If you found a great way to do something or maybe found a feature that you didn’t know existed, share it!

Are you sure you can’t do that in your Real Estate CRM?

Maybe this is a plea to CRM users everywhere to make sure you are correct, before you do a disservice to yourself and others.

If you think there is something you cannot do in your Real Estate CRM, don’t just think you can’t – find out definitively that you can’t. No matter how well you think you know the software, call support. And remember you are not trying to confirm that you are right; you are trying to figure out how to do what you want to do. Ask them how to do something and if they say you can’t that’s fine.  But then call back and confirm it again with a different support person. Support people are human and sometimes don’t know what they don’t know, don’t like to admit that they don’t know something, or are too lazy to make sure.

I was doing a webinar the other day and someone in the audience was using a CRM and complaining that they couldn’t do some things and being negative about the CRM. In no time it was shown that it could do all of the things he wanted. It was already too late though because the negative feeling was out there in the room about that CRM. The participants perceptions of that CRM were forever damaged and in the future they will find themselves saying something along the lines of “I can’t remember specifically what it was but I think I’ve heard bad things about that CRM.” I hear it every day. That’s what prompted me to write this article.

Making uncorroborated statements can be a damaging thing in a couple ways. The obvious one is that you could be doing what you want but you aren’t, only because you think you can’t. If this happens with too many things, you end up starting to consider moving to another CRM. I get calls all the time from agents who are considering moving to another CRM because they are not happy with their current one. It’s also not uncommon to discover that their dissatisfaction is unfounded because they can do what they want after all. Almost without exception it is because they never called support to confirm it. Sometimes it even happens that support told them they could not do something but I showed them that they actually could. Hence my advice earlier about calling back again if you’re told you can’t do it.

The other problem with assuming is that when you tell other people incorrectly that your CRM can’t do a particular thing, you could be discouraging someone from getting it when it is actually the best one for them.

Another thing to consider is that even though you may not be able to do exactly what you want; is there a way that you can accomplish the same end result in a different way? Is there a work-around or maybe even a better way to do it? This is another common issue but it is most common with people who have used other CRMs before the one they are currently using. People often say “I could do ‘X’ in my old CRM but I can’t do it in this one that I’m looking at.” We often sit down and discover that the new one can not only do it, but sometimes do it better. It’s sometimes difficult to see that it is better when you are used to doing it differently.

Sometimes when I write something like this, by the time I think it is about to end, I discover that another point has evolved. I guess this is one of those times. I wrote another article about being very careful about listening to other people’s opinions. This turns out to be yet another reason why that is true. Without meaning to, this is another case where people can mislead you and you will have no idea that you are being mislead.

Let’s be careful out there :)

Do you use the transaction section in your CRM?

Do you use your CRM for just contact related things, or do you also use the Property/Transaction section? There are many benefits to it so if you don’t already, you should consider using it.

It always amazes me how few people do. And far less use transaction management plans.  Most people think of these types of plans as being comprised of tasks that their office transaction coordinator or attorney, or title company or you name it, does. But what I mean by these plans encompass all of those tasks that they do, but then all the rest of the things you do as well. You may have different people taking care of a good many things for you, but they certainly don’t do everything. If they did, you would literally have nothing to do after the contract was signed. That said, although they are a major part of the Property/Transaction sections, we’re not going to talk about Transaction Management activity plans. I did that not too long ago. Check out Trans-Plans.

You have a tab or section in your CRM with a screen or screens where you track all your contact information, but what about the section that helps you keep track of your listings and closings? Do you use it? Should you be using it? The better CRMs have a section in the Property/Transaction section that helps you track the Parties to the transaction. This is the place where you are able to select a contact record of the person and add them as a party to a transaction. This is one of the great things about this section.

If you have any of the following CRMs, they all have a Parties section. Top Producer, IXACTContact, WiseAgent, TribusCRM, AllClients, MyRealEstateTools, MyRedTools, and RealFutureCRM to name a few.

