How To Dominate The Digital Side Of Real Estate | REal Success Episode 8

Tweet it Out: "If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business" -Bill Gates @TomFerry


We’re back with another episode of REal Success, where real agents share real strategies and the real successes that they are having. This month we have Canadian agent, Jeff Thibodeau sharing tips to convert leads into clients by building trust and rapport online!

Watch the interview and make sure to leave with these top 3 takeaways:

  • Go to (10:43) to hear the difference in creating trust and rapport in person and online
  • Go to (14:45) to learn today’s consumer behavior and why it’s so important to rank high on Google search
  • Go to (31:51) for common mistakes made while building online connections and how to avoid them

Bill Pipes: Welcome Jeff Thibodeau! And let’s do a quick little introduction. Tell them who you are, where you sell homes, and how long you been in the business.

Jeff Thibodeau: Thank you, so I’m a team leader of a small to medium-sized team. We’re in a suburb, a separate city outside of a metropolitan area. About 100,000 people, average sale price about $250,000, and it’s just outside of Toronto, Canada, and I’ve been doing this since I got my license in 2008.

BP: 2008, so you’ve been in the business for 7 years. All full-time, or was it like part-time, then full-time? How did you transition in, and what were you doing before? What was it like before you got into real estates?

JT: Yeah, so way, way back in like 2000, I guess. I was in college for computer programming, systems analysis, and I never really used that skill. I never became a programmer. I went right into the market research industry as just IT kind of help desk, and then got promoted and moved through that company into project management, so I spent 10 years working with business clients, a lot of people in the agriculture sector and banking, and insurance trying to understand their consumer’s needs, and designed surveys, and then analyzed statistic results and delivered those presentations back to them. Then I hit the glass ceiling in that kind of line of work with my education.

So I decided for a change, and my first 3 years, I actually did real estate like a lot of people do when they get in this business, on the side kind of as a part-time, evening, and weekend thing without a whole lot of planning. Just extra money, you know, well, it was extra money, but you had all of your evenings and weekends tied up too with running around because you didn’t have a plan or a system, but it was nice. Then it was really last kind of 3 years where we decided to commit to this fully, and from that point forward, you know, growing a team, doubling our transactions every year, and now, being so closely affiliated with the Tom Ferry company. It’s been very fast and exciting.

BP: It’s been so inspiring to watch your growth. I mean from last year to this year to now being a coach for the company as well, and turning around and paying it forward and sharing the great knowledge that you ultimately have as well. We’re grateful just to have you. A) as a client but B) as someone we get to collaborate with as well too. I mean it just is an incredible win-win. So you don’t have like the traditional real estate like salesperson model.

JT: Yeah, no, I mean over-analyzing things and trying to sell logically was really the story of the beginning of career; wasn’t until having great coaches on the other side of my phone that actually had to teach me, you know, how to build rapport and talk with people and listen. That’s stuff that wasn’t in my soul before in my training.

BP: We look at people like yourself, Jeff, and there’s countless other handful of agents like yourself both in North America that have come in and within a couple of years have just started to dominate, and you guys have that great tech background. You have the relevant strategies that are in that space of technology and social media. How many homes did you guys sell last year and for how much GCI?

JT: So last year, our team of 3 people and 1 admin put together 91 transactions for$501K, and if you combine that all like a lot of team leaders do, that would have made me the number 1 realtor in town, but we actually split it all up and gave everyone their own awards and everything, so didn’t add up like that, but this year, we’re on pace to double that again, so we’ve got 33 in the books, and we’re going for about 180, if we keep our sales price, but we’re trying to raise our sales price. We’re trying to be somewhere between 150 to 180 ends for 1.1 million. That’s really the goal is to crack the million dollar GCI for our team this year.

BP: What is the primary niche for you in terms of your business and lead generation models and strategies?

JT: We’re definitely the dominate online agents. From website to social media to our ability to draw traffic in and create leads using those systems. That’s our number 1, and we’re only now learning from other great agents in the community how to go a little more traditional like geo-farming, mega open houses, but up until now, the 6 years of our career have been spent, I’d say 90% of it have been spent figuring out the computer and how to turn that into real estate business.

BP: Let’s talk about developing trust and rapport in an online world. In our past conversations, you said that we bring 2 perspectives: traditional and new.

