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

New affiliation with Contactually!

“There is a major buzz around the Internet on this one, and with good reason. So I am proud to announce my new affiliation with Contactually.

Although I feel it is my job to counsel agents that they should be using their CRM to truly run many aspects of their business, including transaction management, it often falls on deaf ears. They just don’t want something that involved. Many agents I speak with are just tired of following up too late with people, only to find that they have lost out on a potential listing or sale. If that’s your primary pain point and all you want is something to really keep you on top of your prospects and clients, this may well be the tool you’ve been looking for. This puppy helps you easily organize how and when you want to follow up with people. Then it becomes an ‘in your face’, ‘this is what you said you wanted to do now do it’ kinda program. It then shows you exactly what you have and have not accomplished. If you want an intelligent automated accountability coach for sphere of influence prospecting and follow-up, you want to check this one out. Oh – and if you already use WiseAgent or a number of other CRMs, it works in concert with it.”  – Gary

Click here to find out more, trial, or purchase.

Listing & Closing Checklists for WiseAgent!

People have been asking when my “Trans-Plans” Listing & Closing Plans & E-mails/Letters would be ready for Wise Agent. I’m happy to announce that they are ready! The folks at Wise Agent have been working diligently on it and they are now available. You can see the details or purchase them by clicking here.

Trans-Plans is an extremely comprehensive set of activity plans/checklists and a set of e-mails/letters that enable you and/or your assistant to stay on top of your listings and closings like a truly organized professional. Regardless of how much help you have, these plans will ensure smoother transactions and higher client satisfaction with everyone always on the same page.

If you have been considering trialing WiseAgent  I have negotiated an extended trial of 45 days, and if you end up purchasing it though my link, the Trans-Plans E-mails and letters are included as a bonus.

Wise Agent now joins a growing list of CRMs that have formatted Trans-Plans to automatically install into their program.

That list includes:

Feeel free to call and see what they look like and how they work in your CRM!

What’s your e-mail reputation?

Do you know that if you are sending an e-mail regularly to your Sphere of Influence, but you are not doing it responsibly, you could be doing a great deal of damage to your domain name’s e-mail reputation?

If you’re not following up with your SOI consistently, you’re losing money in lost referrals and repeat business. If you are, and you’re using e-mail as one method of doing so, are you doing it responsibly? If not, you could end up on various e-mail server’s blacklists, and that is not somewhere you want to be. That could stop all of your e-mails from getting to that client, and possibly anyone else who happens to be using that server as well. And servers share blacklists sometimes, so it could get worse.

By responsible I mean are you using an e-mail service that provides an unsubscribe link? As long as you are doing that at a minimum you’re protecting yourself to a degree. What you really want to be doing though is making sure that if someone unsubscribes or labels your e-mail as spam, that you remove them from your CRMs e-mail list . If you’re monitoring your outgoing e-mail with a good service, you’ll also know when e-mails “bounce”. If a former client’s e-mail bounces or is undeliverable, it gives you a good excuse to call them to “update your records”.

If you’re not already monitoring the delivery of your e-mail you should start. If you have e-mail addresses going back for years that you have never checked, you could have a high percentage of bad ones. If you decide to start doing regular e-mailings and you use those bad ones over and over, that’s when the potential for being blacklisted comes in.

Your biggest asset is your past client list, so shouldn’t you do your best to maintain it’s integrity?

Workflows and 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? Your production went down did it not? And now if that assistant quits next month you have to start all over again. One way to minimize the time it takes to train a new assistant is to have an Operations Manual. The problem is that If you have ever written an Operations Manual you know that the day after you get it done and printed up, it is already on its way to becoming obsolete.

A much better way is to have activity plans in place in your CRM. The new assistant’s time to transition into their new job and the learning curve will be a very small percentage of what you just went through, which means you save a great deal of time and money.

Some CRMs enable you to have Notes in each task in the activity plan which you can use to describe click-by-click, how to accomplish that task. It can tell how to edit the letter/e-mail for that activity; how to print the report in that activity; what that activity is telling the assistant to do, why they are doing that activity, and so on. The notes section of the activity can be used as a Dynamic Operations Manual. This eliminates a tremendous amount of training time, and eliminates the need for a traditional operations manual for that set of tasks.

The difference is that with a paper operations manual in a small overworked team, 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 is automatically incorporated into any future launch of that plan. It is extremely easy and takes very little time, and therefore it is more likely that the plans will be kept up to date.