As a matter of practice, aside from your past clients, prospects, sphere of influence, etc., you should also have parties affiliated with your past transactions in your CRM. That would include the loan originator/mortgage company, attorney, buyer, seller, home inspector, homeowners insurance company, termite inspector, appraiser, etc. Over the years you’ll end up with a comprehensive database for your area comprised of a significant percentage of those kinds of people and companies. The longer you do it, the less often you’ll have to key in a new one with each new transaction, and the faster and easier it will be to find their phone numbers, e-mail addresses, web sites, etc. Another benefit of having them in your database is that you will be able to see what transactions they participated in and what you thought about them at the time. Did they help, or were they a pain to work with? You should have that in your notes. If you were smart you would have made a note saying they needed to be contacted frequently or they might drop the ball. Or you might have which people were better to deal with in the company and why, or for what aspects of the deal.

The normal routine for most agents when they are working on a closing file is to bring out the paper file and look around in the file until they find the affiliated party’s information that they need, if it is even there.  Even if it only takes one minute, it’s much longer than having them in the CRMs property/transaction record. And you know full well that sometimes it takes far more than a minute. And you typically have to contact most of them more than once, which means going back to the file and finding them each time.

Once you add them as a party to a transaction, they are all right there in one place, just one or two clicks away from calling them or e-mailing them, or getting to their web site. You will save many minutes on each transaction just by having all the different information quickly available in one spot. You can’t imagine how much more you can get done in a shorter period of time when that’s the case.

That’s one advantage. Another is that when they are added to the parties tab, they become a permanent part of the record, and in some cases they can be sent out to your client for reference in a report.

You can also e-mail all or selected parties all at once, and include documents if necessary.

If you’re currently using a CRM, you know how much more quickly you can retrieve information about contacts then you could before.  So this is just an extension of that same wonderful efficiency. Check it out!

What are the sources of your business?

Do you know exactly where all of your business comes from, in detail, such that you can use it to identify your strengths and weaknesses and evaluate your advertising spending?

For the purposes of this article we are talking about non-referral business such as ad calls, sign calls, open house visitors, FSBO’s , Expireds, online leads, affinity groups, etc.

Many agents when asked say they don’t need to track the source because most of their business is from referrals. That’s all well and good except that very few actually have numbers to back that up. Most do not take the time each year to be able to say “I closed 34 sides last year and 22 came from personal referrals”.

22 referrals leaves 12 sides or 35% of the business that came from other sources. The point is to not leave evaluation of your business to your gut. You really want to know exactly where your business is coming from.

In this case, five of your transactions came from print advertising. Seven came from open houses, and none came from floor/opportunity time. You don’t do FSBO’s or Expireds. And you have a Web site but it’s like a billboard in the middle of nowhere. You get nothing from it. That’s a whole nuther topic.

So of the five properties you sold as a result of print advertising, which periodicals did they come from? If you use a CRM that has a Source field, make sure to use the name of the periodical as opposed to just “Print Ad”. That way you can run a report at the end of the year that tells you that all five of the print ad sales came from the same magazine. You’re also paying for ads in two other magazines but you got nothing from them. So do you keep advertising in the other two? Maybe you decide that one of them is worth the visibility, even though there is no return on investment. That’s fine, as long as you now know that’s exactly all you’re getting out of it. And maybe you decide to drop the other one.

You spent 20 hours prepping for and sitting open houses, and made $12,000 from it. Is it worth it? Maybe, maybe not. What are your other sources paying you? You spent 150 hours on floor, and you made $0! What’s up with that? Either the quality/quantity of the floor calls are terrible, or you’re just not very good on the phone. So now maybe you should be thinking either you need to start doing some role playing coaching and practice on the phone, or maybe you take some of that time and spend it at open houses.

There are many more questions you could be exploring, but the point is that you would not be asking yourself these questions if you did not have a report showing you exactly where your business is coming from.

