Archive for the ‘Contact Management’ Category

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I believe that every real estate agent who wants to be the best thing to happen to their clients (thus generating a steady supply of new clients throughout their careers) should invest in and commit to a real estate-specific contact management system. No, not to send out cheesy drip-mails to their nearest and dearest every two weeks, but to maximize the likelihood that everyone they know thinks of them fondly when the subject of real estate comes up in their day-to-day wanderings.

On Tuesday, October 18th, I did a teleseminar show in the SWS Virtual Studio on the subject, and discussed several ways contact management can be used to help a real estate agent enjoy the success they dream of. At the end of the show, I asked attendees to send me at least one thing they learned that would help them achieve that – and below are the results of that poll!

Favorit-est Tip #1
Create checklist (or Action Plan) templates for your transactions, specifically, your Active Listings, your Buyers-Under-Contract and your Listings-Under-Contract. Every time you enter into a transaction, apply the appropriate template and voila! Your transaction-specific to-do list auto-populates into your daily task list so nothing slips through the cracks! (you can see samples of mine in my VIP Lounge here.)

Favorit-est Tip #2
Print out a list of your “Group One’s” (your social network) every quarter and work your way through the list, making personal contact with a few each week. Each week, different names will “call out” to you from the list, depending on your mood, and by the end of the quarter, you’ll have at least attempted to talk to or meet up with everyone on the list. Once you’re through the list, print out a new one and start over.

Favorit-est Tip #3
Use your contact management system to REMIND you to do things, not to do them for you! Don’t ask your contact management system to DO your staying-in-touch, particularly with your Group One’s and your clients. Just set up tasks that will remind you it’s time to send a birthday card or a how-ya-doing email or a market status report – then send the greeting card, write up the email or send the report personally.

Favorit-est Tip #4
Every time you have an encounter with someone you know, think of something from your conversation you can follow-up on, and create a task for yourself to do it. For example, if your friend tells you they’re job-hunting, set a reminder to call them in a week or two to see how it’s going.

If you’d like to read more of my ramblings on Contact Management (exciting stuff, I know), just go here: www.SellwithSoul.com/contact-management.

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Last week we did a show-n-tell webinar in the SWS Virtual Studio about contact management – specifically what to DO with your contacts once they’re loaded. Because, as nice as it is to have a place to safely store your precious sphere of influence contact details, having them in storage certainly isn’t enough to justify either the effort it took to get them there, or the cost you’ll incur to keep them there.Contact Management

If you’d like to watch the video from the show, you can do that here: www.sellwithsoul.com/cms-contacts. It’s a long one – nearly 90 minutes, but there’s some good stuff there if I do say so me-self!

If you don’t have the patience to sit through a 90-minute tutorial (I know I don’t), here’s the Cliff’s Notes version…

Step One: Print out a report of all your contacts, including their spouse’s name, home address, email address, phone number and birthday.

Step Two: Go through the list with a highlighter and identify any missing bits of information. Don’t DO anything with the missing bits just yet – just identify them.

Step Three: Go through the list again and identify your Group Ones (the people you’d feel comfortable asking out for coffee; i.e. your social network). Put a “1” next to your Group Ones.

Step Four: If you imported your contacts from an old database, identify anyone on that list that you don’t know with an “IDK” (I Don’t Know). These might be old web leads or people you met at open houses five years ago, for example.

Step Five: Everyone else on the list, who isn’t a Group One or an IDK should be a Group Two (people you know, but who aren’t in your social network).

Step Six: Go BACK through the list (yet again) and identify members any sub-groups that you see – for example – family, service providers, dog-lovers, fellow bikers or hikers, little-league parents, members of your church, high school or college friends, etc.

INTERLUDE

All this printing and highlighting and scribbling may sound a little low-tech for today’s world, eh? Surely there’s a faster, more efficient way to do these things without expending all this manual effort?

Yes, of course there is and most contact management systems will allow you to do most of these steps directly online, without printing and highlighting and scribbling.

BUT

I believe there is something magical about “touching” the names in your database on a regular basis. When you print out the list and go through it, name by name and really think about each person and who they “are” to you, good things happen. First, you’ll likely be inspired to reconnect with many of the people on that list, and second (as airy-fairy as this may sound), when you think about someone, I believe you send out a vibe to them, and if you’re thinking good thoughts (!), I believe they’ll feel it… and might be inspired to reconnect with YOU! I think every real estate agent should go through their database, name by name, at least every six months.

Okay – I’ll continue this later this week with what to do NEXT after you’ve printed out and scribbled up your list… Stay tuned!

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Here’s a fun interview I did with my good friend Rich Gaasenbeek of IXACT Contact about SOI & contact management. Enjoy!

IXACT Contact: I’m curious to know what motivated you to move from your successful career as a real estate broker to the work you’re doing now?

