How to aggravate someone without even really trying…

Why is it that if you ask someone several questions at once in an email that so often you only get an answer to one or two of the questions?

Is the recipient not reading the whole email? Are they just too busy and don’t pay attention? Or do they simply not care? The last may be the single biggest reason to pay attention!

If you are guilty of this, think about the message you are sending. Do you really want a client or prospect to infer that you are unorganized, too busy, or don’t care?

On a daily basis I send emails with multiple questions. When I do – I usually number them to make it clear that there are multiple questions. Sometimes I will even encourage the person to respond inline. So if there are numbered questions, the answers to the questions should appear immediately below the question and maybe in bold letters or a different color. This is my favorite way to do it. If you answer in one paragraph at the top of the page, not only is it cumbersome for the person who asked the questions, but it is also much more likely that the person answering the questions will forget one or more, or be unclear in the answers.

In many email software programs, to reply inline is easy – you just type your response after the question. In Gmail after you hit reply you look for the little ellipsis (…) at the bottom of the reply screen. If you do not know how to respond inline, you might want to think about learning. If you don’t, another message you could be sending is that you are technologically challenged. Not a good thing in the world of real estate. If you know how and don’t do it – why not? It’s just one more way to set yourself apart from the mooing herd by showing that you are conscientious, focused on their needs and forming your answers so that they are easily read and understood.

It’s not uncommon for me to ask five or six questions, and have to go back and forth with three or four emails to get them all answered. This is an incredible waste of time and when it happens, my opinion of the person answering the questions drops a level with regards to competence and organizational skills. Don’t yours?

If you don’t already do it, consider numbering questions when you ask them, replying inline when you answer them and answering all the questions. Have fun out there!

IXACT Contact adds two huge features!

IXACT Contact has been coming along very nicely in it’s five years of life. It has continued to add great features over the years and now there are two really significant ones that I’ve been waiting for. I think they are two that you need to have to compete with the big boys, but even more importantly, to be a great CRM. I’ll let their announcement cover it from here.

“With our new Email Correspondence Capture, REALTORS® can now capture all email correspondence with their clients and prospects right into IXACT Contact! No more copying and pasting emails into the contact history or having to type in manual notes!

This new feature will help agents get more organized and free up time. And next time they’re on the phone with a contact, they’ll benefit from the convenience of being able to see all past email correspondence with them. Now, everything they would need to see about a client or prospect is in one consolidated system – IXACT Contact.

With our new Lead Capture via Email, Realtors can now capture all the leads they receive via email automatically into IXACT Contact. Lead Capture via Email is a simple and versatile method for capturing leads from a wide variety of sources, including existing forms built into one’s website and third party lead vendors. In addition, Realtors can set-up their lead capture process to automatically assign new leads to a specific group and auto-responder drip email campaign. They can even have all new leads automatically added to the distribution list for their monthly e-Newsletter.

This new feature saves agents time and helps them become more organized. All of their leads will automatically be flowed to their database – saving them time and letting them view all of their leads in one consolidated place.”

I offer an extended free trial of 60 days if you want to take a look at it – just click here!

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?

Top 10 features to look for in a CRM

While everyone has their preferences of what are the most important features to them, the following should be basic requirements for everyone. Each of the following is a topic which I have written about extensively in my book, but the following is a brief description of each.

  1. E-mail stored with the contact record – This is a major issue about which I have written an entire article in the past. Please click here to see that article.
  2. Bulk e-mail – If you don’t already do a periodic e-mailing to your sphere of influence, you should. It musthave a good perceived value if you expect it to be opened, and you can’t overdo it. You can do this with any number of third party solutions such as Constant Contact or others, but that requires maintaining two separate databases which is a waste of time. Your CRM should allow you to either send that out through their servers, or have a relationship with a third party solution that allows you to mail directly through them without maintaining two databases.
  3. Document storage – Paperless is good, but we still have to retain the documents for potential future retrieval. Your CRM should provide the capability to store your contract paperwork as well as any related documents in a manner that provides a way to associate them with a transaction or contact record.
  4. Ease of use – Not to be confused with Easy to learn or Intuitive. Easy to use means that some CRMs require too many clicks to perform simple tasks such as adding or retrieving contact or property information, starting a follow-up plan, or making an appointment with a contact. One caveat is that while some CRMs may be a little more cumbersome to use, if they also have a number of other features that are unavailable in other CRMs, the overall efficiency may be worth it.
  5. Tech support – Phone support should be available at least during business hours, with extended hours being desirable. When you are trialing a CRM, make sure to call support at different times of the day and different days of the week. If you don’t really have any questions, make some up! Seriously, you need to check their response time, willingness to resolve your issue, and familiarity with the product before you purchase.
  6. E-mail drip campaign capability – Your CRM should have the ability to create a variety of e-mails that go out to a contact at pre-determined intervals when you launch that campaign. Some CRMs have campaigns already included, whereas some enable you to create them, but do not already have the e-mail templates. Either is acceptable, but the latter requires that you either create them yourself, or purchase a set of templates/campaigns and import/install them into the CRM.
  7. Activity Plan capability – One of the primary features that set most real estate specific CRMs apart from many generic CRMs is the ability to create a set of tasks, including but not limited to to-do’s, phone calls, e-mails, and letters, that are posted to your task list automatically at a pre-determined number of days after the launch of the plan. This is the kind of plan you would use to be reminded to call a prospect, or follow-up with past clients to stay in touch, with something other than an e-mail. You would also use activity plans for listings and closings to keep you on track with the many details associated with a transaction.
  8. Calendar with appointments linked to contacts – When making an appointment, it should be linked to a contact or a transaction so that as the appointments or tasks are completed, they become a part of the history of that contact or transaction that can be referred to. Optimally that can be used to automatically create a status report for the client’s reference.
  9. Cross platform capability – Optimally, when you select a CRM, you should hope to never change to a different one. Choosing one that works on both Windows and Mac, any kind of phone, or any kind of tablet computer, prevents being limited to what kind of hardware you choose to use in the future.
  10. Phone synchronization – Having your address book and calendar information shared between your CRM and your phone should be a basic requirement. There are essentially two ways to accomplish this. One is that the information is synchronized between the CRM and the phone, which essentially compares the existing data on the devices and then merges whatever is different. While this is the most common way to share the data between the devices, there is no perfect synchronization method to date. The other is for the devices to all essentially be sharing the same database in a live real time environment. The most common method to accomplish this is with an “exchange” environment, well known to Outlook users. More recently though, some CRMs are using what is essentially a “window” into the CRM data with a link that provides access to a limited number of features such as address book, calendar, leads, and in some cases basic transaction information.

Your goal for a CRM should be for it to be the hub of your business as much as possible. Eliminating redundant data entry by having to use many different applications is key to be being efficient. Using different applications typically enables you to have the best of each kind of feature, but it also reduces overall efficiency. Accepting less than the best of each function when the CRM provides adequate alternatives is the best overall solution in my opinion. This is something I have been promoting for many years, and I am finally seeing a trend towards that end in CRM purchasing decisions. Find a CRM and commit to using it to truly run your business, and you will be amazed at how much more efficient you will be, how much better your customer service will be, and how much stress you will see eliminated from your daily life.

It takes time to learn and integrate a CRM into your business. You have to be ready to make the commitment necessary to make the best of it. It is a mindset. From my book:

“You do not have to like the time you invest into becoming proficient with a good CRMBut if you want to grow your business, while having more of a life, with less stress, with less mistakes, with better service, with less staff, with more compliments, with more referrals, then you need it.”