Investing in technology your agents will actually use
Everybody in real estate knows somebody who is a tech whiz, who has used technology to build their business and rise above the competition. They blog, they have high lead conversion, they run great online campaigns and know the ins and outs of online marketing. They love technology! The trouble is, most agents aren't great at technology and, more than that, they don't want to be.
Most agents are people focused. They didn't come into the business because they like sitting at the computer all day. Computers and technology are just things they see as something they have to do as part of life today, but getting agents to really use technology is a challenge for all real estate companies. Even when it 's provided to them for free. So what's the answer?
The engagement key: easy stuff I need, anywhere!
If I build it, will they come?
You probably remember a version of that line from the “Field of Dreams” movie where Kevin Costner builds the ball park in the middle of a corn field. In the movie, it worked: they came. In our industry, though, one of the biggest problems facing real estate companies is that it's not true. You can't simply build or buy technology, because the challenge is getting agents to use the technology!
Demos versus real life
I have been in some form of real estate sales or consulting for years and one of the truths I've learned over the years is:
Any trainer or top sales rep can make technology dance during a demo!
The problem is, when the agent logs in or installs an app, can they make it dance? Is it intuitive? Can they log on and see what they need easily? Is it fun? Do they look forward to logging in and using it, or are they frustrated because they can 't make it do the things they saw in a demo? Or, are they frustrated because it looked great on a PC or Mac but when they opened it on their phone it was a nightmare?
User Interface + User Experience = Positive ROI
In the end, it doesn't matter how many features are included in real estate software if they aren't used. Who cares if software has a million things it can do if an agent won't use it, right?
The trick is finding that sweet spot, where the tech provided is heavily used because:
- It's easy to use
- It gives them tools they need
- It actually helps them make money!
If I was choosing Enterprise technology for a real estate company, I would boil my decision down to those simple questions. But we also have to consider that you have two types of agents in your company: the majority of agents, and your elite agents. They both need different things!
What the majority of your agents need
The "don't make me think" interface
Over our 13 years building great real estate technology, we have learned some things about building a good user experience. Frankly we learned it like most companies, because we didn't do it well all the time.
We had great systems in terms of their capabilities, and if a top sales rep was doing a demo, they could make the system dance and sing…it looked great! In fact, it was great in terms of what it could do, but unfortunately the average agent would look at it and feel overwhelmed. While our early products were great if you learned them, they required more time than the average agent was going to dedicate. So, we adapted.
The key for the average user is to not make them have to guess what to do next. Good technology leads you to your next action. It presents you with the most important things you need without asking and it sets up the action you need to take intuitively.
The User Interface (UI) should be created in a way that all the agent has to do is sign in, whether they are on their phone, iPad, Mac or PC, and they see right away what they need to pay attention to. They should see their messages, new leads, showing requests, and so forth, so they know exactly what they need to do next. Most importantly, the goal is to not stay on the system. It's to do what they need to do and then get off the system, knowing they are in control!
The screen below shows our approach to this, where the REW CRM dashboard can be seen on any device and as soon as you log in. Agents see messages, leads, information requests, showing requests and so on. These are all things requiring immediate attention.
If a user is asking about a home, you see that home right there, and a single click takes you to the full details. If a user asks a question, you can respond immediately. If you need to see details about the user, a single click from the message or inquiry takes you right into the CRM where all of their details are stored. It's all right in front of you.
The whole idea with our dashboard is for the agent to respond to each request. As they respond to each item, it disappears from the dashboard, until they get to zero. Everything they need to respond to and note is right in front of them and after they respond to all of the items the dashboard is clear! Agents don 't have to think about their tasks anymore than they would think about their daily email.
Of course, everything gets saved in the CRM under the lead's name but, at that moment, they know they have responded and done what they need to do. What this means to their business and the company is obvious: they are being responsive and they are engaged, which translates to better agents, higher conversion rates, and happier customers.