Also keep in mind when you are building your activity plans for listings and closings, that they should be extremely comprehensive. The goal is to prevent the outgoing assistant from having anything in their head, that is not in the activity plan. Any task they do regularly for any listing or closing should be a part of the plan. If it’s not set up that way, things will inevitably fall through the cracks because that person is not there to remember to do it. You wind up having to closely supervise the process again until you finally build the plans correctly – comprehensively.

To put it in perspective, the Buyer Closing Plan in my Trans-Plans has 117 tasks in it. So you can expect one that you build to have at least 60 to 80 tasks and probably more. The point is not that it’s a contest to see how many you can cram in there. It’s just that that is how many things you do almost each and every time you close with a buyer. If you do it, it goes in the plan.

via Activity Plans and Assistants.

Buyer preparation email

There is usually no shortage of phone calls and questions coming from the client just prior to closing. Two things I always tried to accomplish throughout my transactions was to keep the client informed, and to reduce time consuming/unneccessary phone calls to a minimum by doing so. I used a Buyer Preparation Email or letter to accomplish this.

Following is an e-mail/letter that is in my Trans-Plans Listing and Closing Plans. I would send this out about ten days to two weeks prior to closing/settlement.  It’s a template e-mail and like all template e-mails, it can’t be perfect for everyone’s personality and market. But it’s a good start that you can use after you tweak it! Just remove what is not applicable to you and your market, and it should also give you some ideas about what to add that is missing for you.

__________________________________________________________________

Settlement day is almost here!  I’m sending this e-mail to recap some details I’ve brought up throughout the process, just in case I missed something, or you’ve forgotten something.  Following is a list of things you must accomplish prior to and on settlement/closing day.  Remember – settlement/closing day is a legal proceeding.  The following items, if not accomplished, CAN prevent settlement/closing from occurring on time.

1)  Remember to bring your drivers license or some type of official photo I.D. to the settlement/closing table with you.

2)  You must have a “Bank” or “Cashiers” check made payable to your title company.  I will call you 3-5 days prior to settlement with the amount you need to bring.

3)  Call the title company and ask them to explain to you your options for “How do I take title to the property?”

4)  You should have a one year PAID homeowners insurance policy by now.  A copy of the “Declaration” page should be faxed to the mortgage company.

5)  Some people have asked me in the past if they needed to be “dressed up”, for settlement.  Absolutely not!  Most people have been and will be moving and getting dirty.  Wear whatever you like within reason.

6)  If you have not already, you will receive a written notice of the time, date, and location of settlement/closing.  I will have discussed this with you by now.

7)  Before settlement/closing, you will do a “Pre-settlement Inspection” at which time you will be checking the home to make sure all the systems are still functional. You will be doing things like opening windows, flushing toilets, checking water pressure and temperature, checking the heat and air conditioning, etc. There is a good likelihood the sellers will not be there.  There will be plenty of time to talk to the sellers during settlement/closing, to learn about the idiosyncrasies of your new home and neighborhood.

8)  Sometimes, due to prior settlements/closings running overtime, there are delays.  Please anticipate that possibility.  Settlement should take approximately 60 to 90 minutes once it starts. Sometimes there are temporary issues that will extend that time. This is not common but it is not unusual either.  If something unforeseen comes up, I will deal with it.  That’s why I’m there.

9)  Make sure all your utilities/services have been turned off where you live now, but make sure they stay on through the day of settlement. Make sure you have started your utilities/services at your new home as of the day of settlement/closing if that is when you intend to move in.  To include: Electric, phone, mail, trash, cable T.V., water, and sewer(sometimes our office will initiate water/sewer if you cannot).

10)  CRITICAL!  Everyone that is on the mortgage must be at the settlement/closing table if prior arrangements have not been made!

Please feel free to call with any questions you may have about anything at all. And please know that it’s normal to be nervous, so that’s OK.  I’m here for you!

Target Marketing

Are you target marketing? Not if you don’t keep the right kind of information on your sphere of influence in your database.

What if you used categories or some other searchable field in your CRM to store information like hobby, alma mater, favorite kind of food, favorite sport, favorite team, favorite kind of books, favorite kind of movies, favorite actor, etc.

You need to get into the habit of asking those kinds of questions when you’re working with your clients. It can’t happen overnight, but over the months and years you will develop an extremely valuable set of demographics for your client base.

You could wake up in the morning, read your local news, and see that the Doylestown Country Club is offering  a discount on greens fees.

You open your CRM and create a quick merge e-mail.

——————————————

Hi (merge field first name),

I know you’re a golfer and I just saw that the Doylestown Country Club is offering half off greens fees on Thursdays and Fridays for April and May.

