What could I be doing with my CRM/Contact Manager?

The following is a list of functions that a good CRM enables you to do. Many people buy a CRM because they are told they need one, or because they want to get more organized. Often while evaluating a CRM or after purchasing one, they then end up saying that it cost too much for what they need, because it does so much that they do not need. The reality is that the CRM does so much because it is what you need, IF you want to grow your business significantly, while at the same time; having more of a personal life; with less stress for you and your clients; with less mistakes; with better service to your clients; with less staff; with more compliments from everyone you work with; with more referrals. If you want those things, then the CRM does not do too much. It has the features it does in order to accomplish those things.

Note that the title uses both of the terms CRM and Contact Manager. The fact is that the following bullet points can not all be accomplished with a contact manager. The reason for the title is that a significant percentage of agents have either never heard the term CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) at all, or they have heard it but do not know what it means, or they do not understand the difference between a Contact Manager and a CRM. Therefore, if the words Contact Manager are not in the title, they may never find this post!

An example of a Contact Manager is Outlook. Examples of CRM’s are Top Producer, Agent Office, AdvantageXi, Active Agent for Outlook, etc.

It comes down to recognizing what you want to accomplish with a CRM , and then purchasing according to your needs. Following is a list of what you can accomplish with a good CRM. The more of these things you do within your CRM, the more efficient you will be. If you want to do all or much of what is on the list, then you need a CRM as opposed to a Contact Manager.

  • Prospecting – Get suspects, turn them into prospects, and turn them into sales, by knowing who they are, what they want, and when they want it, all in significant detail, and by being reminded to capitalize on that information automatically.
  • Lead distribution and tracking – The ability to give out a lead to a team member, and then follow-up to see if that member is doing what you want them to do to capitalize on that lead.
  • Lead source tracking – Knowing where your business is coming from and spending your marketing time and money accordingly/wisely.
  • Referral tracking – Knowing who is referring you the most business, so you know who to do more for in return.
  • Contact management – That means everyone! Suspects; prospects; clients; vendors; friends; relatives; neighbors. Knowing how to find any information on anyone, even from many years ago, with a few clicks virtually instantly.
  • Mail merge­ – Do all print or e-mail merging from within the CRM eliminating redundant external databases.
  • E-mail management – How many e-mails are in your inbox? They should be with your contacts, or with the property, where you can find them, quickly, not in your inbox.
  • Document management – Store all documents and photographs relevant to a transaction with the transaction record and/or the contact record. Having a complete paper trail all in one location is invaluable if you are challenged.
  • Appointment management – The ability to not only track when and where you had an appointment with someone, but also the ability to note the substance of that appointment.
  • Listing coordination – The biggest complaint lodged against Real Estate agents has always been poor communication. A comprehensive, automatically executed listing plan enables you to turn those complaints into praise effortlessly, automatically.
  • Closing coordination – Too many details can fall through the cracks. The busier you get, the more details you have swimming around in your head. And each day you have to make many decisions regarding what actions you need to take for which transactions. Even the best paper list and file methods are rife with bottlenecks and inconsistencies. Having all the information you need in one place and a to-do list automatically posted on your calendar makes your job far easier and more stress free.
  • Communications documentation – Also known as History, there is a place where it all comes together. Tasks, phone calls, e-mails, letters, post cards, fliers, and appointments. A contiguous record of everything that has happened with that contact or transaction.
  • Time management – Having automated to-do lists, and organized methods of consistent follow-up. Decide what you want to do, once, and automatically follow up that way every time from then on.
  • Risk reduction – Knowledge is power. If you use a CRM properly and consistently, you will automatically gravitate towards centralizing the huge volume of detail with which you work every day. It can not be overemphasized how important it is to have a contiguous chronological accounting of any contact you have with clients and even prospects. You can be challenged at any point about a myriad of issues from Fair Housing Violations to Mortgage Fraud, Procuring Cause, and any number of other things. A CRM can easily and automatically organize you. Having complete records of; phone calls, letters, e-mails, appointments, etc., insures that you will enjoy a much better position from which to defend yourself if need be.
  • Post closing follow-up/client retention – Not staying in touch with past clients is one of the single biggest causes of loss of income in the Real Estate sales industry. Never lose another referral due to your failure to stay in touch.
  • Staff training and accountability – Personnel retention is a problem that never goes away. Having a system in place with notes built into the CRM task lists significantly diminishes the impact of a lost staff person. It enables you to have the new person step right into a tried and true system, and none of the details are lost in the transition. Additionally, it provides a clear picture of exactly who is doing what each day with regards to each individuals responsibilities.

If this list has you interested, it is likely that you are ready for a comprehensive CRM solution. Just realize that the dollar investment in the CRM is the easy part. The time investment is the tough part. But the rewards are more than you can appreciate until you get there.

