Have you seen my boy, Michael Griffin out and about at some kind of CRE Tech event? You recognize him from somewhere right? Just look at that face. He’s one of the good guys who has been around since before (how old is he really) the first day I started writing. He’s a Michigan native, and yes he thinks Harbaugh hung the moon, but he epitomizes a Southern California dude living in the OC hanging back and just staring at the ocean. He’s an early Tesla adopter, and yes I drove it. LUDICROUS SPEED! That’s what it’s called. I think he matches his shoes, socks, dog, underwear, tie, and car color almost every day. It must be the lack of water. In spite all of that he is my dude! We relate.
I have a call today with Michael that isn’t just about fast cars; it’s about commercial real estate CRM. I am of course fascinated by the entire process of lead generation and database management. I’ve said it a thousand times “ people ask me about CRE CRM almost every day.” In my eyes, this suggests nothing but opportunity. CRM is one of those technology tools that has the potential to make a huge impact on a company’s business, but for some reason, it has seen relatively low adoption. I just don’t get it.
Why such low adoption? Why not even the willingness to try? The common assertion is that the CRE community just isn’t trying hard enough. Brokers are lazy and complacent when it comes to technology implementation. The blame is never on the service provider. It’s always the fault of the user. To me, this is an excuse for poor software design and service, and the conversation is becoming mute. Whoever figures this out in the CRM space will own the commercial real estate world.
But what does Michael know about CRE technology, how deep can he go?? A lot, as it turns out, my boy is way more old school than he might want to admit. Michael started as a broker. He quickly turned into a tech entrepreneur when he sold his first startup (anyone remember ARES for ACT) to ahh ahh….. CoStar. Give the man props for getting paid and creating an exit. He then got tapped by Xceligent a few years ago to help with their growth, specifically to help them with their product, so he knows the data research side of the business. Usually, I’m bouncing crazy tech ideas off him, but today he’s doing a demo. You wonder where I get all that UX/UI and tech knowledge from? You should listen in sometime. Michael and I can go for days. Interesting that almost all of the conversation always centers around the actual user of the product, not the actual product itself.
Michael’s claim is that ClientLook has cracked the CRM nut in CRE. To him, it’s all about adoption and creating an amazing user experience. ClientLook is supposed to be super intuitive with ultra-low maintenance. He also claims the product differentiates itself because it’s integrated with the industry’s other top tech tools. The feedback I get from the street suggests that Michael is on to something, well hey, you know me I’ve seen it all, so we shall see.
So we start the ClientLook demo and roll through contacts, properties, deals and more. I’m told that this isn’t a typical CRM however. It’s not an add-on to Salesforce or any other generic CRM. Michael knows a lot about add-on software design from his previous startup but wanted to build something from the ground-up this time around. ClientLook is natively designed solely for CRE, which means everything about it is made for our business. No short cuts and no compromises. Now we are talking. CRE CRM built specifically by CRE for CRE.
My first impression about ClientLook is “Wow, this looks easy and quite simple.” It’s totally usable, and I get it just by looking at it. There’s no strategy here to sell me training or overwhelm me with features. This is pure brokerage effectiveness, and it’s plain to see that a lot of thought went into getting this right. Now I can see where Michael is emphasizing the user experience.
Then, of course, I start to ask the hard questions. First I want to know how I get all my stuff into ClientLook. I hear it all the time, “it’s about the data, but I don’t have that much time.” Michael tells me about all their great onboarding services to facilitate data transfer. I can bring in data from any spreadsheet and also most other CRM solutions. There’s also a mobile sync that sucks in data from any mobile device. There we go, thinking mobile from the start. I like it!
But let’s cut to the chase. I want to know how I’m going to be able to keep up with all the data entry. This is where many CRM implementations fail. I know that the typical user is going to need to commit 6-8 hours per week to keep any CRM rolling. Who has that kind of time? Did I not just say that? Come on!
Michael has a novel response -, especially for a CRM provider. “Most of the work that’s required to maintain any CRM is not worth your time,” he tells me. What? Then I think about it. If my hourly rate is $100, then 8 hours of weekly works means my CRM is costing me $800 per week. That’s a huge investment and certainly not worth my time. Nobody ever thinks about software like this. I like the way he framed that. Put some dollar signs in front of my face and equate that with time. You will get my undivided attention.
While CRM data entry isn’t worth my time, it’s certainly worth someone’s time. The trick is finding someone to do the work for you. ClientLook has the answer. Their service includes access to a team of virtual assistants who perform all that mundane, yet necessary data entry for you. It’s outsourcing in a whole new way.
The ClientLook VA team even does some pretty cool stuff like transcribe voicemails into meeting notes, enter business cards I snap and send with my phone and more. Now that’s using technology to push it forward. This isn’t just a CRM. It’s a productivity tool. Why is it so hard for CRE to see it in that simple way? I get to focus on deal making rather than data entry. I also realize that if I don’t use ClientLook, then I’m basically working as my own super high paid assistant. Wow, how many times have I went on a rant about that, and just recently?
Next, he and I roll into a discussion about a big issue that’s always plagued our industry: lack of technology integration. It’s not uncommon for people to enter the same contact, property or listing multiple times across different services. That’s crazy and probably one of the reasons why technology adoption suffers. People hate redundant data entry. ClientLook takes this seriously. Bringing the ability to adapt and integrate is something at the core of their business. They have also created various strategic high touch relationships.
One of the most interesting relationships is ClientLooks recent integration with Xceligent. If you want a CRM infused with CRE property research, then ClientLook is the only game in town. It’s one of those fits that seems so obvious and synergistic that it makes you wonder why nobody ever did this before. Can it be that hard to do? It must be, or we would see more of this type of working relationship.
Both parties are user focused, and Xceligent is now selling ClientLook nationwide through a special licensing deal. This means that there’s an 80+ person team spreading the word, which is a larger CRM salesforce then the rest of the industry combined. You’re going to see ClientLook everywhere.
This integration is equally important to Xceligent though. For one thing, it’s validation that their open source platform is viable. It helps Xceligent users realize a whole new level of utility for their research data. It also gives Xceligent a major competitive advantage. Let’s face it, this integration is downright badass and could be enough to convert even the most firmly complacent users of competitive solutions. Big hitter competitive marketplace tools right at your fingertips.
I see the ClientLook overall integration strategy as one of their key differentiators. It makes sense because a CRM is typically the hub of a user’s day. Currently, ClientLook also integrates with Buildout, RPR, TheAnalyst PRO and MailChimp. I’m told that more super secret (of course I know) integrations are on the way too. All they seem to do is build momentum and find a way to help CRE do deals everyday.
If you step back, what has Michael accomplished with ClientLook? He’s made a CRM that’s easy, fun, and viable for anyone. ClientLook is changing the way people think about CRM as well as software design in our industry. It’s a shining example of how to run a great tech startup. With a 96% renewal rate Michael has the kind of adoption that big companies like Salesforce dream about, and he’s done it without funding. That’s right. ClientLook is entirely bootstrapped, or what Michael calls “customer funded.” He’s one of the only CRE Founders that I know who runs a profitable business and is not beholden to anyone. How can you not be impressed, and hey, I want to drive his Tesla down the Pacific Coast Highway again. AC/DC is blasting out of the speakers and the look of fear in Michael’s eyes as he realizes I may have a death wish or at the very least a serious need for speed.