Just thought I would let you know in case you wanted to take advantage of it.

Best Regards,

(Your signature, which includes some reference to loving referrals)

——————————————-

You then do a quick search in your CRM and find that you have 37 people that are golfers. You click send and that e-mail goes out to them.

You just did a very high quality touch to 37 people that is very personal. Most of them will probably think it was sent just to them.

How long did it take? Once you get it down – literally about 5 minutes for the entire process.

Okay so that was only 37 people. Tomorrow you see that there is a new Thai restaurant opening locally…

via Do you Target Market?.

Shadow an agent using CRM

Why are Real Estate specific CRMs promoted as opposed to Outlook or other generic CRMs? Is it really worth having one? What real benefits are there? The best way to answer these questions is to see an example of what they can do for you in a real life setting, so let’s do that. We’ll shadow an agent using CRM software to its potential.

We will now walk through a scenario made possible by using a CRM solution to its maximum potential. It is important to note that there are several CRMs available today that will do the vast majority of what follows. This is no futuristic pie in the sky dream. Agents organized with an existing CRM who look far too calm to be doing as much business as they do, do this every day. The author was doing most of this as far back as the early 1990’s closing 40 – 50 transactions per year with one part time assistant and a buyer agent. The only major difference was paper versus e-mail.

There are many misconceptions people have of what it takes to run your business with a CRM. Two are:

You have to live in front of your computer for this to become a reality. If that were the case, then how do others do it? How do agents with no assistant do 30 or 40 or more transactions a year and still manage to accomplish the following scenario? The reason they can is that doing the following actually gives them more time to get everything done. And with the increasing capabilities of phones and tablets, much of the necessary interaction can be done on the road during downtime.

Having to put information into a computer rather than just writing it down somewhere takes much more time. The reality is that you are simply re-learning where and when you record information. And if there is extra time required to input information, the retrieval of that information ends up becoming far more efficient, negating any additional time required for the former. Add to that the fact that you can service your clients far better because once the information is put into the CRM, generating detailed reports for the client, and providing other services you have not been doing to date, all automatically, becomes possible. Yet another benefit becomes immediately clear when you have a team that requires communication of the status of prospects and transactions.

Ask anyone who has internalized and uses a CRM to run their business and they will tell you that it is infinitely superior to paper in countless ways.

Let’s start it with an open house on Sunday. You meet a prospect, Suzy Stickler at the open house and determine that you want to follow up with her, especially because her home is in your geographic farm. A good idea by the way, is to hand your open house visitors a clipboard with one visitor form on it. It turns out that people are significantly more likely to complete it when they have the clipboard and pen in their hand, and have to return it to you. So while you are at the open house, you put her contact information into the CRM. You then launch your Open house medium buyer follow-up activity plan. In the plan you set Day Zero in the plan as Sunday, the day you met her.

Open House Medium Buyer Plan – Day 1 – You open your CRM on Monday morning and on  yourTo-Do Today screen there is a button next to where it says 37 e-mails due out today. You click on that button that says Process all, and those template e-mails are all sent out to the various individuals in the many plans you have running. One of them was to Suzy Stickler. It was a pre-selected e-mail from your activity plan that is individually addressed To: SuzyStickler@ISP.net. The e-mail starts out withDear Ms. Stickler, It was a pleasure meeting you at my open house at 37 Maple Avenue yesterday, etc., etc. Note that it was not necessary to key in her e-mail address or the open house address into that e-mail. It automatically filled that information in, because it merged it automatically because you keyed it into her contact record on Sunday. You will never have to key it anywhere again in any of the correspondence you have with her, to include e-mails, letters, envelopes, fliers, post cards, or contract forms.

Day 3 – You open your CRM and part of your To-Do Today screen says 16 Phone Calls. One of them has Suzy Stickler’s name, and a description that says OH Medium Buyer – First Follow-up call. You click on Suzy’s name in that phone call reminder and it opens her contact record, and you see that she got the e-mail you sent, and she opened it. If you had a partner or assistant and you had decided to allow it, they would be able to read that e-mail in Suzy’s contact record on their computer as well. NoCC’ing back and forth would be necessary any more. So you click on her phone number, it opens Skype, dials her phone number, and pops open a box that says Phone Log on it. It has the time and date already keyed in. You speak with Suzy, this call being to see if you can help her, or to simply re-enforce her memory of you. You then key the important parts of your conversation into that notes box that popped up. That becomes a permanent part of her record that anyone on your team with permission can readily see from his or her computer. It is no longer necessary to be running around the office looking for the file to get that information. If the information were in the file at all, it would likely be on a sticky note – somewhere in that mess.

