Just five years ago, our local multiple listing service allowed only four photographs per property listing. Real estate agents in my market were still utilizing the fax machine, and scanning documents to PDF attachments was still in its infancy. Technically speaking, it was a simpler time, especially when it came to communications.
Today, our MLS now supports up to 12 photographs and it’s common practice for agents to send many high-resolution photos, 30-page PDF documents, floor plans and even native video files via e-mail.
The industry has expanded so dramatically in such a short period of time. To accommodate these changes, a brokerage needs to recognize and implement the appropriate infrastructure, including bandwidth, hardware and software.
We recently just finished transitioning the e-mail platform at my company to Google Apps. The migration to a cloud solution will improve communications such as mobile computing, alleviate network stress, and improve internal resources.
We have five offices and 160 sales associates — the scope of the project was extremely challenging. As a matter of fact, we were running two different mail systems simultaneously!
In order to provide our agents with the proper support, we incorporated a phased strategy and migrated one office at a time. Despite the smooth transition, it was obvious that change can be very difficult, especially in sales.
It’s been interesting to evaluate the adoption of a new product, especially a product as critical as e-mail. Many of our sales associates have embraced the new platform.
I was chatting with our corporate trainer and sales associate, Rich Epstein, regarding the transition. Being a full-time sales associate and real estate coach gives Rich a unique perspective from the ground level. I asked Rich how brokerages can better identify tech weakness.
Rich stated, "Managers have to take the temperature of the office. Education is crucial. Sales managers educate their agents on such topics as changes in real estate law, mortgage products and contracts — technology should be no different. Agents should be proficient in e-mail, all the tools that MLS has to offer, mobile devices, etc."
He said he also believes that "brokers have a responsibility to educate their sales associates. Real estate agents have to be as … connected as their clients are."
Aggressive training has certainly made the difference in this endeavor. Rich has been visiting the offices and even hosting weekly training sessions. It’s been really cool to see our managers shift their phone duty schedule and property tours to a shared, digital calendar.
I also had the same discussion with Ori Staub, technology director at Active Website, a Denver, Colo., firm specializing in real estate Web development. Ori was a featured speaker at the Real Estate Connect event last month in New York City and was a panelist for the "Brokerage Website Vendor Shoot-Out" session.
Ori said he believes that "partnering with the right firm is critical." To assist agents and brokers with training and usage, he states, "Publishing traditional training tutorials, PDFs and books doesn’t always circulate to everyone.
"We have developed a new media division that is solely dedicated to producing high-quality, well-produced videos for product showcase, agent tutorials and even broker tutorials. The videos are applicable to brokerages with formal trainers and those without," he said. Video is a wonderful learning tool.
With so many tech products and services available in our industry, it’s imperative to prioritize your needs and choose the right partnerships. Especially when implementing a product that will have a huge impact, such as a new mail platform. It is equally important to educate and train our sales associates.
Change can be good.