make sure that I’m doing them.

Alexis: That’s a great point. Same with like mass emails. I had builders that cut back the amount of mass emails that they were sending, just because they were used to doing one a week or two a month. And some of them really, really pulled back. And so that’s another area where you can kind of get that email calendar back on track.

But I had a lot of builders at pulled back the mass emails, and that’s something that you probably can reinstitute, too. 

Matt: The other thing that we’re seeing, if you haven’t done this already is kind of reinstituting back to a somewhat normal ad spend for advertising. I think kind of turning those quote unquote faucets back on, or at least starting to dial them back up again.

Some markets this is a such a market by market scenario, or even a builder by [00:15:00] builder scenario. These are not one size fits all kind of conversations. So we’re trying to hit multiple aspects here. So if you’re hearing something like, well, that’s not us, I get it. Right. I get it. That’s not you.

Alexis: We have a couple of those, but for sure.

Matt: Absolutely. And so those are all case by case scenarios, but start looking at okay. Can I, does it make sense? Should I dial those marketing efforts back up? Because I mean, we were cutting spends 60, 70, 80%. I mean, huge, huge cutbacks. Right. I also think that some of the stuff that we’re doing, we need to re-diversify our outlook on where we’re spending our dollars and our mainly our time.

I was just giving my comments to the Group Two team yesterday about an upcoming blog that we’re going to be writing. It’s really like our end of the year. Like when we talk about marketing budgets, like how you put percentages and all this kind of stuff, like what goes, where and what buckets and my comments were, you know, as [00:16:00] we kind of redo last year’s blog was like, this is more, you know, I don’t want to talk this year about like what percentage, what buckets going, where we want to talk more about how we diversify, where we’re at.

 Over the past few years now, I’m going to get on a little bit of a soap box and yeah, it’s, there’s at least one an episode.

But over the past few years, we. I have just gotten really accustomed to on demand leads. What I mean by that is like, we’ll just crank up the Google ads. We’ll just crank up the Facebook ads. It was literally like turning up a faucet or turning down the faucet. And we could control that and we can still do that, but there’s a lot of things that have changed in the past year and a half with Google and the past couple years with Facebook on how you can target, they’re really getting into, you know, wanting the AI to do a lot of the work for you.

Obviously with Apple and their new iOS and new desktop operating systems where Apple goes, others follow. [00:17:00] And giving people more and more control over their own data, which like, how do I want to share my information? Do I want to give this to you? Which is probably where it should have always been. It was kind of in the wild, wild west and from an online advertising perspective.

Totally big brother-ish right. But as these things are starting to evolve, you have to evolve your strategy. And so what never go stale is a user first mentality. So a customer first mentality of what’s on my website? What are they interacting with? Is it a true resource for what this customer or this customer is and in their buying cycle, right.

Whether they’re just exploring or whether they’re about ready to pull the trigger, are we giving them a relevant information? So like I’m really hammering home right now. I’m big on SEO. I was never off on SEO but it’s hard. It takes a long time. It takes commitment. You don’t look at SEO results [00:18:00] in 30 day increments.

I mean, you can see them in 30 day increments sometimes. But it’s a year long strategy and really going in heavy on really high quality content, whether it’s on page, you know, where you’re, where you’re on page copy. Whether you’re talking about floorplans, communities, lifestyle, blogging. All of those things.

And I think those are some of the areas that we should really be refocusing on and recommitting ourselves to because the world of targeting is changing. Doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant and then we shouldn’t do it. Don’t misunderstand me. What I’m saying is we need to look past the horizon a bit and focus on long-term and those things always pay off.

Yes. Algorithms change, but whenever Google makes a change, but what they’ll say is just make sure it’s user focused, right? User-focused content wins out every time and privacy laws are changing. All the stuff, but what doesn’t change as a user first approach there I’ll step off. 

Alexis: No, that’s a great point. That’s a great point. [00:19:00] And it kinda got me thinking, like, talking about diversifying and customer service, and I always go back to online sales because that’s, you know what I love and know. And so even thinking about your content there, what you’re putting. We were just kind of emailing, but getting back to the way your outreach is to the customers.

 Picking up the phone again, texting and then video emails. Do you think OSEs were sending video emails in the crazy, crazy time? Few and far between, but video content again, it’s so huge. And now you have the time, I hope a little bit of time to do that. And so kind of re-engaging people with that.

And then just putting yourself out there a little bit. One of the things I’m trying to really focus on with some of the training is getting our OSEs on video. Humanizing them, making them real, making them relatable. And so it’s not just setting a video email to a prospect, but it’s also, you know, going to a model and interviewing an onsite sales person or going to a community coming soon and standing on the future ground and kind of like talking about it and just humanizing it.

