Generating leads can conjure images of cold calling and door knocking, but those aren’t the only ways to find new business. Start brainstorming your own lead-generation playbook with these strategies.

13 lead-generation actions to try today

  1. Offer free advice. Answer questions from consumers on your blog or social media accounts. Go live on Facebook to explain common homebuying or selling myths and answer questions posted in the comments.
  2. Regularly prospect your sphere. Check in with your professional and personal contacts on a rolling basis. Ask questions, listen, but don’t sell unless they signal that they’d be receptive.
  3. Throw a party and tell clients to bring a friend. You could also host a housewarming party for sellers and make contacts with their friends and neighbors.
  4. Use real estate business letter templates from NAR.
  5. Use RPR reports in lead-generation forms. The REALTORS® Property Resource (RPR) app allows you to create and email tailored market reports from your phone.
  6. Get a mortgage calculator for your website. Have it created for your target market and collect contact information from users.
  7. Earn press coverage. Reach out to local real estate reporters and make yourself available as a source. You can also volunteer to be a regular real estate columnist.
  8. Host an educational event. Try holding a first-time buyer seminar or presentation with tips on home staging.
  9. Organize a giveaway.
  10. Create free downloads. Require consumers to enter their contact information in exchange for a free download with tips useful to prospects, such as buying and selling property in your market.
  11. Expand your charity work or take up new hobbies with social or group aspects.
  12. Make connections with other professionals, such as divorce or probate attorneys.
  13. Contact rental owners to ask if they are considering acquiring more properties.

No more cold leads

Not every lead you capture will be ready to buy or list with you today, but neglect it and there’s no guarantee that lead will be there later. With a focus on keeping leads warm and moving toward a transaction, inside sales agents have become increasingly popular in real estate for their ability to maximize the potential of every lead generated.

“Inside sales agents are typically staff—paid salaries — and they’re in the office all day,” Tim Heyl, the Austin-based leader for The Heyl Group, writes in an email. “Their role is to generate leads only.”

An online search will yield dozens of virtual-assistant and lead follow-up services. Here are five that cater to real estate.

  • Phone Animal: Generates leads and uses team of inside sales agents to qualify and nurture leads before delivering them to the agent.
  • Follow Up Boss: Collects leads from many sources and provides an interface for tracking your communication with them.
  • FiveStreet: Consolidates leads from different sources, links to your email account,and can provide email and text-message auto responses to new leads.
  • TaskBullet: Provides virtual assistants that handle tasks such as marketing, administrative support, following up with clients, managing your calendar, and responding to emails.
  • MyOutDesk: A real estate-specific virtual assistant service that can call leads, screen and qualify them, regularly follow up, and run automated content campaigns to keep them engaged.

Inside sales agents make cold calls, respond to inbound leads, follow up with leads in the system, and eventually convert leads into appointments for other agents. According to a survey from real estate consulting firm Real Trends, 46% of real estate teams use inside sales agents.

After starting The Heyl Group in 2010 and cold calling for four to 10 hours each workday, Heyl hired his first inside sales agent in 2012: a part-time agent who worked on a hourly basis. His inside sales team eventually grew into Phone Animal, a company that provides remote inside sales support for real estate teams and mortgage lenders.

“Agents have lots of things on their plates and only get paid when deals close, so they constantly gravitate to getting current business closed instead of generating new business for later,” Heyl writes. “Inside sales agents help you maintain consistency in your growth.”

Agents or teams without the resources to hire full time inside-sales staff can explore part-time arrangements or use technology solutions or remote services.

Technology solutions include software that makes it more efficient for you to maintain your own leads, like programs that collect leads from paid and organic sources.Many of these solutions organize leads and track conversations. Remote services and virtual assistants can perform some lead-management tasks for you: cold-calling, screening,following up with prospective campaigns, and running campaigns to nurture leads in your database. Choosing the savings and flexibility of a virtual assistant over a licensed inside sales agent will mean there are tasks and conversations you still must handle yourself.

Daniel Ramsey, CEO of MyOutDesk, a real estate-specific virtual assistant service, says the virtual assistants his company provides can free up time agents are spending on administrative tasks so they can focus on prospecting. Virtual assistants can also perform the tasks of an inside sales agent on the salesperson’s behalf,such as calling prospects about events, keeping in touch with a salesperson’s sphere of influence, handling inbound calls, or responding to emails.

Ramsey says his company caters to large- and medium-size teams and agents who are growing their business, starting to prospect, might have already hired an assistant, and are focused on increasing the number of transactions they close per year.

“We’re the easy button to leverage things off of their in-house staff and keep them focused on licensed activity,” Ramsey says.

For agents or teams who aren’t interested in or ready to build their own in-house team of inside sales agents,remote services can be a good way to invest in creating a consistent pipeline of sellers, according to Heyl.

“Of course, they can have more control when building in house, and I always encourage ultimately building in house,” Heyl writes.”However, success is sequential, not simultaneous. You can’t do everything at once, and there are other roles and systems that agents need to get right first on the road to building a great business.”

Don’t solicit other brokers’ clients

When implementing your lead-generation strategy, keep in mind that NAR’s Code of Ethics prohibits you from soliciting a prospective client if she already has an exclusive representation agreement for the services offered with another REALTOR®.

For a listing agreement, this means you are generally prohibited from soliciting a listing that is currently listed exclusively with someone else. Exceptions under the Code include:

  • General announcements, such as mailers based on geographic area, that don’t target sellers who currently have an exclusive listing agreement with another broker.
  • Situations where the seller—rather than you—initiated a discussion about the listing, in which case you could discuss the terms upon which you might enter into a listing that starts after the seller’s current listing expires.