Day 4 – You open your CRM and part of your To-Do today screen says 12 Letters Due out today. You click on that, and on an option that says Process all, and those letters are printed out, followed by the envelopes. One of them was to Suzy Stickler. It was a pre-selected letter that is addressed specifically to her and starts out with Dear Ms. Stickler, It was a pleasure speaking with you. Just a reminder, we met at my open house on 37 Maple Avenue on Sunday the 14th. I am writing to make sure you have my contact information. Enclosed please find a business card magnet with my info on it. I realize your search is several months out, so I’ll give you some time now, and follow-up in the future if that’s OK. etc., etc.

Day 20 – You open your CRM and part of your To-Do today screen says 9 Phone Calls. One of them has Suzy Stickler’s name and a description that says OH Medium Buyer – Second Follow-up call. You click on Suzy’s name and it opens her contact record and you look at her history. You see the e-mails and letters that she received from you and you open her phone log and refresh your memory about your conversations with her. You click on her phone number, it opens Skype, dials her phone number, and pops open a box that says Phone Log on it. It has the time and date already keyed in. You speak with Suzy and key in the important parts of your conversation. This conversation takes an unexpected but happy turn. She wants to list her house with you because she is so impressed with your personalized follow-up.

You schedule an appointment with Suzy for three nights from now, and you cancel the existing Open house medium buyer follow-up plan. The tasks you accomplished while that plan was running, remain a part of the history of that contact. The rest are deleted automatically all at once.

3 days later, you open your CRM in the morning and on your calendar appears that appointment you scheduled. If you had a partner or assistant and you had decided to allow it, they would be able to see what you have scheduled for that day as well, because they can see their calendar, your calendar, or both combined in one view. That completed appointment automatically becomes part of Suzy’s history because it is linked to her contact record.

To prepare for the listing appointment, you need to print out the listing contract and addenda. Since there is an API (software relationship) for your Contract Forms software with your CRM, all the information that you have already keyed into the CRM will automatically populate into your Contract Forms software, saving you the time of having to find and re-key their name address, phone, etc.

At the listing appointment, you show the seller your Activity Plans for the listing process, and the closing process. Others may show them a generic list, but it will be generic and unimpressive compared to yours. The sellers had no idea how complex this process really is. The reality is that they still do not but they have a better idea now. The sellers are impressed as you explain to them that you learned years ago that there are far too many details involved in these transactions to try to remember everything without a system to help. You have invested your time and money into a system that insures that nothing falls through the cracks, and that they are kept up to date consistently with everything that is going on. Not surprisingly, they list with you.

Residential Listing Plan – Day 1

New listing paperwork in hand, you create a listing transaction in your CRM.

  • You do not have to key in the seller’s names, contact information, or address, because it all transfer automatically from the contact detail screen
  • Now you click a few buttons to launch your Residential Listing Plan
  • Your contact record for Suzy had her category listed as a Seller-Prospect. When you launch your listing plan, one of the many things that happen is that a Thank you for the listing letter is scheduled to be printed. When that letter is printed along with all the others due out that day, it automatically completes that activity, stores that letter with the contact, and changes her contact category toSeller-Active.
  • Having entered certain data into the listing transaction record, including sale price, expiration date, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and photos, you click a couple buttons, and your full color two page property flier with photos and property detail prints out. In the future any kind of flier, post card, or e-mail flier can be created with a few clicks because all the information has already been keyed in once.
  • Because this your geographic farm, you click a few more buttons and you have gathered all the appropriate neighborhood address label information, and you are ready to send the Just Listedpost card you want for this listing.
  • A few more clicks and then you click on Send to Post Cards Galore and the label information is automatically entered into their database and acted upon. – OR
  • You print your own post cards. Your New Listing Post Cards are sent out with those same photos and some of the detail on one side, and the neighbors’ addresses and your bulk mail bar code on the other.
  • You then decide to do an e-mail blast about the new listing to the neighborhood. With a few clicks, you create an e-mail flier specific to the new listing, and with a few more clicks, the e-mail is sent to the whole neighborhood.
  • Now you want to send an e-mail blast to your local agents. Since you have retained all the showing agents’ names and e-mail addresses from the last several years, you just pull up the categoryShowing Agents and send the e-mail. NOTE: You may have an agreement with certain agents who want to receive new listing and price reduction notifications from you. Absent that understanding, the vast majority of agents complain about receiving listing announcements in their e-mail, so this is not a recommendation, just pointing out that it can be done very easily.
  • Next step, distribute it to your social media network. You take that same e-mail (HTML) flier, post it in your Social Media API module in your CRM, and it is automatically posted to your Blog as well as an announcement on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Each of these tasks as well as everything else you do for this listing is in the activity plan. As you accomplish each task, you click it as done. When you created the activity plan, you specified that each task either be included in the Seller Report or not. Therefore, as you are completing all these tasks, you are also automatically compiling a report which will be automatically sent to the seller as part of the plan. One of the tasks for Day 2 is to generate the Seller Report and e-mail it to them. It will tell them everything you just did – the day after you got their listing. Your listing plan can easily detail 15 or 20 tasks in that first day or two. It looks quite impressive on that report. Sending the report is part of the plan, so creating it and sending it takes literally no extra time. It happens automatically when you print or e-mail all the reports due out that day. Another option you have is to automatically generate a Web page containing your report. When you send your e-mails out for the day, it will include one that goes to the clients. In that e-mail will be a URL for the Status web page along with a logon name and password to be used by them to gain access. They go online that night and find out in detail what is going on with their listing, and they do not have to call you to do it.
  • Some of the tasks in these plans are for you to complete, and some are for your assistant. They are assigned to each of you and are displayed on your respective Things To Do Today lists automatically. No post-its, no yelling across the office, no e-mails, no text messages – no forgetting. And when that seller calls, either of you can see exactly what was done and when without having to put the seller on hold while asking the other person the status.

