Learning a Real Estate CRM

Why get one in the first place? Without one, only the very most organized agents are truly organized and not in crisis mode an inordinate amount of the time. But there are plenty of agents who are making a great deal of money either on their own or with teams and have no CRM. No one has to have a CRM. But if you do, you can make the same money you make now in less time, or you can make more money in the same amount of time. That’s only one of so many benefits that you cannot really appreciate until you have gotten over the hump and look back at your career pre-CRM.

Your first choice is how you are going to use it. Is it going to be a glorified Rolodex or are you going to run your business with it? The following addresses the latter because the former requires no real commitment or significant learning curve.

If it feels like the hardest part about getting organized with a CRM is figuring out which one to get, but that’s only part of it. You also have to make time to learn it. Note the use of the word make as opposed to get the time. It is so very important to understand that this one point can make all the difference in the world. Will you be the person who implements the CRM and reaps the benefits or the person who eventually regrets spending the time and money and blames it on the CRM being too difficult to learn.

As a Real Estate licensee, we wear many hats. No one likes them all and learning software is one that most distinctly dislike. There are those who will tell you that the reason most agents don’t use a CRM is because they’re too complex and they need to be easier. As a result a number of Real Estate specific CRM’s are focused on making them easier to learn, almost to a fault. What it’s turning out to be in some cases is that CRM’s are being dumbed down to the point where they are no longer CRM’s. They are contact managers. An overly basic CRM is essentially a contact manager which is just a glorified Rolodex. A CRM is far more robust than a contact manager, so regardless of how well it is presented or how intuitive it is, you still need to take a good bit of time to learn it and how to integrate it into your daily routine. You learned how to use Outlook, MS Word, and maybe MS Publisher or MS Excel too. You spent hour after hour playing with them with no support and no training, until you got a handle on them and never complained because you had no choice. What is so different about learning a CRM? If you want to profit by what a good powerful CRM does, then you need to invest the time to learn it. You do not have to like the time you invest into becoming proficient with a good CRM. But what you will like is having more of a life, with less stress, with less mistakes, with better service, with less staff, with more compliments, with more referrals. Is that worth the effort?

Maybe you have heard the time management axiom that a meeting takes as long as the time you allot to it. The same goes for your Real Estate day. You cannot keep putting off learning your CRM until the time that you need to spend with it presents itself. For many of us, that time just does not come.

So what are some guidelines to help insure adoption of a CRM? The first thing to realize is that in order to use a CRM properly, you are going to end up changing the way you do certain parts of your business. One example is that you are currently recording data (names, phone numbers, email addresses) in many places. The goal with a CRM is to have as much of that data in one place, the CRM, as possible. Post-It pads go in the back of a drawer. No more scribbling on desktop blotters or napkins. Throughout the day if you are in front of your computer, you can enter it easily. Get in the habit of entering it while you are talking to them or immediately afterwards. If the CRM has a good mobile interface, it an be entered into there as well. But some times you just need to scribble it somewhere the old fashioned way. That’s fine, but here’s the rule. You have one small notebook in which you take notes. You are not allowed to write anything that is destined for the CRM anywhere else. You then take that notebook each morning or evening and de-brief that information into your CRM.

It’s all about attitude so the first thing is to make sure you have a good view of the big picture. The time it takes to learn the CRM is finite, right? While it may seem like it in the beginning, it’s not going to take the rest of your life to learn the CRM. The learning curve does end at some point. So what’s important is to realize that in the beginning it is going to slow you down and that will make it aggravating and frustrating. The better your attitude, the less you will experience these negative emotions. What is more important is to realize that after you get over the hump it will no longer be an effort to go into your CRM and work in it. It will become as much a part of your day as your email. When you’re in the office you’ll have it open on your laptop or desktop because most of what you do each day will be in the CRM. When you’re not in the office, you have access to your database on your phone or your tablet so you can continue to interact with it.

Initially you need to spend a minimum of one hour each morning before you do anything else as long as you have to, to learn the features you are going to use first. Your goal is to do this every single day without exception until going into the CRM is no longer a chore or a learning curve, but something that you do because you want to and need to. You will need to because you will be running your life with it. Yes both personal and business. There is no reason to separate them with regards to contact information and calendaring. So, in the beginning using the CRM is miserable until you internalize it. Then, it is something that is part of you from there on out.

