This week Shari Morton of Shared Drive joins Greg and Kevin on The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast to discuss the ever-expanding roles of Online Sales Consultants and how important they are in nurturing home buying leads online.
Shari describes the vital roles that OSCs play in the home buying process and explains that "Essentially, it's your online salesperson, it's your online brand. It's that person that receives every buyer at the first touch and nurtures them throughout their buying journey until they're ready and educated enough to essentially send it over to the onsite agent. This role is evolving to meet with other areas in terms of the OSC will also sometimes be a support to warranty or even the construction team."
Shari understands that the trends in the home building market are constantly shifting and she believes that OSCs will become even more important in home buying online. She says, “Right now there are markets to where if you build a good enough home, if you're small enough, you can get enough business through referral, especially in this market. What they're not seeing and what they will see, and I know that there's going to be a major shift.”
Listen to this episode to learn what an OSC is, what an OSC does, and how adding an OSC to your team can help your home builder business grow.
About the Guest:
Shari Morton is the founder of Shared Drive, an OSC solution company tailored to small and medium-sized builders. Before founding Shared Drive in 2020, Shari was an award-winning OSC, winning the 2017 NAHB title for OSC of the Year. She was inspired to start the company when she saw a massive gap in the market and knew builders were falling behind without the proper teams in place.
Being an OSC for over 7 years, she understands that this role is constantly evolving. She maintains the title of Chief OSC--and chances are, you'll catch her taking over the phones on a Wednesday afternoon for one of her junior teammates. She believes in continually working the role and keeping a pulse on how the market is shifting. Since buyer behavior is constantly changing, Shari prides herself on Shared Drive’s ability to adapt and respond to its dynamic environment. Shared Drive knows each and every builder and their market is unique. Shari is helping builders to achieve efficiency and success while being a voice for change in the industry.
Greg Bray: [00:00:00] Hello everybody and welcome to today's episode of The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine,
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel with OutHouse.
We're excited today to welcome to the show Shari Morton and Shari is the Chief OSC at Shared Drive. Welcome Shari. Thanks for joining us today.
Shari Morton: Hi, thanks for having me.
Greg Bray: Well, Shari, why don't you take just a minute, introduce yourself and help us all to get to know you a little bit better.
Shari Morton: Sure. So as you guys mentioned, I'm the Chief OSC here at Shared Drive. It's a company that I started with my [00:01:00] business partner. A little over a year ago, actually we saw that there was a little bit of a need for an OSC, but the problem that builders were facing was that one, they were either too small to bring on an entire employee or two, they had the ability to bring on OScs, but they didn't really know how.
And traditionally, if we're being honest, it takes about a year to get your team up and running the way that you want it to. A lot of builders just don't have the time or the energy or somebody that's already on staff that has the ability to make that all happen.
So at Shared Drive where a turnkey solution to that, to where we literally overnight bring in our team, integrate everything that we do into your company if not your culture, so that's what we're about.
Kevin Weitzel: So, that's business. I need know something personal. So besides my sideburns, what are one of your favorite things in life, or one of your hobbies? What can somebody learn about Shari on this [00:02:00] podcast that they won't learn just from your website?
Shari Morton: One of the things that a lot of people don't know about me is I actually was born in Vietnam. I came over when I was about five, six years old, and I didn't know a lick of English. Correction. I knew some English, but it was not appropriate for a five-year-old to know.
My dad decided to teach me English through song, so whenever I was at home with him, he would always have the radio on. We were in California, so 103.5 was like oldies. So I learned English through the likes of like Heart, you know, these bands that you would never know of as somebody from my generation, like the Ink Spots. Nobody knows that.
As a result, when I'm in the car and you're in a car trip with me, you'll hear Mariah Carey, you'll hear Ink Spots, you'll hear Amy Grant, you'll hear Tupac. So I have a very diverse love of music. When I say that I like all types of music, I mean it. I get into polka sometimes.
Greg Bray: [00:03:00] That's fascinating, especially learning English through song, and I'm still stuck on the idea that Kevin sideburns could be someone else's hobby ,so...
Kevin Weitzel: Not their hobbies, but one of their passions and what they just love to stare at for days.
