Let’s face it: As a group, REALTORS® are not very organized. In fact, that’s probably the understatement of the decade! Why? Primarily it is a matter of gifting. And agents tend to be very “social” and not very “administrative” in terms of gifting. That’s OK. That social gifting is what makes them great with people. That’s why clients like you!
But with every strength (like that social gifting) there is a dark side. The very thing that makes you good with people, tends to also make you not-so-good with organization. Again, that’s OK. But it’s not OK if you don’t put in place a good work-around. I am not naturally very organized, but yet I’m very organized because I don’t rely on my gifting but rather on my systems to stay organized.
Let me explain what I mean. I use my contact manager to stay organized. It’s simple. Really simple. No kidding. Nothing is worse than that feeling that you are supposed to be doing something or meeting somebody, and yet you can’t remember who or what it is. By using this simple tool to stay organized, you can literally forget about all those nagging details and relax and do what you do best — work with people. And then you can just let the contact manager tell you exactly what to do, when to do it, and even send you reminders so you don’t miss any deadlines!
There are lots of contact managers available today, and quite a few just for real estate. The most popular applications are Top Producer ($40/month and up), Agent Office ($40/month and up), Market Leader ($50/month and up), and Pipeline (free to any of my coaching students). Most of the better contact managers will save and organize your customers, allow you to retrieve and update them, schedule activities and keep detailed customer history notes, and maintain your calendar and task lists of activities.
I recommend Pipeline for several reasons. One, because our company created it. Why did we create it? Because I am an agent, and I manage a company of agents. We have used all of the major contact managers (all of those already mentioned as well as Outlook, ACT, Goldmine, dBase, Filemaker Pro, and Salesforce, to name a few). Believe me, had I been able to find the features I needed for my agents, we never would have created Pipeline. We created it for us, first and foremost.
Here are some of the features that make it stand out from the others: First, and most importantly, it has a 5-minute learning curve. Saul Kline, creator of the e-Pro designation, said it like this — “The best database is the one you use.” One of the biggest challenges I faced trying to get my agents to use our contact manager, was just that — getting them to use it. Every single application we tried was too difficult for the agents to learn.
I’ll be willing to bet money that many of you reading or listening to this training will identify with this story. I have a friend who runs a local real estate company. When I was looking for a contact manager for my team I asked him for advice. He went to his shelf and showed me three different versions of Top Producer. He’d actually bought it three times! But he’d never used it, because it was too difficult to get comfortable with. With a thousand dollars in software on the shelf, he was using a collection of three paper calendars and missing appointments right and left!
If the application is too difficult to learn, it doesn’t matter how good it is. You’ll never use it. I have another agent friend who’s been using Top Producer for four years and still isn’t proficient at it. The problem with many of those applications is they were designed by geeks and not agents. When our team finally got tired of shopping for a contact manager and decided to build our own, our number one priority was simplicity. Agents have to learn it to use it. And most agents have about a 10-minute attention span. That’s why Pipeline has a 5-minute learning curve! And it has tons of really cool features.
Another reason I recommend Pipeline is it’s free to any of my coaching students! Why spend money when you don’t have to? Your email is free. You browser software is free. Your anti-virus software is free. Why would you pay for a contact manager? Today’s Internet economy is the economy of free. Look at the best apps out there: Firefox, Hotmail or Gmail, YouTube, Facebook, and now– Pipeline.
OK– enough bragging about our children! Let’s get practical. With Pipeline (or any good contact manager) you should be able to have your new leads automatically pop into your database. Followup should be a snap. A click of two or three keys. When I get a new lead, I click it once and the detail page pops up. I give the customer a quick call and just offer customer service like I mentioned in a previous segment. I type a quick note and it is saved in the customer history, forever. If I email them, a copy automatically saves to their history as well.
After a couple of minutes on the phone I can determine what Phase of the buying cycle that customer is in, and I assign them a followup campaign. I don’t put them on an automated SPAM series — there’s a huge difference. Once I assign the campaign, Pipeline automatically notifies me every time I need to contact the customer, whether to send a quick personal email or whether to make a followup phone call. I don’t have to remember a thing. Pipeline does it for me.
Every day when I log in, I can see exactly the activities that I need to do that day. When I work my way through that list, I’m done. Anything else I do is a bonus! If I have an appointment, Pipeline automatically sends me a text message to my phone reminding me of the appointment in advance. (How many times have you accidentally missed an important appointment because you got busy with another customer before the scheduled appointment?) I know that many agents are prone to missing important appointments, so we built in a safety to keep it from happening. How cool is that?!
But how can I know what I need to do to hit my financial goals? Easy! Remember when we covered planning? Pipeline has a very cool business planner. Type in a few things, like your company split, your income goal, the average sale price in your market, and what you would like your buyer/seller mix to be. Push a button and BAM! You have a business plan.
Pipeline tells you exactly how many leads you need to make, and how much you can afford to spend on each lead. It tells you how many hours a day you need to spend on prospecting calls, listing activity, selling activity, and administration to meet your stated goals. No more wondering if you’re focusing on the right things. With Pipeline, your business is on autopilot. I can’t begin to tell you how relaxing and refreshing it is to know that I’m on track to hit my goals, or that I need to focus more on this or that. Again, that is very cool! I can focus on being productive and I can do it without being stressed out wondering what I’m forgetting.
I don’t know if you’re using a contact manager to stay organized and to leverage your time, but if you’re not, you absolutely need to start right now. Try Pipeline — just like all of our technologies, it’s free to any of my coaching students. I don’t know of a single top producing agent who doesn’t use a contact manager. Think about it this way: Old school real estate methods attracted customers during Phase 2 of the buying cycle so you only had to keep up with the customer for 2-3 weeks at the most.
Today, you need to keep up with them for 2-3 months! And for every deal you want to close, you’re working 24 leads. Two closings a month means keeping up with 144 contacts at one time — their entire history, their contact information, their needs and wants — you get the idea! That’s a lot of organization for a social person like you or me. So take the plunge and get organized. You can learn a great system in 5 minutes, and it will change your practice forever!