The traditional way of creating rapport which is I’m in front of someone and I have to mirror and match the way they speak, mirror and match their body language which I believe right now, Jeff, is still important because you get in front of someone, and you got to have that great rapport, and you got to have that great connection, but with everything that’s going on right now, I wrote down some stats down. According to the National Association of Realtors down here in USA, 92% of home searches, people are using the Internet. Consumers are using the Internet for their home search. Right? Okay, and then we got 50%+ are actually using mobile, so the way that people are getting to us, the way that the client is finding us is so different, do you believe that trust and rapport is still important in the digital space of social media and online lead generation right now?

JT: Definitely, and I mean let’s take a step back and say that I don’t see a future where you’re going to be doing real estate without going face to face. It’s the forefront to that and whether you’re actually generating leads online or not, know that your potential clients are still going and looking you up. Even if it’s not one of your lead pillars, it’s still coming into the equation in this idea of digital rapport right down from how you appear online to how you communicate by text, or by Facebook, or by WhatsApp, or whatever your client wants to use, that’s all in the same space. So it’s important to separate it from digital lead generation to what you and I are talking today is digital rapport and trust which is relevant to 100% of Realtors.

BP: How different is creating trust and rapport online than it is in person, and is there a difference?

JT: Yeah, the differences are huge, actually. The outcome’s the same, but we have a total different medium. You know when you’re face to face or on the phone, you can control that conversation and the way it leads, and your objection handle, but if you’re having 1-line conversations by text, or forget the conversation. Your potential customer’s just typing you name in at Google, you don’t have that control now as the salesperson. It all has to be set up and planned so that experience they’re going through builds that rapport whether or not you’re actively in there control their path and conversation. Does that make sense?

BP: Absolutely. I can control and I can direct a conversation using questions, etc. if I’m in front of someone. I can actually physically lead them a little bit as well too, but we don’t have that ability online, or at least not until everything is done. A little bit more like this where we’re actually doing video. So what are the strategies that you use. I wrote down, down this question. You know, Jeff, that our goal is that every single one of our listeners walks away with, in this 30-minute section with 3 specific implementation strategies that they can use to be able, in this case, to create better online rapport, better online trust. Get the client to choose them because there is so much noise in the world right now of online lead generation, and there’s so many choices. What are the strategies that you and your team use to stand out, and how can you create that compelling desire or that trust for someone to work with me versus the competition?

JT: Definitely. I mean the first I would say is that when we’re getting in this world of digital lead gen or digital trust and rapport is that sometimes we as the agents forget that that’s their first impression. We still think that first time we pick up the phone, or if we door-knocked them, or we go on the listing appointment, that’s our chance to make a first impression. That’s already long gone. You know, they’ve made their first impression already when they Googled you, or based on the first email that you sent them or that path that they took. You know, so a couple of the things that I’d say right away is for everybody, if you’re watching right now, open up another tab and type your name and your brand name into Google, and see what comes up. If you don’t like the results, guess what. Those are the same results that your potential clients are typing in right on their phone the 10 minutes before you show up for their listing appointment. 

And so that would be really important to start with, and then the question is how to do you control that? Well, you’ve got to push out your own content. If you don’t like what’s there, then you’ve got to flood the market with stuff about you and with you name so that it comes up first including: reviews, full profiles on Facebook and Google+, and making sure that you dominate your name, and not some bad review or some other person with your same name, right? That’s really the path too. We always very cautious, especially when we’re entering in a digital lead, that if they come to our website and request something and say they just get like bounced, or they don’t get what they want. That’s their first impression of you, and it’s over, right?

You just under-serviced them without even knowing, so you’ve got to take a step back and get in the mind of your potential customer and follow that same path that they’re going to follow through your system to make sure that that first opportunity to impress them, whether it’s they requested information on a listing, a value of their home, um, a showing, it’s got to be fast, give them what they want, and start that on a positive note. Not like, the email gets lost for 3 days and then someone follows up with them and, and starts prospecting them. That’s not what they asked for.

BP: That first impressions are a must, right? So, here I am. My name is Bill Pipes, and there’s also Bill’s Pipes. Honestly, that’s like their website Bill Pipes has this guy down in Southern California that does aftermarket stuff on motocross. How would I bury that? How would I drive that down, so when people search, you know, I’m one of the top 3, 4, 5 things on Google that they’re finding?

