Any time a business has an assisted sales process (human interaction required) AND their offer is more than hundreds of dollars, it can benefit greatly from using a sales pipeline.
This is especially true for real estate. The sales cycles are long and involved. A proper real estate pipeline ensures nobody ever slips through the cracks!
How Does A Sales Pipeline Work?
The easiest way to think of a sales process is like a set of stairs. Each step is a milestone to get to the ultimate goal of the top of the stairs (a sale).
The problem most real estate agents run into when setting up a real estate pipeline in their CRM is their sales stages; the distinct steps in their "sales staircase". This conversation can be challenging because it is a 10,000 foot discussion and not a ground level one. When someone tries to use a pipeline with bad stages, the tool actually becomes counterproductive to the sales process. There is no hope of doing any effective sales and marketing automation either.
In this blog post, I cover a tested and proven set of sales stages for real estate agents along with some ideas for automation that enhances the client experience. Specifically, the selling of a listing.
One can develop a pipeline for buying as well, but that would be the topic for another blog post.
Top-of-Funnel Pipeline Sales Stages for Real Estate Agents
Most sales pipelines skip the early part of the sales process. This means leads that aren't particularly hot tend to slip through the cracks. Fortunately, these stages are simple and give great visibility into your real estate sales pipeline.
1. New Lead
This one should be self explanatory but I'll make it clear.
Any person in this stage of the sales pipeline is fresh and untouched. The only thing that has happened is someone has been identified for the sales process. Perhaps you get a referral lead to call. Or maybe someone fills out the “Contact Us” form on your website. The point is we need to reach out and push ahead the conversation. This is the first possible step in the sales staircase, but not all leads have to start here.
This one is a little more subtle and critical to track in any real estate sales process. When a lead is in the contacting stage, it's only one step up from being a New Lead. We have been "contacting" them to try and push ahead the sale. Why might this be an important stage? The faster you can start reaching out to a new lead, the better. So by having a distinct stage to separate out the brand new leads from the ones that are still being developed, you and your sales team can ensure fast response times to new inquiries.
Leads in this stage are "engaging" with us. Meaning, not only have we reached out to them, we have also gotten back a response and are following up. This is distinctly different from a lead that is sitting in the contacting stage (whom we have not heard back from yet).
Qualified leads means we have spoken to them, we can help them, AND (most importantly) we WANT to work with them. In other words, a qualified lead is ready to work with you and move into the next major phase of the sales cycle: the contracting and listing.
Like a staircase, leads can skip some steps. You may go from a new lead to qualified in the first phone call. It's possible. But if not, the other stages are there to make sure nobody ever slips through the cracks.
Middle-of-Funnel Pipeline Sales Stages for Real Estate Agents
This is where most sales pipelines for real estate agents start. However, we already know that this is actually the middle of the process.
These stages are designed to get your property into the final closing stages. Using a pipeline here is especially critical to make sure all listings are being given the love they deserve.
5. Under Contract
Leads in this stage were qualified and given the standard realtor agreement to sign, which they did. Their listing is now under contract for you to sell. Of course, a listing has a little bit of prep work before it can be viewed, so this stage is for tracking all that activity.
6. Listed In MLS
I'll make this stage abundantly clear: leads in this sales stage have their property listed in the MLS so potential buyers can find it. This is when you are hitting the pavement doing showings and finding the right buyer.
7. Offer Made
This one is also a little obvious too. Not only is the listing live, someone has actually put in a bid to buy it! Possibly even a few different potential buyers. This stage is critical because you need to keep a close eye on those hot listings.
Bottom-of-Funnel Pipeline Sales Stages for Real Estate Agents
This is the home stretch! We are way past the halfway point in our sales staircase with a few more steps to go.
These final stages ensure the closing goes smoothly and everyone is happy.
8. Offer Accepted
Just because an offer was made, doesn't mean the seller will accept it. That is why there is a distinct sales pipeline stage to track this critical milestone.