Jennifer: Well, it was a series of serendipitous events that led up to the career change – which at the time didn’t seem so serendipitous! I owned a real estate company with a partner who, one day, decided she didn’t want to be in real estate sales anymore. BAM! I wasn’t in a position at the time to continue without her, so I took the “opportunity” to finish up a book I’d started three years earlier. I had no idea at the time what was involved in becoming a world-famous author so I made a lot of mistakes, took a lot of wrong turns and enjoyed a bunch of “learning experiences!” But it’s been worth every single painful moment – I absolutely LOVE what I do and appreciate my extraordinary good fortune to do what I love AND get paid for it.

IXACT Contact: “Sell With Soul” is such a captivating phrase! What is the essence of the Sell With Soulapproach to a real estate sales career?

Jennifer: The definition of Selling with Soul is to enjoy a wildly successful career selling real estate by treating clients and prospects respectfully, as you yourself would like to be treated. Sounds suspiciously like the good old Golden Rule, huh? But to go a little further – on the cover of Sell with Soul (the book), there are four words: Respect, Competence, Enthusiasm and Confidence, which I believe are the inter-related pillars of success in a real estate career:  Respect your clients and prospects… Be competent (even exceptional) at what you do… Love what you do… all of which leads to a self-confidence that is far more attractive to your potential clients than any elevator speech, fancy brochure or scripted sales pitch will ever be.

IXACT Contact: That’s such a refreshingly common sense approach and I can understand why it has resonated so powerfully with so many people.  On the flip side, what are the most common mistakes you see new REALTORS® making?

Jennifer: Oh my… where do I start? The biggest mistake I see them make is to head out into the world looking for business before they know what to do with it – in other words, focusing on real estate prospecting without taking the time to learn how to BE a competent real estate agent. I’ve seen agents literally on their first day of work handed a list of expired listings and told to start calling them for appointments – before the agent can even spell MLS! Aside from the obvious issue of whether or not that agent is capable of handling any business his efforts might produce, this can be highly frustrating and discouraging for a new agent. I hear from these poor agents all the time. They think there’s something wrong with THEM. These REALTORS® would like to have a little training before they try to drum up business.Real estate prospecting - cold calling is not as effective as relationship marketing

Another very common mistake is to enter the profession without proper funding. Most people wouldn’t dream of opening their own business without a nest-egg to get them started, but it happens every day in real estate sales. Selling real estate is not a get-rich-quick career, or even a get-paid-in-a-reasonable-amount-of-time career in the beginning but I see agents every day who enter the field with less than $1,000 to their name. Crazy!

IXACT Contact: Good points Jennifer!  We would add that failure to capitalize on existing contacts is another common rookie REALTOR® mistake.  So many new agents feel they have to generate all their business from strangers that they completely overlook the gold in their own contact list.

Most seasoned agents know it’s important to stay in touch with their clients, but they’re not sure how to go about it.  How do you recommend REALTORS® keep in touch with and market to their clients better?

Jennifer: By “clients” I assume you mean their sphere of influence – the people they know (as opposed to just their current active buyer and seller clients). So, let’s use the abbreviation “SOI”, okay? The secret to an effective stay-in-touch campaign with one’s SOI is NOT to bombard them with postcards and newsletters and doo-dads every two weeks. Your goal in communicating is not simply to remind your SOI that you exist, but to inspire them to smile and think of you fondly. No off-the-shelf or boilerplate real estate marketing piece is going to do that; in fact, being bombarded with such material will likely have the opposite effect – that of annoying your sphere or at the very least, training them to ignore your communication efforts.

A better approach is to take the time to create quality real estate marketing pieces – and by “quality” I mean ones that will be interesting to the intended audience and reflective of who YOU are. If your marketing materials are quality materials, you don’t have to send them out nearly as much, but the irony is that your audience won’t mind if you do because they’re enjoying them!

IXACT Contact: We couldn’t agree more!  We’re big proponents of only sending quality keep-in-touch marketing communications that are relevant, personalized and timely.  It’s downright sad how many real estate sales people are still doing the old monthly “batch’n’blast” of a poor quality generic email or postcard that might actually be doing their reputation more harm than good.

Use IXACT Contact drip email to send personalized and targeted  communications

Let’s explore this a bit more.  Why exactly are relationships so important in real estate sales?

Jennifer: There are so many different ways to answer this question! If you look at it from a purely financial perspective, inspiring people you know to support your real estate sales business is going to be a whole lot less expensive than going after strangers with any mass-marketing effort. And most real estate agents don’t have it in the budget to implement a strong-enough real estate marketing campaign to create any real brand or name recognition in their market area.

