What’s with all the negative PR on Top Producer?

First let me say that I am not trying to sell everyone on Top Producer. My whole business model exists to help people find the CRM that is best for their individual needs. I work with buyers. You work with buyers. You don’t care which house a buyer picks as long as it is not a terrible mistake for them. I don’t care which of the 40+ CRMs I have that you buy from me as long as it is not a terrible mistake.  Top Producer is not for everyone. Also, on some points I am speaking to agents who are full time, serious and making enough to invest back into your business. There is so much negative PR out there about Top Producer and some of it was well deserved, years ago. It’s really been a while since they have deserved much criticism other than the corporate mentality that still exists in some regards. The one year contract is also something I have been beating them up about for years but hey, what do I know? :)

Also note that if you are reading comments online about Top Producer, is there a date on them? Top Producer has been around since 1989. There are volumes of very old comments and opinions that are about issues that have not existed for years. Many comments have no date on them. Until the last couple years I was not recommending Top Producer very often because I felt there were still too many holes in the feature set. That is no longer the case. What prompted this post is that it is not uncommon now for me to recommend Top Producer to someone and get a reaction along the lines of “I don’t know, I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Top Producer.” I then have to explain to them why they probably have that perception. Some of it is from online. Some of it is from personal comments. Let’s look at some of the reasons Top Producer has come under fire over the years.

Before we get into past reasons, let’s look at the top two current reasons.

1) “Top Producer is way too complicated. There’s so much in there that I’ll never use.”

It’s not too complicated. It is simply more than the person who is making the statement wants. There is a big difference. Far and away the biggest reason for this complicated statement is that the majority of agents don’t want much. They really don’t want much more than a glorified Rolodex. They get Top Producer and say it’s far too complicated. It is not too complicated for everyone. It is too complicated for the person who doesn’t want or need it, or is intimidated by it. The sad part is that if they learned to use most of the features available in it, they would dramatically improve almost every aspect of their business and make much more money in less time. But you can lead a horse to water… So the It’s too complicated” statement is only true if you want a simple CRM.

What comes hand-in-hand with that comment is that the learning curve is very steep. It does take a while to learn it, but not because it is difficult, but rather that there is a lot to it. The first time you wrote a letter in MS Word it wasn’t that tough to learn right? But what if you wanted to learn everything there is to know about Word? How long would it take? Does that mean you should stay away from Word because the learning curve is too steep? No, it just means that both Top Producer and Word take a while to learn if you want to master all of it.

2) It’s too expensive. The least expensive real estate CRM is $99/yr. It’s a one or two person company though so is the price worth the risk? Time will tell. The next cheapest that is relatively comparable in features is $25/mo. The next is $35/mo. and there are several that are $80 – $90/mo. Top Producer is $35-40/mo. Top Producer is as good a bang for the buck as any CRM out there. CRMs are pretty much all online now and they charge a monthly fee. Running most of your business with one software product that costs $35/mo. is pretty darn cheap. Other industries would laugh at us complaining about pricing like that. Then I hear “Yeah but if I have two other agents and two assistants it costs $125/mo.” Uh, yeah, but if you have a team of five, how much money are you making? What percentage of your monthly income is $125? And by the way, how much do you spend a month on your car? Everyone has understandably been in cost cutting mode for some years now, but CRM has always been a money maker when used correctly. I have no problem saying it is impossible not do at least one extra deal as a result of the organization and follow up that comes with using a CRM. And then you have people who say “I want a CRM that does A, B, C, E, F , G, H, I and J, but I don’t want D, so why should I pay for D.” If you want all the bells and whistles except one, you get a powerful CRM with all the bells and whistles. That’s like saying I want a top of the line Mercedes but I don’t want cruise control. Too bad. You’re getting it. If you don’t want it, don’t use it.

But when did it become popular to beat up on Top Producer and why?

It all started when they moved from a desktop application to web based! How dare they! I know I’m going to make some enemies here but please. Time marches on. Virtually all software is moving online. There were more people using Top Producer 6i (the last desktop version) than any other Real Estate CRM. They spent good money on it, some over a period of almost 15 years. But when Top Producer decided to move to the Web and charge a monthly fee, many people went ballistic and started spewing venom about Top Producer online and it lasted for years. It was of a magnitude the likes of which I have never seen. The reality is that Top Producer took care of those 6i users for three or four years after they stopped selling it. Over ten years later there are still people using it, and they are no doubt unhappy campers that it is no longer supported. Quickbooks stopped supporting my version three years after I got it and that wasn’t even because they went online. they just do it routinely. I wasn’t happy but I didn’t go online and do my best to make it sound like Quickbooks were a bunch of crooks. So that was the first negative barrage about Top Producer online.