In this scenario, the entire process took less than half an hour. How long does it take you now? Do you do all of this? If not, should you be? Would it get you more business in referrals if you did? Can you tell the seller at the listing appointment that you do all this and actually accomplish it consistently? Can youshow the seller you do all this? How much of an aid would this be when you are trying to differentiate yourself from the other agents? This is an every day scenario for agents around the country who have committed to make it happen, but only a very small percentage of agents invested the time to make this a reality. It is not as difficult as you might think. It is an elephant though, so what you have to do to get it done is start eating it, one bite at a time.

Now as the listing progresses, your plan reminds you once each week to call them and review their transaction. The client will also be receiving an e-mail or letter occasionally to let them know what is going on in print or e-mail automatically. It takes no time or effort, and following up in print makes a tremendous amount of difference in the client’s perception of how hard you are working for them. Some of the letters that go out could include:

  • Thank You for The Listing Letter
  • MLS Copy Cover Letter
  • Marketing Recommendation Checklist Letter (Staging letter)

Next come the offer and acceptance. All e-mails and correspondence are kept in the transaction record in the CRM. Every significant move you make is chronicled in there. E-mails, letters, and notes from phone calls and face-to-face conversations, and stored documents.

Now we launch our closing plan. Each day between now and the time we close, we start out our day by looking at the To-Do Today screen to see what we have to do for which property today. It is an automated to-do list that will eventually cover easily 90% of what you need to do for all of your listings and pending sales. In the beginning of a transaction it will tell you each day what paperwork is due, which inspections are due, when second deposits are due, etc. As the transaction progresses it will keep you on track for all deadlines, and once again periodically send out e-mails and letters to the clients. Even the fact that some closings happen in 30 days, while some happen in 90, will not confuse the automated schedule of to-do’s, phone calls, e-mails, etc. as they come due. A typical list of communication going out to the clients during the closing process may include:

  •  Buyer After Contract Letter
  •  Thank You to Agent for Referring Someone
  •  Thank You to an Unlicensed Person for a Referral
  •  Buyer Preparation for Settlement Letter
  •  Closing Inspection Explanation for Your Client Letter
  •  Closing Inspection Checklist
  •  Closing Inspection Explanation to Co-op Letter
  •  Transaction Status Checklist Letter
  •  Everything is Proceeding Smoothly Letter
  •  Buyer After Closing Letter
  •  Thank You to an Unlicensed Person for the Referral After the Closing Letter
  •  Thank You To An Agent For A Referral After the Closing Letter
  •  Hope You’re Sleeping Soundly in Your New Home Letter
  •  Thank You to Co-op Letter
  •  Evaluation Questionnaire Letter

Isn’t this the kind of follow-up you always wanted to do? But usually what stops that from happening consistently is that if you are doing any kind of significant volume, you run out of time. Personal hand written thank you notes and letters are preferable without a doubt, but when you get busy, that flow of thank you notes and follow-up letters slows down to a crawl, or stops completely. Once you get to two, three, or four transactions per month, it stops until you get an assistant. This is reality gleaned from experience. A thank you in the form of a template e-mail or letter that goes out 100% of the time is far better than a hand written one going out part or none of the time! When you get an assistant, maybe you can pick back up on that if you choose.