So, if we agree that it’s more cost-effective to focus on the people you already know instead of strangers, then it becomes critical that you make an effort to nurture the relationships you have, and to always have your antenna up to make new friends. Not that you have to spend all day, every day hanging out with and making new friends (when would you get your work done?), but if you’re going to rely on your sphere of influence for most of your business, it’s obvious that you’ll have to stay in touch with the people you know and to come across to them as someone they can trust with their business and referrals. So, while I don’t consider real estate sales to be a traditional “numbers game” it is true that “the more people who know you, and like you, and trust you… and know that you sell real estate, the more real estate you’ll sell!”

IXACT Contact: This raises another question.  Why is building a business based on referrals such a great approach?

Jennifer: Well, building a business based on referrals is optional, of course. I see two paths to success in a real estate sales career – the first path is the traditional burn ‘em & churn ‘em – the heavy real estate prospecting model where the agent spends the majority of his or her time looking for new business. Since there are only so many hours in the day, if one is spending most hours on the hunt for new customers, it’s likely they aren’t spending much time taking care of the ones they have, which, unfortunately can mean that those current customers will never become good sources of future business for the agent (which may not be a problem for the agent as he enjoys and is good at the process of prospecting, or “making rain.”)

The other path to success is to take such great care of one’s current clients that in a few years, the agent has enough satisfied past clients to keep his pipeline full for the rest of his career. The beautiful thing about this path is that it creates a sweet cycle of business – the less time an agent has to spend searching for new business, the more time he can devote to his current clients, and therefore, the more raving fans he has in his database. If a real estate agent does a fantastic job for someone, all he has to do to guarantee their future support is to stay in touch with them on a reasonable basis after the transaction is closed.

For many agents, a referral-based business is the preferred model, not only because it’s easier business to get, but it also affirms that we did a good job for our clients and they obviously trust us with their precious referrals! To me, this is critical – if you’re getting referrals from past clients on a regular basis, it means you’re good at what you do – and if you’re going to get up every day and go to work, doesn’t it sound like more fun to be so darn good at what you do that your clients happily refer you to others?

IXACT Contact: That’s a very profound point.  Too often we focus only on what approach or system will make us the most money.  But isn’t it better to find a way to be successful that not only makes us money, but also lets us feel great about ourselves and our lives?

Let’s switch gears and talk about the execution side of the business as opposed to the relationship side.  Do you see poor time-management and/ or organization a common barrier to success in the field?

Jennifer: Yes! Many people think of real estate as primarily a relationship business – that is – the more of a “people-person” you are, the more successful you’ll be. While there’s some truth in that, and being a people-person certainly won’t hurt your business, it’s not the most important factor. What we do (if we do it well) involves managing a lot of moving pieces and parts, staying on top of dates and deadlines, making sure everyone involved is doing their job… all of which requires a fairly high level of time management and organizational skills. Sure, an agent who is socially outgoing and extroverted may bring in a lot of business, but if they can’t manage it, if things continually fall through the cracks, they will likely fail sooner or later.You are in control of your real estate sales career

IXACT Contact: How can a real estate contact management system help a REALTOR® become better organized and in control?

Jennifer: I think every busy real estate agent (or one who hopes to become busy!) owes it to him or herself to have (and use!) a contact management system to manage their business. I call it conTRACT management – that is – using the system to stay on top of their active listings, their listings under contract and their buyers under contract.

Once you have any business at all – that is – a few buyers, some active listings and some listings under contract, it’s easy to let things slip through the cracks if you don’t have specific, detailed checklists. And any time something slips through the cracks, you take the risk that 1) you’ll lose the trust and affection of your client (and therefore his future business and referrals), 2) you might get to write a check – maybe a big one – to correct the problem your negligence caused or 3) you’ll lose the sale all together.

Paper checklists are better than no checklists, but having your checklists in a contact management system that auto-populates your to-do list – ahhhhhhh – it’s a beautiful thing!

IXACT Contact: You’ve worked with many of the leading real estate CRM systems over the years. Why did you ultimately select IXACT Contact as the system you recommend to your clients and partners?

Jennifer: I used to be a Top Producer fanatic – I loved it! At one point, I was even a distributor for the product because I was such a fan. BUT, as I was introducing it to others, I was reminded of the steep learning curve. In the year I sold Top Producer, not one of my customers was happy with their purchase because they simply didn’t want to take the time to learn it.

So I went on the hunt for a simpler real estate CRM solution to recommend to my readers. I found several, gave them a test-drive and was very disappointed. The contact management systems either didn’t do the very basic functions I thought they should do (e.g. notify me of upcoming birthdays) or they just weren’t intuitive to learn so I gave up in frustration. I decided that there just wasn’t an easy-to-learn contact management system that would do everything I wanted it to do, so I stopped looking.

