A special weekend ‘white paper’ for C.R.E. brokers and agents by Bob McComb of Top Dogs
Taming the C.R.E. Database Monster
As one of my earliest mentors sagely stated, “nobody picks up more information than a commercial real estate broker, and nobody knows less what to do with it!”
Not long ago I received this desperate plea. “I realize I’m not one of your coaching clients, but I’m desperate and hope you can help me.” (I said yes, because I make it a policy to help as many people as I can) He continued, “I’ve been in the business a couple of years and recently a senior broker in my office retired and gave me his entire database. I now have over 15,000 records and I am completely overwhelmed. What can I do?” Welcome to the information overload age!
His story was indicative of one of the 3 problems that commercial real estate practitioners face when it comes to managing client information.
1. Too much information
2. Accumulating meaningless data
3. Poor account management practices
Often, when I speak with large groups of commercial practitioners I make the statement that a desk drawer full of business cards with rubber bands around them is not a robust CRM (and neither is Outlook). I can read the faces of the audience and I estimate that somewhere between 40-50% of audiences has a look of embarrassed acknowledgment. Then I get the courageous question, “what CRM do you recommend?”
In my world there are 3 criteria for choosing the right CRM for your commercial real estate career.
1. It is made by commercial practitioners
2. It is made for commercial practitioners
3. It is ready to use out-of-the-box
A CRM that is an overly template to some other database program, that is not made by and for commercial practitioners cannot possibly do all the things that we need it to do. We are not in the programming or scripting business. We must have a pigeonhole each piece of information that we pick up, and we need to be able to run our business life on our CRM. That includes the ability to keep our name in front of our ideal client.
This goes to a big problem that commercial practitioners face, too much information. The most challenging questions that commercial practitioners must face is defining their ideal client. If you’re like the broker who called me with 15,000 records dumped on him by a retiring commercial real estate broker you will be in data overwhelm.
If are you like the practitioners who sheepishly admit to using Outlook, or a desk drawer full of business cards as a database, you are losing a large number of opportunities to make money. Picking up information that you don’t know what to do with is meaningless and does not serve you well.
I was able to help the broker organize his data with the following suggestions. The first step was to get a proper CRM, because all of his information was in Excel. In one sense that was beneficial because he could import it into a proper CRM easily. However there was simply too much of it to be useful.
Successful commercial brokers seek to dominate a smaller segment of the market and build brand recognition as the ‘go to broker’. So I suggested that he sort the data geographically and only import the information that relates to the geographic area that he intends to dominate. I also suggested that it be close to his office because we collaborate best with people who are in close proximity to us. I suggested that he shelve the remaining data should he decide to expand his market service area in the future.
Then I suggested that he add all the people that he has done business with in the past and who are highly likely to actively endorse or promote his business. This would include professional service providers that serve our ideal clients.
Once the data has been pared down to a more manageable size, it’s time to take a closer look at it and ensure that the prospects will lead to transactions large enough to be of value to him. Then he can start making calls to the highest value clients first and work his way down through the database, developing more meaningful relationships with fewer people.
I suggested that he have a conversation once a quarter, or a minimum of once a trimester, with the high-value clients in his database. Then use the CRM’s marketing features to maintain contact between calls by sending valuable information to his ideal client. This involves learning how to use a powerful CRM properly.
One of the objections that I get from brokers that I coach about a using proper CRM is that they are overwhelmed by learning its features. The truth is that if there’s a skill you need for your business it is your job to learn it. The solution is simple. Create a list of features you need to learn about your CRM. Then dedicate 10 to 12 min. each day to watch a video tutorial about those features. Most of us cannot sit for hours and try to figure out a piece of software. Breaking it down into small chunks, and putting it into a learning routine is how we will master tools.
1. Learn to run your day on your CRM.
2. Come in each day with a call list ready for action.
3. Learn how to set callback dates.
4. Use the marketing features to stay in front of your clients.
5. Pigeonhole the information that you pick up in client conversations.
6. Become a strong predictor of when they will need your services.
7. Know what services they will need.
If at this point you may want to know which CRM I recommend, it is REA and here’s the website, talk to Matt Smith over there, and he will help you. Tell him I sent you. Your database is not just an important tool for your business; it is your business! Click to learn more about REA and its features.
A Special Note from Tim Creigh, Creator of REA
One of the things I teach people is the importance of touching each person in your database at least three times a year. If you have so many contacts in your database that you can’t communicate with them a least this often you either need more support people or you are maintaining too much data.
When you bring in new records put those records into a group. Each day I suggest they set aside 15-30 minutes to do nothing but call people in the group. Once they connect with the person they take that contact out of the group and schedule a follow up call.
The goal is to completely empty the group and have a follow-up scheduled with everyone in your database so no one gets lost. Again, if you find you have to many follow-ups you need some help making calls or you have too much information.
I advise the same idea for listings. In this case I create two groups. Let’s say I’m selling 3 Flags Plaza. I would create two groups
3 Flags Suspects
3 Flags Prospects
I query my database for contacts that I suspect would be interested in the listing and add them all to the 3 Flags Suspects Group. Each day I open the 3 Flags Suspects Group and call 20-30 of them. If I reach them, I take them out of the Suspects Group and depending on their response I add them to the 3 Flags Prospect Group. I then create a history and a follow up date.
The goal here is to completely empty the Suspects Group and begin marketing to the Prospects Group. As people fall off I take them out of the Prospects Group so I am only spending time working with qualified leads and not wasting time going back to people who already said no.
Creating a systematic approach to contact management just makes good business sense, and good business sense leads to business dollars.
All the best to you in your business. I am here to help you succeed.
888 894 2039 (PDT)