Ask any agent what a CRM is and most will tell you it’s where they keep their contact info…and maybe their appointments and calls. In other words, for the majority of agents, CRM apps are souped-up Personal Digital Assistants (PDA).
That view probably explains why so many agents dislike their CRM app so much. If all you want is a PDA (that syncs with all your devices, of course), then most CRM apps are way too complicated.
Just what is a CRM app supposed to do anyway? Short for Customer Relationship Management, they’re supposed to keep tabs on customers so you can provide better service and find opportunities. CRM apps should also be focused on revenue lift. In other words, if you think of a CRM app as a way to keep yourself organized, you’re looking at it the wrong way. It’s about the customer – what you can do for them, how you can find them – and how doing that can make you money.
Besides contact information, every call, appointment, email or document you’ve had or exchanged with a contact is logged into modern CRMs. Some even link your contacts to their social accounts, your email marketing campaigns or provide data streams for more “insight.” So when someone contacts you, you can bring up their record and see EVERYTHING you’ve ever done with and for them – and you may even know what they’re doing online and what other people know about them.
They’re also supposed to help you find more contacts and manage leads. With modern CRMs you can pull in information on every person you have contact with online. And by online, I mean social network “conversations”, queries from aggregator sites and even website visitor activity. All of a sudden you’ve got hundreds or thousands of new prospect records to pour through. Then you can follow the course of a lead from receipt to any point up to and including a completed deal.
What about keeping property, listing and comparable info? That’s all useful since it’s data that can be linked to a contact record – and convenient since the agent can do it all from one app. But once again, that’s an organizing “me” approach. These inventories are better kept in a separate application that integrates with the CRM app. Because unlike CRM data which “belongs” to the agent, property, listing and comp data is meant to be shared within and often outside the brokerage – not siloed in everyone’s CRM.
The point is, CRE has to start thinking differently about CRM. And several national brokerages are giving agents a push by putting their money on company-wide CRM apps. They’re envisioning the day when leads and data from all digital sources are automatically captured, when agents take the time to record their off-line activity in the CRM because it’s easy. Then the CRM is mined for opportunities on which agents follow a checklist of tasks to service the lead from start to finish.
This is really powerful stuff that’s well beyond how most agents or brokerages use or even think about their CRM. To get an idea of what modern CRMs are like, check out the following:
- Followup Boss – just to see what full integration is like for lucky residential agents…
- Contactually – the dashboard summarizes all your tasks including follow-ups, calls and reminders.
- The Salesforce (Force) platform is very flexible and there are lots of add-ons that can be integrated into a basic Salesforce.com account. But better to have someone else include these integrations in their app. So check out Force based apps like Apto which can include these features along with additional features for CRE.
- Insightly – Google Mail/Apps, Office 365 or Outlook 2013 users might want to consider this add-on which, depending on the native app, includes some of the modern CRM features I’ve written about. And since it works with apps you may already be using, it’s a good way to give modern CRM a try.