Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases most people will ever make. Your clients don’t take that decision lightly — and as the agent serving them, neither do you.
With such a huge investment, the homebuying process can take months. Or, if a buyer and seller are motivated enough, the turnaround can be incredibly quick. The truth is, every real estate journey looks a little different. Keeping up with each of your prospect’s next steps, while aligning that with the forecasted revenue for your business, can be enough to make even the best agent’s head spin.
Enter your sales pipeline.
Keeping your real estate pipeline organized — and keeping it moving — helps you stay on-track and make the right calls to close the right deals. If your revenue needs a boost or you feel like there’s never enough time in the day, your pipeline likely needs a little bit (or a lot!) of love.
We’ve got you covered. This guide will help you look into ways to rework and revive your pipeline to position your real estate business for maximum conversions.
Read on for the 10 most common problems that may be plaguing your real estate pipeline, plus actionable solutions to make sure no sale slips through the cracks.
Table of contents
- What is a sales pipeline in real estate?
- What are the stages of a real estate sales pipeline?
- 10 essential fixes for a leaky real estate pipeline
What is a sales pipeline in real estate?
As a real estate agent, your pipeline is your roadmap.
Your sales pipeline is the full roster of your prospects, ranging from noncommittal to closing-in-progress, organized based on their stage in the homebuying or selling process. A fully developed pipeline helps guide your follow ups and next steps with all of your prospects.
A well-managed sales pipeline can also help you predict future revenue. By shaping your understanding of your conversion rate and what closings you can expect in the coming weeks and months, your real estate pipeline helps you plan what conversations you need to be having each and every day.
What are the stages of a real estate sales pipeline?
Each real estate team might define their pipeline stages a bit differently.
Factors like your approach to growth or target segment of homebuyers can add a bit of nuance to your sales process. But in general, here are the basic stages of a real estate pipeline:
This first stage includes cold contacts, warmer leads (for example, those who have filled out a form on your real estate website) or hot prospects who have contacted you directly via your site or a portal site like Zillow or Realtor.com. Many teams and agents choose to get more detailed with the sub-stages here to align their pipelines with their lead gen strategies, including lead source/initial contact and your qualification process of gauging intent and timeline.
This middle stage is for those active clients who have entered an agreement with you but haven’t arrived at the final steps yet. Sellers in this stage are likely working with you to list and show their home on the way to finding that just-right buyer and offer.
Once an offer is on the table, it’s time to formally accept, take care of those piles of paperwork, and make the sale official. This process can have an incredibly quick turnaround, or it can take a bit longer as the agreement is finalized — that’s why it’s important to stay on top of each part of the process for each client.
In addition to these three overarching stages, you might also consider including other customized stages or sub-stages, like a long-term nurture for those who haven’t expressed intent to buy within the next year or more.
No matter how you choose to structure your sales pipeline, the important thing is to keep working it.
The most successful real estate agents stay tuned into their pipeline and keep a close eye on which stage each prospect and client is in throughout their journey so they can be ready to lend a hand at just the right moment.
10 essential fixes for a leaky real estate pipeline
If you’ve already got your real estate client database organized into some type of pipeline but the deals still aren’t coming in like they should, it might be time for a little troubleshooting.
Let's take a look at where you might be missing out on opportunities, and how you can level up your conversion rate. Read on for the cause and the fix to whatever it is that might be draining sales from your real estate pipeline.
1. More love from your sphere of influence (SOI)
We’re all influenced by the people around us — both personally and professionally.
Friends, family, neighbors, previous clients, your dentist and the person who cuts your hair. All of these individuals come together to make up your real estate SOI, a network that is far more powerful than most agents give it credit for. Ignore it, and you risk losing tons of great opportunities.
Although “Reach out to your SOI,” is the first piece of advice for most new real estate agents, many simply don’t. After all, it’s easy to feel uncomfortable contacting personal contacts or past clients you might not have spoken to in years.
But don’t fear your network. These individuals are your secret weapon and your strongest source of new pipeline. Whether you group your SOI contacts as part of the prospecting stage or in a dedicated post-closing stage of your pipeline, it pays to keep in touch with your sphere.
The cause: Even though your existing network is one of the best places to find new opportunities, many agents remain in a fear-based mindset about merging their personal and professional identities.
The fix: Bite the bullet and leverage your network. That’s what the team at Engel & Völkers Atlanta did. Managing broker Christian Ross is a major advocate for following up with your sphere.
“Too many times in this business, we start talking about leads and we start getting so excited about the new people, not realizing that we’ve got 200, 500, or 1,000 people that would actually take our calls.”
Christian and her team have nailed the art of connecting with their network, to the point that they now manage $800M in contracts as a three-agent team.
2. Boost your referrals
We all know referrals are one of the most effective — and cost-effective — ways to generate new business. But much like reaching out to your personal network, many agents feel too awkward or nervous to ask for one.
