Those conversations that we have with leads we've had over 5 million have to be indistinguishable from humans.
Hello, and welcome to episode 77 of the smart agents podcast. My name is Michael Walther, and I'll be your host. If you're always feeling pressed for time and looking for ways to automate more of your business, you will definitely be interested in today's conversation. Nate Jones, co founder and head of innovation at structurally joins us to talk all about how conversational artificial intelligence is changing the way agents not only follow up with leads, but also qualify them at the same time. Now before we get on to the day's featured interview, make sure to subscribe to the smart agents podcast, you can find the show on all major podcasting platforms such as Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, and now Amazon music. Also, as you can see, if you're watching this on YouTube, make sure to subscribe to the smart agents YouTube channel. Click the bell to get notifications when each new episode is uploaded. And lastly, if you or someone else on your team has an awesome story, a real estate tips to share with our community. Send us some feedback at Smart agents comm we're always on the lookout for new stories to share. Alright, let's get on to today's featured interview with Nate Jones. I really enjoyed our conversation and a peek into this incredible technology. Honestly, really just the way I like to start everything out is if you could introduce yourself a little bit who you are and what you do.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So Nate Jones here, co founder of structurally, we are a lead qualification as a service company basically powered by conversational AI, which I can get into. But essentially, we're just having very human like conversations with old leads new leads anywhere in between leads to kind of free up your time or your inside sales team's time. Because you know, every business, especially in real estate gets a lot of leads, lots of leads or kind of looky loos or tire kickers. And that's a lot of time spent. Not closing deals. So that's where I really focused on and then run instructionally for about five years, we brought in a CEO, a new CEO to replace me as CEO last year, where I'm now gonna get to focus a little bit more on kind of industry relations and new market expansion with our products.
Right. So what was it five years ago that you saw, you know that there's a need for this?
Yeah. On the backstory, I actually, structurally is my first and only job ever, straight out of college, the only thing I've ever done, and in college me and my co founder, Andrew actually wanted to be real estate investors, that did not work because we had no money and you needed a little bit of money to at least get started to a degree in that field. But what that actually did was get us in touch with a lot of real estate agents, lenders, property managers, etc. And kind of got to pick their brain all the time. It kept coming up that they hate following up with leads, they hate them behind the scenes to stuff. What I've learned about agents over five years talking to 10s of 1000s of them I feel like is they're great in the field, they love to be face to face, they love closing deals and making relationships. But texting leads emailing leads cold calling, that's tiring. But that really is where the monies were made. So we set out to solve that problem of lead follow up and qualification with AI. Because we felt that, at the time, aI had come enough come along for far enough to actually solve it rather than like throwing a bunch of humans at this problem call centers has been around for 20 plus years. And we felt with some really intelligent data scientists and machine learning engineers that we could solve this problem with actual conversational AI in just as lifelike human like a way.
Right. So as you were kind of putting this all together. So you did I'm assuming, you know, what you're saying is you didn't have a whole lot of AI engineering background yourself there.
None. I am not an engineer. So we hired some really smart folks from where I went to school who were PhDs in math, math and stats, I think one of them was studying his PhD in computational theory, which is crazy. But he had a focus on natural language processing, which is kind of the whole bread and butter behind making conversational AI work and convinced him and a friend to join early on and set out to solve what I felt what not knowing at the time was actually the hard way to get into this. Don't this kind of whole realm. I think that real estate was the hardest industry we could have picked to start because those conversations that we have with leads we've had Over 5 million have to be indistinguishable from human. When you're having a conversation about buying a house, one of your biggest financial decisions of your life. And I'm sure we've all heard the three Ds of real estate, death, divorce and disease, those are not fun things that require a lot of empathy. And the last thing that people want to do is feel like they're talking to a computer. So we set out immediately to say, this is going to be not your typical chatbot experience that we all have probably had now and hated. This is going to feel like talking to a human. And of those 5 million plus conversations, we've actually done an analysis and seeing that point zero 1% believe, or have asked a question of if this is a human or not. So 99.9% believe that talking are human.
Right? So I mean, that's got to have a huge just knowing how, you know, all the backend work that goes into that to where the algorithms and all that AI can kind of like figure out how to respond. And imagine the, the thought that goes into setting up the scenarios had to be massive.