Shari Morton: My husband, actually before we first met, I promptly put an end to that, but he rode these sideburns with his brothers and they would like mold it into different shapes.
Kevin Weitzel: Yes! I need to meet your husband. He sounds like a cool guy.
Shari Morton: Oh no, he doesn't do that anymore. He no longer grows hair that way. So that's really unfortunate.
Kevin Weitzel: I can convince him that he needs to get back into that hobby. Hey, but I have a question for you.
I know this only because on the automobile side, I remember just going through all this, when we were setting up the whole online sales counselor banks, banks of colors and stuff. Let me ask you this, you said for an average builder, it's going to take a solid year for them to get set up.
What you're saying is that with Shared Drive, you've already gone through those lumps and know the pain points that a builder has to deal [00:04:00] with, so you can actually help them bring up to speed faster. Is that basically what you're saying?
Shari Morton: Yeah, absolutely. The reason, in my opinion, to have a unicorn OSC is what they're coining it, is it takes that person time and experience.
They have to get to know not only how to engage with the customer, but they have to understand the technology that's available to them at the time. They have to learn their CRM, they have to learn a ton of things, but when you hire Shared Drive, your hiring your OSC.
But behind that OSC is a CRM expert, is the chat expert, is an email expert, and when you're setting that up, that team takes over and does what they do best. So instead of stumbling around for a year, trying to learn how to do certain things, we come in and we have one OSC for every part of that funnel you're trying to set up. So essentially, depending on how much of a need you have, we can have you up and running as efficient as somebody who's been doing it for a [00:05:00] year within 30 to 90 days.
Greg Bray: Shari, I know you may not believe this, maybe you will, but about three years ago three and a half, I was doing a presentation at IBS, and we were talking about websites, and we mentioned OSC. We used that term and a large portion of the audience gave us blank stares. It was a joint presentation when I say us.
We had to define OSC. Now granted, that was three and a half years ago, so hopefully that's changed, but can we define OSC just for those who still may not know what we're talking about? Just to be fair, because we don't want to embarrass anybody where they feel like they have to turn it off because they don't know what's going on.
Shari Morton: OSC is an online sales consultant. Some people call them online sales concierge. Essentially it's your online sales person, it's your online brand. It's that person that receives every buyer at the first touch and nurtures them throughout their buying journey until they're ready and educated enough to essentially send it over to the onsite agent.[00:06:00]
This role is evolving to meet with other areas in terms of the OSC will also sometimes be a support to warranty or even the construction team. On the Shared Drive side, we're seeing the online sales consultant basically being that person that the buyer can reach out to and learn about the builder and depend on them throughout their buyer journey.
Greg Bray: So Shari, before you got involved with Shared Drive, I believe you were an OSC, correct for a builder?
Shari Morton: I am an OSC.
Greg Bray: Okay, well, you still are. Sorry.
Shari Morton: I continue to be an OSC. Yes.
Greg Bray: That's right. Tell us, even before that, what got you into home building in the first place and how did you find this career path? I don't know that people go to college saying I want to be an OSC when I grow up. Right? Maybe someday, but I'm not quite sure the position's quite there yet.
Shari Morton: That is an interesting story. I had been in sales and marketing prior to that and I was pretty burnt out in terms of, I felt that I was working a little bit too much and maybe [00:07:00] not gaining that experience or that promotion that I needed.
That was right around the time I was getting married. So I told my fiance at the time, I said, I'm going to take a break. I've been working since I was 14 years old. I'm just going to focus on planning the wedding. I'm not going to think about working for a month or so.
Being in my nature, I said, it may take a while for me to know a job that I really want. So I looked up things that I wanted to do, and one of the jobs was a marketing specialist for a broker in Arizona who was the broker for a builder. He called me a week into me deciding that I wasn't going to work for a month and we talked and we got along really well, and I went in and interviewed, he gave me the job.
I actually didn't want the job, so I asked for a ridiculous amount of money and he said, okay, I'll give it to you. As a result, I was like, well, okay, I have to go work for this man. Right? Then a couple of months later, he calls me into his office and he said, Hey, you know what, it's not working out. [00:08:00] You're here to essentially help me focus.