And that gets people excited. [00:20:00] And so definitely kind of thinking about the content that not only the OSEs are putting out there and making sure that it’s what the customer wants and just the different ways that you can communicate, because I think we really probably hid behind email the answer, the phone, but we didn’t take the extra steps to make those phone calls and do that video content.

And I think that’s a really, really good approach to take now, if you have a little bit more time, for sure. 

Matt: Personalization goes a long way. So, you know, I’m selling, I’m playing OSC, you know, doing all these things. Yes. I have some automation, but I’m also doing personalized and quick call. And I’m getting people, this is one of those, like, you don’t have to do anything special.

You’re just have to do it because other most, everybody else isn’t. And so I’m getting comments that like, thank you so much for your quick reply, you know, like for the information, you know, super fast, like they’re impressed and I’m just like. 

Alexis: And it sounds so little like, but it goes such a long way.

And again, if the next person’s [00:21:00] not doing it, it makes you stand out so much. I had this, a builder that we work with did an email and they talked about a coming soon community and join our VIP list. But rather than it was a beautiful email, great content, but they also added a video of their OSEs on the actual community, talking about it, just kind of painting a picture of what it was going to be like and that little touch added so much to the email. And so those little things go a long way. They add up, they make you stand out amongst the competition and they make you more relatable. And you know, like you said, it’s personalized. It just, it, it sets you apart for sure. 

Matt: Totally, totally agree. Kind of summarizing, resetting traffic expectations compared to what that’s the big thing, like when you’re looking at my traffic is down, my leads are down my whatever, right.

It’s compared to what? It is understanding that we’ve got to get back to the basics. Don’t forget. Go, go knock off the dust. You know, knock off the rust. If you’re [00:22:00] selling, go out there and talk about like in practice, where you’re going to walk through your homes and talk about and demonstrate we used to call it the pie plate demonstration says like you would drop pie plates on the floor and that’s where you would stand.

You’d literally take like the aluminum foil pie plates. Throw them on the ground. So those are your, your like standing points as you were practicing. 

Alexis: Oh I like that. Yeah. So I used to have a place to stand, but we never did the pie plates, I think that would have been a nice little training tool. 

Matt: Yeah. Like if you’re going to talk about efficiency, right.

You wouldn’t stand by a thermostat or stand by a window or stand by if you have special installation that you do stand by, you know, like you want to do it in, in, in particular places. You know, I talk about that kind of. We do pass through vents on secondary bedrooms and jump ducks and owner suites. And, and so I do it when I’m standing in a doorway of a bedroom and I talk about like, why that’s important and what it actually means to them.

So you got to have these specific places, so go knock the rust off, go do it, [00:23:00] practice up. Cause it’ll, it’ll come in handy. You want it. You don’t want to be stumbling over yourself. And you’re like, I know what I’m supposed to say, but the order is all jumbled together. 

Alexis: I was going to say again, for your online sales counselors listened to their calls.

I think if it’s not something you’re doing on a regular basis with management, it will be so eye opening, not only for you as a manager, but have your OSEs evaluate themselves. And I think that there’ll be, it will be really eye opening in that, you know, maybe they’re not working for the sale. Maybe they’re not asking those questions that elicit response.

They’re not asking the why behind the what. I think that would be a great training tool. And if you’re not listening to your online sales team’s calls on a regular. You should be. I think you’ll see that, you know, they’re rusty and they probably need to get back to some of the things that they learned from the start.

So I do think if you’re not doing that, have them self evaluate, I think it would be really eye opening. And it’s always a great training tool. 

Matt: And when you’re resetting your expectations on traffic, reset your expectations on execution. You’ve got to reset your [00:24:00] expectations for traffic and leads, and then also reset your expectations for what it is that you’re supposed to be doing on a day-to-day basis.

 Getting back to those basics it’ll never, ever, ever, ever go out of style. My one sport analogy as we close, this is, there’s a reason why professional baseball players that make millions and millions of dollars a year hit off of a tee every single day, which is what you start out with when you’ve never played the game in your life.

Right? Like you learn how to hit on a tee and people making hundreds of millions of dollars hit on a team, but it’s the basics it’s because those are the basic fundamentals of what we’re supposed to do.

 With that being said, Reset your expectations for yourself, for your company, for your customer. All right, everybody.

Thanks for joining us on this episode of Building Perspective. We’ll see you next week. Bye. 

Alexis: Bye[00:25:00] 

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