So you’re tired of your agents using Google Spreadsheets, or worse, actual sheets of paper to keep track of the latest updates on their leads. Maybe you still send your email marketing through Outlook, and you know it’s time to find a platform that can handle larger lists. You’ve decided it’s time for a change, and that is an important first step. Your first obstacle is budget. Figure out what the value of this new technology will be and use that as a guide to figure out how much you can spend. This is essentially calculating the ROI of this new technology you want to use. Not exactly sure what the ROI will be? Use industry standards and common sense.
Next, follow these steps to get started.
Your first priority is to figure out what your options are. Search for whatever features you are looking for and try to find 3rd party reviews of various platforms that can help you. “Top 10” articles can also be helpful to give you an idea of who is out there and what products dominate the space. Don’t just read one article on the topic and take its word as gospel. Take your time, learn about what companies are new and which ones have been around for a while. Of course you should also visit each company’s website to learn about them and what they do. That is also a great time to go ahead and request a demo of the 2-3 most interesting options you found in your research.
Don’t forget to reach out to your network to see what tools they use. Do their agent’s like using those platforms? What ROI have they seen from investing in technology? Learning what successful brokerages are doing is a fantastic way to avoid making the same mistake, or missing out on a great platform that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
This step is key. Never purchase a platform without first attending a demo. This allows you to see exactly what you are purchasing, and also gives you a chance to ask any important (deal-breaker) questions. If there is one feature or integration that you MUST have. Now is the time to make sure that this platform is even an option for you. It is a great idea to prepare a list of questions you want to ask the Sales representative after the demo.
- Will this tool integrate with any existing tools used by my firm?
- Are licenses purchased per month, per year, or are you charged per minute to use the tool?
- How long does it take to onboard with this technology? How steep is the learning curve?
After attending multiple demos, and eliminating the technology that doesn’t meet your requirements, put together a “short list” of the potential options to compare/contrast. At this point, you will want to do a deep dive into more product reviews, customer testimonials, or direct customer interaction and references. You can often find reviews on the platform’s website. For example, reviews for REthink and other products on the Salesforce platform are available at Appexchange.com. To find a reference, just ask whoever handled your demo to put you in touch with someone. Assume that this reference will be essentially a cheerleader for the Company, so you should take what they say with a grain of salt.
This step is not an option for all technology purchases, but if the company offers a free trial, use it. A trial is your chance to try the product for free, and make sure that it fits your business requirements. You can try the basic workflow you were shown in the demo, and confirm that all related features are functioning exactly as advertised. This can be a little time consuming, because you are essentially forcing yourself to learn how to use a product that you may or may not purchase, but investing this time is worth it. There is nothing worse than paying for something that you later figure out you do not like, or that does not meet your business requirements.
An important thing to consider when purchasing any new platform for your brokerage is TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). You can use a tool like this one (http://www.softwareadvice.com/tco/) or simply do the math on your own. Some larger residential brokerages like the idea of purchasing a platform outright. No annual subscription fee, no more expense down the road, right? Well, it might work out that way. But after you’ve figured out what it would actually cost to develop your own solution, don’t forget that any platform needs to be maintained and updated almost constantly to keep it secure at running smoothly. You may save a little the first year, but what does year 2 look like? What about year 3? Is software development a core competency for our brokerage or should we focus on selling homes and let someone else handle that?
Make sure to consider the long term repercussions of your purchase. Once you’ve made a decision and actually signed on the line that is dotted, that’s when the real work begins.
For many companies this seems like an unnecessary extra expense. I’m already paying you $X per month, why do I have to pay you an additional fee just to get started? Onboarding is the most crucial part of this entire process. You can choose the perfect product at great price that meets every single one of your wants and needs and STILL never have a positive ROI on that purchase. If no one uses the technology, it won’t matter how awesome it is. People are often intimidated by needing to learn a new platform quickly; especially if it requires them to change some of the habits they have formed over the course of their entire career in real estate.
The solution to this problem is investing in your onboarding. Some companies will have several “packages” for you to choose from, and others will simply have one option that works well for almost anyone purchasing that product. Either way, don’t shy away from investing in actually making this new technology easy to use and familiar to your team. If you know that your team isn’t especially technology savvy, consider investing in extra training. It might not seem like it, but that extra upfront investment might just mark the difference between success and failure with your new technology platform…suddenly, the stakes just got a lot higher.
Purchasing the right technology for your residential real estate brokerage can have massive ramifications for the long term health of your business. Poorly made platforms create broken processes and unhappy agents, but the right technology can transform your business into a well-oiled machine. Most real estate agents would never advise a client to buy a house without knowing exactly what they are getting themselves into. Purchasing technology isn’t all that different. Do your homework, take your time, and be decisive when you’ve found what you are looking for.
Before you leave, make sure to check out this webinar before you buy any real estate technology.
John has been the REthink Technical Account Manager for the past 6 months. Before that he was a REthink Support Ninja. You can find his LinkedIn profile here.