So if you can’t produce a list that says how much money you made, and specifically how you made it, then you’re not treating your business like a business. Yes – I’m going to trot out that tired old phrase. How about another one like “working on your business as well as in your business”. Another one that applies is about having a boat without a rudder. No source stats. No rudder. No way to get to the desired destination.

All Real Estate CRMs have a field in which to record the Source where your business came from. Unfortunately, few of them compile that information into a report. Often you just have to list your contacts and add up the sources. Agent Office does it, but that’s a dead product now. They have a report that grouped your sales by the source of the business. A better report would be to have a total $ figure for each source.

A nice simple but very useful report might look a little like this:

Homes & Living

Johnson, Howard & Lisa 123 Main St  $6,540

Horshaw, Jubal 86 W Chronicle Dr.  $4,443

Total     $10,983

Homes & Land

Hall, Darryl & Mary  67 W Darby St  $5,567

Total   $5,567

Grand Total      $16,550

Most CRMs don’t have the ability to generate these reports, or generate good reports because agents  don’t know to ask for it. Over the years I’ve made suggestions like this to the developers when we’ve talked and their response is usually the same. “No one has ever asked for that”. The CRM developers provide what the users ask for. So as people learn to ask for specific features, the vendors start providing them. Ya don’t ask, ya don’t get!

Some examples of Source Report capabilities, or lack thereof, in a few of my favorite CRMs:

Top Producer has a Source field, a Sub Source field and an Other Source field. The Source report however is in the Sales Pipeline portion of the program. There is a Pipeline Status Report.

source report

IXACTCONTACT has an Original Source field, and does have a report. It currently reports all Sources whether you have any business from that Source or not. Better would be if it only displayed sources you had done business from.

WiseAgent – You can list your contacts one source at a time and refine it by date but that’s about it. So you can get the info out, but it’s tedious. When asked, they said the pieces are in place and it’s now on their to-do list.

allClients – You can view a pie chart that shows percentages by date and by source but it’s all sources for all contacts, including none. So it’s not very useful.

So ask and ye may receive.

But even if you have to put it on a spreadsheet, strongly consider doing it. You can’t help but imporove your business when you have a new tool with which to evaluate it.

Is my CRM data safe? Part 2

So because you have a Web based CRM everything is hunky dory and you have no worries with regards to the safety of your data right? For the most part that is absolutely true. As always though, nothing is quite black and white. Generally speaking, Web based CRMs are safer for your data than desktop software installations, primarily because most agents are pretty bad at backing up their software.

I would place the odds of you losing your web based CRM data extremely low. I have spent a minimum of three to five hours with the majority of Real Estate CRM developers and CEO’s. I always raise this issue and they have all assured me that their data is backed up at a minimum of one other place off site. Most are at two. There are still two factors to consider though.

One is whether the CRM is stable. Will it always be there? What happens if you go to log in one day and the site is gone for good. No one responds to phone or e-mail. How do you get your data? You probably can’t. I’ve seen seven CRMs go out of business to date. In all but one case I was not even notified and I was affiliated with them as a reseller. It just happened again last week. I was affiliated with all of those seven, but I was not recommending them for various reasons, one of which was that they were not the most stable CRMs in my opinion. My point is that I was not able to determine if the users had ample notice to get their data out before the company shut its doors because I didn’t know any of the users. They may have all been properly notified but I just don’t know.

So what do you do to insure that you have your data if you suddenly can’t get access to it? Do regular exports. All CRMs have the ability to do an export. They vary significantly with regards to how many and what kind of fields can be exported. But they all allow basic contact information at the very least. So at least if you do periodic exports, you are assured that your inventory is safe.

Before you go off and start trying to do an export, there is one huge exception. Does your CRM synch to Gmail contacts, or your phone, or anywhere for that matter? If so, then you have that information already backed up and you don’t need to worry about doing exports for that information, as long as those databases are current and intact. The question then becomes, what other information does your CRM export, and do you want that information as well as your address book information.

