The most important thing you need to know about choosing & implementing a CRM

It can all be summed up in one word – PATIENCE.

We live in a society that demands instant gratification, often no matter what the cost. In this case the cost is making an informed decision.

Everyone seems to think that because they are a very busy person (like they are the only one) they don’t have a lot of time to spend making a CRM decision. My advice is that until you have committed to spending the proper amount of time to invest in making a good decision and implementing it, don’t do it. It will inevitably be a waste of the little time you took.

I have counseled thousands of agents since 1988 in the context of choosing and implementing a contact manager or CRM (Customer Relationship Manager).

The following is advice for people who realize that a CRM is something that your entire business will revolve around. Most agents think that something that tracks their contacts and enables them to have some reminders is all they need. Maybe it is, if you don’t mind riding a bicycle to your goals instead of a Mazerati. I can say that with confidence because when I was more active I was doing 40-50 closings per year with an assistant and a buyer agent and I know what an agent should be doing if they’re smart. And then of course you can ask anyone who is running their business with one and ask them. Can you run a successful business the old fashioned way with paper checklists? Absolutely. It simply takes more time; facilitates more mistakes, lets things fall through the cracks, and it is more stressful by far.

The most common mistake people make is not giving the selection and implementation process enough time. If you want a CRM to help you grow your business as opposed to one to use as a glorified Rolodex, it is arguably one of the most important decisions you will make in your career.

Given that, should you not spend an appropriate amount of time researching and implementing that decision? Every day I counsel agents to help them pick the best CRM for them based on their aptitude, their current needs, and their future goals. Every day I see people spend an hour looking at the product I recommend based on their criteria only to hear from them again the next day saying that the product does not do what they need. You can not make that determination in that amount of time.

An example of how quickly people want to make the decision is that I follow up with an e-mail detailing what they need to do to properly evaluate their choice, including how to get answers from the vendor, and the best way to get that help. Many agents later call back with questions that were answered in that e-mail. A very small percentage of agents actually read that e-mail because “It is a lengthy e-mail”. That e-mail is about two pages long!

The vast majority of CRM developers spend a great deal of time, money, and effort promoting their product as being “easy to learn and use”. Why? Because that’s what agents want to hear. The irony is that the industry is trending to making CRMs that do not do as much as is needed so that they can sell it as easy to learn.

Many agents do not want to hear the truth. But the truth is that I can and do recommend CRMs that are the easiest to learn and use to those agents whom I can tell do not understand that using a more powerful one is a wiser choice. I know they will not make the time to implement a more powerful product. But the more powerful product is the one they need if they want to truly grow their 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.

One of the most common comments I hear is “I don’t want something that does a lot of things I don’t want or need.” There are two problems with that statement. One is that you probably eventually will want and need them if you want to grow your business and be more efficient and effectiveThe other is that if you want to do more than just track your contact’s names and addresses, the CRM will undoubtedly also do things that you don’t need. It’s like saying “I want a Mercedes but I don’t want cruise control because I don’t use it.” If you want the Mercedes, you get the cruise control. Just don’t use it.

The amount of time it takes to learn a good CRM is analogous to learning a good word processor like Microsoft Word. How many of us know how to use MS Word to create a letter? How long did it take you to learn how to do that? Very little. Now consider how much more it is capable of. If you want to master many more of its capabilities, it takes more time. A good CRM is no different. Is running your business a simple process? No. It is a complex process that involves a great deal of detail with respect to prospecting, marketing, follow-up, e-mail, document management, managing the myriad of details associated with taking and maintaining a listing, advertising, financial management, managing a closing, tracking showings and following up with them, keeping the client  informed about the transaction, maintaining a history of the transaction for risk reduction, and post closing follow-up. And you know that doesn’t cover nearly all of it. If you really want to run your business with a good CRM, there are many aspects you should be using. It takes time to implement that. A lot of time. To use an over used phrase – How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

So why is it that we expect to be able to spend an hour looking at a CRM and determine that it is, or is not, what will do the job? It is literally impossible to properly evaluate a CRM in that amount of time. What ends up happening is that in short order you determine that it does not do this, that, or the other thing that you want it to do. The reality is that in many cases, if I recommended it to you it does do those things. It is simply not readily apparent that it does because you did not spend enough time or ask enough questions to ascertain that.

So what happens next, you move on to evaluating another product that may fit your needs, only to find it unsatisfactory as well. The end result is analysis paralysis, and never making the decision.

This is going to sound egotistical but it needs to be said. There is irony in that people routinely call me and say “I never realized how many different choices of CRM there until I saw your site. I don’t have the time to research all these different ones and I keep hearing that you are the guru on this subject so can I pick your brain about what would be the best one for me?” I then ask many detailed questions to determine which product best suits their needs, and recommend a product accordingly. Many then spend a very short amount of time reviewing that product, determining that it doesn’t do what they need, and rejecting it. If it did not do what they needed it to, I would not have recommended it in the first place. They called me because (and here is the part that sounds egotistical) after seeing my site all over the Internet at the top of the search engines, or being recommended by an associate, coach, or instructor, or after spending hours on my site, or because I wrote the book on Real Estate CRM, they determined that I know more about the topic than they do. They then determine in a very short period of time that what I recommended is not right for them. I am certainly not saying that I am never wrong. I am simply saying that it is impossible to determine that it is the wrong one without giving it the appropriate amount of time.

So without taking too much time to say it, I know – too late, you need to allot a significant amount of time to evaluate, choose, and then implement a good CRM. If you want it to do a lot for you, you have to spend a lot of time implementing it. There are no shortcuts.

Happy searching! Please make the time to make a good decision.

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