When the Remove yard sign activity is marked as done, it automatically changes the Seller-Pendingcategory to Seller-Past.

On closing day another plan is automatically launched. That one will send out a follow-up e-mail once a month for the next ten years. It will also remind you to call them once a year, among many other things.

Here is another potential reality. Six months later, the buyers are talking about taking the sellers to court for not disclosing a settlement crack in the basement. Your first reaction is a grimace, knowing the buyer’s attorney will almost certainly involve you in it. Your next reaction is a bit of a smile, because you know you have so much documentation, that you are in good shape.

Another scenario comes to mind about a listing. The husband was still living in the home, while the soon to be ex-wife was living elsewhere. It was a down market in the early 90’s, and despite the agent’s best efforts, the home was entering its fourth month on the market. The listing agent received a letter from the wife’s divorce attorney claiming that the agent was doing a poor job of marketing the home, and should be replaced. Without getting upset, in a matter of seconds, the agent confidently printed out the extensive notes and history of his efforts to market the home, and mailed it to the attorney. The agent never heard from the attorney again.

The initial investment of time to set up these systems is significant. The return on that investment is mind-boggling. The longer you use it, and the more you refine the systems, the more you realize it is one of, if not the best investment of your time that you have ever made.

If you want this scenario to become a reality for you, but can not see yourself ever getting there, you may want to consider the various kinds of coaching and implementation help that is available. Take a look at https://garydavidhall.com/Coaching.htm

Adding Contacts to Your CRM – Part Three

Different CRMs call them different things. Category, Contact Type, Classification, Group, etc. It is a field that identifies what that person’s relationship is to you. Buyer-Past, Seller-Active, Gold Partner, Title Rep, Mortgage Processor, etc. For you to truly interact with your database in an expedient, accurate, and profitable manner, being able to categorize your contacts is at the core of what you are trying to accomplish. Your CRM should at least have the ability to add as many categories as you choose, and be able to include a contact in as many categories as you need.

Optimally there would be another field in addition to Categories that could be specifically for Demographics. By that I mean things like Hobbies, Favorite Sports, Favorite Sports Team, College Attended, Favorite Cuisine, etc. These are the kinds of things you would track to do highly personalized SOI follow up. You can and will likely have to track those kinds of things in the categories field, but it’s much more clean and simple to have them separate.

If you have never used categories much or are just beginning to, this may sound like the ravings of an overly analytical mind with too much time on their hands. Alternatively, if you are now in a position where your categories are a mess or getting there, you get it. For those of you in the first group, if you don’t pay attention here, you will likely end up like those in the second. I worked with a team one time to help them install a CRM, learn it, and then set up transaction management plans. We discussed this subject but they clearly did not take it to heart. One year later they called me to come back and help them clean up their categories. They had over 400, many of which were redundant, and no one was using them consistently.

Keep in mind that you want to have an organized rational approach to adding categories. Think it out first before you start adding them haphazardly. If you are working in a team, there should be one person who is designated the Category Cop. That person is the only one permitted to add or delete categories, either on their own or by committee review/agreement. If you have a team, there should be a team meeting to discuss new categories that are added, so everyone is clear about the intent for how they are to be used.

I am in the process of creating educational videos and this topic will be one of the first that I do because to do it in print here in the detail that it deserves would be too long.  So we’ll cover two aspects today.

To get started, consider the following core categories:

  1. Buyer Prospect Residential
  2. Buyer Active Residential
  3. Buyer Pending Residential
  4. Buyer Past Residential
  5. Seller Prospect Residential
  6. Seller Active Residential
  7. Seller Pending Residential
  8. Seller Past Residential
  9. Buyer Prospect Land
  10. Buyer Active Land
  11. Buyer Pending Land
  12. Buyer Past Land
  13. Seller Prospect Land
  14. Seller Active Land
  15. Seller Pending Land
  16. Seller Past Land
  17. Buyer Prospect Commercial
  18. Buyer Active Commercial
  19. Buyer Pending Commercial
  20. Buyer Past Commercial
  21. Seller Prospect Commercial
  22. Seller Active Commercial
  23. Seller Pending Commercial
  24. Seller Past Commercial
  25. Buyer Settled 20XX(XX = year /closed/settled)
  26. Seller Settled 20XX(XX = year /closed/settled)
  27. Buyer Commercial Settled 20XX(XX = year /closed/settled)
  28. Seller Commercial Settled 20XX(XX = year /closed/settled)
  29. Buyer Land Settled 20XX(XX = year /closed/settled)
  30. Buyer Land Settled 20XX(XX = year /closed/settled)

There are many more variations on these and we haven’t even started on ancillary services like title company, mortgage company, etc. Then you have hobbies, sports teams, and on and on.