OK now maybe we’re getting a little messy. What is synched where? What can I export? Do I need to export? The point is that at least now you’re aware that maybe you should be exporting your CRMs database and why.

The next thing of which to be aware is, can you recover from a mistake you made? By that I mean, what happens if you accidentally delete 100 contacts? Can the vendor get those back for you? Probably not. Or it may be that they can put you back to the day before. So you get your contacts back but you lose whatever you did in the interim. Or maybe they’ll charge you to put you back to the day before. Or maybe they can’t do anything to get those contacts back. So how do you answer that? Call them and ask. Then at least you’ll know where you stand. This is one instance where a desktop CRM is actually better. If you back it up yourself every day, you can easily recover to the day before by using the backup to do a restore. Not so with a Web based CRM. So you need to call them and ask “What happens if I accidentally delete 100 of my contacts? Can you get them back for me? Do I have any options?”

So here’s your homework.

Is my contact information available somewhere other than in my Web based CRM, such as on my phone or in Google Contacts?

Do I want insurance that I will have as much other information as possible available from my CRM if they go out of business?

If so, I need to learn how to export my database and set up a recurring reminder to do it weekly/monthly.

What happens if I accidentally delete something and I want it back? Call my CRM vendor and find out.

via Is my CRM data safe? Part 2.

Is your CRM data Safe? Part 1 of 2

Part 1 will deal with Desktop CRMs. Part 2 will deal with Web based CRMs.

Let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. Using the words database, backup and export is a little abstract. In more meaningful terms, we are talking about your livelihood. We are talking about your inventory. You’ve spent anywhere from a couple years to several decades creating an inventory of people who have given, or may give you business. Without them, you have to start all over again. You can re-create some of it with many hours of aggravating effort, but you will never replace all of it. And all that time you spend re-creating it is 100% needlessly wasted time that grates on your every nerve while you’re doing it. It’s one of the most depressing things that can ever happen in your business life. The most religious backer-uppers are the ones who have been there. They know they never want to go through that again. Have your attention now? J

It’s ironic that some people think that because their CRM is on their computer, that their data is safer than if it were a web based CRM. The reality is the opposite. Web based CRM data is backed up automatically in at least two different places. Can you say the same of your desktop database?

With regards to those of you who are using a web based CRM, don’t get too complacent. That’s part 2.

Let me define what I mean by desktop versus web based. Desktop means that you install the software on your computer. It is not accessible anywhere other than on the computers upon which it is installed. Web based means you have to be online and log on to your CRM via the Internet. It is not accessible otherwise.

The desktop CRM that has far and away the most users is Agent Office so I’ll use that as an example, but this is applicable to any desktop CRM. If you have a desktop CRM installed on only one computer, that’s the only place your data is unless you back it up and have it stored somewhere else. By somewhere else I mean on a removable storage device such as a thumb drive. And the only way to be 100% safe is to have that thumb drive stored somewhere other than where your computer is.  If your computer is in your house and your house burns down with the computer and the thumb drive in it, you’re out of luck. I know. I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Yeah, what are the odds?”  You don’t think that can happen? Then why do you have homeowners insurance?

Many of you may already know that, but even if you are one of the wise and few who store your backups off-site, it still may not be safe.  In the case of Agent Office, what happens if it stops working and you can’t get it working again? You may say, “No worries – I have a backup”. Not necessarily. The only thing that can access your data with an Agent Office backup, is Agent Office. The backup file is in a proprietary data format that can only be read by using Agent Office. That backup is useless otherwise. The exception is if you can find a database expert that can dissect the backup file and get your data out of it for you. That will be expensive if you can find someone qualified to do it.

Agent Office is no longer supported in any meaningful way so if it crashed, you may be out of luck. If you have some other kind of desktop software and it is also no longer supported, you may be in the same fix.