But then I discovered IXACT Contact and found it had the perfect combination of features and was very easy to learn for the average, non-technical REALTOR®. I call it Top Producer OFF steroids because it’s not overwhelming to learn and does 95% of what I think a real estate CRM system should do. And the 5% it doesn’t do – those features are either in the works or there are easy workarounds to them. I’m very satisfied with IXACT Contact. In fact, it’s one of only three or four real estate products I fully endorse and stand behind (outside of my own, of course!).

IXACT Contact: Any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers regarding effective contact management and/or IXACT Contact?

Jennifer: For those who say they can’t afford contact management, I hear you – with every dollar being squeezed to death these days, an extra $35/month can seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if you don’t quite understand how it will help you. But when I recommend any product to a real estate agent, I do so with the caveat that it will pay for itself and more (if you use it, of course). And I’m 100% convinced that if you use a contact management system, even on a very basic level, you WILL see a return on your investment.

IXACT Contact: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Jennifer.  It’s been a pleasure as always, and I know our readers will appreciate the ideas and insights you’ve shared with us today.

posted by on Contact Management

cell phoneI recently made the executive decision to throw my Palm Pre Smart Phone out the window (okay, not literally, but I was tempted) and go back to having two devices – a simple LG flip phone (that WORKS) and a Blackberry Curve (that WORKS)!

Yes, I will now have two mobile phone bills every month (although it turns out it’s only about $10 more) and will have to tote around two different devices everywhere I go, but OMG! I’m seriously deliriously happy now that I have a phone that WORKS (I can actually HEAR people talking and they can hear me – what a concept!) AND a mobile data device that does exactly what I want it to do, perfectly!

The Palm Pre, while a fancy-looking little piece of machinery, did neither. The phone (sorry) sucked and the email/data functions didn’t always work right. Not to mention the fact that I was already on my 5th replacement device since March, which has been enormously time-consuming and frustrating. I can’t help but wonder what will happen to all these Palm Pre’s out there on the market when their one-year warranties run out and their owners are stuck in a two-year contract…

Anyway, the lesson I learned was that sometimes One Size Doesn’t Fit All. That it might be much more efficient to simply find the BEST tool or system or program for the job, that does the job excellently instead of trying to find one tool or system or program that does it all, but does it all mediocre-ly.

For example – Contact Management. Most contact management systems claim to do everything a busy real estate agent could possibly need them to do. Manage contacts, monitor dates & deadlines, send out cards and letters, send out email and eNewsletters, create drip campaigns, provide a website, set showings, request feedback, do the dishes…

But I’m guessing that many of these additional features (beyond simple contact management) function marginally well at best. Or not even. Which is going to create enormous frustration for the agent who just wants to get the jobs done… and done well.

Not to mention the frustration the poor agent has just trying to figure out which system: 1) fits into his budget; 2) syncs with his particular smart phone, email program and/or operating system; 3) is relatively easy to learn; 4) allows hassle-free import or export of data; 5) offers good customer service; 6) is robust enough to grow with his busness, while 6) being relatively easy to learn (yep, that’s an intentional repeat) and 7) fits into his budget (ditto).

I wish I could close out this blog with firm recommendations on the Best Product for Each of Your Needs, but I’m still on the hunt myself. Personally, I use Outlook Express (now Windows Live Mail) for my personal email, Constant Contact for my mass emails and Aweber for my registration and assignment-based products. If I were selling real estate full-time I’d probably use Top Producer for contact and contract management.

Anyone else have some function-specific tools they’d like to recommend over the All-In-One’s?

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Contact Management

So, the burning question! Which system do I recommend…?

Well, I’ll tell you what I use and therefore, feel comfortable recommending. It’s not the only option, obviously; there are gazillions of (well, maybe a few dozen) real-estate-specific contact managers, and I’m sure some of them are fabulous (and I’m equally certain that some of them aren’t).

Let me disclaim that I’m not an expert on contact management from a choose-the-best-one perspective. However, I am a bit of a power user of the two “jobs” I believe a contact manager should do well, and I have test-driven enough systems to know that all CMS’s are not created equal in performing those two jobs (to read about the two “jobs” I think a CMS should do well, go here.)

I’m using and loving Ixact Contact. It’s a Canadian company, but I haven’t found anything in it that makes it “foreign” for USA’ers. It does (almost) exactly what I want it to do, (almost) exactly how I want it to do it, without much muss, fuss or extensive learning curve. I’ve been using it about two months now and have only found a few issues to, complain about gripe about mention to Ixact Contact management, some of which they’ve already addressed and others are on the list to address. But even these issues are pretty easily worked around in the interim.

What I like about Ixact Contact (well, one of the things) is that it does a lot of things without doing A LOT of things if that makes sense. No, it probably doesn’t, so allow me to explain.

Anyone who has used Top Producer is aware of its steep learning curve. But once you’ve mastered the program, you probably love it because TP will do almost ANYTHING you can think of, if you can just figure out how to make it do it. But that’s a big IF for most users. A huge IF. And many new Top Producer users throw up their hands in frustration after a few hours of messing with the program and kick themselves for agreeing to a one year contract on a program they don’t understand.

