Top Producer Adds Export Features

OK not earth shattering news but for those of you using Top Producer and not noticing it, here are a couple changes made recently. Apparently ther users have been asking for some additional export options so they added them. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Top Producer export-contacts


Another sensible change. The Follow-Up Coach has been changed such that “Everyone Else” no longer includes Inactive Contacts.

Top Producer follow-up-coach1


And lastly, they’ve added Inactive to the Pipeline Report.

Top Producer pipeline-report


If you’re considering trialing or purchasing Top Producer or would like to learn more, just click here!

Is my CRM data safe? Part 2

So because you have a Web based CRM everything is hunky dory and you have no worries with regards to the safety of your data right? For the most part that is absolutely true. As always though, nothing is quite black and white. Generally speaking, Web based CRMs are safer for your data than desktop software installations, primarily because most agents are pretty bad at backing up their software.

I would place the odds of you losing your web based CRM data extremely low. I have spent a minimum of three to five hours with the majority of Real Estate CRM developers and CEO’s. I always raise this issue and they have all assured me that their data is backed up at a minimum of one other place off site. Most are at two. There are still two factors to consider though.

One is whether the CRM is stable. Will it always be there? What happens if you go to log in one day and the site is gone for good. No one responds to phone or e-mail. How do you get your data? You probably can’t. I’ve seen seven CRMs go out of business to date. In all but one case I was not even notified and I was affiliated with them as a reseller. It just happened again last week. I was affiliated with all of those seven, but I was not recommending them for various reasons, one of which was that they were not the most stable CRMs in my opinion. My point is that I was not able to determine if the users had ample notice to get their data out before the company shut its doors because I didn’t know any of the users. They may have all been properly notified but I just don’t know.

So what do you do to insure that you have your data if you suddenly can’t get access to it? Do regular exports. All CRMs have the ability to do an export. They vary significantly with regards to how many and what kind of fields can be exported. But they all allow basic contact information at the very least. So at least if you do periodic exports, you are assured that your inventory is safe.

Before you go off and start trying to do an export, there is one huge exception. Does your CRM synch to Gmail contacts, or your phone, or anywhere for that matter? If so, then you have that information already backed up and you don’t need to worry about doing exports for that information, as long as those databases are current and intact. The question then becomes, what other information does your CRM export, and do you want that information as well as your address book information.

OK now maybe we’re getting a little messy. What is synched where? What can I export? Do I need to export? The point is that at least now you’re aware that maybe you should be exporting your CRMs database and why.

The next thing of which to be aware is, can you recover from a mistake you made? By that I mean, what happens if you accidentally delete 100 contacts? Can the vendor get those back for you? Probably not. Or it may be that they can put you back to the day before. So you get your contacts back but you lose whatever you did in the interim. Or maybe they’ll charge you to put you back to the day before. Or maybe they can’t do anything to get those contacts back. So how do you answer that? Call them and ask. Then at least you’ll know where you stand. This is one instance where a desktop CRM is actually better. If you back it up yourself every day, you can easily recover to the day before by using the backup to do a restore. Not so with a Web based CRM. So you need to call them and ask “What happens if I accidentally delete 100 of my contacts? Can you get them back for me? Do I have any options?”

So here’s your homework.

Is my contact information available somewhere other than in my Web based CRM, such as on my phone or in Google Contacts?

Do I want insurance that I will have as much other information as possible available from my CRM if they go out of business?

If so, I need to learn how to export my database and set up a recurring reminder to do it weekly/monthly.

What happens if I accidentally delete something and I want it back? Call my CRM vendor and find out.

via Is my CRM data safe? Part 2.

Is your CRM data Safe? Part 1 of 2

Part 1 will deal with Desktop CRMs. Part 2 will deal with Web based CRMs.

Let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. Using the words database, backup and export is a little abstract. In more meaningful terms, we are talking about your livelihood. We are talking about your inventory. You’ve spent anywhere from a couple years to several decades creating an inventory of people who have given, or may give you business. Without them, you have to start all over again. You can re-create some of it with many hours of aggravating effort, but you will never replace all of it. And all that time you spend re-creating it is 100% needlessly wasted time that grates on your every nerve while you’re doing it. It’s one of the most depressing things that can ever happen in your business life. The most religious backer-uppers are the ones who have been there. They know they never want to go through that again. Have your attention now? J

It’s ironic that some people think that because their CRM is on their computer, that their data is safer than if it were a web based CRM. The reality is the opposite. Web based CRM data is backed up automatically in at least two different places. Can you say the same of your desktop database?