In order to insure that you will always have access to your data, you need to do an export in addition to a backup. An export is something you do from within the software that creates a file in a data format that any number of programs can read or import. The most common file types are ASCII and CSV (Comma Separated Values). All Real Estate CRMs have an export function within them. That said, the data/fields that each different CRM will allow you to export varies dramatically.  In the case of Agent Office, you still have a problem because your backup contains all of your data, but an export only contains your basic contact information such as name, address, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. It does not export the contact’s notes or categories. There are two ways to get notes and categories out of Agent Office. That’s one of the services I provide so just call me if you need that.

So to summarize what you have to do if you want to be 100% safe:

You have to do regular backups and store them off-site

You also have to do regular exports in a common data format and store them off-site.

Ironically, the best way to insure that you do these things on a regular basis is to create a recurring event on your calendar in your CRM, reminding you to do it!

One of the most disturbing calls I get is when someone has not been backing up, or has been backing up but not doing regular exports, and their computer crashed. Or worse, they have been doing backups but they are backing up to the computer that has crashed. I am sometimes able to help, but more often have to tell them they are out of luck. Not a fun phone call.

I sincerely hope you take this article to heart and I never get a call of desperation from you. If this article is mostly Greek to you but you get the point and want to do something about it, that is one of the services I provide.

Before you buy a CRM, Consider the following: Part 3

Things that will take time:

Start with the contacts. Make sure all of them have a first and last name and at least an e-mail address or phone number. Optimally each contact with whom you have done or hope to do business with should have a source (Homes and Living, not ad call; a referral name if applicable, a company name (use the pick list/drop down); a physical address; a note that will jog your memory about who this person is and what you talked about, keeping in mind to use key words that you will be able to search on later. I.e.; ”… we will not be thinking about moving until Suzy graduates in June” and he mentioned that she is hoping to get a soccer scholarship.

Setting up a set of contact categories – learn how to minimize the number of categories by using one word and then doing saved searches. Buyer, prospect, investor, land, commercial – not buyer prospect, etc. For more detail about creating categories, click here.

Tweaking the drip campaign and transaction management e-mails/letters to fit your personality and market. The value is in the subject matter and organization/timing. Pick a plan that you will use for a hot buyer prospect. Launch it. Each day, commit to modifying at least one e-mail as it goes out rather than trying to make a block of time to modify an entire plan at once.

Creating and or modifying follow-up listing and closing transaction management plans. The listing and closing plans have to be all finished and ready to go before you start using any of them. Build them anticipating that you will have an assistant, even if you don’t plan on ever having one. Every single thing you do should be in the plan. Send an e-mail one to two weeks prior to closing summing up everything that should have been done to that point and is necessary for closing, to include what they should wear to closing.

Choosing a CRM:

Make a list of your wants and needs. The first question is whether you actually know what features are available. If you don’t, how can you know what you want? It’s like buying a house in Arizona without knowing what air conditioning is. You move in, discover it’s very hot, and then someone tells you about this amazing thing called air conditioning which you do not have. To understand what features are available, you may want to consider my book – Choosing and Using a Contact Manager

Understand that depending upon how much you want, you may not get all of it, or you may need to accept that the one that does everything you want also does some things that you do not need. It’s like saying you want a Mercedes but do not want cruise control. If you want the better overall package but do not want certain features that it also offers, simply do not use them.

Realize that Googling “Real Estate CRM” is not going to show you all of them. Some of them simply have horrible SEO and do not come up. There are a fair number of them on my site that I would not know about if they had not approached me. Over the years it has gotten to the point that when a new CRM is about to come out, they contact me directly to seek affiliation and the exposure that my site gains them.  http://GaryDavidHall.com has almost 40 of them, and a list of the ones that have gone out of business.  There are almost 50 in all, but I have opted not to affiliate with some of them for various reasons such as too many complaints,  or simply  a poor product. That is not to say there aren’t some good products out there with which I have not yet affiliated, but they are far and few between, and so new that it is unlikely that I would recommend them anyway. Unfortunately with a Real Estate CRM, brand new is almost always not a good way to go. There are a couple I recommend that are very new, but there are mitigating circumstances such that I believe they will continue to grow and survive.