A comment I hear on a regular basis in one form or another is that the agent does not “want to have to be chained down by a CRM and forced to spend too much time entering information into it”. If you think about it, what information are you putting into the CRM that you aren’t putting somewhere anyway? Do you have one set of contacts in your phone, another in your email, another in a spreadsheet, another in your MLS, and on and on? Having a CRM simply means that instead of having a number of places where you record your day to day data that you need, you have only one place to put it. The end result of that is that it’s much faster to find and use information and you can do many things with it that you never could before.

Before you buy a CRM, you must be committed to making the time to make it work. Know that it will be time consuming and frustrating in the beginning. Know that if you get over the hump, you will realize it is one of the best decisions you have ever made in your real estate career.

Before you buy a CRM, consider the following: Part One

The decision to buy and use a CRM worth using is a little like getting married.

You don’t go into it thinking “I’ll give it a shot and see what happens”. If you’re not committed to it, break it off. You may not get your heart broken but at least you won’t waste your time and money. Before you even start looking into buying a CRM, make sure your attitude is that you’re in it for the long haul. Understand that at first it will take longer to do things in your CRM than it did on post-its and notepads. It will be frustrating at times. You have to keep the end game in mind. You have to believe that after you get over the hump, you’ll be faster and more efficient. You’ll see that finding people and information will be faster. You’ll be able to provide information to clients and affiliated parties faster. You’ll be able to target market like you never could before. If you stick with it, you will come to realize that it is a much better way to do business. But it takes enough of a commitment to get over that hump.

And unless you get an extremely basic one, contrary to what some of the CRM developers would like you to think, it is going to be weeks or months before you get to the point where it becomes natural to you and it becomes integral to your business. In some respects you are going to be developing new habits and changing the way you operate. Change can be frustrating, so patience and commitment is a requirement.

A Popular fallacy – you have to be in front of your computer all the time to use a CRM. I was doing almost 50 transactions a year in a state that rarely uses attorneys. I did not have attorneys who did most of the post contract work for me. I only had a part time assistant and a buyer “chauffer” and I managed to make the time to use my CRM just fine. Now more than ever CRMs are far more mobile. At a minimum; contact information, to-do’s and appointments can be put into your phone which will also appear in your CRM and vice-versa.

Another popular fallacy. Using a CRM to automate your business makes your business less personal and takes away from your face time with your prospects and clients. The opposite is true. Automating the mundane repetitive detailed aspects of your business makes you far more efficient, thereby giving you more time to prospect and maintain a presence with your past clients and prospects.

If all you’re going to do is use it as a glorified Rolodex, use Outlook or Gmail. Don’t bother wasting your time or money on a CRM.

But, if you want less stress, less mistakes, better service to your clients, less staff,  more compliments, and more referrals. Outlook or Gmail or Google apps are woefully inadequate.

What kind of commitment must you make?

The first key to full adoption of a CRM is consistent daily usage. If you can block out large chunks of time to learn the CRM in the beginning, that’s the best way to do it, as long as you continue to use it every day in between those blocks. Most people cannot do that enough times to learn it well and start using it regularly. What works better for the majority of people in the beginning is to commit to an hour a day first thing in the morning, EVERY day. If you schedule those hours through the day on various days, the vast majority of agents will break those appointments with themselves and never get in the rhythm of learning it and using it regularly. Initially, using the CRM is a chore that you have to do. Then it becomes something you want to do. Eventually you will find that your business revolves around it so the daily use will not be an issue. You’ll be on it every day by default, either on your phone or on your computer. You will enjoy using it every day, and it will not be a burden. It will become second nature. You will revel at the ease and speed with which you are able to retrieve information and accomplish your daily tasks.

It’s a commitment. The more a CRM will do for you, the longer it will take to learn. If you have realized that a CRM will expand your business and make it easier and better, it’s short-sighted to get something that you can learn very quickly, but is very limited. It defeats the purpose.

Why do you want one?:

If you are like many of the people who call me who are using Outlook or Gmail and finding them inadequate, you need to define why it is inadequate. What is also helpful is to know what can be done for you by using a CRM. See below.

Make a list of needs and wants. Selecting one can be essentially categorized into four groups; very basic, middle of the road; powerful; customizable and scalable. If you want to run your business like a business, you SHOULD want at least powerful.

Part 2: What will a CRM do for you?, Be wary of other agent’s opinions, Once you choose a CRM, STOP LOOKING at others.