Here’s the thing: referrals are what separate the real estate rockstars from the average performers. In fact, 47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently, versus only 26% of non-top performers.
The cause: In 2021, 68% of sellers found their agent through a referral or an agent they worked with previously. Yet, the fear of alienating the customer can keep reps from getting their hands on more referral-based revenue.
The fix: Create a script and system that helps prepare prospects and clients in advance so they’re ready to provide a referral when the time is right. You can even offer a small incentive or gift to encourage your clients to make these connections.
3. Burnout-proof your business
If there’s anything proven to stunt your growth in this business, it’s burnout.
Yet more often than not, less than 30% of a salesperson's time is spent on revenue-generating activities.
Learning how to consistently combat overwhelm and balance your weekly tasks to put selling first is probably one of the most — if not THE most — challenging disciplines for real estate agents. Between making calls, prospecting, updating your CRM, attending trainings and dealing with endless admin once a deal’s closed, agents are natural targets for burnout.
Unfortunately, when the workload becomes unmanageable, follow up is usually the first thing to go. And a stale pipeline will soon follow.
The cause: Even the best agents struggle with burnout from time to time. Take top performer Barry Jenkins, who closed 120 homes as a solo agent in 2011. But he was hustling so hard, his work spilled over into other parts of his life.
“I still remember being at the movie theater with my son and having to leave in the middle of the movie to take a call. In those days, I was paying $500 for four leads on Realtor.com. I had no choice but to take the call. I was exhausted. I told my wife, ‘This is not what I signed up for.'” Chasing success at an unsustainable pace means you simply won’t be able to keep up long-term — and neither will your pipeline.
The fix: Reclaim your energy. You can do this by hiring a rockstar VA, or trying a number of proven time management techniques to help protect your most sales-focused activities and make sure your follow ups get done. (And for Barry, this meant hiring a team and having the right system to back them up.)
4. Face the need to hire (and onboard!)
Which brings us to the next point. We’ll be honest, hiring is an expensive process — costing an average of $4,425 per team member.
But even that number is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of losing sales to the competition.
Hiring the right talent — and onboarding them well — will free up your energy and allow you to focus on generating more income. Unfortunately, this is where many agents drag their feet.
But if you’ve already hired a VA and you still don’t have enough bandwidth to get back to your daily selling activities, it’s time to let go of your hesitations and start building your rockstar team.
The cause: Most solo agents don’t hire because they’re scared of making a mistake. What if you spend time and money only to bring the wrong person on board?
But fresh faces mean fresh perspectives. Your new hires can open you up to a whole world of profit-driving opportunities you didn’t even know was there.
The fix: Work with your admin to create a job description and onboarding guide to help make sure you bring on the right person and that they have everything they need to succeed.
“What I’ve realized is that the onboarding experience needs to be really good,” says Ryan Rodenbeck, broker/owner of Spyglass Realty in Austin, Texas. With the right onboarding and agent reporting systems in place, he was able to scale his 20-agent team to $96M per year.
5. Have a plan for every lead
The cost of a real estate lead can vary widely, ranging from $11.60 up to $1,200. Even for lower-cost lead sources, these costs can add up quickly — and chasing the wrong deals is a surefire way to paralyze your pipeline.
Even rainmaking real estate agents who have built their businesses on the back of paid leads will tell you it’s a risky game. Robert Slack is the Broker-Owner of Robert Slack Fine Homes and he knows from experience. According to Robert, of the hundreds of expensive leads he purchases, “95% don’t work out.”
So why does he keep buying them? Because he has a system for getting value out of each and every lead in his database, no matter the source.
The cause: Salespeople overspend on leads because it appears to be the easy option. In reality, your network, past customers and website might be a better place to start generating leads until you have the system, team and budget to make every lead worth your while.
The fix: The problem here is less about the lead and more about the system you use for getting your ROI on it. In fact, 97% of sales professionals consider sales technology “important” or “very important” — but only 65% use a CRM. If you don’t already have a system in place for warming up and ultimately converting your paid leads, the costs and risks can be devastating to your business.
6. Organize your database
Chaos is a profit killer. While lack of lead nurturing is often cited as the primary reason for poor conversion rates, another major miss for many agents is poor lead tracking. But faulty organization means a faulty pipeline — which means leads are falling through the cracks.
And if you can’t find them, how can you close them?
The cause: Creating a watertight lead management system might feel like a luxury you just don’t have time for, but if you keep plowing ahead with a messy, ad hoc system, you’ll end up leaving plenty of cash on the table.
The fix: Get organized. Remember Barry Jenkins? He is practically allergic to inefficiency. Barry uses a smart system of organization and automation to take what he calls the “science side” of the business off of his agents’ shoulders so they can focus on what they do best. “Everything about my business and the reason it’s so successful is leverage,” he says.
7. Fight the prospecting dread
So, you met your monthly target. Great!
