Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Black Hole of Factory Sales Leads

There are many things that every modular home factory wants their website to do for them. They want people searching the Internet to find their homes and hopefully to choose one. The website also has to attract new builders and provide them with a reason to contact the factory.

Just about everyone has searched the Internet looking for a home plan at one time. There are thousands of websites offering floorplans. There are hundreds of sites dedicated exclusively the modular homes. The problem is not quantity, it’s a total disconnect for many prospective new home buyers with the modular housing industry even if the were specifically looking for a modular home.

Unlike a car manufacturer that can immediately link a website viewer to the appropriate dealer, knowing that the dealer will have someone contacting the viewer ASAP, most modular home factories have a black hole that the visitor falls into and never is heard from again.

So what happens when someone visits a website and wants to talk to someone about a new home? Typically, the factory will have someone get the lead and give it the sales rep that covers the viewer’s area. Then the rep decides which builder will get the lead based on where the inquiry came from.

Then an email is sent to the builder who contacts the prospective new home buyer and schedules an appointment to meet them which, hopefully, will lead to a new home sale.

In a perfect world, this system should work to close sales for both the builder and the factory but something happens to complicate things almost from the beginning.  Here are some of the areas where things tend to go wrong which opens the door to that black hole:

No place to ask for information. That’s right Virginia, there are still many modular home factory websites that don’t make it easy for the prospective home buyer to find or ask for information. There is no contact form and in a lot of cases, no email contact to write to; just an 800 number.

Someone loses the inquiry. I know what you’re thinking; there is an email from the prospect and possibly a phone message that prevents this from happening. Again you would be wrong. I have witnessed everyone from the factory owner to the receptionist forget to write a proper message when the call comes in and by the time it makes it to the sales rep, the message has no urgency. Emails and completed contact forms are ignored if the prospect isn't buying “right now” or it comes from an area where the factory has no builder. The prospect is left hanging in the wind and never hears from anyone.

Few factories demand loyalty from builders. I visit hundreds of builder websites a year and it always amuses me that some builders list 3 or 4 modular home factories on their website and they all build the same type of home. HUH? Many sales reps are reluctant to give a lead to a builder that will immediately shop the prospect to all competing factories. I can’t blame them as the factory owner or management has never demanded loyalty from the builder.

Builders are not great at long distance relationships. Even if the prospective buyer is only a mile from the builder’s office, most builders are reluctant to pick up the phone and call for an appointment. Buyers should be calling them, not the other way around. The builders remember the last 10 “leads” the factory gave which led to time wasted and no sale and don’t put much effort into leads anymore. However they complain if one of the 4 factories they can buy from doesn't send them leads.

Factories don’t want to be sued. Here is a little secret that factory owners and management know but hope the new home buyer doesn't  Factories try to be suppliers of materials only and hold the builders at arm’s length so that if the builder messes something up on his or her end, the factory will not be part of a lawsuit. Sometimes this works but not always. This is what happens when a factory doesn't work to learn all about a builder before they authorize them and doesn't demand loyalty for the builder. This is a touchy subject and one that must be addressed by our industry. So when a lead is sent to a builder, in most cases the modular home factory sales rep will not be allowed to follow up with the prospect as it invites an implied relationship with the builder that doesn't exist.

Some of the reasons that leads fall into the black hole are normal human nature but others need to be looked at in the bright light of reality and solutions found.

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