How to Choose the Best Real Estate CRM without Going Insane

How to Choose the Best Real Estate CRM

It’s absolutely crazy the things people will do to avoid making a decision.

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. If you’re faced with the daunting decision of choosing a real estate CRM, you probably don’t even know what questions to ask.

And hey, we’re not judging. After all, the average adult makes approximately 35,000 decisions every day. For those of us leading a team, business and/or family, you can go ahead and double that.

Choosing the Best Real Estate CRM

Many Realtors faced with the CRM decision end up doing one of two things:

  1. Take it to the nearest Facebook group peanut gallery.
  2. Sit down and think about what will really work for their unique business.

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 CRM for you.

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What is a Real Estate CRM, Really?

In the noisy real estate tech landscape, it’s easy to lose sight of what a CRM actually is.

At its core, a CRM is the software you use to run your real estate 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.

But beyond the star-rated features of any CRM, is the level of productivity (read: profits) it can bring to 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.

If you're lead follow up is based on memory, you're going to lose

Why Bother Tracking Your Leads Through a CRM?

The business perks we just mentioned are just the beginning.

With a great CRM, you’ll also have all of the following benefits for your real estate business:

Better organization to save you time and headaches.

How many times have you asked someone on your team for a follow-up on a client or another important piece of information, only to find it takes them way too long to deliver what you need?

With a CRM, this won’t happen.

By keeping everything in one central location, everything will be organized and consistent. Anytime you need something, you hop into the CRM and get it yourself.

This type of organization can also help you nurture leads.

Close more deals using lead nurturing.

If you want to close cold or warm leads, you need to send your potential customers the right message at the right time. The best way to do this is through lead nurturing.

A great CRM makes it easy to segment parts of your list, depending on which stage of the buying cycle your lead is in, and then send only that group of contacts a message specific to where they are in the buying cycle.

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.

Your personalized message will resonate with them on a deeper level. Your leads will see that you’re going above and beyond to help them out. And you’ll naturally increase your conversion rates. #WinWin.

But you can’t do this if you don’t create customized drip campaigns, which is another key feature that a good CRM should come with.

Customized drip campaigns can improve your close rates and retention.

As we mentioned, the magic of a real estate CRM is 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, as previously discussed.

This is something your Excel spreadsheet and stack of business cards can’t do.

The right CRM will have a good balance of automation and customization so that none of your leads every feels like they’re reading a message that was written by a robot.

Real Estate Drip Email

Caption: Set up automated drip emails to trigger automatically for new leads or for keeping in touch with other people in your database like past clients

How the Best CRMs Help You Handle Each Stage of the Customer Lifecycle

Every real estate business needs to manage three main phases of their customer lifecycle in order to grow their agency and close more deals.

Fortunately, you can manage all three using an awesome CRM:

Properly Manage Your Leads

While you can manage all of your leads right from your CRM, you shouldn’t manage them in the same way. Each lead requires a different level of attention.

Let’s start with how to handle leads that come from a third-party portal such as Zillow, Realtor.com, or Homes.com.

Portal Leads Should Be Contacted Immediately

Whenever you receive a lead from a third-party portal, it’s crucial that you follow up right away.

Potential customers in this category are usually browsing multiple listings and tend to reach out only to the properties that pique their interest.

These customers have an extremely short buying cycle, which means you need to act fast. These leads are also more likely to book a showing with any 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 CRM comes in.

With a CRM, you can set up auto responder messages that are triggered any time someone fills out a form on a third-party portal to you.

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 can be a little more expensive than some of your others, it’s essential that you work them right away and do so using an immediate follow up, like a text message.

Your IDX Registrations Need Lead Nurturing

At the other end of the spectrum are your IDX registration leads.

Unlike your third-party portal leads, these customers are not exactly 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 until they’re ready to buy.

Instead, use lead nurturing to keep the conversation going until you can convert them.

To do this, you need a good system in place with a solid strategy behind it.

There are a two things to keep in mind when you’re creating your game plan:

  1. This relationship is going to take time. Don’t start out by sending these potential customers requests to schedule a showing or book a call to chat. Instead, think about how you can help them browse available homes better.
  2. You need to add value before you can gain their trust. On top of needing time under your belt, you also need to offer these customers something for free before you ever think about asking to show them a house.

