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Commercial real estate CRM,all in or time to get out?

So, through out the years that you have spent in this business you have accumulated (with out a doubt) a huge database of names, numbers, addresses and e-mails.  Guess what me too, and to that I say “So what.”

Think about the time, money and effort put into the system.  Can you really…really…. justify it?  Now let’s not start the whole “we’ve had this in place for X years and it’s proven itself because of blah, blah, blah” conversation.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, the basis for CRM on the surface is very good.  I’ve done a little old skool breakdown on the finer points.

Prospecting Get suspects, turn them into prospects, and turn them into sales, by knowing who they are, what they want, and when they want it, all in significant detail, and by being reminded to capitalize on that information automatically.

Lead source tracking Knowing where your business is coming from and spending your marketing time and money accordingly/wisely.

Referral tracking Knowing who is referring you the most business, so you know who to do more for them in return.

Communications documentation Also known as History, there is a place where it all comes together. Tasks, phone calls, e-mails, letters, post cards, fliers, and appointments. A record of everything that has happened with that contact or transaction.

Contact management That means everyone. Prospects; clients, vendors, friends relatives, neighbors. Knowing how to find any information on anyone, even from many years ago, with a few clicks instantly.

E-mail management How many e-mails are in your inbox? They should be with your contacts, or with the property, where you can find them, quickly.

Mail merge do all print or e-mail merging from within the CRM eliminating redundant external databases.

Document management Store all documents and photographs relevant to a transaction with the transaction record and/or the contact record. Having a complete paper trail all in one location is invaluable.

Appointment management– The ability to not only track when and where you had an appointment with someone, but also the ability to note the substance of that appointment.

Listing coordination The biggest complaint lodged against Real Estate agents has always been poor communication. A comprehensive, automatically executed listing plan enables you to show the property owner your comprehensive plan.

Closing coordination Even the best paper list and file methods are rife with bottlenecks and inconsistencies. Having all the information you need in one place and a to-do list automatically posted on your calendar makes your job far easier and more stress free.

Time management Having automated to-do lists, and organized methods of consistent follow-up. Decide what you want to do, once, and automatically follow up that way every time.

Risk reduction Knowledge is power. If you use a CRM properly and consistently, you will automatically gravitate towards centralizing the huge volume of detail with which you work every day. A CRM can easily and automatically organize you. Having complete records of; phone calls, letters, e-mails, appointments, etc., insures that you will use that data to service they client base you spent so much time creating.

Post closing follow-up/client retention not staying in touch with past clients is one of the single biggest causes of loss of income in the Real Estate sales industry. Never lose another referral due to your failure to stay in touch.

Staff training and accountability Personnel retention is a problem that never goes away. Having a system in place with notes built into the CRM task lists significantly diminishes the impact of a lost staff person.  Additionally, it provides a clear picture of exactly who is doing what each day with regards to each individual’s responsibilities.

Now take a look at some of the CRM providers out there today.

http://www.advantageworks.com/Forms/Home.aspxhttp://www.realhound.com/Pages/Home.aspx

http://www.gorea.com/ I started using this program 5 years ago. (Seems like playing PONG compared to now.)

http://www.catylist.com/crm/

http://www.realtybrokeroffice.com/Default.htm

http://www.brainsell.net/industries/commercial_real_estate.asp

http://www.allthingscrm.com/ Is a very interesting read for CRM and Social Media

http://www.softwareadvice.com/articles/crm/microsoft-dynamics-crm-industry-solutions-our-20-favorites-1082010/#Real Estate

I have to single this one out on it’s own.  Microsoft Dynamics based and well…WOW !!!  Lauren Carlson from The Software Advice Blog breaks down 15 different industry solutions.  I have to admit the Real Estate app in amazing.

Questions not answers.

How many of you use a CRM program today?  It is in use everyday?  I find myself falling further and further away.  It is because of the ability to connect with people online?  Is the information already there for me to use at no cost, time or effort?  How about the online property search engines,a data base right in front of your face?  Can I get thru a post with out mentioning the mighty Google?  Is it time to wave goodbye?  The breakdown above provides what would seem a very strong case for CRM.  Business value ,business necessity or none of the above ? Let’s hear it.

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  • Duke we are also witnessing the growth of “Social CRM.” There’s tons of CREObuzz/data about prospects available in online networks. The trick is to now how to mine it and tie that in with existing sales and marketing processes. Here’s an interesting post about the topic http://bit.ly/b0sBOX

  • Duke — I started feeding my desktop CRM for Realtors (not Top Producer which subsequently went “cloud” and burdensomely expensive) when I was first a residential agent about 7 years ago. It took me a while to get the hang of it, to figure out a classification hierarchy for prospects, deals, research, other brokers, vendors, professionals, and to discover faster data entry methods when adding new contacts (suck it in from an Excel spreadsheet that someone else inputs in my format). There are big advantages that I would not want to be without: 1) synchronizing with my smart phone so I don’t have to shlep around paper with phone numbers, addresses, notes — also meaning I can make a vendor/expert referral at any time the subject comes up; 2) comprehensive contact history; 3) appointments, reminders, time blocking, repetitive calendaring. Between my CRM and my smart phone, I run my life and my business without worrying if I have had a brain-f-art. I even use my smart phone notes area to make and revise my grocery list, my ‘honey-do” list, etc. Paper-reduced lifestyle and I can throw away all the business cards as soon as they are entered on the Excel spreadsheet . CRM and smart phones. Don’t attempt CRE without them!

  • Duke,
    Many great points here. CRM should be an integral part of every business. I know Realtors are on the go constantly, mobile CRM would be a must. Sage SalesLogix has a cloud version that you can access from any phone with a browser, so is SugarCRM. They’re both very affordable, $30-$60 per user per month.
    Most open source CRM’s can be customized very easily to tailor to any business.
    Thanks for the thorough article!

  • Monique Fox

    How is it that I just now found your blog? Great reads, tips, lists and detailed analysis of the industry. I’m a new fan! Your thoughts regarding a CRM on the verge of death or poised for improvement has been my feeling for a couple years and I am certain the market is ready for the next evolution. Social / Professional networking, online (real-time) market data accessibility, cloud based services / tools / apps are all changing not only the standard business process but also the potential possibilities. CRM, or variation of, is a must in my opinion in the CRE industry but evolution of existing CRM platforms is also a must. I’d love to share with you a new option coming out in early 2012 and get your thoughts / feedback. Until then, I look forward to following your posts regarding industry suggestions & insight.

    • Craig Reisinger

      Monique or Duke, I know this post was a long time ago, but what was the new option for CRM that came out in early 2012? Thanks, – Craig

  • DaveM

    Duke- Do you know anything about the salesforce based CRE apps? We’ve been evaluating Apto (www.aptotude.com) and I think we’ll go that direction because it’s tailored to investment sales brokers but we’ve also looked at REThink and Propertybase. They seem to be a bit more general in terms of their capabilities. Propertybase is built for developer and brokers and REThink seems to be for both residential and commercial. Any thoughts on these vs. Apto?

    • Anonymous

      Dave,
      First off I am a HUGE fan of Salesforce products. There is no one close in my opinion. I was a user of REA back in the day. I did write something about giving up CRM solution altogether but it may not be realistic just yet. Do me a favor and tell me how you like and dislike the Aptotude solution. I may do a post on it. It may help so many others looking also.

      • We use Salesforce and customize the CRM with Rethink app. Works well for us.

      • DaveM

        Duke-

        Been with Apto for a year-and-a-half now. You ought to check them out if you haven’t already. Good knowledge of the space and a well thought out app make it a success for us. Great support.

        Dave