CRE Tech & App Review – ClientLook and Today’s Big Announcement

In January of this year, I wrote a post on why you should use a Simple and Cloud-Based CRM System.  In that post, I profiled ClientLook.  I’m not going to rehash what I wrote before.  I do want to give you an update and discuss their excited announcement today.

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Update on My Previous Beefs

Speed – I mentioned in my previous post that my main beef with ClientLook was the speed.  That is no longer an issue.  ClientLook has made numerous upgrades in this department and it cooks.  Very fast.  Thank you!

Property Database – ClientLook is now in development of a property database.  Today, I got to see a screenshot of it.  This will make ClientLook a complete solution for me.

Upgrades

Email – One thing that is difficult to track, quantify, and report on is email.  ClientLook makes it very easy to automatically attach emails to specific projects and contacts.  Each project or contact in your database has a specific email addresses generated for it.  All you have to do is include that email address in an email, and that email will be recorded in the correct project and/or contact in ClientLook.

The big win with this is with reporting.  You should be reporting to your clients on a monthly basis.  Most of us track who we spoke with, how many property tours, how many offers, etc.  What gets lost is all the time and work that happens via email.  ClientLook solves this for you.

A best practice for this functionality is creating a contact in your email program with the project email address.  For example, create a contact for your listing 123 Main St.  Now you don’t have to remember the email address.  You just put 123 Main St in the bcc line.  Piece of cake.

Search – I griped a little before about the search capability of ClientLook.  They have taken large strides in this area.  It is now much easier to navigate through 1000′s of contacts quickly.  You can also search and quickly find notes in a contact or project file.

Today’s Announcement (Sept. 26th, 2013)

On a webinar today, Michael Griffin announced that ClientLook has formed a strategic alliance with xceligent.com.  I have known about this for some months, so it is good to be able to talk about it.  I think this is a big with for the Commercial Real Estate industry.

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xcelligent.com’s answer to Loopnet is the newly launched – and very free – CommercialSearch.com.  Most of the national CRE firms have their listings populated on CommercialSearch.  I am working right now with Michael Griffin to get all of Sperry Van Ness’s listings on there as well.  It may have already reached critical mass.  Your listings should be on there.

Michael’s announcement today centered around 4 things.

  1. Automated Lead Generation – A prospect is on CommercialSearch and is looking at your listing.  When they click to get more information, CommercialSearch captures their information.  It then checks to see if the prospect is already in your ClientLook database.  If not, it creates the new contact, including all contact information, and notifies you of a new lead.  Pretty sweet.  They are also developing a plugin to do the same on your website.
  2. Automatic Activity Reporting – Some of you will run a report on a monthly basis from Loopnet and give it to your listing client showing online activity.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Loopnet automatically put that in your CRM for you – and in the right place?  CommercialSearch does that for ClientLook.  All that data in one place makes me “happy, happy, happy!”
  3. Property Marketing – The information will also flow the other way.  A new listing in ClientLook will automatically be placed on CommercialSearch for you.  Efficiency is a beautiful thing.
  4. Real-Time Embedded Research – This is cool.  If xcelligent.com covers your market and you subscribe, you can run reports.  Say you want a list of all the attorneys in town using over 15,000 sf of office space.  You can import that list automatically into ClientLook.  The exciting part is any time xcelligent.com updates the contact information for one of those attorneys, it will update in your ClientLook account.

I’m excited to see how this shakes out and if CommercialSearch.com can reach critical mass so that these integrations can be of great value.  I am confident that it will.

Question: What do you think about the partnership between ClientLook and xcelligent.com? What new functions and products would you like to see come out of the partnership? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

How to Shave 30 Minutes a Day Managing Email

If you are like me, you have learned to hate email.  I remember when email was the “new thing.”  Getting email gave you that warm and fuzzy feeling.  It made you feel important.  Remember the movie You’ve Got Mail?

