Whether you’re a new real estate agent who’s looking for a way to manage all your new contacts, or a seasoned vet who’s fed up with your current system, having a good customer relationship management (CRM) solution is crucial in today’s market. Here are a few tips for sifting through all the options to find the best CRM for you and your real estate business.
Identify your needs
Before you make a commitment, it’s important to determine what you want out of your real estate CRM software. Some will recommend a solution that takes care of every aspect of the sales and marketing process; others say these all-in-one applications tend to be mediocre at everything.
Whatever your opinion, it’s important to decide how many bells and whistles you really need — and are willing to pay for. Do you just want an easy way to manage your contacts? Are you interested in tracking deals and transactions? Do you want web building and marketing tools on top of that? Answer these questions before diving in, and you’ll save yourself time, money, and headaches in the long run.
Take advantage of freebies
We’re creatures of habit, and whether you’re using a CRM for the first time or adopting a new one, you’ll have to form new habits in order to get the most value. No matter how much of the process your CRM automates, this will take some time.
Luckily, CRM developers understand this, which is why most of them offer free trial periods of anywhere from a few weeks to 90 days for their applications. The longer the free trial, the longer you’ll have to develop an informed opinion of all a CRMs features, quirks, strengths, and limitations — and the less chance you’ll be locked into a solution you’ll end up hating.
Keep it simple and lightweight
Unfortunately, many real estate CRMs focus so much on trying to solve all your problems that they create new ones with respect to usability. The best CRMs strike a balance between function and form, offering just enough valuable features but not so many that the user interface is difficult to understand.
While complex, feature-rich software may have been the order of the day ten years ago, the advent of mobile devices and apps has made simplicity a key virtue. Indeed, one strategy for gauging a CRM’s user interface is to evaluate the mobile apps and solutions it offers. If they’re strong, the company probably has its UI priorities in order; if they’re weak or nonexistent, it may reflect a thorny desktop app.
Go with the cloud
We’ve extolled the virtues of cloud software solutions before at the Academy, and the same points apply to a CRM. Shifting your relationship management to the web simplifies all the IT problems associated with applying software solutions to your business — updating and upgrading, hardware compatibility issues, installation on home and mobile devices, etc. More importantly, you make it easier to share and communicate with the customers whose relationships you’re trying to manage.
Focus on compatibility
The real estate industry has historically been a technological nightmare, and much of this has to do with the problem of compatibility. MLSs and other real estate organizations have worked hard to protect their property data, and while more solutions are appearing every day to securely and easily transmit that data in a format that websites and visitors can understand, the landscape is still pretty hectic.
Consequently, it’s crucial that you choose a CRM that offers compatibility with the tools you’re already using. Specifically, if your website uses IDX to communicate with your MLS, you’ll want a CRM that supports that platform — otherwise, you’ll have to enter your clients’ data multiple times in multiple places.
Here’s a partial list of the CRMs out there, both general and real estate-specific. Let us know what you like best and why!
Real Estate CRMs
- Follow Up Boss
- iXact Contact
- Real Estate Cloud
- Real Future CRM
- Realty Juggler
- Top Producer