As stated above, be wary of others opinions.

When visiting a vendor’s site and speaking with them, remember that they are biased towards their product. It may very well be the best one for you, but most of them will sell you on it regardless. It’s no different than any other single product sales scenario. Other than http://GaryDavidHall.com there are no sites on the internet that offer a selection of CRMs and have someone with whom you can speak who is knowledgeable about all of them, can tell you if it has the features you want, and can compare them. If you find someone else please let me know. I haven’t found one yet and I’ve been doing this for 14 years.

With regards to pricing, different CRMs operate differently. Due to my long time reputation and the fact that I offer and sell more CRMs than any individual, most have allowed me to offer either a better price and/or a longer trial period than anyone else, often including the vendor themselves. Some vendors mandate that all resellers charge exactly the same as they do so I am restricted to that as well. The bottom line is that literally no one can do better in price or terms or any other consideration. The only differences between buying through me vs. buying direct are:

If you have a problem with the CRM company itself, I have a great deal of influence with the majority of them due to our long term affiliations.

My unbiased help in selecting the one that suits your needs, not the one that suits the vendor’s needs.

I hope this helps you to decide whether you should have a CRM, and if so, how to find and learn one. In either case – good luck in your business!

via Before you buy a CRM, Consider the following: Part 3.

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.

Before you buy a CRM, consider the following: Part One

The decision to buy and use a CRM worth using is a little like getting married.

You don’t go into it thinking “I’ll give it a shot and see what happens”. If you’re not committed to it, break it off. You may not get your heart broken but at least you won’t waste your time and money. Before you even start looking into buying a CRM, make sure your attitude is that you’re in it for the long haul. Understand that at first it will take longer to do things in your CRM than it did on post-its and notepads. It will be frustrating at times. You have to keep the end game in mind. You have to believe that after you get over the hump, you’ll be faster and more efficient. You’ll see that finding people and information will be faster. You’ll be able to provide information to clients and affiliated parties faster. You’ll be able to target market like you never could before. If you stick with it, you will come to realize that it is a much better way to do business. But it takes enough of a commitment to get over that hump.

And unless you get an extremely basic one, contrary to what some of the CRM developers would like you to think, it is going to be weeks or months before you get to the point where it becomes natural to you and it becomes integral to your business. In some respects you are going to be developing new habits and changing the way you operate. Change can be frustrating, so patience and commitment is a requirement.

A Popular fallacy – you have to be in front of your computer all the time to use a CRM. I was doing almost 50 transactions a year in a state that rarely uses attorneys. I did not have attorneys who did most of the post contract work for me. I only had a part time assistant and a buyer “chauffer” and I managed to make the time to use my CRM just fine. Now more than ever CRMs are far more mobile. At a minimum; contact information, to-do’s and appointments can be put into your phone which will also appear in your CRM and vice-versa.

Another popular fallacy. Using a CRM to automate your business makes your business less personal and takes away from your face time with your prospects and clients. The opposite is true. Automating the mundane repetitive detailed aspects of your business makes you far more efficient, thereby giving you more time to prospect and maintain a presence with your past clients and prospects.

If all you’re going to do is use it as a glorified Rolodex, use Outlook or Gmail. Don’t bother wasting your time or money on a CRM.

But, if you want less stress, less mistakes, better service to your clients, less staff,  more compliments, and more referrals. Outlook or Gmail or Google apps are woefully inadequate.

What kind of commitment must you make?

