The Search for the Perfect CRM

CapsuleAbout a decade ago, I became aware of how Outlook would never be anything but a glorified address book. And if I was going to leverage technology to improve my relationship skills, I needed to find a Client Relationship Management tool (“CRM”) that would capture important customer information that would be useful in adding value to those important relationships.

OK, I confess that it has not been an easy path and ultimately, the finest piece of wisdom I’ve collected along the way came from my good friend, Chuck Cutler at Client Look who said, “The perfect CRM is the one you use.” My behavior patterns were a perfect demonstration of this wisdom as we proceeded to try REA, Realhound, ACT!, ACT! for CRE and most recently ClientLook with less than perfect results (i.e. I was not using any of them!!!).

About two months ago, I came upon something called CapsuleCRM and my assistant and I have been using it for about two months and we LOVE IT! Let me give you the reasons why…

  • It plays very nice with Gmail and Google Apps for Business which we also love. Capsule inserts a “gadget” into Gmail that provides a one-click path to (a) adding a contact into the CRM and (2) placing a copy of an email and all attachments into that contact record.
  • It is very, VERY intuitive and very, VERY clean interface. I like simple and boy is this ever easy to use in every respect.
  • Connected with social media. Automatically grabs photos from Facebook, Google+  and Twitter accounts. Auto links to LinkIn accounts and more.
  • Very affordable. For less than $25/month, my assistant and I both have our own accounts which link into a common database.
  • Linkages to lots of other tools including MailChimp
  • Management of sales pipelines and opportunities and more…much more.

There is a 30-day free trial which we made use of in evaluating this tool and I must say that not a day goes by that I don’t find another reason to praise this product. If you are frustrated with the complicated CRM programs that require days of training and want something that simply works and is affordable, I highly recommend you try CapsuleCRM and see for yourself.

Good luck!

Tools for Commercial Real Estate Brokers

Tools

Every business has it’s own tools which we need to learn to use effectively if we are to be successful. Commercial real estate is no different and with the dawn of technology, the proliferation of “tools” is amazing.

Since our business is one of “high-touch” relationships, use of a CRM system is of particular importance and for me, it has to be cloud-based which is why I’ve chosen to use ClientLook to organize, track and communicate with clients and prospects. Equally important is the ability to organize property information and present financial analysis data in an easily understood format which is exactly what the PowerBroker System by REI Wise does for my business. This tool actually won for me the Deal of the Month status at the REI Wise website this month!

As a CCIM Designee, I’m blessed with member access to Site To Do Business with some truly amazing tools that allow me to research everything from demographics to crime statistics to the names and phone numbers of every business around my particular site.

The most recent tool I’ve added to my toolbox is ProspectNow which allows me to research property ownership, loan status, tenants in possession and all while viewing an aerial of the property in the same place at the same time! It even provides me with phone numbers of owners and their email addresses in some cases. Talk about a time saver!

OK, there’s more including Google Apps for Business, Google Voice, DropBox, SnagIt and others that I’ve come to rely on to make my life infinately easier. All of them work across the devices I use that include Android tablet, phone, laptop and desktops. Most are cloud-based so I have full access to my entire office from any location and on any computer that is connected to the Internet.

However, as we all understand, it is not the tools but the skill of the craftsman that make the difference in the results produced. Choose your tools carefully and then PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE so you can be recognized as that skilled craftsman!

Start With Why

Simon Sinek wrote the book Start With Why.

Launching a new commercial real estate brokerage company after 8+ years being attached to the “mother ship” of a national firm was both exciting and pretty scary three years ago. Thanks to a host of talented resources and loyal friends and clients, it has been a rewarding and memorable experience. One friend and fellow member of a BNI networking group suggested that I download a video on the TED network by Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start With Why” and it was probably one of the most important suggestions I received during that time and since.

I’ve come to understand that discovering your “Why” is actually something that needs time (and no small amount of effort) to truly reveal. It has been like peeling an onion in more ways than one. For one, I tend to use many more words to express an idea as are ever necessary, so putting my Why on a diet was a chore. Second, it isn’t always easy to express WHY you do what you do comfortably to everybody with a straight face (wife, customer, new employee, priest, etc.). And finally, who among us is truly objective about ourselves?

Simon’s “Golden Circle” concept that helped me. Answering the three questions that define his circle forced me to define my What, How and Why I do what I do and now, I’ll share with you the results…

What do you do? – “I am a commercial real estate broker who transforms real estate problems into money-solutions so my clients can stop writing checks and start cashing them.”

 How do you do it? – “Mostly, I engage marketing strategies and resources that help people to take action. Here’s an outline of how that happens…

  • S.W.O.T. analysis for a big-picture understanding.
  • Strategic planning to achieve a time-bound outcome.
  • Engage target market with proven resources.
  • Negotiate agreement among all stakeholders.
  • Manage the process to successful closure.

Why do you do it? – “I love bringing game-changing methods that achieve startling results.”

