As the co-founder and CEO of Contactually, one of the most popular CRM platforms for real estate and several other industries, Zvi Band is well-versed in how to help brokerages create a tech stack that’s appealing to agents — and that they’ll actually use and leverage to keep tabs on current and future relationships.

Band is going to be participating in a panel discussion about what you need to know when buying your tech and which partners are powering the top independent brokerages at Inman Connect New York, January 29 through February 1 at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. He shared tips for how brokers can navigate 2019 and how to get agents to actually use the provided tools with Inman.

Tell us a little more about your session. How will it address how the industry can embrace the shifting market?

The important, underlying waves — all those add up to, 2019 isn’t necessarily going to be any easier for a broker. And that’s an important thing; the room for error is slim, and so is the ability to let things fester. For example, technology that you’re paying a lot of money for that your agents aren’t actually using, or that’s lacking the competitive edge that sets you apart from others in the market, and for agents that sets you apart relative to other brokerages, it becomes more and more “no fail.”

One thing we’ve been leaning on is, how can you rely on your technology vendors and partners you already have? We work with hundreds of leading brokerages and tens of thousands of agents — how can you leverage them to learn the best practices so you can learn from others rather than reinvent the wheel? If you are not providing best-in-class technology, one of two things will happen: Your agents, because they need to stay more and more competitive, will be seeking out the best tools and systems to make sure they maintain a competitive edge in the eyes of consumers, so they’ll either find it themselves or find another brokerage that provides that. If you decide to ignore it, fine, but you can’t say that the CRM you bought five years ago and that 4 percent of your agents use is acceptable.

What do you think are the biggest opportunities to focus on in the real estate industry right now?

One of the underlying issues that constantly comes out is, agents aren’t using the tools. They know they need to but they aren’t necessarily doing that. And often it’s solved by saying “we just need to switch to new technology” — the problem is sometimes the tools you’re using, but one thing we overlook is that sometimes it’s the operators of the tools. Agents face this battle between the urgent and the important. Oftentimes, that’s what people fall victim to; it’s not that the tools are bad or they’re not using them correctly, but they’re not using them at all because they’re focused on whatever is urgent. The technology trends over the past 10 years haven’t necessarily given us the mindset to think about those long-term opportunities; when we have push notifications thrown at us left and right, we’re more susceptible to interruptions.

If we know our sphere of influence really is our best asset long-term — which is pretty undeniable at this point in time — we know there’s a strong, strong need to not just think about new tools but to think about how an agent can better time-block their day and how a broker can introduce better coaching. It’s not always about finding a shiny new object that helps them operate slightly differently; it’s helping them adjust their mindset. Some of that is through training or where coaches come into play, but I push agents and brokers to think a lot more around the mindset and ability rather than throwing more tools at the wall and see what sticks.

To stay competitive, agents, brokers and companies need to execute quickly. What do you feel are key areas where quick execution can vastly improve the customer experience?

A real estate agent is part expert, part sherpa through this incredibly emotional process, and so some of the trends that we’ve seen agents really be successful at, which helps build deep rapport with their clients, is frankly just being more upfront, being transparent and saying “hey listen, as you go through the mortgage underwriting process — I know it sucks, it’s incredibly challenging; here’s what you’re going to have to deal with.” And use a checklist: find a moving company and send a change of address update. Be more transparent about some of the big challenges they’ll face. I think that sets up a much more healthy relationship. We know every transaction is unique and every one has its issues and sticking points, and we’ve seen that the more agents are upfront with not only the good but also the bad and challenging and scary, the better they’ll do.

What are your hopes for the next 12 months, and what will you be working on?

We’ve seen an incredible growth in our brokerage portfolio; we’re now working with some of the biggest leading brokerages out there, independent and also major franchises, so we want to lean in to continue their success, especially in an uncertain market. We’re investing more in applications for mobile and intelligent predictive capabilities.

And as far as what I’m really hopeful for, we’re ending 2018 with a lot of questions marks as far as what’s going to happen in 2019 and 2020 — they’re asking a lot of questions around “is it going to be good or bad, how is your market?” I would hope a lot of brokerages and agents instead spend more time thinking about the “what ifs,” meaning that they prepare for a significant downturn, a softening, new competitors in the industry, and not spend as much time fearing it. That’s an important thing, because sometimes we see a lot of fearmongering and uncertainty, and uncertainty will always be there and get increasingly more pronounced over time as the world gets more and more complex, so I think the best agents and brokers and teams will forget worrying about the uncertainty and just expect it and be resilient throughout it.

Discover the opportunities in a changing market at Inman Connect New York, January 29 – February 1. Jumpstart 2019 with tactical takeaways, unlimited networking and thought-provoking speakers. Learn more.

Thinking about bringing your team? You may qualify for special group perks! Contact us to learn more.

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