As the Emerging Tech team, our mission is to identify and research emerging tech with the potential to enrich or disrupt the real estate industry. But during these trying times, we thought it was important to support our members by discussing some simple technologies that can help you today.
In addition to all of the resources being prepared by our magazine, advocacy, and communication teams at NAR, we would like to share some quick tips to help you stay productive and in communication with your agents, clients, and partners in the industry.
Communicating Internally and Externally
Face-to-face communication is so important to the real estate industry. During these times, it's challenging to feel like you are providing the same value sitting behind a device as you did when in person. Although there are many tools to help bridge this gap.
- Email: Yes, we have been using this for years, but think about stepping up your email game by being more concise. For example, bullet point your ideas and ask for feedback by a certain date. If a number of people are included on the email, be direct on who you need a response from or who owns each task that needs to get done. No more dropping into someone's office to check in on that task, so make the ask very clear. Another option is to embed videos right into your email to make it more personalized. Products like BombBomb video can easily help you do this.
- Text: What a great, quick way to ask a question, send a picture or even a video. Texting seems to have replaced a lot of our phone calls and, for some, has become similar to our email inbox. Think about how to best utilize texting to benefit all parties involved. Pose a question and look for a response to make it more interactive. A quick "hi, how are you?" during these times can mean a lot to someone. For example, I just texted an old coworker and reconnected.
- Internal Communications: Anyone remember AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)? Well, instant messaging is back with way more capabilities. These tools are typically best for internal use and a great way to chat with coworkers, with many of the tools having video conferencing embedded as well. Instead of walking to someone's office, just send them a quick message. In addition to having one-on-one chats, you can have group chats as well. For example, our Strategy & Innovation team has a group message in Slack to chat throughout the day and provide important updates. The hottest messengers today are Slack and Microsoft Teams. Before the pandemic hit, these tools were already becoming an alternative to email. Odds are, if your business is using Office 365, you probably already have access to Teams. If your team uses G Suite, they offer a comparable product line with Hangouts and Meet. Messengers are a great way to keep conversations organized.
- Phone calls: Tone and inflection are so important in conversations and social interactions. It's really hard, if not impossible, to get tone and inflection through messaging without using a bunch of emojis . So, go old-school, pick up the phone and chat with folks. If you need to document something you discussed, you can always follow up with an email or text to confirm.
- Video calls: This is the game changer. Being able to have a video call with clients, family, friends, and co-workers is what is going to make all the difference during these times. There are so many options at our fingertips. FaceTime, Google Hangouts/Meet , Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, Webex, and many more. Don't forget that if you use a tool like FaceTime on your Apple device, it will only work for those who also have an Apple device. Therefore, it may be best to use a video tool that isn't tied to a specific platform so you can interact with folks no matter what device (Apple, Samsung, etc.) or operating system (Windows, Mac, etc.) they are using. So, find something that fits your budget (many are free) and is easy to use.
Information/Document Tracking and Sharing
Although storing, managing and tracking information can feel like a daunting task, there are simple tools and processes to help you stay organized. It's also a great time to brush up on your current tech tools and look at new ones. Tech is changing at a rapid pace and there are many options that may help you increase your productivity that you haven't even thought about. Luckily, many providers are now offering extra online training to get people up and running quickly.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools: Many of us are used to saving contacts in our phones or digging through business cards to find that contact. I even write the date and location I met the person on the back of the card to help refresh my memory. Now is a great time to get a CRM or update your current one. There are a number of free products; the top ones are HubSpot and Zoho. Just make sure you think through all of your needs and understand the potential future costs. As we all know, things typically aren't free in life, so at some point you will most likely have to pay for a feature.
- Document Management: Where do you store all of your contracts, sales material, pictures, etc.? If you're like me, this stuff has become scattered amongst iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive. Storage space is inexpensive; for example Google Drive is $30/year for 200 GB, so focus on the interface and what you are comfortable with. I separate personal from business to keep things clean. No matter what, using the cloud to store documents and sync to your local machine is key to ensuring you have documents at your fingertips, and they are backed up. If you are part of a team, many of these products have options for storing and sharing documents as well.
- Transaction Management: We continue to be buried in paperwork and wet signing documents. Yes, some of this is required by law, but for most of us, we could execute a number of documents electronically and significantly improve the transaction process for the REALTOR, the client and all parties involved. Products such as DocuSign and Transactions (zipForm Edition), both part of NAR's REALTOR Benefits® program , and Propy, part of the REACH accelerator program, provide services to help with this process. In addition, NAR is supporting the Electronic Notarization Act of 2020, and recently sent this letter to lawmakers in support of the bill. In the meantime, for States that already allow electronic notarization, there are products like Notarize that allow you to legally sign and notarize documents online. Now is a great time to look at your business process and see if there are tools that can help you.
- Task Management: For your tasks outside your sales flow (which should be handled by your CRM) tools like Trello, Basecamp, and Asana can be fantastic for teams who are trying to keep synchronized on tasks. These tools go well beyond your basic to-do lists, offering everything you need to track, plan and manage your business tasks. When used properly, task management tools can be central to your remote business over the upcoming months.
For some, this technology may feel a bit overwhelming. For others, these are tools you are comfortable implementing in your business process or already have. This post isn't to say you must go out and buy products or change how you operate, but rather use them as a supplement during these times. Maybe when we are on the other side of this pandemic, you will find these tools to be valuable enough to keep using...or some may get pushed to the side. No matter what, we are living in an unprecedented time, and utilizing some of these tools should help you stay connected and organized.
We will follow up with deep dives on a few of the topics mentioned above, but in the meantime, feel free to reach out and ask us questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on LinkedIn at Dave Conroy and Dan Weisman.