OK – I bought a CRM, now where do I start?

This is one of the most common questions I hear. Some Contact Managers and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions have fairly good training materials. Some have great materials. Some have none. But what none of them really excel at, is a tutorial to take you through the basics, in a “Where do I start” format. Maybe I can propose a bit of a solution.

One of the issues making a starter tutorial problematic is that different people consider different things to be the basics, and the CRM’s themselves can be quite varied as to what it is they are capable of doing for you in the first place. So how about teaching yourself how to get started?

The very first thing you do is actually a no-brainer. In any of them, you get all your contact information in. Names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. Always have both a first and a last name for every contact. If all you know is Margeret, put that as both her first and last name until you get her last name. Which contacts go into it? ALL of them. I have seen some people recommend using one program for business, and one for personal, such as Top Producer for the former, and Outlook for the latter. My personal opinion is that I could not disagree more. I have been using, teaching, and reviewing Contact Management and CRM in the Real Estate industry for over 20 years, and I just do not see any benefit to that line of thinking. Why have those details of your life; contact information and scheduling information; in two places? It makes for duplication of effort, and confusion having to reference two sources for everything, not to mention that business and personal ofttimes overlap anyway. I have my business contacts; my friends; my Christmas list; my neighbors; I even have my daughter’s dog in my contacts. Why? Because I can track his birthday that way! I have a contact – First Name: Computer; Last Name: Tips. In the notes for that contact, I have various things I want to remember about little tricks I’ve learned over the years, and I even have them at my fingertips in my Blackberry, because the notes synch!

Remember the cardinal rule for contacts; always have a contact in at least one category. Otherwise, you end up with contacts for whom you have no clue whatsoever what they are, down the road. If you are using a CRM, and you are using Activity Plans of some sort, I recommend the following nine categories for a start:

  • Buyer – Prospect
  • Buyer – Active
  • Buyer – Pending
  • Buyer – Past
  • Seller – Prospect
  • Seller – Active
  • Seller – Pending
  • Seller – Past
  • Closed – 20xx (x’s being the year they closed escrow)

So what is next? If you had seen my Power Point Presentation on selecting a CRM, you would have created a list of what it was you wanted to accomplish with your CRM, in order to determine which one you wanted to invest your money, and more importantly – your time in. If you don not have that list, create one now. It should contain things such as; Print Labels to ‘Sphere of Influence’; Export names and addresses for mailing, for calendar company; print ‘Just Listed’ post cards to geographic farm; Create activity plan to remind me to follow up with Internet leads; etc.

A good CRM will have some kind of training available to learn how to do each of these basic things. Your issue is that you don’t know where to start. OK – it is a big job. It is HUGE. It is an elephant! Get over it! How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. No one is going to tell you where to start, or what is most important, so you need to figure it out yourself. This is how you will do it.

  1. List what you want to accomplish, as above
  2. Prioritize it
  3. Use the available training to learn each of those things.

It really can be that simple! Now you have your start. Do you your list. Add things to it as you go. By that time, you will be getting a handle on the software, and the rest will naturally follow.

Now some people will do what I just said, and that will be the end of it. That’s OK! If that’s all you want out of it, fine. Others of you though, want to see what else this CRM can do for you. The only way you’re going to get a good feel for your CRM is by ‘playing’ with it. When you’re in a screen, click on the menu items, and follow them. You can’t hurt it, as long as you are backing up every day, and it can’t hurt you. If you are NOT backing up every day – you need to start. My choice for that is actually twofold –EazyBackup for a local copy, and Carbonite for a Web based copy. Both have their pros and cons. Fodder for a different post :-)

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