He and I would get along so well that we'd go on these tangents, and as a result, nothing was getting done. But he said, you're really good at cultivating relationships with people. You're really good at energizing people and getting them excited about things. He said, have you thought about this new position we're thinking about, it's essentially at OSC. At the time it wasn't called that, it was just, we have an Excel spreadsheet of hundreds of names.
Nobody's getting back to them, the salespeople aren't doing it. Will you just call them and figure out how to do this? So from there, a year into it, I built an entire online program for this builder from an Excel spreadsheet and a computer and a bunch of people who weren't getting called back.
Kevin Weitzel: Wait one second. You mean you to stay in there and tell me that they had an Excel spreadsheet of hundreds of names. They had sales, I'm going to use air quotes, professionals, and nobody was calling these potential [00:09:00] clients.
Shari Morton: No. It was odd. Well, this was eight years ago. It was online leads, which is relatively new to that market at the time. Being perfectly honest, even now, if you give an onsite team a bunch of names of people who've called, how many are going to actually call them back? To be fair, they're in a sales office, people are coming in and out every day. Are you going to address the person in front of you or are you going to address the Excel spreadsheet?
Right? So the OSC just came into fruition for me. I didn't realize I was starting an OSC career, but with that Excel spreadsheet, it was just in my nature to call people and talk to them and educate them. I was very passionate about my builder. I believed in their product. I believed in who they were, so that excitement just came through the phone whenever I talked to each and every one of these names on the Excel spreadsheet. Over time, I kind of created this cult following of buyers [00:10:00] who knew if they picked up the phone, Shari Morton was going to call them back and give them the information that they were going to need.
Greg Bray: So Shari, I saw a study last year and you probably saw it too. Denim Marketing and some other folks worked on it where they did some mystery shopping of builders, and one of the things they found is around 40% or something of these builders that they were testing did not have an OSC still. Looking from that standpoint, and I don't remember all the details there, so forgive me if I'm missing something, but why would a builder not have that in today's world? Isn't this just a must have?
Shari Morton: So as a OSC who goes to builders and provide my services, I am beginning to understand that, especially in the our industry, people don't like to break out of their comfort zone. What works works. Right now there are markets to where if you build a good enough home, if you're small enough, you can get enough business [00:11:00] through referral, especially in this market.
What they're not seeing and what they will see, and I know that there's going to be a major shift. Buyers have been buying things differently, but now they absolutely have changed the way that they shop. It's completely online. They are still functioning through referrals, but those referrals are no longer so much word by mouth, but it's through reviews.
We have a demographic of buyers who are coming into the market that they don't want to hear what their dad's friend thinks about a builder. They want to go and do their research. They want to go and read every review. Before you even hear about them online, they've already checked you out. I believe that the reason why 40% of builders don't have OSCs is because they haven't felt the pain of that yet, but soon they will. I think that's why I came into this market as a turnkey OSC [00:12:00] solution provider, because I feel that coming and I'm ready to help them when they're ready.
Greg Bray: All right. Can I put you on the spot? Do you have any case study type numbers, before and after OSC? Builder doesn't have one. You bring it in, you say, okay, now here's your program. Here's the person. Here's how we're going to do this different. Then the result of what happened next. What difference does it make?
Shari Morton: It makes a huge difference. I can give you the most recent case study here. I'm going to keep it as vague as possible to not call anybody out.
We had a builder who, when they called me, they said that they were getting 600 leads. I said, okay, that's really good. That's not too bad. They're like a day. I said, what? I came in there thinking the reporting was wrong, the data was wrong, but that's fine. I'll dig into it. I quoted them our pricing at 200 to 300 leads because I figured a lot of those are going to be duplicates. So we went in there and we dug into it and crap, they do actually have 500, 600 [00:13:00] leads. The salespeople were so inundated with phone calls, emails that they were literally locking up their sales office, pulling the shades, taking their phones off the hook and hiding.
The reason why I know that was because, as an OSC company, our first 30 days is we go and we talked to the onsite agent. We get to know them. We get to know how they sell. We want to help them sell the way they're comfortable with.
I would have an appointment to meet these sales agents, and I would see crowds of people peeking through the window and I didn't know how to get in, so I would text this person, like, Hey, I have a meeting with you at one at Shared Drive and I would to get a text back. They're like, come to the door, I'll sneak you in real quick. I was like, what is happening?