With regards to those of you who are using a web based CRM, don’t get too complacent. That’s part 2.

Let me define what I mean by desktop versus web based. Desktop means that you install the software on your computer. It is not accessible anywhere other than on the computers upon which it is installed. Web based means you have to be online and log on to your CRM via the Internet. It is not accessible otherwise.

The desktop CRM that has far and away the most users is Agent Office so I’ll use that as an example, but this is applicable to any desktop CRM. If you have a desktop CRM installed on only one computer, that’s the only place your data is unless you back it up and have it stored somewhere else. By somewhere else I mean on a removable storage device such as a thumb drive. And the only way to be 100% safe is to have that thumb drive stored somewhere other than where your computer is.  If your computer is in your house and your house burns down with the computer and the thumb drive in it, you’re out of luck. I know. I can read your mind. You’re thinking, “Yeah, what are the odds?”  You don’t think that can happen? Then why do you have homeowners insurance?

Many of you may already know that, but even if you are one of the wise and few who store your backups off-site, it still may not be safe.  In the case of Agent Office, what happens if it stops working and you can’t get it working again? You may say, “No worries – I have a backup”. Not necessarily. The only thing that can access your data with an Agent Office backup, is Agent Office. The backup file is in a proprietary data format that can only be read by using Agent Office. That backup is useless otherwise. The exception is if you can find a database expert that can dissect the backup file and get your data out of it for you. That will be expensive if you can find someone qualified to do it.

Agent Office is no longer supported in any meaningful way so if it crashed, you may be out of luck. If you have some other kind of desktop software and it is also no longer supported, you may be in the same fix.

In order to insure that you will always have access to your data, you need to do an export in addition to a backup. An export is something you do from within the software that creates a file in a data format that any number of programs can read or import. The most common file types are ASCII and CSV (Comma Separated Values). All Real Estate CRMs have an export function within them. That said, the data/fields that each different CRM will allow you to export varies dramatically.  In the case of Agent Office, you still have a problem because your backup contains all of your data, but an export only contains your basic contact information such as name, address, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. It does not export the contact’s notes or categories. There are two ways to get notes and categories out of Agent Office. That’s one of the services I provide so just call me if you need that.

So to summarize what you have to do if you want to be 100% safe:

You have to do regular backups and store them off-site

You also have to do regular exports in a common data format and store them off-site.

Ironically, the best way to insure that you do these things on a regular basis is to create a recurring event on your calendar in your CRM, reminding you to do it!

One of the most disturbing calls I get is when someone has not been backing up, or has been backing up but not doing regular exports, and their computer crashed. Or worse, they have been doing backups but they are backing up to the computer that has crashed. I am sometimes able to help, but more often have to tell them they are out of luck. Not a fun phone call.

I sincerely hope you take this article to heart and I never get a call of desperation from you. If this article is mostly Greek to you but you get the point and want to do something about it, that is one of the services I provide.

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.

Do an export NOW if you have Top Producer 6i

For those of you who have not yet made a decision on what to move to if you have TP6i, you need to do this now!

If you are going to move to Top Producer 7i prior to the end of the month when support ends for 6i, you’re fine. If you are going to continue to use 6i beyond the end of May 2007, you need to do an EXPORT, not a backup, now!

If your TP6i crashes after the end of this month, or your hard drive crashes, or your computer is stolen, your backup is useless. All your data will be inaccessible because the backup is only good if you can restore it to your TP6i software, or give it to Top Producer to convert it into 7i.

Now don’t go getting all upset at Top Producer. A backup, as opposed to an export, is usable only in the program it was created from, and would be true of Agent Office or any other proprietary software.

If you decide not to go with TP7i, you’ll need this export, so you can import it into whatever program you decide to use. If you have an export in an ASCII, CSV, or TXT format, that data can be imported into any other database program. That’s why you need to keep a current export, as well as a current backup.

To do an export from TP6i:

Click on – Setup, Export Data, ASCII file export, Display all contacts, Select all, Export contacts, Click on ‘Add’ for every field, Export, Key in a file name ending in “.csv” ( no parenthesis), pick a “Folder” to save it into, click OK.

Keep this export current, and no matter which program you move to, you’ll have your data ready for import.

With regards to what program you are going to move to, keep in mind that TP7i will be able to import almost ALL of your data from TP6i, they do it for you, for free, and they are currently running a promotion which is for a $60 credit to upgrade to 7i. You can order 7i on my site at

Using the export of the 6i data for import into another program is limited to the fields you will see when you are clicking on “Add” when you are doing the export from 6i.