JT: Yeah, so Google’s really smart even with a more unique name like Jeff Thibodeau, I’m not immune. There is the person who owns is a holistic arts healer, and guitar player in the States, so there’s another Jeff Thibodeau, a fashion photographer that I get mistaken for on Instagram all the time. I get tagged wrongly out in these photo shoots with these beautiful women, so it’s kind of nice, but really what you’re looking to do is to make sure that your person website, your Facebook profile, all your social media channels, you’ve got your name, and either the fact that you’re a realtor, a real estate, or your brand name in there, so that when people are looking for you. Like, if someone’s looking for Bill Pipes, the realtor and Bill’s Pipes comes up first, that’s I mean, that’s just life, but if you’re number 2 or number 3 as with your brand name or that the fact that you’re a realtor, that’s the one they’re going to click on, right? So you can’t necessarily hide someone else that has your same name, but you can ensure that your name associated with real estate, be, everything that comes up there should be a positive impression. We wouldn’t want the first hit to be a negative review about you somewhere, or at the Better Business Bureau or something, right?

BP: So I’m going to do get reviews from clients. Use Zillow,, Trulia, feed my profiles, right? I’m going to do as much as I possibly can and be active. Is that part of it as well too? Have things that are taking place, and rather than  just sort of, you know, jumping on it every and again.

JT: Yeah, Google’s looking for your content and the regularity. It’s a very smart algorithm. The people who run Google are not dumb. They know what they’re doing, so the more content you’re putting and the more relevant it is to that theme of real estate, the better it’s going to show up in search results. There’s is old school kind of like, they call it Black Hat SEO where you, there was all this trickery. You know you could go buy links and all that? That stuff’s dying off. Google’s looking at videos, your social media channels, your tweets, everything. It’s connecting it all to create relevance, because remember Google’s goal is to provide the best search results to the consumer. They don’t care about you.

So, you just got to get in that mind space, that if someone’s looking for your name or your brand, then what are they going to be typing in, and make sure that you’re talking about that and that’s how you represent yourself online. You also want to make sure that you’re careful now as a realtor what you’re putting out there on a personal level. Are public photos getting tagged out at parties or less professional stuff. There’s a chance that all that content that you’re flooding the market, your personal Instagram, and that kind of stuff that’s out in the public eye, could be someone’s first impression of you. And if it’s like shirt off at a resort with your kids, is that the first impression you want your potential customers to have as you as a realtor. So the first step is researching yourself, and then trying to figure out how you’re going to dominate and change your online presence if it’s not what you want.

BP: Let’s say they’ve done their research on me and are thinking or working with me, how do we create that rapport and relationship?

JT: That lead path and how they’re experiencing your brand versus how you want it to be experienced, and you may realize circling back to that first point that no one’s answering your emails, no one’s following up with your texts. Well, do you know it’s because of your message or it’s because they already checked you out, and don’t like you, right? You have one chance now, so what I would say, if your online presence is good, the brand image you’re putting out there is good when you’re on Google, the next step is that, that funnel path that the lead’s taking, so we got to understand that the generation, the person that’s going to become a digital lead, it’s, we call if the free, perfect, now generation, right? We want to put up barriers for them to hop through and become a lead, but every barrier we put up is making it less and less likely that they’re going to use your service because if they hit a wall, they just back up and go somewhere else like one of those kid’s toys, right?

And so we want to make your team, have your spouse, have someone not a realtor become a lead, and feel how it happens and that first impression is really, really important. If they click a form that requests something, then they, it should send them to a page saying “We received your request. It’s on its way. Here’s how you can get it faster. Check your email.”

Like we really have to walk them through because if you just let someone become a lead and then they’re just dumped on your website again, did they realize that something happened? Are they expecting a follow-up? So you want to make sure that each of the steps, it’s very smooth because that’s your first impression. It’s not going to be your first phone call. It’s that first information request that they made from you, and you delivered on. Needs to be fast, needs to be what they asked for. Just give them what they want and that’s how you get into start to build rapport at an digital level because you satisfied what they wanted. Now, like subtle psychology, you know like, you buy someone a Coke, and ask them a favor, right? It’s an old study.

BP: There’s a lot of people that I know who are using these, using home evaluation leads, right? They’re marketing on Facebook, they’re different sources that they’re driving people who want an evaluation on their property. Do you guys just go ahead and give them that information or do you do what a lot of people do, and say, “Well, I just need to get more, you know, I need to talk to you first, and then I can send out your home evaluation, I need to know, make sure there aren’t any upgrades, etc.” Does that question make sense? Have you found the best path? Go ahead and free source it and give it out to them, you know, without talking to them, or wait until you’ve had conversation with them?