Well, Ixact is what I call “Top Producer OFF Steroids.” It does a lot of things, but not so many things that you can’t figure out how to do the basics. As a former Top Producer power user, I do get a little befuddled occasionally with Ixact because it doesn’t do some obscure thing I want it to do, but I’m realizing that’s part of the beauty of it.

Anyway, I’ve gotten rave reviews from the agents I’ve sent to Ixact Contact, so I feel pretty good recommending it to anyone who doesn’t yet have a contact management solution they’re happy with.

It’s $35/month (no set-up fee or contract required – woo hoo!). If you’d like to get the Friend of SWS 60-day trial (as opposed to the “regular” 35-day one they offer standardly), just go here.

THE CONTACT MANAGEMENT WITH SOUL SERIES
Part I – The Unanswered Questions
Part II – The Two Things a Contact Manager Should Do Very Well
Part III – Creating Reasonable Expectations for Your Contact Manager
Part IV – “But I Can’t Afford a Contact Management System!”
Part V – Contact Management Pays for Itself – if you use it!
Part VI – Which System do I Recommend?

posted by on Contact Management

A few days ago, I posted a blog about how I don’t buy the argument that a real estate agent can’t afford to purchase a contact management system because that extra $10 or $20 or $35 or $39/month just ain’t in the budget. You can read it here. Contact Management

Today I’ll be a little more upbeat and a little less preachy and explain why I made the claim in the above-noted blog that good Contact Management can and should pay for itself, many times over.

There are two general ways a CMS pays for itself, both, not coincidently, based on the two general things I believe a contact manager should do Very Well (those would be contact management and conTRACT management).

Managing Your Contacts
First, a CMS should enable you to create and maintain a database of everyone you know. But it’s what you do with that database that will make you money.

What can you do with your database to make money?

You can remember and acknowledge birthdays of the people you know. You can print out a list of your Group One (your social network) and ask two people from that list to lunch every week. You’ll have a handy place to enter the contact information of new people you meet and add them to your go-to-lunch-or-coffee activities or send them your monthly mass-email and annual calendar. You can take notes on conversations you’ve had with friends and acquaintances and set a reminder to follow-up with them in a week or two to “see how it went” (whatever the “it” is).

Simple simple stuff! Yet, without a contact manager, even a rudimentary one, most of these easy, friendly, stay-in-touch activities simply won’t get done. And I guarantee you’ll forget all about 90% of the people you’re meeting out there in the world…and they’ll forget about you. A year goes by… and two… and three… and then you wake up one morning and realize you’ve lost thousands of dollars in commissions because you lost touch with most of the people you know, and never followed-up with all those people you’ve met. You didn’t mean to, of course, but without a CMS, it’s tough to do even a marginally good job of keeping track of those Very Important People In Your Life who can send you business.

If you don’t have (and use) a CMS, I’ll bet $100 that you’ve lost over $10,000 (at least) in potential paychecks every year you’ve been a real estate agent. Probably more.

Managing Your Contracts
The second way a CMS will pay for itself is by helping you stay on top of your transactions – that is – conTRACT management. And this will pay for itself in multiple ways as well!

When you’re on top of your business, your clients are being well-taken care of – and they will notice! When you do the things you promised to do when you promised to do them; when you contact your client with updates before they have to contact you; when you head off problems before they even arise; when you always appear to be on top of their transaction – you’ll have yourself one (or a dozen) impressed client(s) who will be delighted to spread the word of your impressiveness to the world.

But what’s really sweet about having and using good conTRACT management is that you won’t screw up – at least – not nearly as much as you might without it. When you have fully customized checklists and action plans keeping you on track, things don’t slip through the cracks. And when things don’t slip through the cracks, you don’t have to open your checkbook to fix problems nearly as often. For example, once I got to pay for a thorough housecleaning on my listing after the seller moved out because he “forgot” to do it. So, my Listing-Under-Contract checklist now includes “Verify that seller has arranged cleaning after move-out.

Another time, I got to write a check because I hadn’t verified that the HOA fee advertised in the MLS was correct… and it wasn’t. We didn’t find out until we were all sitting at the closing table and my buyer was, to put it mildly, annoyed. The listing agent (who made the error) wouldn’t ‘fess up to his mistake, so it fell to me to make things all better. Which I did, to the tune of over $500. Now, right there on my Buyer-Under-Contract checklist is a line that says “Verify the HOA Fee.”

So, the moral of these stories is to assure you that if you commit to using a contact management system in your business, it will pay for itself. Over and over. I promise.

