Real estate brokers and agents face a lot of challenges.
Direct sales, 100% commission models, online real estate companies, and listing portals are changing how real estate works.
So you need to make sure that you’re getting the most out of every client and prospect relationship. And that’s what customer relationship management (CRM) software will do for you.
Using a CRM can change how you do business.
But how do you choose the best real estate CRM for your business? Should you get one that’s specifically marketed as a real estate CRM? Or will any platform work?
We’ll dive into the details to help you make the right decision. But first, let’s talk about some basics.
If you’re new to the world of real estate CRMs, you might not yet be convinced that you actually need one. But it’s a crucial business tool, and one that you shouldn’t skip out on.
Because real estate is all about relationships.
To manage those relationships, you need to communicate with your clients and prospects. That’s what a CRM does best: helps you communicate regularly, quickly, and effectively.
And it can handle all sorts of communication tasks.
For example, it makes staying in close contact with potential buyers easier. In many cases, it’s even automatic.
That saves you time—time that you can use to find more potential clients, follow up on prospects, or find inventory for your pipeline.
A CRM can help you manage a lot of information, too. You might have dozens of potential buyers, a handful of properties you’re trying to sell, and a lot of people you’ve worked with in the past.
You need a good system to help you stay organized. Your real estate CRM can tell you which clients to reach out to and which deals to follow up on. That saves you both time and mental energy.
Real estate is about relationships.
You’re working on high-dollar deals, and your clients have high expectations. If you don’t stay in close contact with them, you could miss out on a valuable deal.
Don’t let that happen. Use a CRM.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about real-estate-specific CRMs.
It makes sense, right? You’re going to be using your CRM for real estate, so a real estate CRM will meet your needs.
The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
Yes, those CRMs have real-estate-specific features. But are they really necessary? Will they actually help you run your business?
Let’s take a look at a few and see.
WiseAgent allows users to get real estate news right in their CRM. You can add any RSS feed so the CRM and get updates from your favorite real estate sites.
Sounds cool... but is it really necessary? A CRM isn’t made for reading news, it’s made for managing relationships.
You probably already have ways of reading your favorite sites. You don’t need to pay for another one. What’s more, do you want your sales team to read up on news and scroll to a stream of their favorite blogs in your sales CRM during working hours?
We believe that the whole purpose of a CRM should be to help your sales reps focus on the tasks that are essential to winning deals, and eliminate any distractions that could get in the way.
ReferralMaker offers “Buffini Groups” where users can “[s]hare ideas and stories to get the most out of working by referral.”
But the question you should ask yourself is: is this something I need? You’re probably using social media for your business already, and you’ll have a wider reach by using Twitter or Facebook.
Why take the time to start using a new social network that consists only of people using the same software?
Ixact Contact includes a feature that lets you build a real estate agent website. Which could be useful if you don’t already have one.
And—credit where credit’s due—the sites are pretty good-looking.
But they’re all the same. And with how easy it is to build a website on another service (or hire someone to build one for you), why limit yourself to a small selection from Ixact?
If you really don’t want to go through the hassle of building your own site, it might be useful. But what if you discover that you don’t like the CRM? You’ll have to start over.
It’s a pretty transparent tactic to keep you locked into using their CRM.
And you can bet that even if you don’t use it, your monthly fees are paying for the people who are.
Ixact also offers “Social Stream,” which automatically finds and posts content to your social feeds. You give it a real estate topic, and the CRM posts articles and information from “top-tier” publications.
Which sounds nice... but like we said, you’re already reading that content anyway. And you aren’t going to get social traction with just links. You need to add value with your commentary.
So why pay $20 a month for a service that you could do yourself with just a small investment of time?
(At least Ixact posts it to social networks that people actually go to. That’s something.)
Follow Up Boss grabs leads from sites like Zillow, Homes.com, and Trulia, and downloads them into your CRM.
It’s not clear how these are downloaded, sorted, or stored . . . but we have to admit, it’s a pretty cool idea. Except for the fact that automatically downloading leads from websites is a practice that not only websites themselves are increasingly preventing, but that might also cause legal issues with increased government scrutiny on data protection and online privacy.
