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.

Exporting CRM Data – The rest of the story

This an excerpt from my book – Choosing and Using a CRM.

A common misconception agents have about Real Estate CRMs is that some of them intentionally make it difficult to export your data. In interviews with over 30 Real Estate CRM developers, that does not ring true. It is true that some export more fields than others and some do it in more usable formats. However, how many different data fields your existing CRM will export is only half the equation. How many of those fields your new CRM will import is equally important and sooner or later you may decide to switch CRMs.

When you started in Real Estate, you did your due diligence to decide in which office you wanted to work. Are you still there, or have you moved on to a different office? Choosing a CRM can be just as, if not more difficult. Optimally you will find the right CRM the first time and you will stay with it. However, it doesn’t hurt to anticipate some aspects of switching to another CRM down the road when you are purchasing your first one.

Much has been said about software vendors holding your data hostage. The reality is that that is an emotional reaction to learning too late what happens when you move from any CRM to another one. There are two kinds of data in this context. That which can usually be exported, and that which can not. What is usually exported by almost all CRMs is the contact data. That is names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, Web site addresses and categories. Notes are often the most unpredictable. Most CRMs export all of the above, but you do need to check. Agent Office is an example, as it does not export categories or notes. There are two CRMs that use the Agent Office database file and extract notes and categories as well as other fields instead of using the Agent Office export, but they are exceptions.

There are many other types of data that can be exported, but are often not, which is probably where the hostage statement has its origin. Some examples are:

Calendar data – it is relatively rare that this information can be moved from one CRM to another.

Property data and notes

Transactional notes

Transaction documentation stored within the CRM


Template content (letters, fliers, post cards and activity plans) – NOTE: Even if the content is capable of being exported, you still have to modify the merge fields in all of it. Most agents would have to do that manually, although in some cases it can be done with some kind of utility or some knowledge of database manipulation


History – not to be confused with notes – this is the record of dates and times of appointments, phone calls, mailings, etc., from the contact or the property screen.

Even if all the above types of information can be exported from your existing CRM, an equally important question is how much of it is capable of being imported to your new CRM? In a few CRMs, literally every field is capable of being exported. Unfortunately, most of that export can only be opened in a spreadsheet/database type of format, such as Excel or Access, as opposed to being able to import it into the new CRM. So yes, the information may be there in the export, but it is not of much use if it can not be imported in to the new CRM.

It is important to note that in most cases you will not be able to move historical information or e-mails associated with transactions from one CRM to another. That could turn out to be a huge disadvantage if you ever needed to defend yourself in litigation. If you switch CRMs and lose that information, a prudent step to take would be to print out transaction reports and e-mails from your existing CRM first, if that ability exists. Making it a practice to add that kind of report to your paper file for each transaction is a good idea. How much information is contained in those reports varies dramatically, but anything is better than nothing.

The vast majority of the time you will be able to import most of the contact fields into a new CRM. You want to make sure that the one you choose exports virtually all of the contact fields, making particularly sure that notes and categories are included. In addition, the more phone number, e-mail address, and Web site address fields it can export, the better. You want to make sure that when it exports those latter fields, that each field is identified. For example, if I export a phone number field that is labeled Work1, then it should export it in such a way that I will know where to put it in the new CRM. Note that phone numbers are often problematic because no two people label their phone numbers the same way in the same order. Having a systematic approach to ordering and labeling those fields from the start can be a huge help when switching to another CRM.

The bottom line is that you do want to identify what information your CRM will export and in what data format, before you purchase it because it is an important factor in choosing a CRM. That said, recognize that for the most part, only common contact fields will survive the move to another CRM. Taking appropriate measures to systematically retain the information that may be lost in a transition to another CRM in either a printed or digital file is a good business plan.

via Exporting CRM Data – The rest of the story.