One primary goal is to limit the number of categories whenever possible. When you have a very large list to go through just to assign the proper categories to a new contact, it can get tedious and people tend to resist doing it and being accurate.

A perfect example is that the categories above can be entered as seen, but that means having 31 just for a start. Instead consider the following list. Then when you want to find a certain group of contacts, you can do a quick and simple search combining them. For example; Buyer, Residential, Past, Settled 2012.

  1. Buyer
  2. Seller
  3. Residential
  4. Commercial
  5. Land
  6. Prospect
  7. Active
  8. Pending
  9. Past
  10. Settled 20XX

We just reduced the list from 30 to 10 !!!

This concept should be carried out throughout the categories. It drastically reduces them in number, and makes it much easier to follow.

We’ll address one more of the many issues. In order to be this detailed with categories and keep an accurate record of who is whom, you need to have a way of insuring that the category gets changed when it should. The easiest way is to use your activity plans. If you are using them to track your listings and closings, just add the status changes into those plans.

For example in a closing plan, you would have a closing activity that would come up on your to-do list that said Change category from Pending to Past.

Enough on Categories for now. If you are not on my mailing list and would like to be notified when I start my video series, just shoot me an email and let me know.

Adding Contacts to Your CRM – Part Two

Just because your CRM’s contact screen has dozens of fields doesn’t mean you need to fill them all. That said, there are certain fields that you should always strive to complete in order to build a core database with actionable information. Rarely will you be able to get all the information at once, but you need to keep working at it until you do. Following are the fields that should be completed as soon as possible, and what you should put in them.

Without going into great detail, not having a name in every field can cause problems when doing searches, ordering names in a list, and other things you may end up doing. One of the secrets to having a good clean useful database is consistency and planning. What may now seem excessive may later become necessary.

A name in a database without an email address or phone number or address, is probably not worth having unless you know one of them is forthcoming. Always have at least one of them.

First name – Only put the first name of one person in the first name field. Do not put Bob and Karen. Karen goes into another field, which exists specifically for that person. Do not enter Mr. or Mrs. or anything else either. And this might sound obvious but it happens all the time. Always include a first name. If you do not have a first name, use the last name as both first and last until you get the first name.

Middle name – Only use the middle initial, but always use it if you can get it. It helps with duplicate names. It might be nice to have a middle name, but a full middle name can be problematic. More databases than not, do not have room for it. Most only allow for the middle initial. So if you are using a CRM that does have a field for the full middle name, but then you export that data to move to a different CRM that allows for only one letter, then you may have a mess to clean up.

Last name – Always put a name in the Last Name field. If you only have the First Name, put it in both the First Name and the Last Name fields until you get the last name. Another option is to put TBD (To Be Determined) in the Last Name field. Then, on occasion, you can easily look up everyone with TBD in the Last Name field, and work on getting those last names. Where you have to be careful is if you are doing any kind of email or regular mail that is pulling in their last name in a merge field. If that’s the case then you have to set it up such that you are able to easily remove the TBDs from the mailing.

Address – Whenever possible get a postal address regardless of what kind of contact it is. You never know when you might need it. If the City field has an auto fill feature, use it. Auto fill is a feature which allows you to key in the name of the city and it will remember it and retain it in a list. In the future, as you start to key in that city, it will complete it for you after the first few letters. It sounds trivial, but saving a few thousand key strokes over a year’s time adds up.

Company – If the person works for a company, take the time to put the company name in the company field. If it has auto fill, definitely use it. This is more important than the city field. The reason is that it is very easy and common to key in a company name differently from one time to the next. You might key in RE-ACT for one person, and   RE-ACT, LLC for the next person. The problem then becomes that if you do a search for everyone in your database who works at RE-ACT, LLC, the results can be incomplete.

Referral – Always put in the name of the person who referred this contact to you if that was the case. A good CRM can show you a referral tree of who referred whom. A really nice feature of a CRM is when it tracks a commission dollar value to each referee. Then you can see not only who that person referred to you, but how much money they made you by giving you those referrals. The big dollar referrers get more than a holiday card!