Now, what is truly enlightening about this that I hope everyone who reads it will take away is this… I did not arrive at any of this without asking for help from my current and past clients. I went to them and humbly asked them how they saw what I do and how they thought I did it. And finally, I asked them what they saw about me that seemed to make me the happiest in working with them. I found my “Why” when several of them said, “You just love solving difficult problems for people.”

And, they are right.

AUCTIONPOINT2013

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In 2006, I got a lesson in (a) humility and (b) the value of relationships that has forever changed the way I see this business. As the listing agent on a property owned by a family in Williamsburg, Virginia, I thought I had proved my worth as a broker when I brought in multiple offers the the owner only to find out that the banks involved were unwilling to accept the contingencies of rezoning included in every single offer. When I called Louis Fisher in Florida to ask about how an auction might solve our dilemma, I truly felt like I was hoisting a white “surrender” flag over my brokerage office. After all, if I had to call in an auctioneer, didn’t that prove I wasn’t a very good broker???

Interestingly, the owners and the banks did not see it that way at all. They all congratulated me on thinking outside of the box to find a creative way to resolve the situation and resolve it we did! After a lot of work to assemble a complete due diligence package and a masterful job of promotion by Louis and his amazing assistant Mitzi, we received an acceptable offer only days before the scheduled opening of the sealed bids and the deal closed 60 days later.

  • The “humility-lesson?” – NEVER be afraid to look beyond the traditional tools of our trade!

  • The “relationship-lesson?” – We can NEVER have too many relationships!

Now, that same Louis Fisher is a team-member of what is arguably going to be the commercial real estate event of 2013. With sponsorship of some of the giants of our industry, AUCTIONPOINT2013 will involve over $350,000 in advertising expenditures and has broken the traditional code of only one brokerage or auction company to involve ALL qualifying properties and brokers from all real estate companies. Buyer premium charges have been reduced to half of what is normal and owners and brokers submit their properties at NO COST with brokers keeping 100% of their commissions and continuing to be able to offer cooperating shares.

I am very honored to have been invited to become an “AP13 Ambassador” to help promote this event here in the Mid-Atlantic area. As an Ambassador, I will be meeting with owners and brokers to assist them in participating in the event and while I am available to represent properties, it is absolutely not required. Please give me a call at 804.396.4050 or email me at Jim@NetWorksCRE.com for a FREE consultation and details on how to participate. 

When will you join the Crowd in the Cloud?

cloud

About three years ago, I learned about DropBox at a CCIM National Conference and it started a change in my business and my life that has been nothing short of amazing. Since then, I’ve found myself helping others to simplify their lives by moving more and more of their business processes and practices into cloud-computing resources. In October, I addressed nearly 500 agents at the Richmond Association of Realtors “REALTOR FEST” in the Richmond Convention Center for a presentation entitled, “The Cloud: Your Next Business Address.

In 2011, we moved all of our office files to a DropBox account that synchronizes four computers as well as the off-premises/”cloud” backup which makes it possible for me to access anything in my office computer from my phone, tablet or from any computer anywhere in the world by using my email and password. As long as the hotel has a  business center with computers (PC or Mac), I’m as good as sitting at my desk. We also moved our email server from the website hosting company to Google and signed up for Google Apps for Business which has been also pretty amazing. I create all of our marketing materials with REI Wise which automatically populates my website with the current inventory and this blog is automatically updated to our website homepage as well.

There is a lot written and more being written on the Web every day about the cloud and how rapidly we are moving away from desktop and legacy computing models to a more virtual, cloud-computing model. I find it exciting to think that we may soon all be choosing which Internet browser we prefer instead of choosing an operating system. Google got a little ahead of the rest of the world when they introduced the ChromeBook, but I firmly believe that it is showing us the way to the future we can all expect and soon.

So, when will you join me and the rest of the crowd in the cloud?

Placemats can WIN Listings!

This fall, I was interviewed by CIRE Magazine, CCIM’s official bimonthly publication, to discuss how I learned to stop boring my clients with endless PowerPoint presentations and voluminous bound listing presentations and begin simplifying and summarizing listing presentations on a one-page, 11″x17″ “placemat.” You can read the article at this LINK and listen to the podcast of my interview HEREPlacemat. If you have questions about using placemats and how to create them, give me a call or drop me an email at jim@networkscre.com.

Just Listed! High-Visibility Retail Corner Near Chesterfield Town Center

On the Motor-Mile in Midlothian, VA

11800 Midlothian Turnpike, Richmond, VA

0.5+/- Acre with 1,035 SF, two-story office building formerly occupied by Nationwide Insurance Agency available immediately. For Sale at $600,000, this location is unmatched for exposure to Midlothian Turnpike traffic. Across from major new and used car dealerships, this is a perfect location for any number of retail users including professional services such as insurance, legal, financial and service providers. Excellent lighted sign opportunity and easy access and egress to ample parking lot. Broker cooperation is always offered on NetWorks CRE listings and we encourage you to visit our website at http://www.networkscre.com to obtain a package of information on this offering.