Although CRMs are incredibly useful to productivity and profitability, few agents use these workhorse platforms to their max potential. Find out how to choose the right CRM, the features you’ll need and how to manage your workflow here.

Most real estate agents lack a customer relationship management (CRM) system, and of those who do have one, only a very small proportion take full advantage of the powerful functions this tool can offer. Having the right CRM and fully utilizing its features is an effective way to increase your profitability. 

For years, I have relied on my virtual assistant to handle our contact database and communications, freeing me up to write and speak. As the number of my digital meetings has continued to grow, relying on my calendar app is no longer adequate — I need a CRM. The most vexing issue was which one to choose. 

My VA researched a multitude of general business CRMs. What she found, however, was that real estate CRMs had more functionality and were less expensive, and most allowed you to add assistants at no additional charge. 

Choosing the right CRM for your business

Increasing your profitability begins with identifying which CRMs are the best suited to how you conduct your business. Craig Grant, the CEO and founder of the Real Estate Technology Institute, joined us this week to share how help you make this important decision.

Grant has created a tool that asks agents and brokers a few quick questions to help them identify which CRM is right for them. He created the CRM Generator by interviewing the top CRM vendors, asking them to do a detailed presentation of what their CRM does, as well as identifying which third-party tools their CRM integrates with (e.g., realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow, etc.)

After reviewing the data, Grant created a quiz that ranks various CRMs from best to worst based on how you conduct your business. (If you’d like to take the quiz, here is the link, but note that there is an opt-in.) Before taking the quiz, it’s smart to determine how you want your leads scraped, the types of lead-routing you may need as well as which third-party apps you use.

Once you have taken the quiz and received your results, Grant advised that you sign up for a one-month free trial for your top two or three recommended CRM platforms. Evaluate each CRM using the following criteria: 

  • Is the CRM clear and easy for you to use? If not, Grant says the CRM will turn out to be a support nightmare for you. 
  • Does it integrate with any contact and task management tools that you are currently using? 
  • Does it offer any email or other automated marketing systems?
  • How well does it integrate with any outside email or marketing systems you are already using? 
  • How effective is it in helping you avoid duplicate work, especially having to enter the same data repeatedly? 
  • Does it have IDX integration? 
  • Does it integrate with your website provider and outside applications such as QuickBooks?
  • What types of technical support does the vendor offer, especially on nights and weekends? 
  • How much does it cost?  

Forging long-term relationships pays huge dividends

Regardless of the technology, a substantial part of real estate lead generation results from personal relationships. According to the 2021 NAR Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, 73 percent of clients found their real estate agent because they had done business together before or through a referral

Grant emphasized why referrals are so important: The cost of generating a lead from a stranger is five times higher than generating a lead from your contact database. Couple this with the fact that 77 percent of all sellers only interview one agent before they list their home, and it becomes clear why you must constantly focus on staying top-of-mind.

To do this, Grant urged agents to build long-term client relationships that extend beyond the closing date.

To illustrate this point, on the sale of the last two homes Grant has owned, neither agent has made any attempt to contact him after the transaction closed. The result? They both missed the hundreds of thousands of dollars in referral business Grant has made since then. 

The profit is in the details

Modern CRMs have tremendous functionality that not only delivers automated touches but also allows you to strengthen relationships by tracking what matters most to your clients.

You can track names of family members, pet names, birthdays, anniversaries, plus a wealth of other information. You can customize messages based on their interests — provided you take time to enter the data.

To illustrate how this works, if your client owns a dog, enter the dog’s name into your CRM. Your CRM can automatically sort which members of your database should receive invitations to your “doggie appreciation event” at a local dog park. You provide the food, the drinks and the dog treats.

If you hold your event at Halloween, you could have a costume contest with special prizes for the best doggie and owner costumes. These events are fun, engaging, and put you face-to-face with your client database, something an email drip marketing campaign could never do. 

Instant communication tools

Grant cited an MIT study that found if a business responded in five minutes as opposed to 30 minutes, the response rate was 400 percent higher. The most robust CRMs have instant communication tools that immediately forward incoming lead information so you or a team member can respond via the CRM’s chat function with a text or a phone call.

For broker-owners and team leaders, many CRMs provide lead-routing systems. These systems allow users to direct incoming leads to the agents best equipped to handle them, and if they’re not available, direct the lead to someone who is available.

They also track speed of response and conversion rates, allowing users to maximize their profitability by sending leads to those agents most likely to convert them. As Grant explained, “Today’s customer doesn’t wait around.”

What features do you need?

Grant said you should also ask every CRM vendor you are considering whether their system can handle the number of leads you are generating as well as the number of team members you have. Be sure to follow up by asking, “What kind of tools do you have to do it?”

This is especially important if you’re concerned about “lead routing.” For example, many CRM vendors will tell you upfront if they’re not able to handle large teams or they’re not designed to handle hundreds of lead sources. 

Before making your final decision, be sure to do a 30-day test drive of your top two choices to determine which best fits the workflow for your business. This is especially important if you care about lead routing because you must determine how well the CRM works with your office or team as well. 

Managing the workflow

Do you have another agent you partner with, an assistant or a transaction coordinator? Do you manage a team or a brokerage? If so, who is responsible for handling what functions? For example, in terms of incoming leads from sign calls, do they go directly to the listing agent, and if not, where is the lead routed next? 

If you’re conducting a transaction, who is responsible for meeting inspectors, obtaining the required signatures on disclosure documents, reviewing the documents for compliance, etc. You can set up these workflows within a CRM. 

Even if you’re working as a solo agent, documenting your workflow in terms of tasks to be completed, client communications and all the other transaction details will help you to avoid missing an important detail or deadline.

Moreover, these systems are great for risk management, especially when clients tell you they didn’t receive something from you. Most CRMs track exactly when they received and opened the communication.

Are you taking full advantage of your CRM?

According to the vendor feedback Grant obtained, very few agents use more than 10 percent of the features these powerful tools provide. Consequently, Grant’s final piece of advice is that you not only need a CRM, but you must also invest your time and resources into using it.

If you’re in the market for a CRM, check out the CRM Generator. If you already are using a CRM, investigate what other functions your CRM provides and how to use those features to create a more profitable business. 

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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