Yeah, I think that's one of the hardest things that people don't think of when they think of a conversational AI product. In general, when they see a product like ours, we've had a lot of people that are like, I can build this myself, I can think of like they see the surface of just a conversation, which looks really easy, because we all have conversations every day. So it's like, ah, that's, I could think of that. But when you actually have to think of every possible turn, or scenario in a conversation, it's almost unthinkable. Anyone in our product can say anything at any time. So we could be going down a script, which we allow people to customize, you know, what's your location preference price, or you're approved for financing, someone come could come out of left field, which we see all the time and say, hey, you know what, I'm going through a divorce, this is really tough for me, can you please help, you know, get my house sold to, I need to get out within the month. And we need to be able to handle that on the spot, while still trying to come back to the script, and kind of fully qualify him. So when you're thinking about all of the different turns that you can think through in a conversation, it's literally you can't do it. So we've built a product in a way that can handle those gracefully, even for the scenarios that we haven't planned for, because we've had 5 million conversations, but we've definitely not planned for the conversations we're gonna have today or tomorrow or in the future.
Right. And you touched on it, you know, a little bit is that empathy, and real estate is all personal relationship building, if you know, if you don't have a good solid personal foundation, but that client a they're probably not going to use you. But then if they ever do, it's just you just put a bad taste in their mouth, and they're not going to use you in the future.
Yeah, Yep, absolutely. And some of the things that we do, obviously, there's positive life events, too, not just the three Ds, there's a new child, the new job, we always say, you know, congrats on the new child, or thanks for the new job, or if they're a veteran, thank you for your service, things like that. That goes a long way in making the conversations feel really lifelike. Some of the fun little things that we do, too, are like we put a we we are not afraid of typos in about 5% of all of our messages. We miss Phil misspell words like the and then correct it a second later with asterik THG. People love that, because it's like that's what a human would do.
Right? Yeah, it really sounds like you have thought I mean, those are like just little tiny nuances that if somebody was typing and working with your, you know, dealing with your your bot, if that were to happen, instantly take away that idea that I'm actually talking to a robot.
Yeah. And one, I'll let you let everyone in on a little hack that we've learned, really successful response rate is. So we do we follow up with leads about 52 times over text and email over the course of a year. So we're a little aggressive on purpose, because I think most agents are not aggressive enough. But what are our highest response rate drip message is actually we send a it's called a nudge message. So after an initial registration or upload, we can work new or old leads will send you know, hey, thanks for contacting us, you know, whatever. And then after 12 minutes of no response, we send a message that just says let me know if I can help. And that message gets an extremely high response rate compared to the others because so many people responded saying, Oh, I'm so sorry. I thought that first message was automated. So I didn't respond. But clearly this is a person and then they start up the conversation. So That's a little fun hack, because I think the world the consumer world has sniffed out a lot of these kinds of autoresponders automated first messages. So if you literally just go one step further, and say something, you know, a little out of the blue, like, Hey, I'm a real person, that, you know, maybe that person is automated, but I'm actually here to help people open up.
Yeah. What is it, you know, when it comes to this conversational AI, and how it has, you know, it's really, it is necessary in today's marketing world, because everything is, you know, I can't tell you how many text messages from different, you know, services that I've used in the past or stores that I visited, I get tons of them every week, but that, that you said the real, the conversational. So having that ability to have those automated conversations and really be able to free up people's time, how have you seen that kind of grow in the you know, not just not just the real estate world, but just
everywhere? Yeah, um, I always like to kind of think about this in terms of like, where we've come as a society in technology, too. It's like, all of our marketing has been one way. Today, I'll call it like transactional, it's, you send a message out, you can automate some more outbound messages over time. But as soon as someone replies it's over, that that sequence or campaign has to stop most software today is written in that, you know, when someone replies, take them out of the campaign. But that's like where the weird real work begins, like, great, you got someone to respond. Now what now you have to qualify them, now you have to probably chase them again, because they'll probably go see you again. And that's where our product actually steps in. So we get the response. Now, we're actually going to qualify him and keep chasing them until they're qualified or disqualified. So it's a lot like, you know, up until today, we've just been throwing the ball one way, but now in today's world, it's we're playing catch back and forth, which I think has come a long way in where we'll start to see a lot more software move.
Right. And when you talk about qualifying the leads for real estate agents that can be you know, depending on their business model, that can be a pretty lengthy process. So how do you kind of fit that into the script, you know, to really kind of start qualifying if this if this person is somebody that the agent would be worth willing to work with?