So, I would sneak in and I would sit down and I would talk to them and I went into their call rail and they were getting 300 phone calls a day, thousands of emails, and it was not getting responded to. As a result, they were getting horrible reviews. We came [00:14:00] in, within 45 days, because it took a while to kind of sort through all of these leads that were not touched.
Fixed everything. Every single person, every 500, 600 leads a day were getting a personalized, I'm doing air quotes, personalized emails, and we were able, through surveys and questionnaires, to allocate down to 3000 solid leads that were not only qualified, they understood the product and that they were ready to buy at a moment's notice. Now the sales people can pick up their phone because they know when it rings, it's because it's somebody they want to talk to. They've opened up their models because now they can hand a card that says, if you want to be on our interest list, contact Shari at homebuilder.com.
So we've given them a way to provide great customer service, and we have, in terms of being able to provide the sales agent with qualified leads that have already been educated, pre-approved and ready to go. [00:15:00] That happened over a span of less than 90 days.
Now we're managing their wait lists. We're getting creative with their sales processes. Not only that, but because the salesperson is less stressed, they have more qualified leads. Their profit margin has gone up anywhere from, and they had pretty good profit margins, anywhere from 5 to 10% on top of what they were already doing.
Greg Bray: That's a terrific story. Thank you so much for sharing. I think one of the takeaways, as I'm listening to you share that, is there may be this perception that the OSC is this person that just responds to texts or calls people back, but what you're describing is an online sales process and a lead qualification process and filtering process that goes beyond just making sure we got enough people to answer the phone. It's much more than that. Those builders who don't have one yet, or maybe aren't as effective as they could be, aren't quite grasping the vision of what it really could be. Would you agree with that?
Shari Morton: That is actually [00:16:00] pretty insightful because with that builder when I first started, we had a realtor call and ask who I was and I said, I'm part of the builders online team, and the sound on their voice was deflated.
Then they said, well, could you transfer me to a real sales agent? That is unfortunately, the perception that a lot of builders have for online sales concierge is that they pick up the phone. They actually don't know the product. They can't get you to where you need to be. Especially as a realtor, they don't have that belief, but at Shared Drive we're trying to change that perception that OSC not only a brand of the company, but we understand the product inside and out.
We're here to sit down and listen to exactly what you need and connect you to your next step. So it's just a matter of time and proof in the pudding. We're [00:17:00] collecting a lot of these success stories. The mission at Shared Drive is we really want to change the perception of what an online sales counselor is. It's a lot more than just picking up the phone and making that appointment. It's making that appointment at the right time for the right reasons.
Kevin Weitzel: Out of curiosity, when you supply your services to a home builder, how much education is your team taking on to not only know what they're selling, their type of product, how many lots they have, et cetera, but also the intricacies of their digital assets, like, do they have interactive floor plans, do they have interactive site plans? Are you managing that backend site plan, like, if you're putting a hold on lots 2 and 12? Is that something your team does or is that an added service? How does that work?
Shari Morton: So for an OSC, a sales person has a community that they go to a sales office. The sales office of an OSC is the website. It's the CRM. So naturally while that is [00:18:00] not our goal to go in and pretty much change everything or manage things.
If you're in that sales office and you see a cracked window, you're going to go to your builder and say, Hey, there's a cracked window over there. As a result, having the website be our sales office, we're in it every day. If we see something that needs to work better we're going to tell our builder, and not only that, we're going to suggest to our builder how to fix that cracked window.
Kevin Weitzel: Quick follow up. How consultative are you with advice on when you see that they've just got this craptastic website? How can you interject yourself without being overbearing to say you got to fix this website. It is horrible. How do you do that? Or do you just live with what they have?
Shari Morton: No. One of the reasons why you would hire a Shared Drive OSC is because good is not good enough. We're here to help you excel. We're here to help you take it to the next level. We make that very clear when you hire us. If we see an issue [00:19:00] with your lot map, if we see an issue with a form, we're not only going to try and help fix it, but we're going to elevate that situation. That's essentially what you want from OSC.
