Let me know if this sounds familiar — you’re busier than ever trying to keep up with clients, navigate a chaotic real estate market, and scale your business, so it feels like there’s just never enough time to get everything done. Sound familiar?
You’re not alone.
Workplace demands have increased dramatically over the past few years. Whether you’re running your own company or working for a broker, competition is at an all-time high, caused by one of the hottest real estate markets we’ve seen in history.
That means ordinary homebuyers, as well as investors ranging from individual to institutional, are locked in an aggressive battle for the same properties. And now with growing inflation and economic uncertainty, it’s about to get a lot tougher.
Your success in this environment depends on your ability to get more done — and that doesn’t mean simply working harder. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in hard work, but that’s often not enough now. Especially if you want to be a top producer.
The key is to leverage automation to get more done, more quickly, with less effort. So in this article, I’m going to share how you can do exactly that to become more productive, efficient and successful.
Decide which tasks to automate
There are a lot of tasks in your business that while important, are mundane and repetitive. These types of tasks are ideal for automation. In fact, you can even roll groups of related tasks into a single automation.
One example in my own business, which could be modified for your business, is the onboarding process. In the past, fully onboarding a new client for my company would mean several hours of often mundane and repetitive tasks. While every part of the process was absolutely essential, most of it didn’t need to be touched by a team member or me.
So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work building automation that streamlined the entire process, connecting all of the software and completely eliminating the need for my team to touch anything and saving several hours of time on each project.
Here’s how it works:
1. When a client agrees to move forward with a project, someone on my team fills out a short form that sends the client a link to a dynamically generated form for them to complete.
2. That form collects everything we need for onboarding, including:
- Client name
- Company name
- Client email
- Website URL
- Phone number
- Signed Terms of Service agreement
- Team members involved on the project (names and email addresses)
- Social media profiles (personal brand and business)
- Links and files for existing media features
- Images and videos
- Billing information (credit card details and billing address)
3. Once the client completes the form, my team is immediately notified via email.
4. The client is added to a special email list for our clients.
5. A link is sent to the client to schedule their onboarding call.
6. The system then monitors my calendar, sending reminders at set intervals until they schedule their onboarding call. (This is a 30- to 60-minute call where we interview the client so that we can develop their strategic plan.)
7. A project is created for the client in our project management system, and all of their team members are added to the project.
8. All applicable tasks for the life of the project are added based on the project type.
9. Two specialized notebooks are created in the project for social media profiles and existing media features.
10. A label is created for the client in my email.
Every part of this process is automated after my team fills out the first form that sends the client a link, and it all takes place in a matter of seconds after the client has completed their form.
Now, instead of a bunch of emails back and forth, the client simply inputs what they would have had to provide anyway, and specialized software along with custom programming does all the heavy lifting to set everything up and put all of that information where it needs to go.
This means less grunt work for my team so they can focus on the more important tasks. It also eliminates human error because it’s handled by software, and it enables us to get started on the real work sooner, which means our clients get results sooner. It’s a win for everyone involved.
You can, and should, set up something similar to collect and organize everything you’ll need when you bring on a new client. This will free you up to focus on the parts of your business that only you can do, so you can close more deals and make more money.
This is only scratching the surface, though. There are countless tasks you can automate to take even more grunt work off your plate.
Some other real estate tasks you can automate include:
- Adding new leads to your CRM after they fill out your contact form
- Adding new leads to your CRM after they call (assuming you use call-tracking software)
- Send an automated message when a prospect contacts you via forms, email, text, or phone
- Upload signed documents to Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox as soon as you receive them
- Follow up on incomplete tasks, such as collecting files or information
- Share new listings across multiple social media channels
- Create to-do lists based on content within emails
Here’s the cool thing — this is still only scratching the surface.
When I first started building automations for my business, what I created was pretty basic. But the deeper I dug, the more I realized was possible. Before long, I had moved on from simple “when this happens, do that” types of automation and began building complex, logic-based decision trees that could do a number of different things based on exactly what input a trigger received.
I even learned to extract and parse data from emails, calendar entries, Zoom recordings, and other sources to not only do something useful but tailor the actions and results based on the data and pass it on to other applications.
Essentially, almost anything you could possibly want to automate is probably possible. The key is to identify the tasks that follow a consistent and relatively predictable process.
Generally speaking, the types of tasks that can’t be automated are those that require personalized engagement with clients or your unique knowledge and hands-on participation — which is a tiny part of your day-to-day activity. You can even use automations to trigger other automations, which puts even more power in your hands.
Document a process for your automations
When I was younger, I spent some time in a cult. That cult had the best uniforms you’ll ever see and was called the United States Marine Corps.
It was in the Marine Corps that I learned the importance of having a documented process. We had a process for each task we might have to perform — how to conduct a patrol, react to an ambush, or call an airstrike, to name just a few. We called these SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, and they defined how we did everything.
While, hopefully, no one is shooting at you, this principle is just important in your business as it is in the military. When I realized that and started documenting the processes in my business, things improved dramatically. Critical information was no longer locked away in my head, so I could quickly train new employees and not have to worry about how much they absorbed the first time around.
Instead, if they forgot something, they could now just go back to the process document, which is a comprehensive flow chart with complete instructions and resources to complete a particular task. Everything they need is there.
This helped me get new team members up to speed faster, and it required less of my time. It also helped ensure they consistently did things right and that nothing fell through the cracks.
These processes are the key to accomplishing more work with less effort and are critical to scaling your business. They’re also the first step in leveraging automation because a documented process is a blueprint for building your automations.
This is also important because when you have to go back and edit or fix your automations weeks or months later, you’ll need that blueprint to find your way around. Especially if you have complex, multistep automations.
Decide which tools you’re going to use
These automation tools, which essentially sit in between other applications and pass information back and forth to create added functionality, are fairly easy to use, and many have a free version that is limited, along with paid versions that offer full functionality and a greater number of automations.
Some options you may want to consider include:
They integrate with many of the tools you already use in your daily operations, such as G Suite, Microsoft Office and Salesforce with a simple drag-and-drop interface, so it’s usually just a matter of determining which platform you prefer the interface of and making sure that it does integrate with the tools you already use in your current workflow.
Personally, I prefer Zapier, but I encourage you to try the free version of a few different platforms to test them out, both for ease of use and to ensure it does integrate with everything you need it to.
You really want to make this decision once because it’s quite a pain to switch platforms later if you change your mind. That would require you to rebuild everything from the ground up as there is no way to transfer automations from one platform to another.
It’s also worth noting that while tech support is available, it is only through support tickets, not by phone. This can be an issue if you’re not tech-savvy and you’re facing a time-sensitive issue.
Automation will give you the competitive advantage you need to thrive in the coming years
Follow the steps I’ve shared to plan and implement automation in your business. You’ll have a powerful advantage over your competitors, which will help you to take the mundane and repetitive tasks off your plate so you can focus on the things that have the most impact on your bottom line.
Jeremy Knauff is the founder of Spartan Media, a speaker, author and Marine Corps veteran.