9. Active Closing
Leads in this stage are actively in the process of making the deal happen. This is where any final details before the signing get ironed out like permits, paperwork, etc. The goal is to get everything ready to close and ink the deal.
10. Closing Scheduled
Once all the paperwork and other odds and ends are tied up, the final closing/signing gets scheduled. These leads are in the final steps of the sale and are counting down to the closing date.
11. Closing Complete (Won)
This is it. We made it to the top of the sales stairs! The closing happened and everyone is now a happy client. In most cases this is the end of the journey for the lead. The sales journey anyway.
Two Special Pipeline Sales Stages for Real Estate Agents
There are two more stages any real estate pipeline needs to complete itself.
12. Long-Term Nurture
This is a holding stage for leads that aren't quite ready for one reason or another. These leads don't need to be checked in on as often and they still need to be taken care of. This is the stage you put someone who is taking a vacation for a few months or when they will be ready to sell next year for various reasons.
These leads are an easy close if you simply don't forget about them.
This is a hard one for some agents. They translate lost leads into failure. Judgement aside, not every lead becomes a sale. And those leads need to be put into this lost stage so we do not continue to try and waste time following up. This is distinct from the long-term nurture stage because we do NOT follow up with people in the lost stage. Not manually anyway.
To sum it up, for any real estate sales pipeline, most agents will be able to use the following stages:
- New Lead
- Under Contract
- Listed In MLS
- Offer Made
- Offer Accepted
- Active Closing
- Closing Scheduled
- Closing Complete (Won)
- Long-Term Nurture
Sales Pipeline Automation for Real Estate Agents
If you were observant, you'll notice we never talked about automation during the stages. That is because automation only works when the process itself is clear. Now that we have clarity into the real estate sales pipeline stages (aka the sales process), we can start to explore some ways to spice things up with automation.
Keep in mind that automation should enhance the relationship and support what the realtor should already be doing. It is about relationships-at-scale. Even though something might go out a thousand times, it needs to feel like a one-to-one communication.
Keap’s real estate CRM and sales and marketing automation software lets you automate and personalize your stages, correspondence, and so much more.
For the top of the funnel sales stages, automation can be a great way to stay top of mind and let people know you care. A simple example is your website's Contact Us form. Using automation you can send an introduction email along with an intro text message to establish a line of communication.
You would normally send an email and text to a website lead, right? Save yourself the time and have a fast response time, automatically.
Automation can be very helpful to bubble up slower leads. Especially in the contacting stage. Since those leads haven't responded yet, you can send a short series of emails and texts to try and engage them, in addition to your normal follow up activities. When people are in the engaging stage, this is a good time to drive them to your various social channels and other resources to demonstrate your authority.
For the middle of the funnel, automation can help everyone stay on track. For example, when someone is moved into qualified, you can automatically send out your contract. When they are moved to under contract, have the system create a task for you (or your assistant) to generate the MLS listing. This extra layer of governance helps when you are managing a lot of clients. Once they are listed In MLS, you can notify the client automatically and save yourself time. Or that can go out once the task is completed. Lots of options here.
Then, for the bottom of the funnel, the automation can do a similar support function. Keep people abreast of important information and dates. Deliver countdown emails that lead up to their closing date. Spit out a series of tasks for your team to complete so that way you have operational excellence with every client when they hit the active closing stage.
These are all straightforward automation ideas most real estate agents can use to enhance their sales processes. The more you are familiar with your process, the more advanced your automation can be. Start small and build from there over time. Fill in gaps with automation. An email here, a task there.
Soon, you'll have a dialed-in sales process that is predictable. From there, you are primed for team growth.
About the Author
Paul started using Keap, then Infusionsoft, in the summer of 2008. By June 2009 he was part of the Certified Marketing Automation Coach (CMAC) program, Keap’s partner program at the time. That lasted until 2011 when he worked for Keap directly in coaching and product until May 2016, at which point he became a certified Keap partner again to serve entrepreneurial small businesses.