Not sure what real estate CRM to choose? We get it.
Even world leaders will dodge decisions when they can. In fact, during his time in the White House, Barack Obama only wore grey or blue suits in an effort to keep one area of life simple. He had bigger things to focus on, and so do you.
Maybe that’s why most Realtors faced with the real estate CRM decision end up doing one of two things:
We're going to leave our bias at the door and help you out with the latter. Here are some of the most important things to think about when choosing the best real estate CRM for your growing business.
The acronym CRM stands for 'Customer Relationship Management'. As the name implies, your CRM can touch pretty much any aspect of your business from tracking and managing your leads, sending drip campaigns, uploading contracts, booking and managing appointments — and a whole lot more.
Basically, a real estate CRM is the software you use to run your business.
But beyond the star-rated features of any CRM, is the level of productivity (read: profits) it can bring your business. Because at the end of the day, there's only one major difference between a solopreneur and an entrepreneur.
A solopreneur owns a job. An entrepreneur owns a system.
With this important distinction in mind, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of using a real estate CRM to help you run your business.
The business perks we just mentioned are just the beginning.
With the right real estate CRM, you’ll also score some serious benefits for your business.
How many times have you asked someone on your team for an update on a customer or transaction only to find it takes them way too long to deliver what you need?
Data shows that 65% of a rep's time is spent on non-revenue generating activities. That translates to a heckuva lot of wasted opportunities.
With a smart real estate CRM, this doesn’t happen.
By keeping everything in one central location, everything is beautifully organized and consistent—anytime you need something, you, your agents, VA, or transaction manager will know exactly where to find it.
This type of pro-level organization can also help you nurture leads and hit your sales goals faster.
Figure: State of sales in 2018
Only 27% of the leads that enter a company’s marketing funnel are “sales ready."
If you want to close cold or warm leads, you need to consistently send your leads the right message at the right time. The best way to do this is through smart, focused lead nurturing.
A great CRM makes it easy to segment parts of your list depending on which stage of the buying cycle your leads are in.
Instead of sending generic messages to your entire list, you’ll be able to tailor your message to match your lead’s exact buying stage enabling you to connect with them on a deeper level. Your leads will see that you’re going above and beyond to help them out. And your conversion rates will naturally increase as a result. #WinWin
But you can’t do this if you don’t create customized drip campaigns, which is another key feature that a the right real estate CRM will come with.
As we mentioned, the magic of a real estate CRM lies in the lead nurturing.
To tackle lead nurturing, you'll use your CRM to set up customized drip campaigns that are only sent to certain portions of your list.
This is something your Excel spreadsheet and stack of business cards can’t do.
But in today’s age of chatbots, robocallers and misspelled Starbucks lattes, it’s crucial that your CRM gives you enough customization so that no lead ever feels like just another number in your database.
Bottom line: A smart real estate CRM will have a good balance of automation and customization so that none of your leads ever feels like they're reading a message that was written by a robot.
With a modern real estate CRM you can easily set up automated drip emails to trigger automatically for new leads or even for keeping in touch with other people in your database like your SOI, referrals or past clients.
Different leads want different things.
While you technically can manage all of your leads with one, automated blanket email sent straight from your real estate CRM, that doesn't mean you should. Each type of lead requires a different level of attention.
Let’s start with how to handle leads that come from a third-party portal site such as Zillow, Realtor.com, or Homes.com.
Whenever you receive a lead from a third-party portal, it’s crucial that you follow up fast.
Potential customers in this category are usually motivated. They’re browsing multiple listings won’t hesitate to reach out when they find a property that piques their interest.
These customers also tend to have an extremely short buying cycle and are more likely to book a showing with the first Realtor who replies the fastest.
But, let’s face it, with a jam-packed schedule, you may not have the time to reply to each lead right away.
That’s where your real estate CRM comes in.
With a smart real estate CRM, you can set up autoresponder messages that are triggered any time someone fills out a form on a third-party portal site.
Set up one message and configure it to send to anyone inquiring about specific properties. This buys you some time to get in touch with them and gives the customer an instant response.