We all know that most online leads and inquiries never get responded to quickly, if at all, so this dashboard is a game changer! If you can get agents to improve their level and speed of responsiveness, we know this impacts conversion rates on new leads and provides better service to engaged clients. This all contributes to increased ROI!
You can lead a horse to water...
This old saying is a truth we all know in the real estate business. Being successful in real estate is not rocket science. Every broker can tell you 90% of what it takes to be successful, along with every trainer and “how to be successful in real estate” book, but the truth is, most agents still won 't do those things. This is why 50% of the agents in the business today don't make any money and only a small percentage make a great living. Even though you show agents the way to success, if they don't do it, they don't get the results.
So, looking at this from the technology perspective, we have to accept the fact that you only have a short window to engage people in your technology. You have to give them benefits quick and easy and it has to be intuitive enough that everyone can use it right away, wherever they are, on any device. We know that if you do those things, agent engagement increases, which translates into a positive ROI.
We 'll even pay the horse!
We actually offer lead programs at REW where, if users follow our strategy, we promise an actual return on their technology investment—and we are happy to do this. Using our online marketing strategies, managed by our SEM team, we guarantee a certain number of leads per month to a client, who simply has to agree to a set of professional behaviors over the term of the agreement.
The deal is this: agents have to call the new lead in a certain amount of time, set them up on a drip campaign, and follow up with a number of easy activities that we can track. If they do these things, they will convert a higher percentage of leads and those leads will become actual buyers and sellers. It works! But at the end of the day, even if they know the formula for success, most agents simply won 't follow it. Our technology and the Enterprise technology you roll out in your companies has to recognize this challenge and remove as many barriers to use as possible.
Realistic enterprise technology goals
Companies have to be realistic about agent technology engagement and that most of your agents will only use a small percentage of the tools you provide them.
If we use the REW CRM system as an example of what that might mean:
- They will use their REW CRM dashboard to respond to real time client needs
- They will use their CRM when they need to see something about a client, anywhere on any device because it's easy to get and it 's always with them
- They will set up a very cool subdomain website automatically that looks great and provides great consumer tools, even if they never do another thing with it.
Those things alone are going to have a very positive impact on the average agent and justify the cost of the technology. But it's important to recognize that those features are only a small portion of what the REW CRM actually offers.
What your elite agents need
Your elite agents, however, will be able to do so much more with technology. They have deeper needs and the technology you select has to provide for the average agent as well as these more astute agents. They'll do the above items, of course, but they'll also want to do things like:
- Run Drip Campaigns for all new leads
- Set up Action Plans to automate key activities from email, to texts to scheduled activities.
- Customize their subdomain content on a regular basis to increase lead activity and value to consumers
- Manage a successful blog
- Monitor available client web behavior through the CRM to understand buyer/seller needs and readiness to act
- Utilize all of the communication tools in the CRM to continually provide value to their contacts and active clients
- Upgrade to our Vision site where they can add virtual reality images, video or panoramic images to their home page and property details displays
- Create single property websites for any listing they want!
What does Enterprise technology success look like?
I believe technology success means that the large majority of your agents are at least using the basic tools provided in a great Enterprise package, because they are easy, available anywhere, and give them information and tools they absolutely need. Agents get engaged, they get value and, while they only use a small percentage of the tools, they are doing the most important things: responding to new leads and customer requests.
The second success criteria, which is hugely important, is making sure your Enterprise technology provides advanced tools for your smaller pool of high performance agents that really will take advantage of the technology. Tools like I noted above. This is why it's important not to choose an Enterprise solution that is simply simple. There are loads of these cheap, easy to use systems out there that at first blush seem great because even the most technology adverse agent will try them. The problem occurs later when you realize they don't have the more advanced tools and features your elite agents really need and demand!
In the end, the technology you are looking for provides simple, quick engagement with high value for the majority of agents, with deeper tool sets that can be mined by your elite agents to meet their higher standards and needs. If you can do those two things, your Enterprise technology is going to become an investment, not an expense!