• Before considering a new CRM or brokerage management platform, carefully examine how your office functions.
  • If your office is considering software because you need "to get organized," you're probably not ready for it.

Have suggestions for products that you’d like to see reviewed by our real estate technology expert? Email Craig Rowe.

Technically, software is a product, but it shouldn’t be shopped for like a new desk or color printer.

Software needs to be a carefully construed reflection of how your office works. Let me explain.

I worked for a small multifamily brokerage who uses an extremely well-organized, paper-based filing system to manage listings and transactions.

Fat green listing folders are carefully labeled, tabbed, categorized and alphabetized upon receipt of a new listing agreement. Each holds every document, note, picture and record of activity for its namesake property.

Emails and marketing collateral are printed and inserted as is along with every agency disclosure from every showing.

As closing nears, the folders swell with inspection reports, bank information and critical addenda, byproducts of the company’s “as-is” sales model.

Yes, it’s all on paper. Insecure. Under a ceiling-mounted water heater in a bank of standard, old-school file cabinets in a brick-and-glass office condo 25 yards from one of the city’s busiest suburban thoroughfares.

Nevertheless, when you multiply this paper-based records system by 30 years of activity, you have the most powerful CRM (customer relationship management) system in the market. Hands down. Not up for debate.

When a new listing came into the office, we simply opened a file with an adjacent address and called everyone who expressed interest.

When my former colleagues recently asked me about recommending CRM, I reminded them they already had one perfectly tailored to their workflow.

Plus, they already know how to use it.

The investment of a lifetime: A CRM built from scratch

Instead of an off-the-shelf product — and no offense to the Top Producers and Lone Wolfs of the world — there is no beating this level of customization.

My advice to my friends was to hire a company that would build from scratch a CRM around those files and its supporting workflow.

It would be a monstrous manual process.

The end result would be a comprehensive competitive advantage with more detailed business intelligence than any other real estate firm in that market (arguably the country’s second most technologically sophisticated, with every major residential and commercial real estate franchise represented).

My advice to my friends was to hire a company to build a CRM from scratch.

Beyond the incredible level of productivity that would be achieved, such a system would greatly enhance the company’s value.

Granted, it’s a family business that will remain so probably forever. If the opportunity to sell surfaced (and it often has) after such a software install, they could name their price.

What’s right for you

Real estate companies should seek software solutions that overlap as cleanly as possible with their existing office workflows.

When considering a new CRM, prospecting tool or brokerage management platform, carefully examine how your office functions.

What actual steps are taken when a prospect calls the office? Are emails sent or calls made? Who records comments at sales meetings? What vendors are contacted most often? Who knows who?

Don’t look at what’s out there in the hope you find ways to make it fit how you work. Don’t accept the word “custom” when you hear it on a demo. Adding your company color does not customize your software.

The most successful software onboarding processes are those in offices that are already organized.

If your office is considering software because you need “to get organized,” you’re probably not ready for it.

It will only augment the work habits you’re trying to replace.

Have a technology product you would like to discuss? Email Craig Rowe.

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