The National Association of REALTORS® conducted a survey this year asking real estate sales professionals to list the top three tools they’ve found to be most valuable to them and their business. The top three answers were tablet computers, followed by mobile and desktop tools, and real estate CRM solutions.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that we’re moving into a time where the adoption of mobile technologies and the rising consumer usage of smartphones and tablets are becoming ever-present. What does this mean for real estate agents? What are the implications? And what do real estate agents in this mobile, technologically-driven age need to know to better equip themselves moving forward? In this article, I’ll explore the answers to some of these questions and more.
Agents Realizing the Value of Mobile
Over one-third of respondents in a survey by the National Association of REALTORS® stated that they would purchase or replace a tablet (think of the iPad, Xoom, or Galaxy) in the next 12 months. This was the top item respondents said they would buy this year, and each emphasized the value of these mobile devices in keeping them connected, saving them time, and increasing their productivity. Currently, there are many wireless tools available to assist the real estate agent in his or her day-to-day activities.
What’s more, real estate agents are not only purchasing and using smartphones in record numbers (smartphone usage in the U.S. has steadily increased each year), but they’re buying and using these smartphones to conduct business and increase their professional efficiency and effectiveness. In fact, 94 percent of real estate agents whose multiple listing service (MLS) did not publish listings to their smartphone expressed a very high desire to have these listings on their mobile device.
In addition to the fact that smartphone and tablet usage among real estate agents is on the rise, another key insight has emerged: the increasing preference for Apple products.
Agents Love Apple
A growing percentage of real estate agents are buying iPhones and Apple computers. U.S. surveys have shown that the iPhone is the second most common smartphone platform, followed by the Android. Moreover, the National Association of REALTORS® has discovered that among those agents who didn’t have an iPhone, the iPhone came out on top when asked which brands they would consider purchasing in the future.
I’m the Sales and Marketing Manager for a real estate CRM software provider, and I’m constantly being asked about our system’s compatibility with Safari and the Mac operating system. You simply can’t help but notice that the adoption of Apple products, particularly notebooks, desktops, and iPhones, is climbing.
Due to the nature of the job, portability and mobility is key for real estate agents. They need to be able to work from anywhere and because of the large amounts of time away from desks and offices, productivity while away or on the road is extremely important.
Mobility = Profitability
Moreover, home buyers and sellers don’t just want, but expect, real estate sales professionals to be increasingly available at all times and highly responsive. According to PCMS Consulting and One Cavo, 75 percent of real estate leads generated online are lost because they are either never responded to or responded to too late. This underscores the importance of being available to respond and work from anywhere. It’s being shown time and again that portability and mobility are becoming more important now than ever.
Given all this, real estate sales professionals need to be able to manage their business when away from office. A large percentage have realized that tablets like the iPad are invaluable in increasing their overall productivity. A recent article by an agent in a blog called MoneyPress outlined the virtues of the iPad in assisting with listing presentations and with showing MLS listings to clients when on the road with them viewing properties. The iPad has proven its ability to provide real estate agents access to great information and tools where and when they’re needed.
It’s crucial to have access to the data needed on the road in order to save time, increase efficiency, and become more productive overall. It’s also crucial to have the right systems in place that allow for this. One of those systems is a real estate CRM.
The Power of CRM and Mobile Working Together
Take for example the case of Mary. Mary, like any typical agent, is on the road most of the time. She has a smartphone but is not able to sync the calendar on her phone with the calendar on her CRM, which she accesses every night from her desktop computer. Each evening, Mary has to re-enter the data on her calendar from that particular day to the calendar on her CRM.
The real estate CRM Mary was using a couple years ago had no smartphone synchronization capability. The system she uses now does but involves a third-party app, and being a “non-tech savvy” agent, the sync technology goes way above her head. So, in addition to re-entering all calendar data every night on her CRM, she also has to update it each night with contact information she has stored on her phone. For example, during the day, her client, Joe, just gave her a new phone number, and Jane gave Mary contact details so she can call her up in a few days to discuss requirements in a new home.
Mary, like countless other agents, needs a few things in place in order to maximize her success in this mobile, technologically driven age. The first one is an easy to use, real estate CRM. Being easy to use and learn is key because no matter how great the features are, the system is useless if it’s not being used correctly or the user doesn’t feel comfortable working with it.
What’s also important is for the real estate CRM to have a smartphone wireless sync capability that syncs wirelessly and instantaneously with the built-in applications on the phone (calendar, task list if the phone has one built-in, and address book). If you’re curious as to why the sync needs to work with the native phone applications or if an app that you download on your phone is good enough, the answer is simple. When it syncs with the built-in phone applications (calendar, address book), there is no learning curve like there is with downloading an app, and it’s more natural and efficient. It's more efficient because you have very quick and easy access to the data you need, and more natural because you’re using your phone like you normally would but at the same time making sure that your phone talks to your CRM (how cool is that?).
Furthermore, it’s essential that the CRM wirelessly syncs with any phone and be compatible with tablets like the iPad. Whether you have an Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile device, the sync has to work, and work well.
Web-Based Systems Are Like an All-Access Pass
It’s also important that the real estate CRM be Web-based versus a standalone system you download to your computer. Web-based systems allow you to access your CRM from anywhere provided you have an Internet connection. A Web-based CRM should be compatible with all the major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and Chrome.
One of the most important reasons why the system needs to work with a variety of Web browsers, especially Safari, is so that it can be used on the iPad and other tablets. On the iPad, for example, you should be able to log in to the full CRM right from your Safari browser. No sync is necessary.
The type of system I’ve described, summarized in the bullets below, is an absolute must if you want to maximize productivity while on the road, save time, truly stay connected and be a more successful agent overall. The system must:
- Be easy to use and geared toward the average “non-tech savvy” agent;
- Have the ability to wirelessly sync with the native applications on any type of phone;
- Be Web-based and compatible with all the major web browsers; and,
- Work well with tablets.
I mentioned it earlier and I’d like to mention it again: It’s essential to have access to the data/information you need on the road combined with the right systems in place in order to save time, increase your efficiency, and become more productive overall.
We’ve established the prevalence of the rapidly growing popularity and usage of smartphones and tablets, and discussed a little bit about how the real estate industry is changing in this regard. It’s an interesting and exciting time we’re living in and real estate sales professionals need to be up to date on the latest technologies and productivity tools to maximize their performance as well as short and long term success. Real estate agents with the right systems in place will be well prepared going into the future and be in a good position to take their business to the next level.
When evaluating a Real Estate CRM’s smartphone sync, make sure it meets the following criteria:
|Syncs with native/built-in applications (calendar and address book synchronization is a must)|
|Compatible with all smartphones|
|Wireless and instantaneous|
|Effortless set-up/no learning curve required|
Thumbnail image created by Blake Patterson