 

THE CONTACT MANAGEMENT WITH SOUL SERIES
Part I – The Unanswered Questions
Part II – The Two Things a Contact Manager Should Do Very Well
Part III – Creating Reasonable Expectations for Your Contact Manager
Part IV – “But I Can’t Afford a Contact Management System!”
Part V – Contact Management Pays for Itself – if you use it!
Part VI – Which System do I Recommend?

 

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Okay, picking up from yesterday’s blog about using contact management to Sell with Soul, let’s talk today about creating reasonable expectations for your contract management system (aka CMS).

There’s a natural desire among us human being Contact Managementtypes (‘specially us self-employed creatures) to be as efficient as we can with our money and our time, and, apparently, the space in our purses or pockets. Thus, the evolution of the All-in-One printer/scanner/fax/copier/sandwich-maker, the smart phone data device and yes, the contact management system.

I wrote a blog last month about how I tossed my Palm Pre smart phone out the window and went back to having two devices – one to make phone calls and one to handle emails when I’m on the road. After trying out several all-in-one devices that promised the world, I found that, fancy as they were, none of them did much of anything to my satisfaction. Once I fired back up my old LG flip phone and my vintage Blackberry Curve, my life improved exponentially. I’ve never looked back!

Well, I think it’s the same with Contact Management. Most claim to provide a kitchen-sink level of features and services; from email management to newsletter creation to market snapshots to CMA’s to contract preparation.

Impressive.

But I’m not impressed. All these extraneous features, in my experience, are clunky and imperfect. Yes, they will do newsletters, but, oh wait, the ability to track opens or include your fancy signature isn’t available yet, but will be in the next upgrade “sometime next year!” Yes, it will create a CMA for you, but not in all markets and, no, that particular report isn’t available, but will be in the next upgrade! Yada yada yada.

Here’s the thing. We claim to be professionals; therefore, it only makes sense that we choose to use the BEST systems, tools and programs to run our businesses. And it’s highly unlikely that one system, tool or program can possibly be the BEST at everything you need a system, tool or program to do for you.

A CMS is simply one tool to help you run your business, and, as described in yesterday’s blog, it needs to do contact (and conTRACT) management Very Well. If you can find a CMS that you are happy with in those two areas, you’re golden.

Don’t expect it to do everything else for you – does a surgeon have only one-size scalpel? Does your family doctor only prescribe one drug? Does your hairstylist only have one pair of scissors?

No, and as professional real estate agents we should search out and commit to having the best tools and systems, both to build our businesses with and to serve the clients we’re honored to be hired by.

If I were selling real estate today, here are the various tools/systems/programs I would have, all (or most) provided by different companies:

  • Contract preparation software
  • Remote document-signing software
  • Off-line MLS software
  • A contact manager to keep track of my SOI and manage my transactions
  • A mass-email/newsletter program
  • A CMA program
  • A listing presentation “program” (this would just be Microsoft Word and Publisher)
  • A Blackberry or other mobile data device
  • A good cell phone, separate from the Blackberry
  • An internet aircard, in addition to my cable internet at home
  • A good printer
  • A scanner (hopefully I could use the one at my office when I need high-level scanning capabilities)
  • A GPS
  • A website with IDX and lead capture
  • A blog (or two or three or twelve)

Do all these systems/tools/programs cost money? Yep. Most anyway. Am I made of money? Nope. Not these days. But they are the tools of my trade, so it’s my duty to have them.

And that’s the subject of an upcoming blog – But what if I can’t afford…?!”

Until next time…!

THE CONTACT MANAGEMENT WITH SOUL SERIES
Part I – The Unanswered Questions
Part II – The Two Things a Contact Manager Should Do Very Well
Part III – Creating Reasonable Expectations for Your Contact Manager
Part IV – “But I Can’t Afford a Contact Management System!”
Part V – Contact Management Pays for Itself – if you use it!
Part VI – Which System do I Recommend?

posted by on Contact Management

Contact Management

Over 350 people signed up and about 75% showed up for last Thursday morning’s show about Using Your Contact Management System to Sell with Soul. Wow – I guess it was a Hotter Topic than I expected it to be – I figured it would just me and a handful of other technologically-curious agents who had nothing much better to do on a Thursday morning.

Anyway, lots of folks showed up and asked lots of good questions – 30 pages worth to be exact. Couldn’t get to all of them during the show, so, as promised, here are some of the Q’s (with A’s) that went unanswered during the show.

Q from Loreena
Why wouldn’t you use a contact manager as your sole contact management tool? That is – why do you use a separate email system? (I mentioned during the show that I use Windows Live Mail for my general email, not the email program in my contact management system.)

A from JA
I believe that you should use the best tool or system for the job, so I use a lot of different task-specific systems in my business. Windows Live Mail does email – very well, and doing email very well is probably more important to me than anything else. It’s not worth it to me to sacrifice function for the simplicity of only having one “all-in-one” system. In my experience, contact managers are not fully-functioning email programs.