In your follow ups, be sure to include a thank you for reaching out and a call to action that focuses on scheduling a time to chat or discusses an immediate showing.
Since these leads are typically more expensive than others, it’s essential that you work them right away using an immediate follow up, like a text message.
In Follow Up Boss, you and your agents can automatically dial your portal leads as soon as they come in.
At the other end of the spectrum are your IDX registration leads.
Unlike your third-party portal leads, these customers are not usually ready to sign. They’re just beginning to dip their toes in the real estate market waters.
But that doesn’t mean you should wait to contact them.
Instead, use lead nurturing to keep the conversation going and warm them up until they’re ready to make a move. To do this, you need a good sales system in place with a solid strategy behind it.
There are two things to keep in mind when you’re creating your game plan:
Fortunately, you can do all of this by sending specific follow ups.
Now, just because you have your follow ups ready to go doesn’t mean you should send everyone a follow up right away.
Trying to contact all the leads all the time is a great way to waste time on deals that won’t come to fruition.
Instead, prioritize your follow ups based on the buyer’s price point and how active they are on your site.
For example, if a million-dollar customer only reaches out once every month while you have two $600,000 buyers emailing you multiple times per week, you should focus your time on the latter while still keeping the former buyer on your radar.
The big advantage with IDX registrations is that you’re capturing potential buyers before they spend time browsing the portals.
Because of this, it’s crucial that you capture the attention of these buyers and keep them interested and engaged.
And that’s exactly what you can do using a real estate CRM to nurture those leads. But not all real estate CRMs are created equal.
Here are the questions to think about when choosing the best real estate CRM for you.
Most buyers will find their next home before they put theirs up on the market and turn into sellers. This means a large percentage of your buyers will also have a home to sell.
But these leads are early in the sales cycle and a good portion of them are still in the “just curious” phase.
You’ll need to take a similar approach to IDX registrations: add value through lead nurturing and give it some time.
Here’s how you can do that:
#1: Use Your Real Estate CRM to Send Regular Market Updates
Prepare a CMA, or competitive market analysis, and send these sellers that information, plus regular market updates.
The idea here is to give them a sense of true market values so that when it comes time to put their house on the market, they’re not unrealistic with pricing and have a better idea of the closest comps.
#2: Ask the Right Questions
Another approach here is to ask your sellers a few questions about their home.
One example could be:
What's the #1 feature of this home that made you decide to buy it in the first place?
By doing this, you’ll open up the lines of communication without pushing for the listing. Plus, knowing these key details will help you sell when you do eventually turn into the listing agent.
#3: Keep Your Sellers Informed
On top of these updates, it’s a good idea to keep your sellers informed with any market changes that will affect them, both negatively and positively.
The more you can prove that you have their best interest in mind and that you’re looking out for them, the more likely you’ll be to capture the listing.
Keep your sellers informed, but don’t update them for every little thing. Instead, only send them information that will directly affect them. Anything else is part of your job, not theirs.
Sometimes you show a potential buyer a home, it’s not exactly the right fit, and things just leave off on that note. Fast forward 30+ days later and you realize you never stayed in touch with them.
So you think, I’m sure they’ve found a home by now, and all hope is lost.
While your chances of closing that deal may be slim, you can ensure that you don’t make this costly mistake again thanks to a few key settings in your CRM.
You can send your buyers other homes to go see and keep them engaged the whole time. (In Follow Up Boss, one way to do this without too much manual work is to set up a Smart List.)
With these, you simply tag your buyers based on how often you want to follow up with them. When the time passes, you’ll receive a notification to remind you to touch base with them.
The best real estate CRMs will also let you add tasks to your buyer’s contact info so when your follow up alarm rings, you’ll know exactly where you left off and what needs to be done.
And when you do follow up and book a time to meet, you should be able to create an appointment right in your CRM’s calendar.
Tagging your buyers, creating tasks, and adding new appointments to your CRM’s calendar ensures that you’ll never let a lead get lost in the shuffle again.
Past clients can be a great source of new business. The problem is many agents become hyper-focused on bringing in new leads and end up neglecting their established sources of business.