Can you hit it again next month? And the month after? Do you know where your future high-quality prospects are coming from?
Most agents, at some point in their career, lose track of their rhythm. They get distracted — or worse, comfortable — and they stop prospecting altogether.
We get it, prospecting isn’t easy. In fact, more than 40% of salespeople say prospecting is the most challenging part of the sales process, followed by closing (36%) and qualifying (22%).
But when you neglect prospecting, you put your entire pipeline at risk.
The cause: Whether your complacency comes from a place of having too many deals on your plate, or not enough, the thing to remember is that perseverance is the name of the game in sales. Or, in the words of Salt Lake City Realtor® and Founder of Search Salt Lake Dustin Brohm, “Most agents are way too short-sighted when it comes to converting leads. They get pissed if the lead doesn’t demand to start making offers on homes on Day 1. That’s like going fishing and getting pissed that the fish aren’t jumping into the boat!”
The fix: This one’s not hard to guess: Pick up the phone.
If you and your pipeline are both starting to rust, reminding yourself how good it feels to connect with and serve your prospects is the best way to get your mojo back.
8. Fix your faulty follow up
Like it or not, 50% of your prospects are not a good fit for what you sell. At least, not right now.
It’s important to remember that there is a lot of nuance to qualifying your leads — not just “good” or “bad.” Factors like level of intent and purchase timeline mean that each potential client exists on a continuum, especially at the start of a long sales process. (Hint: This is what your pipeline is for!)
Rather than blanketing your leads with the same generic drip email sequence, why not take a little time to tailor the process?
By creating personalized lead nurture drips based on things like lead source, price range, zip code, etc., you can provide a relevant experience your prospects won’t forget. That way, when they’re ready to make the leap, you’ll be the first one they think of.
The cause: Personalized emails increase revenue by up to 760% over non-personalized emails. But it can be tempting for many reps to use automation as a crutch, rather than a way to deliver value to prospects.
The fix: Block out time to think about what your leads want at each stage of the buyer’s journey. Then, use technology to give it to them in a way that’s as value-driven as possible. For example, a handwritten card offering to help find their home valuation is a great way to provide value.
9. Never take leads for granted
For the same reasons agents get sucked into overspending on leads or ignoring their SOI, it can be tempting to take leads for granted. But just because a lead isn’t ready to “buy now!” doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to hear from you.
In today’s tech-driven world, many agents underestimate online leads. But treating these leads as opportunities to build relationships from day one is almost always the better way to go.
The cause: Underestimating the power of even a single lead leads to losing deals. Every potential client, no matter where they came from, is valuable.
The fix: The answer is simple: treat every lead as quality, as an opportunity. This service-oriented approach has led Emily Smith and her team at Wemert Group Realty to a whopping 40% referral rate. “We’ve stopped calling them ‘leads’...You have to look at them like they’re not a lead — they’re a relationship. Let’s call these people, people.”
10. Embrace accountability
Consistent team success starts with accountability.
But the daily sales grind can become discouraging. Rejections multiply fast. The team loses motivation. Agents don’t want to pick up the phone.
In times like these, agents look to leadership for support.
Research on sales leadership from McKinsey even found that 77% of sales leaders believe retraining sales people is at least moderately (if not very) important. This finding is a reminder that investing in your team members shows them how valued they are and helps them succeed. Wins all around!
Ultimately, if your team isn’t learning, they’re not growing. And their numbers will reflect that.
Bringing your sales pipeline back to life starts with reviving your agents through coaching and training that reminds them why they do what they do and teaches them how to get better.
The cause: A lack of vision, growth and learning leads to complacency and a lackluster pipeline.
The fix: Albert Vasquez, Team Leader at AV Home Experts, lets his system and processes free up his time for hands-on training and coaching with his reps. He focuses on getting a little better every day, and uses call reporting throughout the customer journey to train his agents in their individual areas of improvement. He's proud of the community he's built and the fact that he connects with each agent every day. The right reporting and accountability, paired with investment in your team's growth, will go far in helping them get better and in cleaning up your pipeline.
Make your pipeline shine ✨
The post-it note approach to to-do lists might be an ok method for grocery store runs and vet appointments. But a haphazard and scattered approach simply doesn’t hold up for something as important as managing your real estate pipeline.
You need a real estate CRM that’s as dedicated as you are. The right system helps every member of your team track every prospect throughout every stage of the pipeline.
With Follow Up Boss, pipelines can be added, renamed, reordered, and deleted in whatever way works best for you and your agents. You can even color-code your sales pipeline stages and use a simple, intuitive drag-and-drop to reorder them in the way that makes the most sense for you.
Because when your real estate pipeline is working like a shiny, well-oiled machine — you’ll have more time to focus on doing what you do best: helping your clients have a stellar real estate experience.
Let Follow Up Boss keep your pipeline next-level polished and organized. Try it for yourself with a free 14-day trial.