Source – If it was not a referral then you need to record the source from which they came, such as Homes and Land ad call. Note that you should not call it just an Ad Call. Be specific, because in a good CRM you can generate a report to show you where your business came from. This is the kind of thing people are talking about when they say that you need to run your business like a business. If you know exactly where your business is coming from, it allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and where to continue to spend money, and where to stop or minimize it. Having a Source that only calls it an Ad Call does not tell you which media has been most successful for you in terms of ROI.

Mail Preference – When you meet someone and get their contact information, you should try to determine with which mode of communication they are most comfortable. When getting their email address, don’t ask them if they check it often or daily etc. That’s putting words in their mouth. Ask “How often do you check your email?”  If their answer is “Oh I check it at least once a month”, then postal mail is probably a better mode for them. If your CRM tracks it, you should note their communication preference. In some CRMs, that setting can automatically determine whether or not they get an email or a printed letter when something is sent to them in their follow-up campaign.

Date of initial communication – most CRMs have a field that displays when the contact record was created. Many also have a Date last modified field as well. Optimally your CRM should allow you to search the contacts based on those fields.

Notes – Whichever CRM you pick, make sure that it both date and time stamps your notes when you key them in. This comes in handy for many things including risk management down the road. Copious and accurate notes frequently stave off hours of wasted time and unnecessary finger pointing and posturing. It is absolutely amazing how quickly someone will defer to you when they become aware that you have an accurate point by point record of date and time stamped phone calls, notes, emails, and letters all at your fingertips. In the future if you have another transaction with them, they will remember. What will happen is that eventually you will get a reputation for being accurate and organized, and other agents will sometimes recommend your offer over others because they are confident that their transaction with you will go smoothly.

Follow-up reminder – If this new contact is a lead of any kind, you should have a reminder either to call or email them at some point in the future, or you should start a drip campaign for them.

This is the bare minimum of information you should have for people in your database. In the next and last part of this series we will discuss categories. This is where most people tend to make a mess, especially if they have been using them for a long time. With some basic rules and ideas, you can do much better.

Adding Contacts to Your CRM – Part 3 of 3

Best Practices- Adding Contacts to Your CRM – Part One

This first part of three is pretty basic, but may help some people. The next two parts are a little more meaty.

Adding Contacts to your CRM – Some suggestions when adding contacts. Part One of Three

If you have all your contacts on paper, start entering them according to the ideas suggested in this series. If you already have them in an electronic format, you have to import them. A common question is if you should clean them up in the old database first, or clean them up once you get them into the new CRM. By cleaning up, we mean getting rid of contacts when we do not know who they are, or filling in a last name on contacts that have none, etc. One difference that may affect that decision is that if you do it in the new one, you are learning the new one, so maybe that is the better way to go. If you do it that way, but the existing database is such a mess that it creates problems with the import, then you have your answer. Just delete the trial import and clean it up first.

As soon as you get the new database in and cleaned up – BACKUP or do an EXPORT immediately, twice! You’ve taken the time to create a quality database; now make sure you don’t have to do it all over again by losing it.

As you are adding your contacts, click around in the menus. Try right clicking everywhere and see if anything happens. Experiment! That is part of getting a new CRM. The more time you spend with it up front, the sooner you will feel comfortable and more efficient with it, and the more you will use it.

Add everyone!

If you have to call, email, or write to someone once, put them in your database. You never know when you may need it again.

Personal friends and neighbors should also be in your database. They are very easy to separate.

Text takes virtually no space on a computer. Taking up too much space by adding a lot of contacts is not a factor.

Many people have the concern that they did not want to clutter up their database. Some agents want only the names of the people to whom they want to mail in their database. That thinking is probably a throwback to when we had all our names and addresses on a piece of paper that we used to copy onto a sheet of labels to do our mailings.They considered names of loan originators whom they did not use themselves, or maybe the buyers’ names when they had the sellers’ side of the transaction, as just clutter in the database. It’s not. It saves time in the future.

People will often say they do not want to have to sort through names they do not need. What sorting? You start keying the name of the person you want in the search box, and it comes up. If you have 50 names or 5,000, it is the exact same procedure and result.

After you use a CRM for a few years, if you put everybody in there, you will be amazed at how often you will not have to look someone up somewhere else because they are already in there. In many markets, there are hundreds of ancillary services. Title companies, loan originators, termite inspectors, home inspectors, etc. After a few years and a number of transactions, a great many of them will be in your database. When you add a new transaction, many times, many of the parties to the transaction will already be in there. If you need to call or e-mail someone, you will have his or her contact info already. It gets to be a tremendous time saver.

Coming:

Part Two – What fields to make certain you complete, what to put in them, and why

via Best Practices- Adding Contacts to Your CRM – Part Two