Technology Tuesday is a publication of the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®. The first Tuesday of every month we will cover at least one technology issue in depth. If you have any questions about these or any other technology issues, please contact the free MAR Tech Helplineat 866-232-1837.
Shape Your Future
By all accounts, 2006 was a fairly good year. Some agents would have called it a “down” year – but if the only evidence for that is that some of us did a few less “exuberant” deals than the year before, we should always be so lucky in “down years.” Not every real estate professional had a down year, though; and of those that didn’t, one important trend stands out. Successful agents – in any market – have mastered the tech tools of the trade.
Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Too many of us simply wait for the future to fall on us – like a ton of bricks, or in some cases, a case of iPods. Early in this year, when economic indicators pointed to a definite “slow down,” too many agents ran around like Chicken Little who finally realized he waited one year too many before mastering email, leads management tools and cellular text messaging. But for many of our clients, there was really no cause for alarm: their steady investment in technology tools and professional education combined into a powerful solution – at the right time – and entirely by design. That’s the irony about technology tools: it’s not magic – when it’s done right. It’s by design.
What then, can the latecomers to the Drucker-vision of the future do to prepare themselves for next year’s market? For starters, throw out the flyers for voodoo education (why will arranging chairs in such a fashion inspire a sale?) and pick up the Sunday flyer for the local computer store. Put a checkmark next to everything you haven’t mastered yet – but the Generation X and Y first-time home buyers have. Now, go buy what you can, before the taxman comes, and set about a plan to master them all.
The “future” of 2007 isn’t cloudy – nor do you need a crystal ball to figure it out. It will be powered by the same economic engines of 2006: innovative practices, designed around cost-effective technologies and most of all – implemented rigorously. If you want a glimpse, just look back/forward at what’s already reshaping the best of the best real estate professionals:
In the New Year, the technology story won’t be some “souped up website” that ranks houses, reports sold prices or lists real estate professionals in order of height. It won’t be some secret formula for longer battery life or even a rain dance for helping overpriced listings sell. The story will be written by the same people who have been writing it today – perhaps just a little faster and a little farther ahead than their competitors who think their laptop is a portable Solitaire player, PowerPoint is for Continuing Ed Instructors, Blackberries are expensive and “IM me later” is misspelled.
Modern listing presentations. It’s no secret that those of us showing up for listing presentations with ink-jet printouts and crinkled handouts look, well, old fashioned to say the least. When you’re delivering your sales event (that’s what a Listing Presentation is, by the way) to a potential client who probably uses a laptop and PowerPoint themselves at work, whipping out the photocopies and sticky-notes is not impressive (did you leave the clay tablets at home?). Only modernized professionals, who arrive with a laptop, connect it to the web using a cellular wireless card, and present with PowerPoint and the live internet are able to “connect” with modern sellers. Printouts should disappear – or at least be minimized – in favor of leaving your new clients with a flashdrive filled with everything they’re going to need to help you sell their home – checklists, forms, documents, you name it. That’s how to make an impression in a presentation. Using the same technology that the potential client probably has sitting in the home office a few feet away. Everything else is like calling the “map” your “economical navigation system” in a new car.
- Blackberries. It is absolutely, undeniably, irresponsibly crazy that every real estate professional does not own (and master) a Blackberry. Okay, fine, you can buy a Treo – but please, get one of them soon! To imagine that the so-called uberbusy but always “available” salesperson roaming town without wireless access to email is to imagine that doctors didn’t have pagers – oh, sorry, that was ten years ago. There is no other way to manage communications – all of them – than with one device that’s with you all the time. Office phones, voice mail and fax machines are ancient history to every competitive sales industry out there; computer geeks, stock brokers and lawyers all get their calls, messages, emails and faxes wherever they are using email-enabled cellular devices. And considering that these people are the buyers you’re hoping to connect with to make a sale, the concept that you will have to go back to the office next year to look up more listings, email them details or just update them on the time of your open house makes your leads-management strategy easy pickings for the agent next door who coughed up a couple hundred bucks and an hour of their time to purchase and master while sipping coffee at Starbucks.
- A Microsoft Exchange Account. This one sounds weird, I’m sure, to most POP-email notecard-organized agents out there, but modern salespeople have been using Microsoft Exchange to centralize their data for at least a decade. It’s actually not out of the question, even for the one-person shoppe (Olde Spelling intended). Companies like USANet and other hosted exchange services allow individuals and small groups to purchase full-featured Exchange accounts without ever uttering the word server. You just rent the features online. What features, you ask? Centralized everything, of course. A single online-database that you (and assistants and customers and everyone) can access at home, work or on your Blackberry. A central online email account that’s similarly accessible – even from hotel kiosks and email-enabled ATM machines (yes, they exist). Task lists, notes, address book, files, secure documents, shared calendars – that’s how modern businesses run – with everything all in an anywhere-you-want-it online account that eliminates the I don’t have that with me excuse for not making a sale, appointment, or response to a customer – wherever and whenever. You can bet it’s a few bucks per month more than your Gmail account, but really, don’t you think it’s time you abandoned Outlook Express for the professional version?
- Instant Messaging. What do you get when you send a smiley to a REALTOR? Nothing – because for some bizarre reason, while the rest of the universe has jumped on IM (can you say about 400 trillion messages a day?), the real estate population thinks “that’s still for kids.” Look closely and you’ll see that those “kids” are the masters of their future – having totally reshaped how they communicate with each other, how to eliminate the very idea of making a long-distance phone call, and even how to outfox the schoolteacher by passing notes electronically in exams. It’s all about Instant Messaging (which is, by the way, the one totally free suggestion here) and it’s the bridge between the Yellow Pages and the Yellow River – where you can finally reach out and touch someone half a world away. Ironically, it’s all over the web – on shopping sites, blogs and technical support pages – just not on every listing or every webpage where a customer might want to talk to someone but not pick up the phone. Considering that the “kids” will soon enough be buying the houses the “grownups” might still be around selling, I think, Houston, we have a problem.
This article was authored by Matthew Ferrara of Matthew Ferrara Seminars Inc.
Reprinted with permission of Matthew Ferrara Seminars Inc.