Trans-Plans WorkFlows/Activity Plans/Action Plans

As you hopefully know, I am a reseller Top Producer 8i, Agent Office, Active Agent for Outlook, and many other Contact Management/CRM solutions,and a trainer for Agent Office. Just in case you are unaware, I am also the guy that created Trans-PlansTrans-Plans are available for Top Producer, Agent Office, and Active Agent for Outlook. ‘In Agent Office and Active Agent for Outlook, they are called Activity Plans’.  In Top Producer 7i they are called ‘Action Plans’.

These plans and letters import into the program you’re using, and included in the plans are drip mail/email campaigns to thank referrers, keep your clients informed and therefore calmed down, always asking for referrals at the same time.

What will Trans-Plans do for you?

  • Reduce your overall stress level more than ANY other single action you can take
  • Stop the details from “falling through the cracks”
  • Save you approximately 150 – 200 hours by not having to create and key in the plans yourself
  • Keep you in touch with automated letters or e-mails, for your buyers and sellers throughout the listing and closing process
  • Give you a comprehensive “Action List” to present to buyers and sellers in your initial presentations with them
  • Significantly reduce the learning curve for new agents
  • Significantly reduce the time necessary to train a new assistant, or give your assistant a comprehensive list of their responsibilities. One that you can track!
  • Give you new ideas to differentiate you from your competition
  • Enable you to create and maintain a detailed history of your transaction for future reference
  • Provide an instant to-do list for someone helping you out while you’re on vacation
  • Enable you to provide detailed “Client Reports” for your buyers and sellers
  • Get FAR more paperless
  • If you have a team, everyone is assigned their individual tasks, which appear on their calendar – not yours!
  • If you have a team – you will stop playing “Who has the file?”

“I would like to offer a non-solicited plug for Gary’s ‘Trans Plans’ action plans that he sells on his web site. I purchased them several months ago, and have been slowly modifying them to my way of doing business. I feel without his plans, I would not have been able to keep up my current 2007 production of 40+ transaction sides with no assistant.

To take your business to the next level, or just simplify your existing business, take a close look at what he has to offer. Thanks! ”

Randy Eide

…Finally I broke down and took a class from Gary David Hall. WOW! That was money Well Spent!  Gary knows his programs and is a good teacher. I learned a whole lot and was able to put it to good use.

…Another point: Listing Plans come with the program. Gary Hall wrote a set called Trans-Plans. They are VERY Thorough. I was surprised at some of the things he came up with to remind me to do. Some are not relevant to my practice but most are and it is very easy to delete the ones you don’t need.

Brent Link

Real Talk Post:


Has anyone yet used the Trans-Plans for Top Producer? Are their any recommendations for this?  It sounds great but $200 is a large investment?  I would like to see recommendations first.


Amy – I use these action plans in Agent Office – same plans. They are great action plans because they are so complete. There are a couple of big challenges with any contact management program and the biggest one, imnho, is the follow-up action plans. First, you have to create them, then you have to launch them and use them, and then you have to update them (or do you???).

We had more than 100 action plans in our system before these came along. We can’t delete the old action plans because of how the system works, however, we use these new plans now, customized to our business which is now at 7 on our team, on the way to 9 before the end of the year.

Before these action plans came along, we were actually at the point where we were going to bring in the creator of TransPlans  (Gary David Hall) for a couple of days to re-write all of our plans. There are not a lot of options out there for this type of action plan, and these are very good and definitely worth the small cost.

Chris Newell

“Stressed out? Get Organized with WorkFlows”

One of my other posts about combining activities in plans, prompted me to expand on that topic and go a little further.  The result is the following post.  Some of it is a repeat, but most is not.

There are a fair number of ‘Agent Productivity’ software programs and services available that enable the user to create ‘Activity Plans’, or ‘Campaigns’. These Plans have several tremendous benefits, and if you are using one of those programs (listed below), and you have not yet seriously looked into using the activity plan capability in them, you are missing out on an incredibly valuable tool that you already own. For those of you that are using, or plan to use them, the following information will help in the development of them.

I created ‘Activity Plans’ in Real Estate specific software when I was an agent, when the software became available in 1989, when we were all still using DOS! Since 1996, I’ve worked with many agents/teams around the country expanding/developing ‘Activity Plans’ in Agent Office and a few in ‘Top Producer’. I have witnessed, through first hand use, and through my clients, the value in using them.

In this article, we are going to focus on Listing & Sales Transaction Management. At least as important, is using activity plans to get business. Lead generation and follow-up plans. A good deal of this article applies to them as well.

In this article we’ll discuss:

  • What are ‘Activity Plans’?
  • What are the benefits to using them?
  • How do you create them?
  • To-do’s, and Not to-do’s!

What are ‘Activity Plans’?