Yeah, that's a really good point about, I think, most agents like kind of forget how many people are in their pipeline, at a single point, we've talked to some of the top inside sales agents asase in the world, in at best, they're managing like 500 to 700 contacts in their pipeline at a time. That's great. And that number has moved up because of automation. And because of texting and emailing, and you're not solely reliant on calls, but what they're very keenly aware of is texting conversations or email conversations can drag out, you know, you have a lot less, you know, on a call, you can get through it, you can qualify, and you can say, this is a go or no go on a text, someone can just kind of go see you be really passive. You don't really know and drag out your time forever. And I think that has actually, well, it's kind of a let us handle more conversations. It's like, now we're overwhelmed sometimes with conversations. But in terms of that, that just puts a lot more emphasis on being able to get to a no, or a yes, I mean, that's sales. 101 is, sometimes it's good to get to now because then they're out of your pipeline. And you don't have to deal with them, at least for now. So in our product, we we have over 50 pre built, we'll call them scripts are campaigns that range from buyers to sellers to investors to renters, inquiring about a specific property, inquiring in general, old leads, new leads, refinance, new loan we have, we have the full kind of buffet of property, built pre built scripts, but you can also customize of all of our conversations. So some of our scripts are very basic, you know, we always like to think about their readiness, are they thinking now we're in the future? What's their timeframe? Are they working with an agent? Are they approved for a loan, they talked to a lender, that's best price, etc. We're also trying to get a little bit more into their motivation. We like to talk a little a lot more about them rather than property. So we can actually figure out the whys behind things. And I think that's important. But then we are always trying to set up a next step. So we are trying to schedule a phone call with you The agent who is essentially our products partner, and that's kind of our cell is we really want to get to some sort of next step. So that person is expecting a warm phone call rather than ignoring a cold call from a number they don't know.
Right? And so when, if I'm, you know, just thinking as the agent, if I am working with you, and there's been a text conversation going on for a few days, or however long it's taken, and you're gathering all this information, how does once the phone call is then scheduled? Or how does all that information come to me, so I'm, you know, prepared to have that conversation. I know all those wives.
Yeah. So we do have a mobile app and an agent dashboard, where you can actually take over the conversation at any time, we usually suggest let it play out, because we have a lot of features in place to keep chasing leads, even if they go status, which happens all the time will be mid conversation, and then we won't hear from them for a week. Lots of agents give up, we keep chasing. And so but we like to say let it run out. But you can see these conversations happening in real time, take them over. And we integrate with most residential real estate, in general CRM products out there. So you can actually see the full conversation right within your CRM, and in some cases, actually take over the conversation right from your CRM to So ideally, we want you staying in the loop, but also kind of letting it run its course.
Awesome. Yeah, I just think, you know, just the time that that, you know, anybody knows that? As a text message comes in, or if you're responding to different things at a time, just one can take up a ton of time, if you've got three or four, that you're trying to keep track of who's who that's, that's a recipe for disaster. And it's also, you know, very time consuming.
Yeah. Yep. Absolutely.
What, um, you know, so when it comes to structurally, how does somebody you know, find you guys and then kind of get set up with, you know, getting involved with the campaign?
Yeah, so it's just best way is just structurally calm. And you can get started pretty quickly. Really, it's just about hooking up your your lead sources, which takes one call, or you can do it yourself. It can either integrated directly from your CRM, or sometimes you have lead sources from elsewhere, like Zillow, or wherever. And we also work old leads, which a lot of people forget about, you have gold in your existing database. There's, I've talked a lot on other podcasts, including one of my own from a while ago, that you could my belief and some other IRSA coaches believe that most teams could stop new lead generation stop paying for new leads, and probably do better make make more sales in a given month. I don't we don't suggest that forever. It's more of a thought experiment. But our belief is, you know, you have so many leads in your database that are probably thinking about moving, they just need a nudge. But most agents are so focused on that new lead, because I get it, you know, they're hot, they're warm, they just came through their top of mind, probably easier. But you've already spent money on those old leads, you should keep in touch with them, there's probably some golden there. So that's also something that you can very easily upload to structurally. So it's really just hook up your lead sources, old or new, and hook up your CRM, and you're kind of off. If you want to use our pre built scripts, which most of our customers do, you can always just tweak them very slightly to if you don't like certain questions or answers.
Right. Yeah. And when you talk about those, you know, the gold and you're already you know, your existing leads, I just thinking about the way the markets been the last two years, I guess almost now we're getting close to the two year mark of it. Now, like what you know, those people that, you know, maybe they're, they were an expired the, you know, five years ago, and they've just totally just not even thought about it. But if you just reach out with a, you know, how much your house is worth now, like that. A lot of people don't even realize what their house is worth if they haven't been paying attention if they're not really involved in the market.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. We've seen so many people just send one way kind of nudge messages to their database, and get flooded with responses, which is great, but then you kind of need to triage those as well. So I would definitely recommend if you're going to go to have a takeaway from this to go blast your database, that's great. I encourage it, but have a plan in place to be able to maintain those conversations because they'll happen.