Fortunately, you can do all of this by sending specific follow ups.

Let’s take a look at a few examples below:

Follow Up Message #1

“Hi [Name],

Based on your previous searches, I found some other homes you might me interested in.

If you see one or two that pique your interest, please don’t hesitate to reach out so we can chat.”

Follow Up Message #2

“Hey [Name],

“I wanted to let you know that the following homes will have open houses this weekend.

Based on your recent searches, there are a few you might want to check out.

For more information on the specific dates and times, [insert call to action, such as click on the image or link below].”

Follow Up Message #3

“Hey [Name],

I’m reaching out today to make sure the property listings I’ve been sending you contain homes you’re actually interested in. If that’s the case, no need to reply back to this email — we’ll just keep sending you more listings like these.

If these aren’t the types of properties you want to see, please don’t hesitate to reach out by replying to this email.”

Prioritize Your Time Wisely

Now just because you have your follow ups ready to go doesn’t mean you should send everyone a follow up right away. Doing so will cause you to spend (and waste) time on deals that won’t come to fruition.

Prioritize your follow ups based on the buyer’s price point and how active they are on your site.

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 CRM to nurture those leads.

Sellers Need Lead Nurturing Too

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: 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 Seller 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.

Keep Potential Buyers Engaged

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 adding too much manual work to your plate 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.

A good CRM 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 potentially good lead get lost in the shuffle ever again.

But what happens when a client goes cold on their end?

While this situation is common, it doesn’t have to be since there’s a solution hiding in your CRM, as you’ll learn next.

Re-Engage Past Clients

Past clients can be a great source of new business. The problem is many agents often neglect them.

You should be doing more to ‘keep in touch’ and ‘stay top of mind’ with this segment of your customer base since they’re your highest value customers. Previous customers are more likely to buy from you again since they’ve already done it before.

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 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:

  • On the 15th of every month, they sent a postcard to everyone on their list
  • Then, on the 7th of every month, they sent a short, 90s video email
  • On the 21st of every month, another email went out
  • Once a quarter, all contacts on the list would receive a phone call

That plan may sound a bit too simple and that’s because it is. But that’s the key here.

As long as you stay in touch and spend the time personalizing your content, you’ll see a big uptick in repeat business.

The Problem With Real Estate CRMs

Ok. We now know that a CRM is a game-changer for your business and your leads. 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).

3 Existential Questions to Help You Find Your Perfect CRM:

Every CRM has its strength 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.

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. Do you want to make enough money to live comfortably? Or do you want to chase unstoppable growth? Are you happiest when you’re working? Or do you want more free time to spend with your family?

(Btw, those 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.

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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.)

Ask yourself:

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 your 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.

Berry Jenkins discussing how real estate CRM helps his business

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.

FREE TRAINING: Close more deals in less time with our lead conversion masterclass.

How to Choose the Best CRM for the Best Price

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.

Rookie CRMs

If you’re just starting out, there are a number 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…

Solo Agent CRMs

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 — 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.

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Team CRMs

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.

Ready for a CRM you can count on? Try Follow Up Boss Free for 14 days!

CRM Feature Checklist

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.

Multiple Systems vs. All-in-One

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:

  • Stages of lead cycle
  • Leads most likely to respond
  • Automated email drips
  • Follow up reminders
  • Deal reporting
  • Team reporting
  • Emailing
  • Built in dialer
  • Text messaging

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 they’re nurtured.

Automation and Personalization

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.

User Friendliness

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 2-3 choices, schedule a demo to get your questions answered and make sure you feel comfortable to use it.

Of course, it goes without saying that your CRM should work seamlessly on both iPhone and Android.

Customer Support

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.

Reporting and Analytics

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.

Cost

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 1-2 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.

Is Follow Up Boss Right For You?

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.

Sound like you? Sign up today for a free 14-day trial!

Who are We?

GrowthHouse is where ambitious agents and teams come to learn strategies and tactics to grow their real estate businesses.

The team behind GrowthHouse also runs Follow Up Boss, a sales driven CRM dedicated to helping agents and teams focus and follow up for more appointments and sales. Click here to learn more about how Follow Up Boss can help you accelerate your growth.