Some of the Real Estate specific tools available with which to use them are; Agent Office, Top Producer, Active Agent for Outlook, Respond, REST, 360 Agent, and Goldmine (with the Real Estate Specific add-on).

In all of these programs, the user can add a task to their calendar one at a time. Most licensees sit down when they get a listing, and do just that, and it takes a significant amount of time. Because it does, only a small percentage of the tasks that are actually performed during the process, will make it to the calendar. Using activity plans, you create a ‘template’ group of tasks, which can be assigned to a contact, or subject property, all at once, and they will appear on your calendar, on the dates when you need to accomplish them.

By tasks, I mean things such as; Enter into MLS; Write thank you note; Introduction call from assistant; Change contact category to ‘Seller-Active’; Obtain association docs, Mail ‘Client Listing Report’ etc.

What are the benefits to using them?

1) Far and away the biggest benefit is the reduction of stress you will see in your business life. Why?

Why is this business so stressful? Did you ever sit down and really evaluate why it is? There are a myriad of tasks involved in getting a home sold, and then taking it to settlement. What is one of, if not the biggest reason for your stress, is that you have those hundreds and hundreds of details constantly floating around in your head. When you are in the middle of the listing, or the sale, where are those tasks? They, and the resulting need for decisions about when to accomplish them, are bouncing around in your head. Tasks + Decisions = Stress!

Having an automated to-do list for all your transactions takes all of the repetitive tasks out of your head, and puts them on your calendar, on the day that you need to do them! Because you decided once, when you created the plan, when you want to do the tasks, the number of decisions you have to make are also reduced tremendously. Things no longer fall through the cracks. Your mind is more clear and less stressed, and you literally do away with dozens of decisions every day.

It is not possible to appreciate how much of a difference this makes, until you do it! It’s like telling a seller how complicated Real Estate is. They can’t comprehend it until they do it.

Even if you have someone doing your transaction management, how much do they do? They don’t do everything you need to accomplish throughout your listing, or your side of the sales transaction.

2) I know some of you are sitting there thinking, ‘I use comprehensive lists!!!

I congratulate you on being that well organized! It’s more than most. I guarantee you though, after having helped many licensees move from ‘paper to plan’, that many of the tasks you do for a listing or sale, are not on those lists. And even if they were…

  • No detail should be on a paper list.
  • Paper lists get lost.
  • Paper lists can only be in one file, or on one desk, at a time.
  • Those same details, when in ‘the plan’, can be viewed by anyone at any time, without having to waste time locating it. No more – “OK, who has the Oak Lane file?
  • No more walking to someone else’s desk or file cabinet.
  • No more need for sticky notes, voice mails, etc.

One of the goals with activity plans is to have every single detail (to-do, letter, call) in the plan, anticipating the day when you either hire an assistant, or have to replace one. Every detail that is ‘in someone’s head’ becomes a potentially overlooked detail, a liability, and part of a learning curve, for the new assistant, or replacement. This translates to a loss of time to you, in that you have to communicate that detail to the new assistant, and/or do the backpedaling for them, because they missed it.

No activity plan can hope to take every detail into account. Every transaction is unique. That said, a good activity plan can take the vast majority of the transaction’s details into account, as the vast majority of transactions are the same to agreat extent for almost every transaction. More often than not, the assistant takes care of the plan items, and the agent takes care of the unique items.

3) Speaking of assistants; if you have an assistant – how long did it take to train them? How many hours did you lose in productive listing and selling time? What if they quit next month? You have to start all over again. If you have activity plans in place, their transition and learning curve will be a very small percentage of what you just went through.

I was with a client the other day that proudly displayed his ‘Operations Manual’, which was what his assistant was supposed to use to do their job. If you’ve ever written an ‘Operations Manual’ you know that the day after you get it done, it’s well on it’s way to becoming obsolete.

Some of the above mentioned software programs enable you to have ‘Notes’ in each task, which you can use to describe click-by-click, how to edit the letter for that activity; how to print the report in that activity; what that activity is telling them to do, why they are doing that activity, and so on. They can be used as a “Dynamic Operations Manual”. This eliminates a tremendous amount of training time.

The difference is that with a paper operations manual, it inevitably becomes useless, because it is not kept current. Using the activity plans, and the notes in the activities, means you can edit/change/update that particular activity on the fly, and it’s automatically incorporated into any future ‘launch’ of that plan. It’s extremely easy, and therefore likely, that the plans will be kept up to date.

4) If the licensee wants to walk out of the office and review the progress of a transaction, it can be printed out, and every detail is in the report. Nothing is in anyone’s head. Nothing is on a separate paper list.

5) If you do not have an assistant, and you ask someone to step in for you for a day, 2, or more; everything is there. All in one place.

