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I am always curious as to how agents build their practices, so when talking to agents, I ask a few basic questions, including:
- “How many contacts do you have in your database?”
- “Do you have a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management software) working your sphere of influence (SOI)?”
- “What percentage of your business comes out of your database?”
- “What are you doing to actively grow your SOI?”
In a huge percentage of cases, all I get in return to my queries are blank stares and a shrug of the shoulders.
It is my belief that your SOI (sphere of influence) should be the single most important component of your business.
As an example, between 50 percent and 60 percent of our business comes directly out of our database every year. For some agents, this number is even higher. It makes sense, then, that Realtors should be actively working their database, so it not only stays current but continues to grow to broaden the base of the business and produce an ever-increasing flow of new clients.
Here are 8 key steps to building and maintaining an effective database:
1. Start by including the names of everyone you know
You need to be proactive in building up your database — the more you include the better. People can always ask that you remove them if they do not want you communicating with them. It is better to err on the side of over-inclusiveness than to not include some in your SOI.
- Social media relationships
- Members of churches, groups, clubs, associations, sports organizations
- Services, retailers, contractors
- Local charities, social action groups
To have an effective database, you should really have a minimum of 200 contacts. Some agents shy away from including friends and family — truthfully, they should be the inner core of your SOI because they know you, hopefully trust you and can be your greatest advocates for introducing you to others.
If you are having a hard time getting to 200, I suggest you plug into environments such as clubs, service organizations and the like that have a lot of members. Unless they have a specific “no-advertising” policy, include them all.
2. Get their full contact information
At a minimum, you want the following:
- Phone number
- Email address
If you cannot get all their basic info at the beginning, keep in touch and over time ask for the missing items. Make sure you preface the request with a commitment to provide value.
As you stay in touch, you can increase their information by adding birthdays, children’s info, anniversaries, hobbies, likes and dislikes, whether they own or rent, and so on. The more data you have, the more effectively you can communicate.
3. Put the contacts into an effective CRM
The key to an effective CRM is that it will do much of the work for you. When asking agents which CRM they use, I typically get the following responses:
- “I don’t have a CRM.”
- “I use Outlook.”
- “I have an Excel spreadsheet.”
- “I have my company’s CRM, but I don’t know how to use it.”
- “I use my CRM, but only for ___________.” (Usually far below the CRM’s actual capabilities)
I am frequently asked what CRM is the best — in reality, it is the one you actually use. If you are a sole agent, the CRM provided by most brokerages will be more than enough to get you started. Some MLSs or Realtor associations also provide CRMs at little or no cost. Other options include platforms such as Wise Agent, Follow Up Boss, LionDesk, Top Producer, Realvolve and so on.
Once you begin growing a team, you will need a more robust solution such as Brivity or BoomTown. These platforms are very extensive, include in-depth marketing capabilities and a host of other features, and are priced based on the number of seats on your team. In most cases, they will also connect with auto-dialers.
4. Develop a continuous contact plan
Brokerages frequently provide programs to help their agents work their databases. As an example, Keller Williams has a 36-touch program to help agents develop an effective rhythm. Recommended touches include:
- Phone calls — at least four times a year
- Text messages — some will prefer a text to a call
- Emails — every other week (26 a year) and, if possible, should include video
- Promotions — at least four a year, including restaurant specials, free home evaluations, vendor discounts, free services, contractor specials and so on
- Monthly newsletter
- Service/Maintenance tips
- Market updates — can be included in a monthly newsletter or can be sent out separately
- Personal visits
- Handwritten cards
- Items of value
- Automated drip campaigns
- Client events (movie night, shredding campaigns, picnics, garage sales, a day in the park and so on). It is recommended agents do at least two events a year.
5. Set up autoresponders
When a client reaches out, it is critical that they receive an immediate response. In many cases, it is not possible for the agent to respond in person immediately, so autoresponders should be set up that not only let the client know their query has been received, it alerts the agent in a meaningful way so they can respond back as quickly as possible.
If they visit and register on your website, they should receive an instant notification that their query has been received. Your database should be linked to your phone so that you know if the call you are receiving is from your database; you can respond with an auto-text message if unable to answer. You can also set up auto-responders on your email account.
Bottom line, not only respond immediately but actually follow up in person as quickly as possible — preferably within a few hours. A response a few days later is simply unacceptable.
6. Keep it current
As you interact with your sphere, keep notes. Make sure you write down when you called and what you discussed. These notes should be entered in your CRM. We use the post office Address Service Requested feature to maintain correct addresses. If a contact moves, we are notified of the move and, in many cases, provided with the forwarding address.
When we receive a notification, we go into the MLS to see if they sold their home. If they used another agent, we remove them from our database. If they were renters, we update the new address.
If they kept their original home, we also look up the new address to see if they are renting or if they purchased the new home with someone else. This also gives us a chance to contact them to see what their plans are for their existing home.
7. Continue to add contacts
You will discover that, over time, some contacts will need to be removed from your database. It is critical, therefore, that you are constantly building your SOI. Look for every opportunity to expand, including:
- Past clients
- Open houses
- Networking events
- Door knocking
Actively ask all your allied resources (services you use such as lenders, title companies, contractors, etc.) for leads. Let them know that in the same way you are referring them to others, you anticipate that they will refer potential clients to you, as well.
8. Consider hiring a VA to run the database for you
A VA (virtual assistant) is a very effective way to keep your data up to date. They can also help with mailings, tracking clients and a host of other activities surrounding your database. A great place to start in looking for a VA would be companies such as Cyberbacker or Brivity.
If you do not currently have a database, it is time to start. To not do so is to leave a significant opportunity untapped. If you have a database that you are effectively working, there is always room to improve. With so many agents and teams pulling in over 50 percent of their business volume from their database, this should really be Job One.