By Ian M. Marlow
May 18, 2015
Customer relationships are the backbone of building a stable, profitable real estate business. Customer relationship management, or CRM, represents a broad array of software products designed to get and follow up on leads, measure sales, and manage the myriad touch points related to a deal. In real estate, CRM systems are used by owners and/or property managers and real estate brokers.
In short, a CRM system enables your sales and management teams to communicate with each other and with tenants, external partners, or landlords … so that “customer” might not be an actual buyer/tenant—it could be another organization or team you are partnering with on a deal. The information gleaned from the reports—which pull together data across multiple sources—helps drive smarter business decisions and marketing efforts.
Six factors to consider for a real estate CRM system:
- Company size/user base. The first issue to address is whether you want a local, self-hosted application or a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. This “local or global” decision is based on the number of users, their locations and how and where they will access your data, as well as budget. A very small real estate office might do fine with a combination of software such as Excel, ACT! Pro (database) and Outlook. Larger offices with multiple assets or a large number of tenants, landlords or partners to deal with need a fully-integrated and customized customer relationship management system.
- Scalability of system. Multiple users or offices, multiple products and the need to manage many transactions require a higher level of tracking and more expansive reporting, which a CRM system will do. Make sure the system you select can grow with your company.
- Define the data to capture. Who is conducting your sales transactions and how is that process managed? What is the timeline from inquiry to sale? A custom-designed CRM product will track key information and help manage the entire sales process, from the pitch to the close. Track statistics and activity for prospects, pull accurate reports on the sales cycle, have automatic ticklers tied into each prospect’s needs—gather all the data that leads to a sales person reaching out when the right property becomes available.
- Define the reporting you need. What types of reports are needed and how frequently will you run them depends on your particular business model. A fully- integrated database system can yield a variety of statistics depending on your business: tenants, prospects, lease expirations; prospective property management opportunities and contract expirations—the list goes on. If your organization cross-sells products/services (leasing and property management, financial services, corporate services), this adds another layer of reporting.
- CRM tracks opportunities. Analyzing the data around various sales opportunities provides insights into why your team executed a sale or failed to do so, which leads are paying off and which referral source is providing higher quality leads. Looking at pre-sale and post-sale data helps you determine which relationships are adding to your bottom line and how those deals happen. All pertinent criteria should be in the CRM, and mining that information will guide your sales process and your marketing.
- CRM measures your sales team’s effectiveness. Digging into your CRM system’s data can tell you why there is more activity around one property and not another or help figure out why one is taking longer or shorter to close. This also helps determine the types of properties your brokers should work on, who should work on your deals and who you should you be building relationships with.
Implementing a tailored customer relationship management system is like adding an advisor to your team. You’ll get actionable insights from reports; track activity across multiple locations, revenue centers and people, and see more clearly the potential of forming more cohesive relationships with external partners based on the data. When used correctly, your customer relationship management system will drive sales, improve processes and help your organization make smarter business decisions.