Vital Statistics and other Terms Defined
Out of Beta and Started Selling
When a software company develops a product they continually test it internally while they are developing it. But there is no substitute for having real people use it. That flushes out new issues that they have not yet seen. So they let a select group of people start using it. That is referred to as Beta Testing. Once done with that stage, it is ready for release to the general population. This is the year when that happened.
What Kind of Sales is This For?
The options are Residential, Commercial Sales, New Constructions Sales, Developer, Property Management, and we’ll throw in one more – Customizable.
Some CRMs are very black and white as to what kind of an agent would use it. Some are strictly for Residential Resale and you really wouldn’t be able to use it for anything else. Some are strictly for Commercial and so on. But some are made to do more than one thing so more than one thing will be listed.
Customizable is a different kind of animal. It may be meant for one kind of sales, say residential resales, but it is so customizable that if you were primarily a residential agent, but you also did a few commercial deals here and there or specialized in REO’s, maybe you could make it work for you. When it is listed as a customizable CRM, that means it is capable of at least being able to add a few fields. Or the customizability can be as powerful as being able to create entirely new screens that you can use to do that occasional other kind of deal.
In some cases one CRM is created to do several kinds of sales so you would see Residential, Property Management
In other cases a CRM may be created to do more than one kind of sales, but is also Customizable. That means that it is already all set up to do both Residential and Property Management, but it is also customizable.
Confused? That’s what I’m here for. Call me at 215.813.2495 or use the Contact Us form if you have any questions.
Don’t get too hung up on the number of diamonds. They are just a rough indication. Don’t take the following explanations to mean that whatever is in the description of the ♦’s is exact. If you think you want a ♦, look at ♦ and ♦♦. If you think you want a ♦♦, look at ♦♦ and ♦♦♦, etc.
♦ – Just contacts and follow-up please
You really just want something to insure that no one falls through the cracks. You don’t want transaction management, marketing, web pages, extensive drip campaigns and activity plans, etc.
♦♦ – No – I want a little more than that
You want that but also some nice other features that will make your life easier. You want other features such as but not necessarily to be able to do postal mailings, have a place to store property information, have a referral tree, or have email campaign reporting.
♦♦♦ – Definitely – more power!
You want to run your business with your CRM. You want to track your transactions and marketing campaigns, maybe add a team member or two, have a good selection of template emails and activity plans, and more!
♦♦♦♦ – I want to run as much of my business as possible with my CRM!!!
Because it has four diamonds does not mean it has everything. None of them do. But this is the group that has the most. You need to have at least a pretty good aptitude for software and you enjoy the prospect of tweaking it to make it yours, or you have someone on your team who does. You want to automate your business as much as you can. You want things like good reporting capabilities, scalability to add agents, interoffice communications ability within the CRM, etc.
I was working with one of the CRMs and they made a good point. He basically said “Ours is easier to learn the most important things quickly”. Well, most of the better CRMs are relatively easy to learn quickly if all you’re learning is the basic aspects such as adding contacts, calendar, to-do’s, etc. He also said, “…but we hold the agent’s hand through the initial set-up”. OK that is different. So I put it in the Unique or Notable Features section.
So we’re going to use this as a rating that loosely indicates the total number of features.
I was tempted to call this Learning Curve but there is too much of a negative connotation associated with that phrase. A learning curve is simply an expression of how long it would take someone to learn everything there is to know about the CRM. It is not a bad thing. If I asked you how easy it was to learn to use MS Word you would likely say very easy, so it could be said that it has a short learning curve. But in reality if I re-phrased the question to ask “How long would it take you to learn everything there is to know about MS Word?”, you would change your response to a long time. It all comes down to how much of it you want to learn/use. Just because a CRM has a lot to it doesn’t mean you have to use it all. If it has everything you want, but then has more that you don’t, don’t use those features. If you want a Mercedes but never use cruise control you don’t think twice about getting it anyway. You just don’t use the cruise control. You can’t get it without it so you enjoy the features you want and ignore the ones you don’t. And if some day you start using cruises control, you have it.
Take all of the Real Estate CRMs on the market and list all of their features. This includes things such as web pages for properties or landing pages for stealth lead generation. This is everything. On a scale of ♦ to ♦♦♦♦, how many features does this CRM have compared to the rest? The more on the list, the longer it takes to learn – if you want to learn all of it. That’s what this represents. Bear in mind that this is an entirely subjective rating. I’ve done my best to remain consistent but it’s a tough call.
While Real Estate CRMs in general have trended towards satisfying niche markets, there is also a welcome trend (for savvy treat your business like a business kind of users) in many Real Estate CRMs of trying to be an all-in-one answer to your technology needs. I have been espousing the concept of having as many things as possible under one roof for many years. Why? Because the bottom line primary benefit to using a CRM is efficiency. Using one product for email, another for blast emails, another for contact follow-up, another for transaction management, another for marketing, and so on, is inefficient. It requires maintaining many databases which means redundant data entry and things falling through the cracks due to one hand not knowing what the other is doing.
