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“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


Agent Office vs. Top Producer – Your opinion please?

Disclosure. I am a reseller for Agent Office.  I am currently working on affiliating with TP, as I believe it can be a more appropriate choice, depending upon one’s needs. That said, those of you that know me and my site, know that I am a reseller for several other CRM tools, and make a list of yet many others readily available for comparison. I try to fit the person/team with the tool that will best meet their specific needs and preferences.

It’s been a while since I asked the following question, which is why I am now asking again.  I would like to hear from anyone that has used BOTH Agent Office, at least as current as version 7.0, AND Top Producer 7i, for at least 6 months each. There are probably not very many of you, so if you are one of them, PLEASE post, or e-mail me off-list, or I may not get any ;-)

I realize there are many people that “love the one they’re with”, and I appreciate that.  I know there are many people that are using something else, and that’s great. The research I’m doing though, only pertains to AO & TP users that have used both.   I know the upsides and downsides of the following, so I don’t need to hear about them.

  • Cost analysis – monthly & free tech support & upgrades, vs. one time fee and pay for tech support & upgrades as you decide you want them
  • Backups done automatically for you vs. having to back up
  • Online access vs. not

What I would like to hear is comments about:

  • Features that one has that the other does not
  • Stability – which one works better with no functional glitches. Does it work all the time without freezing, giving you a blue screen, or simply not doing what it’s supposed to do.
  • Usability – Moving from screen to screen; finding what you want quickly; doing what you want without too many key strokes.
  • Ease of learning – compare one to the other in that regard. Which one was easier for you to pick up?
  • Flexibility – If it doesn’t already do what you want, can you usually devise a work-around to accomplish it?
  • Which company was better at listening to you when it comes to implementing suggestions, if you ever officially made any.
  • Tech support – good bad or indifferent for each.
  • ANYTHING else you care to comment on.

Please remember.  I’m asking for comparisons from users of both.  Not comparisons from research that was done, or from experimenting with them for a trial period.  There is some value in research, but it has very little compared to someone that has actually used both in a production environment.  If you didn’t use both for at least 6 months, AO 7.0 or newer, and TP 7i, please state as much, so people here can weight it accordingly, and so I know whether or not to include it on my site.

My AO versus TP page has gotten a great deal of traffic over the years. Thousands of people have read posts about favoring one over the other.  Your posts here on this subject will help many of you now, and in the future, make your own decisions. So if you could take a few minutes, you will be doing me a favor, but also thousands of other agents around the world that go to that page for information. Thanks!

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.