JT: We always deliver on what we’ve offered right away, and then we follow up because now they owe you, right? You’ve given them something or value and of service, so and even, so on the home value, it’s almost a no-brainer, right? They’re, if you offer someone a home value report, and they fill out a lead, and they don’t get a value, that’s going to be a weird path for them, they’re going to, how does is that building any trust? You just under-serviced and underwhelmed them right away. Great. Awesome way to start your relationship. 

One of our main lead pillars is this free, daily list of homes which I’m sure a lot of people have been using for half a decade or more. So someone comes to our site, requests a price range, a neighborhood an account to be set up basically. We set that account up whether or not we ever talk to them, and we know that some people will sit and use that account for 6 months to a year before finally raising their hand and saying, “I’d like to go see a house.”

Now, if we backed up, and we didn’t set that account up, and we just started phoning this number’s coming up on call display, that rapport’s already shot. You know, they wanted a list of homes, we deliver it, now they’re using our service. Now when we follow up, we call from a service point of view, not a sales. We say, “Hey, how’s your account going? Can I make any changes?”

And then you slide into the qualifying questions. It’s a little more subtle, and it builds that trust that you’re not just there to prospect them, and qualify them, and close them. You’re there to actually service them, and that’s the business we’re in.

BP: That right there’s 2 big take away’s that I’ve already gotten, but that’s a big one is that you’re not calling, because I think that a lot of us have this background of we get a lead, we’re going to call them, we’re going to qualify them right away, we want to set the appointment with them right now, so you guys have found that the most effective thing is to set them up, deliver what it is that you promised, obviously, right? That creates that respect, and then to be able to actually turn around, and, and then you can follow up with them and say, “How are you using the site, etc?”

What’s the dialogue that you have with them on that first call?

JT: The home value lead’s a great one because the report’s gone out, and of course we’re link tracking, so we can tell if they opened it or not, but you’re always going to ask anyway, so it just starts out, “Hey, is Bill there? Hey, Bill, it’s Jeff calling from the Brantford Homes team. I’m just following up on that report that you requested and we sent out to you. Did you get it?”

Right, and then the “Choose Your own Adventure” starts from there. If they say, “Yes”, then just go, “So what did you think about the value the computer gave you?”, and they’re either going to say it’s too hi-high or too low, right, and at 90% of the time we err low on purpose with our values, so we get the conversation going. “Well, what did you feel the home is worth?” You know, how long you planning on, same script that we all know.

If they say, “I didn’t get it.” Then it’s like, “Perfect, you know, let double-check your email and send it again. Would you like me to hand-deliver it?”

It doesn’t matter what happens, but you see the way the conversation starts is that you requested something from us that we sent to you. You pause for a second and let them remember, now they owe you, right? That’s the psychological back and forth. You delivered now. It’s much different conversation if you called up and said, “Hey, I got a request from you that I haven’t created yet. I need some more questions.”

It’s very harsh, but when you’re already delivered a nice product to them that is informative, has information personally about their house, some sales in the neighborhood. That’s something of value. Now, they owe something back which is the conversation.

BP: From a digital standpoint, can you take me through sort of the flow of what I would get an automated email? Do you guys do a specific email for every individual separately? How is that digital piece, that email piece, or text component from influence and rapport standpoint occur?

JT: For sure, so definitely, the first thing they’re going to get is like a success page when they become a lead, right? They’re going to hit Submit, and then they’re going to get some other message, so that’s your first, that’s you first impression now to say, “Thank you” and that’s where we’re going to set our standard, so depending on the system we’re using, whether it is doing things automatically like a BoomTown! site, or a Prime Seller Leads, or something where we don’t have any of that, so everything we do has to be done manually by a human behind the scenes, so we like to set the expec-expectation right there and explain that. We say, “Hey, thanks, you report or your request has been sent to our team. Please know a real human is going to be setting this up for you, so it could be 12-24 hours. If you need anything in the meantime”, and we put the agent’s name, and call or text right there, and then we also want to give them something related. If they were coming in for a list of all homes, instead of just becoming a lead and landing on a Thank You page, they, “thank you” plus our active listings, right?

