Before you buy a CRM, consider the following – Part 2

What can a CRM do for you?

If you use a powerful enough CRM, it can become the core of your business allowing you to be far more efficient, effective, creative, and organized than anyone can possibly be without one. No matter how good your paper lists are, or how organized you are, it is literally impossible to be as efficient without a CRM as it is with one. That is a bold statement, but one which can easily be proven with very few examples. Following is only a broad summary of examples. It would be impossible to list everything here..

  • Prospecting – Get suspects, turn them into prospects, and turn them into sales. Know who they are, what they want, and when they want it, all in significant and easily organized detail. It will remind you so you can capitalize on that information automatically. Some automatically keep your hottest leads in front of you and some remind you to stay in touch with your SOI and client base with phone call reminders at pre-designated time intervals.
  • 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 – Know where your business is coming from and spend 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 them in return.
  • Contact management – That means everyone including suspects, prospects, clients, vendors, friends, relatives, and neighbors. Know how to find any information on anyone, even from many years ago, with a few clicks virtually instantly.
  • Mail merges – Do all print or e-mail merging from within the CRM eliminating redundant external databases. Some allow you to see the open rate and other details via a backend tracking utility.
  • E-mail management – How many e-mails are in your inbox, or in an overburdened folder filing system? They should be with your contacts or with the property, where you can find them quickly and in context with your notes, appointments, and to-do’s, not in your e-mail inbox or in folders.
  • Document management – Store all documents and photographs relevant to a transaction with the transaction record and/or the contact record. If you are ever challenged legally, having a complete paper trail all in one location is invaluable. It’s like handing your accountant a box full of receipts versus a Quicken file at tax time. How long do you spend preparing for tax season? And if you have a team, you can stop playing “Who’s got the file” in your office.
  • Appointment management – The ability to not only have a history of when and where you had an appointment with someone, but also have the ability to note the substance of that appointment and be easily found, referenced, or reported in the future.
  • Transaction Management – Launch activity plans when you list or sell a house. This creates automatically generated to-do lists that tell you what you have to do for each transaction each day without having to go to each file and decide. If you have an assistant or a team, you can automatically distribute to your team members what they are responsible to do that day for each transaction.
  • Client reporting – Automatically generate reports via letter, e-mail, or web page, chronicling for your client what you have been doing for them, without doing any extra work. One even allows you to assign dollar values to each task, providing a running total of what you are spending to market their home.
  • Track and report showings history if you do not have a web based tool for it.
  • Mobility – At a minimum, you can have your contact and calendar information appear on your phone or tablet. Some allow for much more than that from your phone in a simplified version that is easy to see and use.

Be wary of other agent’s opinions:

Do not take someone else’s recommendation unless they are using it the same way you would use it. Given that it is rare that you will have that much insight into how someone else operates, that’s not likely. Going online and doing research will yield a plethora of opinions. “What is the best CRM” is a question that frequently gets asked all over the Internet. Many agents are happy to share with you that the one they found and are using is the best and they honestly want to help. Most of the time they think they are right. After all, they will tell you, they spent months or even years looking for the best one. They will tell you that they tried many and settled on this one. Firstly, there is a huge difference between using one and spending an hour or two, if that, reviewing one. The latter means the opinion they offer is not a qualified one and it really should not even be put out there. More often than not, when someone only trials it, they come away with a very incomplete sense of what it can and cannot do. Secondly, the one they settled on is the one that was best for them. Each agent has their own aptitude for using software, their own current needs, and their own future goals. The choice should be made based on your individual answers to these needs, not based on someone else’s.

Take whatever they say with a grain of salt. Most agents do not use much of a CRM and they are not well qualified to critique it. There are thousands of statements online that are either misleading or flat out incorrect. Also, many types of criticisms can be subjective and are made with a lack of perspective relevant to other CRMs capabilities. A perfect example is the oft repeated statement that Top Producer takes too many clicks to do simple tasks. While this used to be true, it’s not any more for the most part. When one agent was asked to be specific, it turned out that Top Producer actually took less clicks than any other CRM out there to perform the specific task they were complaining about. The user simply had never used another CRM and didn’t know that they were actually using the most efficient one out there in that respect.

Take whatever you read with a grain of salt for the same reasons, and don’t pay any attention to what you read unless it is a recently dated comment. Most CRMs change constantly so what you read may no longer be true. A perfect example would be somoene saying they like IXACTContact but decided not to use it because it wasn’t set up for teams. Just a couple months ago that would have been true, but no longer is.

When speaking with a CRM vendor, have your list of requisites ready. When they tell you “it can do that”, make sure they show you exactly how it does that by taking you online and walking you through the “click stream”. If the vendor cannot take you online and show you how it does it, contact me. I can show you virtually all of them.

Once you choose a CRM, STOP LOOKING at others.

You made a decision; you’re going to incur a significant learning curve; and if you move to another one, plan on incurring a second learning curve and losing all but your contact data.

After you have been using yours for a while it’s only natural to be curious about others when you hear them mentioned. If you can’t help but look at a different one because it apparently does some things yours does not, so be it. If you are tempted to switch, make a list of every single feature you are using in your current CRM. Then verify that you can do all of those things with the new one just as efficiently. Then look at the features it has that your current one does not. Then you pose the question; does the new one do everything I am used to, and do enough more to warrant a new learning curve and what data I will lose in the move? If the answer is favorable on both counts, then you have my permission to switch J

Be prepared for pain and frustration

It will be painful and slow in the beginning, but once you get over the hump, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it. One of the most difficult concepts to internalize is that in some cases it takes a little bit longer to key things in to the CRM than it did to just write it down somewhere. If it takes longer – how is it more efficient? One reason is because everything is easier to find later on. Another would be that having it all in one place allows you to easily illustrate what a great job you are doing to a client. It also makes it easier to defend yourself in litigation if necessary. It makes it easy to automatically, without doing any more work or keying at all, produce status reports for your clients and see where you stand in the transaction. It makes it easier to shoot out an e-mail to a group of people with a special interest. An ad in the paper says there is a half price greens fees special at Doylestown Country Club in September. It will literally take less than five minutes to send an e-mail to all your golfers that will look like it was prepared especially for them as a quick personal note/favor.

You are going to develop new habits to change the way you store information. Whenever possible, key it into your phone or directly into the CRM instead of writing it down and then keying it in later. It’s a duplication of effort. The more you do this, the faster you will become. No more sticky notes or desk blotters. Have one notebook that goes everywhere with you. It should be the only place you write anything down. Then when you get time, on at LEAST a daily basis, you debrief the notebook and key it in, lining things out in the notebook as you key them in to the CRM.

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