I've been in sales my entire life: my family's business was retail, and I started selling Ford cars at the age of 14 in my native Brazil. So I can definitely appreciate the beauty of doing some things the old-fashioned way. After all, the core tenets of sales have never really changed. And now that I'm in real estate, I know it's much the same: the number one rule remains "location, location, location!"
But I also know that many realtors, including myself, have had trouble moving away from certain classic methods used in our industry, like manually filling out spreadsheets of prospects or keeping customer profiles in bulky binders. Time, of course, is money, and it's high time you started saving yourself and your agents some by adopting a CRM.
Changing up your company's systems can be terrifying, yes, but if you're not taking advantage of the incredible digital age we live in, you might as well close up shop. Read on to learn why you need a CRM for your real estate business and how to choose the right one for your agency.
What is a CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management. Basically, it's a system that keeps all of your potential and existing customers, vendors, and other valuable contacts organized in one place. It can record every interaction with them, making sure you don't forget something important when you circle back to their file.
It's a great way to turn leads into return customers and build lasting relationships with them, which will establish you as a trustworthy agency and streamline your day-to-day operations at the same time.
How can a CRM benefit realtors?
Real estate is far from your typical 9-to-5 job. As a managing partner at Manhattan Miami, I get to the office earlier than anyone else most days and stay long after that last pot of coffee has gone cold and flat. (I highly recommend making sure your office space is within shouting distance of a Starbucks.) And every day is completely different from the day before. One day you might be checking up on active listings, and the next you might have two closings before lunch.
Every seller expects to be able to reach their agent right now, but you just got a call that a prospective buyer wants to see that stunning three-story craftsman on the river—you guessed it, right now. And many agents work a non-traditional schedule because open houses are often most valuable when offered on weekends.
No matter what the day brings, you're swamped. A CRM can help you manage the chaos more effectively.
Build stronger relationships
Let's say your goal is to talk to five new clients every day and follow up with the most promising ones twice a week. You don't want to annoy the crap out of them by calling them more than once a day or at dinnertime because you forget to call them during business hours. You don't want to mix up names or home addresses. You don't want to talk to a seller who's got you on their realtor shortlist, only to lose them to the next guy because you didn't follow up.
All of these things make you look flaky and unreliable, and those are traits that will spread like wildfire in a world run by Google reviews.
If you promised to call back Client 37 on Thursday at 3 p.m., your CRM can remember this for you and send you a reminder. It can also remind you exactly who Client 37 is, what property they're buying or selling, and show you notes of previous conversations, so you don't repeat yourself or offer them something you know they don't want. Client 37 will be blown away that you remembered their name and what they're looking for in a home, and you will have saved precious minutes rifling through that dusty file cabinet. Saving minutes on each client can add up to hundreds of hours saved in a year.
A CRM can also help you prioritize your communications with clients based on how likely they are to turn into a sale, making sure that you don't put a lot of time into someone who's likely to back out. It can bring an end to the days of writing down random information in a bunch of different places, like your phone, a sticky note, an email to yourself, or your kid's homework. Never again will you need to ask yourself, "Who is Craig, and why did I promise him lunch next week?!"
A CRM will keep you accountable. It will make sure you hit all 25 of those new clients while making them feel like they're the most important person you spoke to that day. And that's going to translate into more top producers and more revenue.
Control your marketing and social media
If you're like many realtors, you still put your office administrator to work every week filling out postcards to send to your clients. The idea behind this is timeless, but in a world where even wedding invitations and baby announcements come straight to your email, most clients are going to toss that postcard right into the trash. Nobody's putting it on their fridge, that's for dang sure.
A CRM can keep track of clients' birthdays, home closing anniversaries, and other significant events and send out an automated, personalized email, so you never even have to think about it. It can do the same for monthly newsletters; as long as the CRM has their correct email address, every client's getting one.
