Learning a Real Estate CRM

Why get one in the first place? Without one, only the very most organized agents are truly organized and not in crisis mode an inordinate amount of the time. But there are plenty of agents who are making a great deal of money either on their own or with teams and have no CRM. No one has to have a CRM. But if you do, you can make the same money you make now in less time, or you can make more money in the same amount of time. That’s only one of so many benefits that you cannot really appreciate until you have gotten over the hump and look back at your career pre-CRM.

Your first choice is how you are going to use it. Is it going to be a glorified Rolodex or are you going to run your business with it? The following addresses the latter because the former requires no real commitment or significant learning curve.

If it feels like the hardest part about getting organized with a CRM is figuring out which one to get, but that’s only part of it. You also have to make time to learn it. Note the use of the word make as opposed to get the time. It is so very important to understand that this one point can make all the difference in the world. Will you be the person who implements the CRM and reaps the benefits or the person who eventually regrets spending the time and money and blames it on the CRM being too difficult to learn.

As a Real Estate licensee, we wear many hats. No one likes them all and learning software is one that most distinctly dislike. There are those who will tell you that the reason most agents don’t use a CRM is because they’re too complex and they need to be easier. As a result a number of Real Estate specific CRM’s are focused on making them easier to learn, almost to a fault. What it’s turning out to be in some cases is that CRM’s are being dumbed down to the point where they are no longer CRM’s. They are contact managers. An overly basic CRM is essentially a contact manager which is just a glorified Rolodex. A CRM is far more robust than a contact manager, so regardless of how well it is presented or how intuitive it is, you still need to take a good bit of time to learn it and how to integrate it into your daily routine. You learned how to use Outlook, MS Word, and maybe MS Publisher or MS Excel too. You spent hour after hour playing with them with no support and no training, until you got a handle on them and never complained because you had no choice. What is so different about learning a CRM? If you want to profit by what a good powerful CRM does, then you need to invest the time to learn it. You do not have to like the time you invest into becoming proficient with a good CRM. But what you will like is having more of a life, with less stress, with less mistakes, with better service, with less staff, with more compliments, with more referrals. Is that worth the effort?

Maybe you have heard the time management axiom that a meeting takes as long as the time you allot to it. The same goes for your Real Estate day. You cannot keep putting off learning your CRM until the time that you need to spend with it presents itself. For many of us, that time just does not come.

So what are some guidelines to help insure adoption of a CRM? The first thing to realize is that in order to use a CRM properly, you are going to end up changing the way you do certain parts of your business. One example is that you are currently recording data (names, phone numbers, email addresses) in many places. The goal with a CRM is to have as much of that data in one place, the CRM, as possible. Post-It pads go in the back of a drawer. No more scribbling on desktop blotters or napkins. Throughout the day if you are in front of your computer, you can enter it easily. Get in the habit of entering it while you are talking to them or immediately afterwards. If the CRM has a good mobile interface, it an be entered into there as well. But some times you just need to scribble it somewhere the old fashioned way. That’s fine, but here’s the rule. You have one small notebook in which you take notes. You are not allowed to write anything that is destined for the CRM anywhere else. You then take that notebook each morning or evening and de-brief that information into your CRM.

It’s all about attitude so the first thing is to make sure you have a good view of the big picture. The time it takes to learn the CRM is finite, right? While it may seem like it in the beginning, it’s not going to take the rest of your life to learn the CRM. The learning curve does end at some point. So what’s important is to realize that in the beginning it is going to slow you down and that will make it aggravating and frustrating. The better your attitude, the less you will experience these negative emotions. What is more important is to realize that after you get over the hump it will no longer be an effort to go into your CRM and work in it. It will become as much a part of your day as your email. When you’re in the office you’ll have it open on your laptop or desktop because most of what you do each day will be in the CRM. When you’re not in the office, you have access to your database on your phone or your tablet so you can continue to interact with it.

Initially you need to spend a minimum of one hour each morning before you do anything else as long as you have to, to learn the features you are going to use first. Your goal is to do this every single day without exception until going into the CRM is no longer a chore or a learning curve, but something that you do because you want to and need to. You will need to because you will be running your life with it. Yes both personal and business. There is no reason to separate them with regards to contact information and calendaring. So, in the beginning using the CRM is miserable until you internalize it. Then, it is something that is part of you from there on out.

A comment I hear on a regular basis in one form or another is that the agent does not “want to have to be chained down by a CRM and forced to spend too much time entering information into it”. If you think about it, what information are you putting into the CRM that you aren’t putting somewhere anyway? Do you have one set of contacts in your phone, another in your email, another in a spreadsheet, another in your MLS, and on and on? Having a CRM simply means that instead of having a number of places where you record your day to day data that you need, you have only one place to put it. The end result of that is that it’s much faster to find and use information and you can do many things with it that you never could before.

Before you buy a CRM, you must be committed to making the time to make it work. Know that it will be time consuming and frustrating in the beginning. Know that if you get over the hump, you will realize it is one of the best decisions you have ever made in your real estate career.

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