Choosing the Best CRM for Your Real Estate Agency
The most effective real estate agents use a CRM solution. Learn how to choose the best CRM for your organization and increase your market
9 min read
Jul 29, 2020
How can your real estate agency increase sales without hiring more employees or spending a bundle on advertising? A key software weapon that will enable you to win clients in this highly competitive environment is a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. Discover how a CRM for real estate professionals can help you — and what choosing “the best CRM for real estate” really means.
How Can a CRM Solution Help Real Estate Agencies?
The real estate business is primarily about growing and maintaining relationships with clients, including existing and prospective property owners, buyers and tenants. Therefore, success in this field depends largely on how professionally and effectively you can carry out all your various interactions, from setting up meetings and sending reminders to communicating urgent offers and sending documents. If you have only a few dozen clients, you might be able to get by with Excel, a free email service and a mobile phone. But this is not a scalable approach as your client base grows. Having to constantly switch between disparate tools and struggle with manual processes reduces the amount of work that agents can perform on a daily basis and dramatically increases the chances that something will be missed or otherwise go wrong.
Since CRM solutions are specifically designed to simplify and streamline customer relationship management, they are invaluable in the real estate sector. You can easily store and organize all the information you have about each customer, so you can take into account the nuances and preferences of each client and find the right approach during the sales process. Moreover, having consistent, centralized data enables business analysis to drive strategic improvement.
But the benefits of a CRM for real estate agents are not limited to storing information about your contacts. The task scheduler in a CRM system enables agents to be far more productive and reduces the risk of missing an important meeting or failing to make an important call. Integration with IP-telephony empowers agents to make calls directly from the CRM platform, without the need to dial. CRM systems can even record all incoming and outgoing calls, enabling detailed analysis of communications to improve future interactions.
In addition, a CRM system that is integrated with an email service can receive and send emails, and store the entire history of correspondence with each client. Eliminating the need to switch between customer profiles and the email service speeds workflows, giving realtors more time to focus on the needs of their clients. Integration with mass mailing services reduces the time spent on marketing activities.
A CRM system that can be integrated with real estate databases significantly reduces the time required to find information about target objects and their owners. Being able to provide quick responses to customer requests about real estate options makes an agent a sought-after professional.
Finally, a CRM platform can help you plan sales and manage cases in progress. Built-in tools for analyzing the sales funnel allow you to identify the stages at which clients usually stop interacting with your agency, clarify the current state of open deals, and conduct comparative analytics on sales by time period, geographical area or other criteria. These insights enable managers to track the relevance and quality of the services provided and how these indicators are changing over time, so they can adjust primary and secondary commercial offers, assess the effectiveness of realtors, and work on any lapses with agents. Managers and business owners can also get strategic insights, such as drawdown areas in business processes and sales, and areas where there is potential for scaling and business growth.
Why Do Some Real Estate Agencies Resist Adopting a CRM?
Given these benefits, why would any real estate agency prefer to struggle with their old tools instead of implementing a CRM? Let us turn to research to find out. A study by REAL Trends and Boston Logic on the use of CRM in the real estate sector reports that most real estate agents believe that using CRM software will improve their efficiency by 50%. Indeed, it found that brokers who used CRM systems saw 26.2% more transactions per agent than brokers without a CRM. The study also mentions that over 95% of the country’s most effective agents use a CRM system.
However, while the number of real estate firms using a CRM increased from 40% of the market in 2013 to 72.5% today, that leaves nearly 30% of agencies still without this valuable tool. There are many reasons for this. Some companies do not know which CRM to choose, or do not know how to start integrating a CRM system into their existing IT ecosystem and business processes. Others found that the paid or free CRM for real estate they tried did not have enough features, or could not integrate with key systems in their IT infrastructure. Some agencies are afraid that training everyone to use the CRM will take a lot of time, effort and money.
Moreover, 21% of agents responding to the survey said that they simply do not need a CRM system. An important factor here is the average age of a real estate agent, which is 52, according to the National Association of Realtors. That means many agents are in their late 50s or older — people who started working before the digital age exploded. They might feel that it will take a lot of time to learn how to use CRM for real estate effectively, because they see it as complex and unapproachable.