If you don’t have enough leads for your real estate agency, something like that might be useful. But you’ll pay extra for it.
Now that you’ve seen some of the real-estate specific features that you can get from real estate CRMs, ask yourself:
Should you even use them?
Are they actually going to help you stay focused on the activities that drive the most value to you? (Which is communicating with prospects, moving sales conversations forward.) Real estate CRMs are, for the most part, just standard CRMs with “real estate” written on them. And a few extra features thrown in.
Features that, as we’ve seen, aren’t really all that great. That’s of course our point of view—others will see things differently.
So what should you be looking for instead?
Let’s take a look:
Okay, so if you don’t need a real-estate-agent-only social network, what do you need?
Here are a few things that will help you run a better real estate business:
Do you spend a lot of time on the phone with your clients? Many real estate agents do. You have lots of clients to update, cold calls to make, and questions to answer.
A CRM with calling features saves time by automating some of that process, recording calls for later reference, automated voicemail, and more.
All without leaving the CRM or picking up your phone. It’s all handled right within the app.
All of these features are meant to help you get more out of your calling schedule. If you work for a large real estate agency and have people who spend a lot of time on the phone, features like these will seriously boost their productivity.
You have a busy schedule—and fitting something new into it isn’t always easy.
Why not let your CRM handle that for you? Sync the platform with your calendar and your clients can schedule a call or a viewing a time when you’re available. No need to trade calls or emails trying to get something on the calendar.
It’s like having your own personal assistant.
SMS is a great way to stay in touch with your clients. You can let them know when a new property is available, send them links to virtual tours, get updates on paperwork, and just check in.
Especially if you’re working with younger home buyers, the ability to text is crucial for communicating with clients.
Being able to send text messages from your CRM makes the whole process easier. You can send texts without pulling out your phone and typing on a tiny keyboard.
You can even automate texts so your clients get specific types of messages without your intervention.
There’s no better way to stay top-of-mind with your prospects and customers than through automated emails (aka cadences).
You can use them to welcome new clients, update past clients, stay in touch with newsletters, follow up on prior conversations, or just about any other kind of contact you want.
You can also nurture leads without having to write up a new email every couple days.
All of this can be done automatically, letting you stay in contact with a lot more people without all the effort.
Marketing is a big concern for a lot of real estate agents. If it’s something you think about a lot, email automation will change your life.
Do you want to know how to close more deals? Of course you do! 23% of real estate agents want to improve their conversion rate.
But there’s no secret to it—you just have to know your clients and understand how to best work with them.
A CRM with built-in reporting features optimized for actionable sales insights can help you do that. Maybe you see that clients who received your automated lead nurturing emails are more likely to stick with you when they buy.
Or that texting gets the most responses. Or that calling in the morning works a lot better than calling in the evening.
Reports from your CRM can tell you these things and make your outreach more effective.
You’re probably already using some tools. Maybe you use an email provider like Aweber or MailChimp. Or you have real-estate specific tools that you need to use to keep track of listings and remind you of paperwork that needs to get done.
Whatever the case, you want a CRM that can integrate with those tools.
You can import information from those tools into your CRM, or sync up your customer entries to provide those other pieces of software with important communication information.
No matter which tools you use, there’s a good chance you can find a CRM that will integrate with them.
If you can’t, you can at least find one that integrates with Zapier. That way you’ll have access to thousands of apps without having to set up your own custom integrations.
It sounds really great when you see a CRM that has real-estate-specific features. But do you actually need those features? Will you ever use them?
In many cases, the answer is no. But when you first see a piece of software build specifically for real estate agents, you might be blown away. That’s a very specific market, and it’s impressive that companies have built CRMs for it.
Alas, those CRMs really aren’t that great.
So instead of getting caught up in the features that software manufacturers want you to get excited about, think about what’s actually going to save you time.
Think about how you organize your contacts, communicate with them, and run your business. Then find a CRM that helps you with those tasks.
That’s what a CRM should do.