Yes, you should be doing more to keep in touch with your past clients.
So spend the few extra minutes personalizing the content you send this important group.
Don’t over complicate things here. Just keep it simple and do something and you’ll be in much better shape than your competitors.
And if you’re still on the fence about spending more time re-engaging past clients, check out how this real estate group managed to build a $90 million business all from leveraging their existing customer base of 280 contacts.
Here’s a sneak peek into their 4-part marketing plan:
That plan may sound simple and that’s because it is.
As long as you stay in touch and spend the time personalizing your content, you’ll see a big uptick in repeat business.
Ok. We now know that a CRM is a game-changer for your business. So what's the catch?
The biggest problem with real estate CRMs is that there are a ton of them out there.
We're all for the open market, but the sheer amount of CRMs makes it tough to know which one's right for you. And nothing's worse than wasting money on a system you just don't use.
So, should you go with cheap and cheerful (even if it is a little tough to navigate)? Or fork out the big bucks for a system with all the bells and whistles?
(If you ask us, the right answer is none of the above. But we'll get to that in a minute).
Every CRM has its strengths and weaknesses. The best one for you may or may not be the one that works for the Realtor next door.
Here are three simple questions to help guide you to your own best answer.
Question #1: What are your personal goals?
Weird question for a tech topic, right?
Too many agents chase a vision based on someone else's success story, then wonder why it didn't work out.
Truth is, your business is meant to provide you with a certain type of lifestyle.
(Btw, those last two things AREN'T mutually exclusive.)
Don't worry about what Buffini, Ferry or Proctor would say. Find the answer that's right for you.
Question #2: What level of automation do you need?
Your answer to the first question will give you your answer to this one.
There are CRMs and tech tools that can help you automate your entire business from A to Z. That's one of the reasons most agents make the mistake of overspending on tech when they first start to pick up steam in their business.
(Want to know the other big mistakes? Check out our blog post on how to avoid losing leads as you scale.)
What are your needs based on your business today?
For example, if you're primarily working your SOI and past clients, you might only need a simple tool to help you send drip campaigns and mailers.
What are your needs based on your business vision?
If you're ready to take things to the next level by investing in paid internet leads and growing a team, you may need a more sophisticated tool that gives you advanced tracking and data reporting on the best lead sources and most productive team members.
The perfect CRM will immediately free up at least an hour of your time each day, while giving you the tools you need to support the next step in your business — whether that's investing in facebook ads, setting up your drip campaign or hiring your first buyer agent.
Question #3: Do you actually like your lead management system?
If you're not updating your CRM like you should be, chances are it's just not fun to use.
Life's too short to run your business on a system you don't love. A great CRM will make it easy to keep your database completely up-to-date, without ever pausing to think about what goes where.
Here's what Austin-based broker Ryan Rodenbeck has to say about the importance of using critical thinking when choosing a CRM:
Need some more advice on the right questions to ask? Check out this article from Agent Advice on how to find the best real estate CRM.
Once you know what you really want for your business (and your life!), you're ready to start weighing the CRM features that can take you there.
As we said before, there are CRMs to help you with literally every aspect of your real estate business.
We're not going to name names or get into a detailed cost comparison of each one (we have personal lives too, you know) but in order to make it easier to wrap your head around, we've broken it down into three general types CRMs.
If you're just starting out, there are a number of low cost CRMs that can help you track your leads. Many of these cost less than $100 per year and usually come with a generous free trial of up to six months.
These tools can be great in the beginning, when you just need a place to grow your budding database. In the future, you'll be able to afford a tool with great UI. But at this point, it doesn't really matter how pretty your tool is. It just needs to be simple and easy to use.
It's also important to note that not all CRMs are real estate CRMs. Many agents start out using a general CRM because it's well-known, well-loved and in some cases, very affordable or even free. That's totally fine in the beginning. But as the referrals start rolling in, it becomes very difficult to juggle ALL the tasks in your business as a one-person show.
Which leads us to the...
If you're a.) reaching your sending limit every month, b.) thinking of hiring a VA or c.) wondering if you're ever going to see your family again, it's time for an upgrade.
