Extracting a major return on investment from a customer relationship management (CRM) system is possible, according to several agents whose focus is doing exactly that. Real Estate Business explores how CRMs help agents increase profits and create clients for life Professionalism is ‘nine tenths of the law’ when it comes to real estate business.
An up-to-date and efficient CRM system will support a professional service as it allows agents to get on with their jobs: listing, selling and negotiating sales.
The good news, according to senior solutions consultant for Solentive Software, Brett Raven, is that there are plenty of CRMs available from which principals and agents can choose.
“There are so many CRM products out there and each industry has specifically targeted systems, like Agentbox or Aro Software, for real estate. It is important to shop around to find the methodology that suits your business and fits the way you work,” he says.
A productive CRM should include the ability to automatically email property details to all targeted buyers and create window cards and brochures easily.
Alerts can be designed if a price should change on a property, photos can be uploaded into a variety of different portals in one go and the ability to send reminders to appropriate agents should be effortless.
“A good CRM will run reports, determine trends and [incorporate] other intelligence,” Mr Raven adds.
WHAT IS A CRM SYSTEM WORTH?
This was a question that stumped some of the agents who spoke to Real Estate Business. Can you articulate what your CRM system is worth to the business based on the revenue it has helped you generate?
Real estate coach and mentor John McTavish estimated his system was worth around ten times its purchase price. But how did he come up with that sum?
“It’s always hard to put a value on a product as there are so many factors to consider when it comes to real estate,” he says. “However, it is true that the CRM makes a huge difference to how your client base sees you – or doesn’t see you.”
“If you are spending, say, $300 per month on the product and you are diligent in its use, then keeping in touch with clients over a long period is probably worth three to four sales a year.
“That is $30,000 to $40,000 per annum.
“Consider that over a career of 10 to 20 years and it’s a significant amount of business.”
Based on Mr McTavish’s experiences during his own 32-year career – and his work with the 1,000-plus agents he has coached – he believes those who use their CRM efficiently are usually in the top 10 percentile of agents.
“I found there is a direct correlation between CRM users and successful agents,” he says. “A successful agent’s pay packet can skyrocket upwards of a few hundred thousand dollars.”
According to Agentbox’s director Eddie Cetin, a CRM should be seen as an investment that can cut your administrative costs by half.
“The best way to look at it is as an investment not a cost,” says Mr Cetin. “It is a streamlined solution and should be considered as one. The CRM is priceless as it enables staff to focus on selling rather than administrative duties.”
That prompts a question Mr Cetin suggests each principal should ask him or herself: just how much is your administration time worth?
“A CRM takes the cumbersome tasks and automates them while giving you the time to handle more listings,” he says.
YIELDING TOP RESULTS
The way to get the best results is wonderfully simple, according to Brett Raven: it is all about consistent use.
“In order to get the most out of your CRM system, an agent must ensure they are putting accurate and detailed data into the system,” he says.
“If the data is there you can use it to your advantage. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with CRMs is not using it consistently or having a lack of information.”
Brad Robinson, system manager at Towns Shearing Real Estate, agrees that bad habits hold agents back from achieving the best results through their CRMs.
“You want to make sure you are putting in as much good data as possible. If you just add an email or a name like ‘Bob’ you’ll look it up in three years’ time and ask, ‘Who the hell is Bob?’”
Instead, Mr Raven suggests using the information to create more one-to-one communication with clients.
“CRMs are capable of running reports and determining trends in the market,” he says.
“Collecting the right data is important because once you know the people on your database it is easier to target specific buyers.
“Agents can create small campaigns that target, say, two bedroom apartments with a car spot.”
Before connecting to CRM provider Agent Box, Tasmania-based Towns Shearing Real Estate would mail out newsletters to 10,000 of the agency’s customers twice a year.
“One of the biggest advantages of our database has been the implementation of a now monthly e-newsletter,” Mr Robinson said.
“Towns Shearing is very focused on brand recognition, we want people to see our brand and know what we are, so a constant e-newsletter is important.”
There are endless ways in which agents can use a CRM system, adds John McTavish.
“An agent from a [real estate network] rang me to say the unimaginable had happened – a vendor wanted to reduce their price,” Mr McTavish recalls.
“Normally an agent would have to use all their experience and to work hard to get a client to consider lowering a price, so for a vendor to come to him is almost unheard of.”
This agent had used his CRM technology to collect comments from prospective buyers at an open house. These comments, uncensored, were then emailed directly to the vendor.
“Based on the reports the vendor was receiving from the system, he made the decision to lower the price,” Mr McTavish says.
“Vendors don’t want to lose money by making a bad decision and it is the agent’s job to supply a vendor with full and accurate information – a CRM just makes that as easy as clicking a button.”
OPEN HOUSE POSSIBILITIES
According to the experts spoken to by Real Estate Business, CRMs can be used to their greatest potential at an open for inspection.
“It is about how you manage people as they walk through the door at 10am on a Saturday,” Mr Cetin said. “The more able you are with the information you are given, the better off you will appear to your clients and the more efficient you will be with your time.”
For instance, an agent can access their database at an open home via a smartphone or iPad, Mr Cetin explains. “In fact, the days of jotting down names and numbers on pen and paper at an open house are coming to an end.”
Many agents across Australia already use CRM systems in innovative ways such as this; however, more should be looking into the technology, according to Mr McTavish.
“Can you imagine if an agent was waiting at the door to type in a prospective buyer’s information into an iPad?” he says. “They could send a client an email right there and then.
“At open homes, I encourage agents to collect a name and an email address and any other information they think relevant and get it into the database immediately. Then, every Thursday, send an email to every person on their database inviting them to upcoming open homes. This strategy alone will increase your business dramatically.”
Mr Raven adds that he sees real opportunities for agents who use their CRM system effectively.
“I would personally be very impressed as a buyer if I could be standing talking to an agent who is holding smart technology, and if I were interested in seeing a contract they could email it to me straight away,” he says.
CLIENTS FOR LIFE
According to Brad Robinson, the key to achieving a long-standing client relationship using a CRM is keeping the client in the loop.
“We try to contact a client at least once a year by phone, because nothing will replace human interaction,” he says. “However, you can go back to the database and look up the last conversation we had with that person.
“We can find out with a click of a button where they are at in their journey, if they are ready to sell or whether they are interested in receiving information from us.”
The database can be seen as a mechanism to set up automated reminders, adds Mr Cetin.
“Using Agentbox, you can set up anniversary reminders to prompt you to send out a card or even a bottle of wine for special property milestones – five years since moving in or selling a property, for instance,” he says.