Q from Sabrina 
What program do you recommend for CMA’s? I use Top Producer, but that is all I use it for. I would like to switch to Ixact, and cancel with TP, but I do like their CMA’s.

A from JA
I’m not familiar with TP’s CMA’s, but in my experience and opinion, the best CMA’s are done through your own local MLS. I prepared my CMA’s using reports from my MLS, not the actual CMA program because I was never quite satisfied with the information the CMA-specific program came up with. Just my opinion. But if the only reason you’re using TP is to do CMA’s, I’m sure there’s a better solution locally!

Marie in Canada comments – Prospects is a relatively simple CMS with a great support system and it’s FREE….covered by our fees with our Board

Q from Connie
Can you recommend a contact management system to install on your computer? (she’s referring to a contact manager that is housed on the computer as opposed to accessed online.

A from JA
I’ve heard good things about Advantage xi and REST. I’ve never tried any of them, though. Any other feedback is welcome! 

Q from Dee
If my Group 1 and Group 2 are very small should I start using a contact manager? (for the uninitiated, Group 1 is my social network; Group 2 is everyone else)

A from JA
Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps if you’re using and paying for a contact manager, you’ll be inspired to increase the number of contacts in it! But regardless of whether you use a CMS or not, the size of your contact database is directly related to the size (or rather, number of) your paychecks. The more people who know you, like you, and know that you sell real estate, the more real estate you’ll sell. So, perhaps the first step is to meet more people, with a plan to keep them organized and stayed-in-touch with… which may very well include a contact management system.

Q from Sarah
What do you think about gifts for past clients around the holidays or new year to stay in touch? I make homemade chocolate sauce each year and I am not sure if is something to continue. It’s personal..they like it….but is something like this tacky? I dont want to be the tacky realtor who gives gifts that people don’t really want. Should a realtor ask a client if they are enjoying it?

A from JA
I think that’s a perfect holiday gift and I don’t see anything tacky about it at all. But if you’re wondering if it’s appropriate…ask yourself… would you enjoy receiving homemade chocolate sauce and/or would you think it’s tacky? And give (or don’t give) accordingly! (You might want to read my related blog: “Doo-Dad unto others…”). But no, don’t ask people if they like it. It’ll either sound like you’re fishing for compliments or feeling insecure.

 

Q from Sarah 
I’m in a book club. We never talk real estate..everyone knows that I am a realtor…I want them in my SOI…..I would love to meet them for coffee…it feels a bit “awkward” to meet them for coffee when the only reason I would meet them at the time is because I am in real estate, but I will do it and be good at it…..what is the end result of this? Is it keeping my name in their minds? or just keeping in touch?

A from JA
Great question! I advise that you go out for coffee with people you’d enjoy having coffee with. Period. If you stick to this strategy, you’ll find plenty to talk about without begging for business (ugh). Don’t try to be friends with everyone in the club unless you truly feel friendly with everyone! Just take it slow, one relationship at a time… and, as I’m sure you know, leave your sales pitch in the car and just be YOU.

 

Q from Maureen
How often do you suggest contacting people in our SOI? And, do you suggest contacting them with the same means in a row?? i.e. postcards each time, letters.

A from JA
First, you might want to read my series on this topic which begins here: “How often does your SOI need to hear from you?” Personally, I send a mass-email every month (of interest to them, not about real estate) and 3 postal mailings a year to everyone in my SOI. I also try to touch base with everyone in my Group 1 at least once a quarter with a coffee date, phone call or personal email exchange. But as you’ll see in the comments of the series, everyone has a different opinion on the matter!

 

Q from Jennifer (not JA)
Should you house/store prospects you meet from Open Houses? Would these be Social Network/Group 1?

A from JA
I would enter contacts from open houses into my database if we made a connection and there seemed to be some mutual interest in pursuing a professional relationship. I would not add people who simply signed in (if I required sign-in which I don’t) and left without a good conversation. In all likelihood, the folks I do add to my database would not be in my social network (Group 1) at this point, although that could happen later of course! Here’s a short series I did on the topic of getting contact information from open house visitors.

 

Q from Brian
Do people in Group 2 move into Group 1?

A from JA Absolutely! Not all the time, but sure, if someone isn’t a “friend” today but becomes a friend later for whatever reason… that’s great!

Karen from Canada comments: I tried Agent Office and Top Producer…and recently changed to a system in Canada called Prospects that is so intuitive I don’t even know where the help button is!

Q from Anonymous
What do you do if your contact doesn’t have an email address?

A from JA
Are you asking if they don’t HAVE one or if you don’t know it? If they don’t have an email address then you’ll just have to stay in touch the best you can via other methods they are comfortable with. Don’t fret about it or make any big effort; just include them in your regular mailings, whatever those may be and if you’re comfortable doing so, call ’em up every once in awhile or go out for coffee.