Same goes for social media. Your agency should have active accounts on Facebook and Instagram at a minimum; some are even going the extra mile and making TikTok accounts for those pesky millennials and Gen-Zers in their client base. If six-second videos aren't your thing, don't sweat it; a CRM can be linked to all your accounts, and many of them can customize your analytics according to each platform. If customers are commenting on your posts or asking questions, a CRM will help you respond faster, which will help you get and retain customers. It can even help you direct certain conversation topics to the right category (e.g., finding an agent or listing a home).
When one of your agents has a successful closing, you can advertise it with photos of the home and encourage your fans to check out other listings from that agent. Or you can take a photo of your buyers in front of their new home, tag them in it, and make it easier for them to recommend your agency to their friends (can someone say REFERRALS!). With the social media integrations available in many CRMs, the possibilities are endless.
Streamline your everyday
Because no day at your agency is the same as the day before, you and your entire staff are generally Janes- and Jacks-of-all-trades. Your administrator can probably run a killer open house, your agents can handle the phones, and your head broker can order lunch (but if you ask my team, you shouldn't let them). A CRM can help speed up every part of your day, including answering emails in a timely and meaningful way, making sure you don't overbook closings or new agent interviews, ordering office supplies, and so much more.
Think of the sheer variety of things a successful agency has to be on top of: keeping up with the local housing market and being the first to jump on a new neighborhood association opening, constantly searching open listings for new opportunities, managing your online persona and running your blog, staging houses, coordinating inspections—the list goes on.
A CRM, especially a CRM designed for real estate, can help you with everything.
What are the best CRMs for realtors, and how do I choose one?
As it turns out, there's a ton of CRM software made specifically for realtors. Choosing the right one for your agency can be pretty overwhelming. So how do you do it?
Choosing the right real estate CRM can be as important as choosing the right combination of agents for your business. It should have features that will easily integrate with your preferred method, and ideally just streamline what's already working for you.
The most important thing is that the CRM addresses your specific needs. What's the part of your process that you need the most help with? You might have a strong handle on your social media but feel hopelessly unorganized when it comes to your customer files. If that's the case, you'll want software that hypes up its electronic files and spreadsheets capabilities more than one you see all over your targeted Facebook ads.
Another thing to consider: do you absolutely need real estate-specific software, or will a more general system with cool customization work fine? Budget matters here. Most industry-specific CRMs will cost you a monthly fee, but many generalized CRMs are free. If you're just starting out and your focus is on cutting costs, it's probably best to start with a more general one until you figure out what you're going to need down the road.
At my agency, our everyday means staying on top of two of the most in-demand, dynamic markets out there. Our luxury clients demand the best because they are looking to live in the hottest parts of the country: New York City or Miami. They include foreign investors from all over the world and some of the most sophisticated landlords and property managers, so around here, "keeping up with the Joneses" means something totally different.
We use HubSpot's free CRM, a comprehensive set of service, marketing, and sales tools that can easily meld with what you've already got going. Its real-time tracking helps us determine specifics about what our visitors are looking for, making so many crucial tasks way easier: customizing our first messages to them to make them feel right at home, logging every sales activity, adding click-to-call buttons for mobile users, cycling through agents so everyone gets the same chances to close, and so much more.
HubSpot works best for us, but there are a ton of other CRM platforms that work great for real estate. Zillow and MoFo, two powerhouse platforms in our industry, even have their own CRMs now. Whichever you choose, make sure it works for you.
Automate the rest
If your agency still doesn't have a CRM, you're only hurting your business. It will save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each year. And almost all CRMs allow you to take even more of the work off your plate with automation capabilities.
If the CRM you choose doesn't offer native integrations, it's likely you can still automate it using Zapier. For example, we use Zapier to connect LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms with HubSpot.
Zapier lets you automatically send information from one app to another, helping you reduce manual tasks. Learn more about how Zapier works.
With all the options out there, you're sure to find something that will take your goals to the next level.
This was a guest post by Ricardo Mello, co-founder and managing partner of Manhattan Miami Real Estate, where he helps clients all over the globe invest in residential real estate in NYC and Miami. Want to see your work on the Zapier blog? Read our guidelines, and get in touch.