Which CRM Is Best for Real Estate Agencies?
Agencies looking to streamline customer relationship management often puzzle over which is the best CRM or which is the top CRM for commercial real estate. But these are the wrong questions. Instead, you should be asking: Which CRM is right for my agency in particular?
Answering this question requires a good deal of reflection and analysis. Begin by defining your organization’s goal for the short, medium and long term, in your specific market context, so you can choose a CRM for real estate professionals that will help you achieve those goals.
Next, review your existing business processes and identify the current and potential problems you have in generating revenue. Even if you think you are well aware of all your business processes, it’s useful to organize all the available information and conduct a thorough analysis of your operations. This will help you pinpoint problem areas in your key activities that impede business development and uncover where the potential for accelerated growth with a CRM solution is hidden.
Then, audit your IT infrastructure. This will help you determine which features you need in a CRM, such as whether it needs to integrate with telephony, email service, corporate website, marketing systems and newsletter engine, real estate databases and so on.
During these analyses, an extremely useful practice is to interview your agents about their needs and recommendations. Many employees have experience working with a CRM, so they can give you real-world information about the strengths and weaknesses of a particular product or suggest generally valuable CRM features.
Be prepared for the fact that this critical review of your current state will take a lot of time and effort. However, it’s essential to choosing not just the best CRM for real estate businesses, but the best one for your particular agency.
What CRM features are essential for real estate?
Once you’ve completed your analysis of your goals and current systems and processes, it’s time to start evaluating candidate CRMs. A study by REAL Trends and Boston Logic reveals the agents and brokers agreed on the most popular and most important CRM features for real estate: follow-up/relationship marketing, drip marketing, follow-up reminders, calendar, tasks and to-dos, team functionality, and proactive calls.
Here are some of the key considerations when evaluating a top CRM for real estate agents or brokers. Remember, you should always keep the specifics of your business in mind, so some criteria will be more important for you, and some less.
- Time and effort required for installation, configuration and user training Some CRM systems are heavy and require significant support, both at the implementation stage and in operation. Others require minimal setup, configuration and user training and initial setup, so agents can start working right away; everything is simple and ready at hand.
- Automation of routine operational processes For each CRM solution you consider, evaluate how long it takes to complete the tasks you perform a lot, such as mass marketing processes, maintaining product catalogs and price lists, filling out customer profiles, calling clients, and invoicing customers. Some solutions automate these functions a great deal, while others do not provide some of these capabilities at all. Easy configuration and minimal manual data entry are highly valuable features.
- Flexibility of integrations Some CRM platforms are built as monoliths that are difficult to integrate into an existing IT ecosystem and change as your IT environment evolves. Other products provide ample integration opportunities. Consider which systems — your own and your partners’ — your CRM must play well with? Be sure to think about diverse systems, including your ERP solution, telephony, e-mail service, website, property databases, and more. In particular, remember that property databases are not generally part of CRM solutions, so an open API for integration is usually essential for real estate firms.
- Role-based access to functionality and data Systems that provide flexible options for controlling access based on a user’s role can dramatically improve security. Unfortunately, some CRM solutions have a limited set of role-based access features. Consider whether a given product gives agents access to only the information they need, and makes it easy to restrict access to analytics, financial statements, key performance indicators and other sensitive data to business owners and senior management. Similarly, check whether you can limit new or inexperienced employees to only the basic capabilities of the tool while enabling more experienced employees and managers to use its full capabilities.
CRMs: An Open Secret
CRM software for real estate agents can help you improve your customer relationships, making your organization more competitive and increasing profitability. Taking the time to analyze your business needs, pain points, internal and external factors, as well as business goals, will enable you to choose the best CRM for you. A CRM for real estate agents and brokerages has the greatest positive effect if it is a lightweight, highly customizable, easily integrated platform with a short learning curve. Most CRM vendors offer a free trial, so there’s no reason not to see for yourself how the power of CRM can drive your business forward.
Curious about how you can scale your real estate business with a perfectly balanced CRM solution? We invite you to explore the Inperium Sales CRM solution.