 

Q from Loreena
I’m on the hunt to find a system that is trackable (opens, clicks, etc.). What are your views on the importance of knowing the trackable information?

A from JA
I used to find it fascinating to see who opened my emails and clicked on what, but I rarely look anymore. I’m sure there’s some value to that information, but aside from curiosity, I’m not sure what. I suppose if you have a big enough sampling, you’ll get a feel for which topics are “click-worthy” or which subject lines inspire the most opens. I do look to see how many people open my newsletters and the subject line does make a huge impact, but I don’t look to see who, specifically, opened them. I’m also not convinced that the data is all that accurate.

 

Q from Antoinette
How often do you need to do email campaigns?

A from JA
See my response to Maureen, above, and do take a look at the blog series referenced there!

 

Q from Heather 
I was wondering,,,I am having problems keeping track of who I have “touched” and how I “touched” them, Is there an easier way to do that?

A from JA
A contact management system will do that for you… if you let it! That is, if you add notes to your contacts’ profiles after each “touch.” You can also get a little fancier and set up action plans in a contact manager to remind you to do your touches, so you’ll know that they’re getting done. Curious – what sorts of “touches” are you forgetting about? Mailings? or more personal encounters?

posted by on Contact Management, Prospecting & SOI

My SOI* has always been around 300 warm bodies, which is more than enough to get plenty of business and referrals without soimuch outside effort on my part.

However, as many of you know, I’m getting ready to launch a major SOI Reconnection Campaign, so I’m looking closer at my contact database as part of the getting-ready process.

There were a lot of names in there of people who… well… don’t make me feel warm & fuzzy. Either they were a total PITA and I’d never want to work with them again or I have a sneaking suspicion they don’t like me. Yes, even Miss Smarty Pantz (me) has had deals go sour, leaving everyone a little disgruntled and uncomfortable.

So, I deleted these names from my database. It felt GOOD! But that left me with a much depleted database and I really want to get back to 300 again. Or at least, 200 in the very near future.

Here’s the fun part. I’m going to actively pursue new people to add to my database and they’re all going to be people I like! Can you imagine if you added one “nice” name to your database every day for a year? Or even six months??? And then… you’d have a database full of only people who make you smile!

It would make SOI’ing even more fun!

Off I go.

*My SOI = The People Who Know Me

posted by on Contact Management, Prospecting & SOI

We real estate agents love our systems, don’t we? If we can purchase a product that will help us streamline our prospecting efforts, we’re all for it. Where do I sign???

But… but… but… let me fly in the face of convention here and say… STOP! Stop with all the systems and programs and products!

Why? Because when pursuing business from the *Very Important People Who Know You (that is, your Sphere of Influence or SOI), it’s kinda important to make them feel special. And no system, program or product is going to do that FOR you. You actually have to do it yourself.

Here are some examples of what I mean.

A question came up a few weeks ago during my weekly SOI training teleconference.  The agent asked if I recommended putting past clients on a 5-year drip campaign that automatically sends out anniversary cards and seasonal postcards. My answer? NO!

My SOI database (and especially my past client database) is precious to me. Every name in there has the potential to bring thousands of dollars to my business and deserves my respect and attention. Before I send anything out to my SOI, I go through my list carefully to make sure it’s up to date, with accurate information. This exercise also inspires me to personally “touch” those who I enjoyed getting to know with a more personal effort (phone call, personal email, whatever).  I want to stay intimately in touch with the names in my database. If I put my SOI on any sort of automatic drip campaign, I feel I’ll lose that intimacy and connection, and be just another real estate agent looking for business.

Want another example? Today, I sent out a mass-email to my SOI offering to put interested parties on a list to receive a monthly market report created by a local economist. When the positive responses started coming in, I tried to figure out a “system” to track respondents and automatically send out the report every month. But then I caught myself… by systematizing this process, I’m throwing away a wonderful opportunity to connect with my SOI every single month when I personally email them the report. I mean, DUH! They are ASKING to hear from me; why waste the chance to include a personal note with my email each month that might make them smile (and believe me, that personal note will have nothing to do with how much I love referrals! Ick).

One more… one of my agent friends asked me a few weeks ago if she should purchase a program that automatically sends out birthday cards to her SOI. Sheesh. Is it too da*n hard to actually sign and mail a card to someone you care about? I mean, c’mon!!! Are we real estate agents so important and so busy that we can’t take five minutes to write “Happy Birthday!” on a card, sign it personally, address the envelope and slap a stamp on it? Please say it isn’t so!

One thing I love about this business, especially my 100% SOI business, is that every little thing I do that goes above and beyond what I “have” to do can result in a huge financial payoff for me. Personal notes (that I actually wrote myself), personal emails, personal phone calls… this is where the money is… at least if you’re gonna SOI…