Next time:

  • How do you create plans
  • To-do’s & Not To-do’s


Announcing “Trans-Plans” Listing & Closing Plans

Agent Office Activity Plans & Letters for Listings & Closings

  • Two sets of plans

  • One set of letters from ‘me’, one from ‘us’

  • Over 500 activities per set

  • Most activities have extensive notes

  • 28 letters you need to send

  • Installs all plans & letters  in 7 clicks

  • Calls you need to make

  • To-do’s you need ‘to do’

  • MUCH more than ‘just’ transaction management

  • Newer agent or assistant? This is a “must have”!

“It’s a dynamic operations manual

for the listing & sale process!”

Click here for the rest of his comments…

Chris Newell

Are you where you want to be with regards to being organized?  When you take a listing, or sell a home, are you confident that the entire transaction will flow smoothly?

Was your original intention when you bought Agent Office, to get better organized?  If you haven’t put together your Activity Plans for Listing & Sales Transaction Management in the Plan Manager yet, what’s going to change to make that happen?

THIS will be that catalyst that will make it happen!

I’ve taught many hundreds of agents how to create “Activity Plans” in Agent Office.  VERY few of them have ever made the time to sit down and create the activity plans that will help them organize their listing & sales transactions, and/or provide an automated list to tell  their assistant what is expected of them.  Why?  Because it is extremely time consuming to create the lists of activities, and write the letters that you need to go with them.  These two sets of plans comprised of over 500 tasks per set install in 7 clicks, and already have the overwhelming majority, if not virtually all of the tasks you need to do, and the associated letters you need to facilitate the transactions.

If you have an assistant – how long did it take to train them?  How many hours did you lose in productive listing and selling time?  What if they quit next month?  You have to start all over again.  If you have Activity Plans in place, their transition and learning curve will be a very small percentage of what you just went through.

If you don’t have an assistant now, what happens when you’re ready for one?  If you have the plans in place, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

How about stress?  Why is this business so stressful?   Did you ever sit down and really evaluate why it is?  Well, a good many years ago I did.  There are obviously many reasons, but maybe the biggest one is because you have hundreds and hundreds of details constantly floating around in your head.  Even if you have lists on the inside of your file jackets, they only cover the surface of the myriad of details you keep in your head.  And using paper lists involves looking at them over and over again, and each time you look at them, you have to make decisions about which of the tasks on that list, you have to accomplish that day.  And that’s just for one property.  Then you have to open the next file, and make decisions for that property.  The number of details, and the number of decisions you have to make, add up to stress!

Having an automated to-do list for all your transactions takes all of those tasks out of your head, andputs them on your calendar, on the day that you need to do them!  Because you decided once, when you created the plan, when you want to do the tasks, the number of decisions you have to make are also reduced tremendously. Things no longer fall through the cracks.  Your mind is more clear and less stressed.  And you literally do away with dozens, if not hundreds of decisions, every day.  It is not possible to appreciate how much of a difference this makes, until you do it!  I know – from personal experience, and from hearing from people that I’ve created plans with in the past.

Trans-Plans is an extremely comprehensive set of Activity Plans, and the letters to go with them, that will enable you, your assistant, or your team, to be virtually instantly organized from listing date to closing date, and beyond.  AND the majority of the tasks in the plans have detailed descriptions of what each task is for/about, AND there are many handy tips on how to improve your business, by implementing new ideas, new services, and referencing Web sites.

Just load in the plans & letters in one quick step, delete the tasks you do not do in your business, add one here and there if there is something you do that is not already there, and you’re ready to go!  In just a few hours, you’ll be more organized than you have ever been in your entire career!  THIS IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION!

These plans are a compilation of “Activities” put together from several places.  The first is my own business, when I was an active agent.  In my last year I did 43 transactions.  Some agents did more, many did less, but it was certainly enough to be able to construct, and implement, and refine these core listing and transaction management “plans”.  My plans were then expanded when I automated an operation for an agent that did 140 transactions that year.

Additionally, they continued to improve by expanding them even more, with input from the many agents and teams around the country with whom I’ve worked over the years, who were kind enough to share theirs with me.  When I went out and built plans together with my clients, the end result was ‘Trans-Plans’, a combination of the ever expanding list I brought with me, and the tasks that they did in their market, which were in addition to what I had.

Typically when an agent purchases an Agent Productivity software or service, they add their contacts, and maybe use the calendar, etc., but they rarely make the time to sit down and create their own“Activity Plans”, or “Campaigns”.

That’s exactly why I decided to create this package.

I teach online interactive Agent Office classes.  While we are doing the Agent Office classes, agents kept seeing my plans and letters, and they kept asking if I would make them available.  So I did.

Click here for a letter I received from a client that I did my Tech-Speed program with.   It speaks to how much he likes using activity plans in Agent Office.