Whether you're outsourcing them or not, your OSC should be in your website and making those suggestions. It should just come with the job. In terms of being a little bit aggressive about it, I feel like as an OSC, you're passionate about making other people's lives better and things working better, so the way that it's presented is usually very well received.
Greg Bray: All right, Shari. I gotta ask. I need to know what some of those broken windows are. What are the things that you are seeing out there on these websites that builders aren't doing? We won't go to Kevin's really bad, but just the ones that they're good, but they could be better. What are those things that you guys see all the time?
Shari Morton: Oh gosh. Are you guys going to make this a three hour episode?
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah, exactly.
Greg Bray: We can. [00:20:00] We can do part one, part two. Yeah.
Kevin Weitzel: Which builders specifically has the absolute worst website? No, I'm just kidding.
Shari Morton: Oh, that's easy. No. So I would say right now, the thing that I would focus on is again, the website is the first sales office that the buyer is going to see, and as time moves on, it's looking like the website may be the only sales office that the buyer's going to see.
As a result, I feel like it would behoove builders to get ahead of the likes of Zillow, realtor.com, and all of those other resale Goliaths who have already seen, understood and made the moves to pivot their platform, to make it immersive. If it's a lot map, great, but what can you tell from this lot map?
Can I fall in love with a lot through looking at this lot map? If the answer is no, then if [00:21:00] you're ready, able, and willing, we're happy to show you how to do that. If you click on an elevation and it's a stick drawing, maybe consider it not being a stick drawing. I've never met anyone who's...
Kevin Weitzel: We don't have cameras on this, but I'll tell you what Greg and I both just cringed. It was sickening. Stick drawings? Come on!
Greg Bray: Who wants to live in a toothpick house? How do you fall in love with a stick drawing?
Shari Morton: Yes. Seeing is believing. If you have a phone and you look at how much screen time you yourself spend on there and you think about your buyer and if you're not making them fall in love, literally love at first sight, then your website needs to improve.
Greg Bray: All right. It's all about the love.
Kevin Weitzel: Can I go to the extreme of that? So you obviously have to take pride in your relationship with your clients. Do you ever have, or have you ever had a situation where the builder is so unwilling to take on any advice that it's just such a [00:22:00] horrible experience that they're giving to their client that you at Shared Drive don't want to be associated with that?
Shari Morton: So the way that our business works is we provide a great online experience for your buyer. If you're the kind of builder who cares about that, you're not going to be the kind of builder we don't want to work with. It just the way our business works. Builders we don't want to work with, aren't going to want to work with us.
It kind of sets up that sweet spot where obviously if you're going to spend the time to give your buyer that wow factor, if you care enough to give them that warm, fuzzy feeling when they pick up a phone and call you, if you want to associate your brand with a builder who truly cares about your buyer, then you're going to want to use an OSC. But If you don't want to care about that and you want to build a production house and then get out of town the next day, you're not going to want to use Shared Drive anyways, so we've set ourselves up to work with some really amazing builders as a result.
Greg Bray: So Shari, you [00:23:00] are in a position as an OSC because the builders are bringing you in, I'm making an assumption here, but you probably have a little more influence than maybe the OSC who's kind of on staff at a builder, as far as getting some of these changes and recommendations.
I see confusion. Sometimes the OSC is part of the sales team , not as often, but they're part of the marketing team sometimes. What would you say to those OSCs that feel like they're kind of lost in the middle between those two groups , because they're kind of the bridge between those groups a lot of times, right?
How do they help educate their team on some of these things that would make it better on the website or the handoff process or that lead qualification process and things? Any thoughts?
Shari Morton: That's interesting that you touched upon that because that is honestly the sole reason why I started this company because as an OSC, I was very frustrated with the fact that I was managed by a sales director and a marketing director.
Neither one has ever been an OSC, neither one [00:24:00] built this program, but because my company lacked infrastructure to help me be promoted or elevate myself it, and it was in no way a malicious intent, it's just that the online sales concierge came unintentionally. So unintentionally there's no infrastructure for us to grow.
There's no career path. What I would say to other OSCs is just educate yourself about technology. Ask for what you need. Speak up because I'm running this personal case study for myself, where I'm finding that that awesome OSC falls into two different personality traits for Brigg Myers.