At this stage in the game, you're going to want to swap out your homegrown system for a true blue real estate CRM that can take important tasks off your plate — and make it easy to plug new team members into your business as it grows.
Save yourself a ton of time (and pain) by using a dedicated real estate CRM to handle things like lead gen and capture, real estate-specific drip campaigns, advanced SOI marketing, mailers and more.
Be aware that some CRMs are also lead gen tools, and that's a whole other game altogether.
You're always going to have to pay more for a CRM that also brings you leads, but if you're regularly following up and giving value to those leads, you'll have no problem making your money back.
Growing pains are real.
As a team leader, your business pain points are going to be very different from what they were at rookie level.
When you reach a point in your business where you have way more work than you can handle, it will pay back ten fold to give your team the tools they need to get more done, faster. At this point, juggling backend logins and switching between systems will hurt your team's productivity and put you at risk of losing leads.
Team CRMs help you organize all your leads in one place (regardless of source) and automatically distribute leads to agents. Some CRMs (including Follow Up Boss) offer additional features like transaction management and deal reporting to give you the complete picture of what and who is making (and losing) money within your team.
At this level, it's also important to think about protecting your team's focus. There shouldn't be 1,000 different ways to accomplish one simple task within your CRM. You're busy. Your business is growing. You and your team have no time for tech that's not user-friendly.
Now that you know about the types of CRMs out there — and what a truly stellar CRM can help you accomplish — you're ready to start your search!
Here's a quick rundown of some of the most important (and overlooked!) features to consider when selecting your CRM.
When you're just starting out, it's fine to use one system for tracking database leads and another for sending drip campaigns, etc. But as your business grows, you'll want a central CRM that can support an entire business system, including:
Look for a tool with an open API that can easily integrate with your other systems to automatically pull in all your leads and make sure every last one geys nurtured.
Automation is great, but sometimes you need that personal touch that only a living, breathing human can deliver.
Does the CRM in question provide you with the flexibility to automate and personalize where needed?
Check to see the integrations available. With tools like Zapier in the mix, most CRMs will be able to take you to the level of automation you want. Just be careful not to overdo it. You probably don't want to be sending out emails that feel like a template.
It's impossible to overstate the importance of user friendliness. Especially if you have a team.
You and your team need to feel good about using your CRM, otherwise the deals just won't get done.
Check out the CRM's website for screenshots and demo videos. Is it easy to understand? When you've narrowed down your top 2 to 3 choices, schedule a demo to get your questions answered and make sure you feel comfortable using it.
Of course, it goes without saying that your CRM should work seamlessly on both iPhone and Android.
How much of a learning curve can you handle? A free trial is a great way to test not only the CRM itself, but also the customer support that comes with it.
Every new tool will take some time to learn. Make sure you and your team can get the answers they need, when they need them.
If you're thinking about using Follow Up Boss for your CRM, you should know that we take Customer Support very seriously. You can learn more about how we make the CRM transition as easy and effective as possible right here.
As your business grows, it becomes easier and easier for money and opportunities to fall through the cracks.
Look for a CRM that has advanced tracking and reporting to help you create a watertight lead management system and hold agents accountable for the leads you're giving them.
How you get optimal value for your money has everything to do with where you are in your business. What's the best fit for your business today and for the next 1 to 2 years?
A free or low-cost Rookie CRM is absolutely the way to go when you're starting out. But when you're juggling multiple escrows each month, you can buy back your time and make more money by investing in a Solo Agent or Team CRM.
And for teams calling a variety of leads coming in from MLS sites, internet lead sources, expireds, FSBOs, and more — you can save a ton of money by using one CRM as your central lead management system and dialer.
To get an accurate view of value for money, take an objective look at the cost and time pressures in your business and really think through how (and if) the CRM can alleviate these for you.
One final note on costs: CRM pricing should ALWAYS be transparent. If you can't find a price on their website, you probably can't afford it.
The customers we serve best at Follow Up Boss are teams of 3+ agents who are relentlessly focused on lead ROI. We help them close more deals faster, hold their agents accountable and prevent opportunities from slipping through the cracks.