Do not misinterpret this to mean that I think everyone should have a CRM with ♦♦♦♦. Well okay – maybe I do. But that doesn’t mean everyone will agree with me. So ♦♦♦♦ just means that it has more features than a CRM with ♦♦♦. It does not mean that it is the best for everyone. Some people, despite my best efforts to convince them otherwise, simply do not want one that is capable of running a large part of their business. So a ♦ translates to a phrase I use to describe the kind that many agents want. Get in and get out. They just want essentially something to track their contacts and help them keep in touch. They are unwilling or unable to use it for more. That is the point of the ♦♦♦♦. If you want a get in an get out kind of CRM then you want one with ♦ or ♦♦. If you want a CRM that will help you manage as many aspects of your business as possible, then you want one with ♦♦♦♦.
There is another aspect to this. You’ve come into this search for a CRM thinking you know what you want it to do for you. What if you’re wrong? What if you find a nice easy CRM with ♦? If you get used to using a CRM and then realize there are other things that you want it to do, now you have to switch from that one to another one to get those features and you have to start all over again. Try not to be short-sighted in this respect. If you really want to grow your business, serve your clients better, get more referrals and be far more efficient, then you may want a CRM that has more than you currently think you need. Always bear that in mind when selecting a CRM.
Internal Email Client
An email client is the software you use to send and receive email. Common examples are Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc. Internal in this case means that the CRM built their own email client and integrated it into the CRM. These are relatively rare in the industry because it is a huge undertaking to develop one. Another reason is because agents often do not use them because they are not as feature rich and also because they simply don’t want to change from what they are used to. There are upsides and downsides to internal email clients. The upside is that you don’t have to go out of the CRM to do any of your email functions and the emails are automatically stored with the history of the contact. This effectively reduces the time it takes you to deal with email, and allows for quicker access to a contact’s email history and once there, you are able to forward and reply right from inside the contact record. I call these actionable emails.
Most CRMs enable you to send emails from within them but do not provide the ability to receive them. More recently, the more robust CRMs have added the ability to interact with other email clients to allow the storage of incoming emails with the contact record. In order for you to do that, you simply have to Forward or BCC the email to a specially coded email address that the CRM vendor provides to you. The upside to this is that you can use any email client. The downside is that the emails stored with the contact are not actionable.
Capable of Building Email Drip Campaigns
This term is used widely to mean different things but the majority of the industry uses it to mean the following so that is what it will mean on this site. A drip campaign is a set of different emails that go out periodically based on the number of days after you start it. A drip campaign is comprised only of emails.
Capable of Building Activity Plans
An activity plan (also called a work flow, task series or campaign) is more powerful than a drip campaign. It is capable of sending out email templates just like a drip campaign, but is also capable of scheduling to-do’s, phone calls, letters, and appointments.
Template emails/plans Included
Template (also known as canned) emails are ones that have already been written for you. They include merge fields to automatically include the contact’s name at the very least. In many cases it enables you to merge many different fields from the contact record and sometimes from many fields throughout the CRM. Template plans are plans that are already created for you, using the template emails, as well as to-do’s, call reminders, and letters. These might include hot buyer prospect follow-up, post closing follow-up, listing plans, closing plans, etc. Most CRMs give you the ability to create your own drip campaigns and activity plans, but most do not include any templates of any kind, or what they do include is minimal, meaning there are simply not very many of them.
Other Terms Used Throughout This Site
API – (Application Programming Interface)
Essentially what this means is that the CRM has created a tool for other parties to use, to integrate the two. This means that they are out there saying “Hey – if you want to work with us, we have created a tool to do it”. One use would be to allow other companies to automatically feed leads to the CRM so it can add them into its database. Other uses would be integrate with a blast email company for back-end analytics or a phone calling utility to auto-dial from within the CRM. The end result is that it as similar to installing Apps to work with the CRM like you install Apps on your phone.
When you get a lead from somewhere online like Zillow, Realtor.com, or your web site, they send you an email with the leads information in it. The body of that email contains the lead’s information such as name, email address, phone number, postal address, etc. Until relatively recently, you had to read the information in the email and copy and paste it into a contact/lead screen in the CRM. When a CRM has an email parser to automatically add new leads, it means it has software that takes the email, scans the text of the email, finds the pertinent contact information, and automatically places it in the appropriate fields into a new lead. I refer to this as auto-population of leads. If you get one lead a week it’s not a big deal. The more online leads you get, the more attractive this feature gets. Another methods for auto-population of leads is for the CRM to have an existing relationship with the lead provider whereby they simply add the new lead in directly through an API. For a little more depth on this see this post.