So at least it keeps them in that modality, right, and the same thing with the seller, they become a lead. Their report’s not ready, but we’re going to send them over to our latest market update where they can see what’s going on the market, you know, sales versus days on market and, and stuff like that, so again, it’s that subtle path that the person’s taking. That if you just become a lead and your cold-stopped, that’s not a good experience.

So you’ve got to keep them on that, on that flow, so then right away, after they get that, they get an auto-responder and that takes a little pressure off the speed to meet with our team because we don’t have an ISA or someone sitting waiting 24 hours to pick up the phone, so the auto-responder, again, very subtle, and these are in the um, I gave these to the team. I think they’re in the skills camp um, workbook, but they say, they say basically, you know, and we type them almost like they’re almost from an iPhone, but it’s an auto-responder, right? No big signature, no flashy header. It just says, “Hey, Bill, got your home evaluation request. I’m going to be working on it when I’m back at my desk” which could be any time, right, and it says, “Quick question: have you made any upgrades? Dash, Jeff.” Right?

Looks like I typed it quickly on my phone, and so that message right there gets us anywhere from 30-50% response rate on the first message. And we know the toughest in all digital rapport is just opening the door. Because it’s so easy for people not to reply, so we will, and again because of the modality, they just requested something and then Bing, it came back, they’re in the mood to talk to you, but an hour later, they might not be, right?

So that’s that one, and the same way with the buyer leads. We say, “Hey I got your request, we’re setting your account up. Is there anything specific you need in your dream home?” Dash Rebecca, dash Jeff, right, and just that first (snaps fingers) little get them back really fast, and then we’re going to create what they wanted and then we send that again.

You know, then from there it becomes a little more traditional. Then we’re going after the phone call. We’re poking a lot at people with different channels, but it’s really all built in that first few interactions whether you’re turning the person onto you or off of you.

BP: What I really enjoy that you guys have done and what I think is incredibly valuable is the creation of the expectation. We’ve heard so much speed to lead. You’ve got to talk to them within the first 5 minutes or else you lose them, but what you guys have found is that by sending a personalized type of messages even though they’re created in advance, it handles that speed to lead challenge, and if gives you guys that little respite to be able to actually do your work because you’re saying “I’m working on this” etc.

That 50% response rate, I mean that 30-50%, that’s, that’s phenomenal. What is the biggest mistake that you’ve made in relationship to online rapport building, and what did you learn from it?

JT: I think a lot of people who hear me talk or we train on this subject feel that this digital rapport or online lead gen is going to be some magic pill, and so did I in the early years of my career, and what we realized when we were growing the team and adding the more traditional prospecting on top of it, that was the rocket fuel, so I think the real thing for everyone to understand is the whole purpose of digital trust and digital rapport is to get into actual rapport with someone. It’s 2 layers, right? No one is going to go email, email, email, please write an offer with me. You’re still going to have to qualify them, get on the phone, see them face to face and build a transaction out of that, so it’s not a solution, it, it’s just the first piece of the whole sales funnel, and I think that’s the thing that the first 3 years of my career, I literally just waited. I was generating hundreds and hundreds and then waiting for the 1 or 2 to bubble and raise their hand and say, “I’m ready to see a house.”

Where now today, we generate those same number of leads, but with all of us working and prospecting them down this funnel, we’re able to generate 10 times the income out of the same leads because the goal of all the digital rapport is to upgrade them to a phone conversation or an in-person conversation. It’s not to skip that part of the sales process.

BP: Thank you Jeff, this has been a great interview. If someone want to get a hold of you, what is the best way for them to send referrals to you, number 1, and also, if they’ve got any type of questions? What’s the best route to be able to actually communicate with you?

JT: Definitely, so if you’re Facebook, you can connect with me there. That’s really straightforward and simple, or you can text me at 519-861-1385 (remember I’m in Canada), or of course email me. It’s

BP: Well, I know there’s going to be so many people that are going to be listening to this again. Those of you that are out there listening, please, if you liked this, like it. Like it on Google, like it on YouTube, so that we can get an idea so that we can get an idea of the impact that it’s having on you as well too, and let us know your successes as well too. If you have more questions, if you’re looking at potentially even getting a coach, I want to say this, Jeff’s a coach. Holy cow, man. I want to find out more about coaching. All that you got to do is go to, and we’ve got a link there for you to be able to get set up, and find more uh, find out more about that or to come to one of our fantastic events.







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