The first key to full adoption of a CRM is consistent daily usage. If you can block out large chunks of time to learn the CRM in the beginning, that’s the best way to do it, as long as you continue to use it every day in between those blocks. Most people cannot do that enough times to learn it well and start using it regularly. What works better for the majority of people in the beginning is to commit to an hour a day first thing in the morning, EVERY day. If you schedule those hours through the day on various days, the vast majority of agents will break those appointments with themselves and never get in the rhythm of learning it and using it regularly. Initially, using the CRM is a chore that you have to do. Then it becomes something you want to do. Eventually you will find that your business revolves around it so the daily use will not be an issue. You’ll be on it every day by default, either on your phone or on your computer. You will enjoy using it every day, and it will not be a burden. It will become second nature. You will revel at the ease and speed with which you are able to retrieve information and accomplish your daily tasks.

It’s a commitment. The more a CRM will do for you, the longer it will take to learn. If you have realized that a CRM will expand your business and make it easier and better, it’s short-sighted to get something that you can learn very quickly, but is very limited. It defeats the purpose.

Why do you want one?:

If you are like many of the people who call me who are using Outlook or Gmail and finding them inadequate, you need to define why it is inadequate. What is also helpful is to know what can be done for you by using a CRM. See below.

Make a list of needs and wants. Selecting one can be essentially categorized into four groups; very basic, middle of the road; powerful; customizable and scalable. If you want to run your business like a business, you SHOULD want at least powerful.

Part 2: What will a CRM do for you?, Be wary of other agent’s opinions, Once you choose a CRM, STOP LOOKING at others.

CRM and selling your business

There are many reasons an agent should have a good CRM, but what is rarely talked about is the role one plays in the sale of your business.

Have you thought about selling your business? Is it in your long term plans? If so, do you have a CRM?

If you don’t, what are you going to sell? A spreadsheet with your  SOI’s basic contact information? Is that good enough for someone contemplating buying your business? It may well be for some, but how much is that worth compared to the alternative?

The whole concept of selling your business takes a concentrated effort to plan for the long term and has a lot to it. There are many factors but one factor is not really debatable; you will garner more interest and better terms if you have a CRM that includes not only the basic contact information., but a long term history of notes about the contact, print and e-mail communications, properties associated with the client, and documentation of your marketing efforts.

If you were buying someone’s SOI/book of business, which would you be willing to pay more for?

If you can easily show in detail, a consistent and organized system of follow-up and marketing, as well as provide a comprehensive view of your history with each contact, you are providing a very valuable asset to an interested party and your negotiating position is far stronger.

There are many agents who do a great deal of business without a CRM, but if they are planning to sell their business, they are in for a rude awakening with regards to the perceived value of it without one.

Just sayin’

via CRM and selling your business.

Top Producer Follow-up Coach

There’s a a great trend developing in the CRM industry. They are recognizing that one of our biggest pains is not being good at follow-up. We need someone or something in our face to make sure we get it done, and get it done in an organized and intelligent way.

Contactually may have been the first one to do it by having you separate your contacts in Buckets, which is just another way to say Categories. You would then tell the system how often you wanted to follow up with the people in each Bucket. Contactually is a good CRM if you want something pretty much strictly for follow-up,but not for marketing or transaction management. Top Producer is much more, but they have implemented something similar conceptually.

Top Producer Follow-up coach works with the data you have.  By scanning your data, Top Producer follow-up coach will intelligently bubble up 5 contacts that it thinks you ought to reconnect with.  Follow-up has been simplified, you can skip a contact if you don’t want to deal with them now, or you can further organize that contact by specifying the right pipeline status, contact types, or assignment if you’re on a team.

So you click on one of these suggested follow-ups and it opens a new window that allows you to do many things without having to click around.

You don’t have to open up a different window to do anything. It allows you to make a note of the phone call, e-mail them, schedule a follow up or skip for the time being and it will come up again later. You can change their contact type, or move them along in the Sales Pipeline.You can bang out a good number of calls quickly and clicking on Refresh brings up five more if you choose.

If you want to see it demonstrated live online just contact me and we’ll do it.