Once Top Prodcuer went online the infamous mantra of they hold your data hostage began. I have written pages just on this misconception alone but I’ll keep it short. The reality of this one is that they exported 236 fields, more than any other CRM at the time and still more than most. The real issue was that no other CRM could import more than just the contact information. The kicker is that that is true of virtually all CRMs. They usually just don’t import more than the contact fields so every time you move from one CRM to another, you lose all the transaction history, letter and e-mail templates, and a good deal of other information. So this issue was never specific to Top Producer, but because they had far more users than all the rest of the CRMs combined, they were the ones that were nailed for it. There will be people out there who will argue the finer details of these statements, but the bottom line is that all CRMs have the same issues with regards to this.

They dramatically changed their interface when it changed from version 7i to 8i. A lot of people did not like that. I agree that it was a mistake by Top Producer to change the interface so dramatically, but in it’s defense, they did so because they they had to re-design it to accommodate a better product in the long run. There are still many users on 7i despite the fact that there is so much more that 8i does. People don’t like change, so they went online by the scores and complained. Initially 8i was said to not be intuitive and I would have to agree. It was also said to be difficult to use, meaning it took too many clicks to accomplish simple tasks. This was also true to a degree. They made a lot of changes over the last couple years. Now – I find it to be as intuitive as any of them in most cases. I also no longer agree that it is difficult to use. I routinely ask people to be specific when they say that. Most never answer. Recently one person answered and said that “it takes too many clicks to add a contact”. I counted. It was two. I think these kind of complaints come primarily from people who have never used a CRM before and have no perspective with which to evaluate what they have. Or if you have used one and it was a much simpler one, of course a much more powerful one will take more clicks in some cases.

Another criticism that used to be true was that it was too slow. That also used to be true. I recently ran some time tests against it’s three primary competitors. It was as fast as the rest, and faster than one.

Here’s another one that’s been around for years. This is the one that is the most insidious because they have an agenda and you don’t know it because they don’t tell you. The scenario is this. An agent gets Top Producer to trial it. You have to actually purchase it to try it. They bill your card for the first months fee. You then get 30 days to decide whether or not you want to keep it. If you cancel within 30 days you get your money back. If you do not cancel within 30 days they will hold you to the contract. What commonly happens is that an agent gets the trial and knows they have 30 days and are then into a year contract. But then they get busy and forget about it. 70 days later they call and want to cancel. TP won’t let them. They get irate and go online and start spewing anything negative they can think of about Top Producer. Is the year contract antiquated in Top Producer’s competitor’s market? Sure. But is the agent in the wrong, or Top Producer? Clearly the agent is blaming Top Producer for their own mistake. Remember this when you are reading online comments about Top Producer.

And finally, Top Producer has never been one to spend money on a person to monitor and respond to online statements and criticisms. They still don’t. Take the seven year old comment that says “I tried Top Producer but it’s way too slow.” If Top Producer had a social media manager, they would come across this comment and could respond and say “Unfortunately we did have an issue with speed seven years ago, but it has long since been resolved. I’ll be happy to demonstrate it to you by showing it to you live if you like!” It is in my opinion that it is exponentially more expensive to ignore the problem than it would be to pay someone to prevent it. Had they proactively responded to criticisms as they had been made for the last decade online, they would most certainly enjoy a more favorable reputation than they do now. It has been common place for a few years now for companies to have someone who does just that. It’s a shame. As is usually the case, people are generally more likely to get angry and go online and complain than they are to be happy and go on and praise. There have been plenty of happy Top Producer users over the years that you just don’t hear from. Maybe they’re too happy and busy making more money to bother. Bear in mind that it is inevitable that you will see more comments both positive and negative about Top Producer than most or all of the other CRMs combined. Why? Because they have had more users than all the rest combined for most if not all of the years since it came out.

P.S. – Although I enjoy sharing this kind of information, I also need to make a living. If this article has prompted you to take a look at Top Producer or any other CRM, please do me the kindness of contacting me or visiting my site to trial or purchase them.

As always, I can not be beat on price or terms on any of the 30+ CRMs on my site.

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