Every time I come across an amazing OSC, I send them this test and I say, Hey, can you send it back to me? When they do, they always fall into one of these two categories. The common trait is that they have empathy. They're very nurturing, but as a result, they don't speak up for their needs because they're afraid [00:25:00] to kind of step on other people's toes. Our OSC community has been honestly, the unsung hero, not because anyone's holding us down it's because we refuse to say. I've recognized that as a result in building this company, I'm also building a network of an OSC tribe of people to where we want to do things differently. We want to explore different parts of this role, and as a tribe, we're going to help each other.
So I guess low key, if you are an OSC out there and you're frustrated in your position and you want essentially a tribe of other OCSs, we're forming that network. Like salespeople have their network of other sales leaders they can talk to. There's so many circles where people can come and get together and share ideas.
I believe with our company, we're providing that safe haven for other OSCs to come to us and learn new things, but also go back to their builder [00:26:00] and execute the things that they learned.
Greg Bray: I think that's fantastic. Honestly, I think there's a huge untapped resource in these OCS as far as making online marketing better. They're the ones that see where people get frustrated and stuck and confused and I think a lot of builders, I'm not going to say everybody, it's not fair to say everybody, but a lot of builders are missing out on tapping into some of that knowledge to make their process better.
Shari Morton: To be fair, they're missing out because as OSCs, as I said, we try to not ruffle any feathers. We try to just keep our head down and do the work, and we think that we're being the good soldiers, but what we're not seeing is that without speaking up, without taking that risk of putting together plan to execute a certain technology, we're not helping our builders as best as we can. A side part of Shared Drive is we're running that message.
You guys are awesome. You know what you're doing. Just speak [00:27:00] up and try to implement the things that you know are going to work.
Greg Bray: Shari, when you're looking ahead then at how this role is going to evolve, what's your vision of a few years from now? How is the OSC going to change from what it is today? Then how are the buyers going to influence that as well with their changing expectations?
Shari Morton: Oh, boy, you put me in a really tough spot with that question. I've been told countless times to not say a word about it.
Greg Bray: Okay. All right. They're going to get here first people listen up.
Shari Morton: I would say that if you have a buyer profile that is doing 100% of their buying online. If they're researching years ahead, if they're getting comfortable with things like DocuSign. There are companies providing the technology to where they can look at color samples.
They can look at different elevations. I want a picture of minority report with that, like screen in front and you're pulling the [00:28:00] different elevations and the different floor plans and turning around, if we're working towards those buyers, then the majority of your sales is going to happen online. That is just the reality that I see of it.
So you're going to want that OSC who's high level, that can have that conversation and hand it over later in the sales funnel in such a way that sets the sales person up for success.
Greg Bray: So Shari, if people want to kind of learn more about how to be a better OSC, what types of resources would you recommend that they take a look at?
Shari Morton: There are so many resources out there. They've been around forever, Leah Fellows, Do You Convert? There's just so many companies that can get them started. If they have been in the industry for years and they're looking to elevate their education, I would encourage to network reach out to that other OSC, look up another builder, check out their website, check out their chat [00:29:00] responses.
If you're impressed by it, reach out to that OSC and make an introduction, say, Hey, you know, I'm over here. Do you want trade tricks of the trade, best practices? I really think right now that's the best way to do it. As Shared Drive starts to essentially gather this tribe, we hope to provide some resources for senior OCSs as well.
Greg Bray: All right. So the builders out there, if there's one thing that they can do tomorrow that you would say, go do this, or go check on that to make your online sales process better, what would you tell them to go do?
Shari Morton: Evaluate their CRM. See if their CRM is performing at max capacity. I feel a lot of OSCs, a lot of builders, they get run down by the day to day and they let their CRM slip. So go in there, clean it, automate what you can, and if you can't automate or cleanup in an efficient way that maybe it's time to consider another CRM.
Greg Bray: We'll Shari, for those people who want to join the tribe, or just want to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way for [00:30:00] them to get in touch?
Shari Morton: email@example.com.
Greg Bray: Well, thank you so much, Shari, for sharing with us today and for all the great insights, and thank you everybody for listening to The Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine and I'm Kevin Weitzel
Kevin Weitzel: with OutHouse. Thank you.