Yeah, no, absolutely. I just think that whole you know, finding ways to automate is is really good. It is something that you almost have to you know, fail to learn. You know, like by sending out that blast and then just being inundated Did I know when I first started doing this podcast, I sent out this huge like this email to a huge list. And I was underwater for days trying to keep up with the responses and scheduling. So now I've gotten it, you know, a lot more automated using other apps to kind of help schedule and that was something I had to learn the hard way.
Yeah. Yep, absolutely. Make sure every all of your systems talk to one another for sure to, like you said, you want to make you want to make sure that your CRM is your single source of truth, but that it talks to whatever you might be using to schedule appointments showing time Calendly, whatever.
Yeah. What, you know, when it comes to AI, the, you know, the future and the growth on it is unlimited. Really. So I think that's really exciting for what you guys are doing, is there always something new, that you're adding or coming up with or, you know, a new piece of technology that you can add to it? What does the future look like?
Yeah, that's a great question. Because I think a lot of agents, you know, Gary Keller, I think came out and said, data is the new oil 100% agree. And he probably says that, because AI runs on data. A lot of people think that AI is some magical thing that does all things. Maybe we're not there yet. All of that data is how AI is trained. And all that data comes from humans. So there's no such thing as self learning AI, all of the data that runs it has come from somewhere a human at some point. So that's one myth. I always like to dispel. Because some people come in and say, oh, you know, it'll learn on its own. No, it'll learn from data that was tagged by humans. But I think one thing that I'm really excited about for the future of AI is, I am solely focused on making sales people's lives easier. And real estate agents are sales, and marketing folks and entrepreneurs. But mostly salespeople. That's what that's how they make money. And there's actually a study out there by Salesforce, who has seen that salespeople spend just two thirds of their time or sales feed, people spend two thirds of their time not selling. So they spend just 1/3 of their their time or their week, actually selling, that's a big disconnect. Especially when you're making a commission, which most salespeople do. So my my whole, Why wake up in the morning is to flip that, maybe we won't get to 100% of their time is actually spent selling. But if we can flip that and say they're actually spending 67% of their time selling, that's great. That's gonna mean, they're another third more productive. And I think that having a product like structurally or other automation will, will help move the needle there. That's a big chunk, which is why we started here. But I also think there's a huge opportunity for copy and content to be augmented by AI, I think salespeople spend so much time writing emails, writing responses, writing, legal, writing their website, copy all these things that just requires tons of writing, we do it all the time. Sales and marketers. So I think there's, there's a huge trend in a model called GPT. Three, which is by open AI, on Elon Musk, former Elon Musk company, but it's the largest natural language processing model in the world. And it can be trained to do a lot of things. But it a lot of people are training it to actually write text for them. So some people have trained it to write books for them. Kids stories, emails, blogs, SEO content. So where I and we are tending to go is Kay structurally can have the conversations for you, we will write scripts for you. But maybe you want other scripts written for you too. And so our goal is to hopefully also have aI kind of write scripts for you and write copy for you, as well as have the conversation for you. And I think that'll move that needle to having sales teams spend two thirds of their time actually selling.
Yeah. And I think, you know, just wrapping up, I think, you know, with the it's always interesting, you know, with the advent of this technology, and you know, using the technology more, but it's really using that technology is allowing people to have better personal connections with the people that they're actually selling with. And especially that's so important in real estate.
Yeah, I've always you know, when AI was a little earlier, people were scared still are that it'll take jobs are replaced jobs. We have always said that the role of AI is to augment the role of the inside sales agent. Basically, that's our our belief and what that means in my belief for AI as a whole is it will take over the mundane tasks that we all hate. No one likes picking up the phone, the phone and cold calling 100 people to get told no, in a lot of other words, 99 times AI is fine with it. That's great. And so I think that the whole, the whole world of AI will be to replace a lot of those mundane tasks, which is what I'm so excited about. Because I think it will benefit all of us to be able to spend more time on things we love doing like I started the podcast here. Agents are great in the field building relationships. So what you should be doing let AI take care of the rest or other automation take care of the rest.
Yeah. Awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me. It's it's it's such an interesting topic.
Yeah, absolutely. Appreciate being on. Thanks for letting me cover all things AI.
Definitely, definitely. I really want to thank Nate for joining us today and telling us all about how structurally is using conversational AI. This technology has really come a long way in a short period of time, and it will certainly be interesting to see where it goes in the future. So once again, if you think you or someone else on your team has an awesome story or tip to share with our community, send us a message at feedback at smart agents.com. Well, that wraps things up for this episode. But remember, follow the show wherever you listen to podcast, and make sure to subscribe to the smart agents YouTube channel. Again, I'm Michael Walter, and we'll see you on the next episode.