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Email has now become a drug, and we are addicted.  As a major form of communication in the Commercial Real Estate industry, many CRE practitioners feel like they must check their smart phone every five minutes.  Show of hands:  who checks their phone before they even get out of bed?  Guilty here.

Beyond that, email has become the Great Interrupter of the day.  How often are you plugging away on a task – making great progress – and that beep and corresponding box at the bottom of your screen pops up.  You are derailed and may not be able to regain your focus.  This is why I hate email – always distracting.

It is possible to control this fire hose of hundreds of emails that scream for our attention every day.  And it is completely possible to shave a minimum of 30 minutes a day that otherwise is spent managing emails.  For me, a self-proclaimed efficiency nerd, 30 minutes a day is huge!

Now, you can go the scorched Earth route espoused by Tim Ferriss in his best-seller The 4-Hour Work Week.  His method has more to do with ignoring email and training everyone to know that you only respond to it once a week.  That just doesn’t fit the CRE industry.  Instead, I use a method that I learned and tweaked from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen.

  1. Clear Your Inbox Daily – This is a commitment.  Without this step, the system fails.  Raise your right hand and repeat after me, “I [state your name], do herby commit to clearing my inbox on a daily basis.”  You must change your behavior for this to work, and it will be hard.  I’ve read numerous places that it takes 21 iterations to establish a habit.  Commit for the next 3 weeks to clear your inbox daily.
  2. Read an Email Only Once – My Achilles heel in this system is having that one email that I don’t know what to do with – so I ignore it.  You do too.  Only read an email once, then run this triage.  Can I accomplish this task in 2 minutes?  If so, Do It Now!  Be done with it!  If it would take longer than 2 minutes, then you must decide:
    • Delete It – if it is spam (unsolicited email), or something that requires no action and contains nothing you need later, then press delete.  And don’t just press delete, do so quickly and with gusto!
    • Delegate it – I’m passionate about teams and systems.  If someone else on your team can deal with that email, then delegate.  Delegating anything to anyone that can accomplish the task frees you up to do the tasks that only you can do.  Those tasks should be HDA’s (High Dollar Activities).  The more time you spend on these tasks, the more you will make.  Simple as that!
    • Defer it – Sometimes you get those emails that don’t require something to be done, but is information that you will need later.  In that case, file it.  My filing system consists of two folders.  I have an Actionable Emails folder of emails that will require a task that takes longer than 2 minutes.  The other is the Reference folder.  If an email contains information that I will need later, I dump it here.  Note:  the more complex your filing system, the less likely you are to use it.  Keep it simple!  I use Gmail and the search feature is so good that it allows for an ultra-simple filing system.
    • Do it – Again, if it can be done in 2 minutes or less, deal with that email now and be done with it.
  3. Turn the Notifications Off – This is such a simple step, but it has a huge impact.  Do not allow your emails to be flung at you like darts to a dart board.  You can control when you check your email.  Do so.
  4. Use Filters – As I said before, I use Gmail.  It allows me to set up filters that will automatically weed out the emails that I do not want to see in my inbox.  Pay attention as you are clearing your inbox for the next 21 days.  What emails do you repeatedly not read and just get rid of?  Set up filters (or rules if you are an Outlook user, and I feel for you!) to do the work for you.

What would you do with 30 extra minutes a day?  What other ways do you manage the daily email onslaught?  Join the conversation and leave your comments below.

How Physics is Similar to Your Business

The Avengers came out yesterday.  Big moment for my family.  I would be Iron Man – coolest cat on the planet.  My wife is a big fan of Thor.  I’ve tried to pull of that accent but it doesn’t do it for her.  My 10-year-old would be Captain America, and he should.  He already has that True North sense of right and wrong.  My 6-year-old goes between the Hulk and Hawk-eye.  My daughter still doesn’t understand the rules and ran into the living room with a Spiderman costume on.  It is futility explaining to a 3-year-old that Spiderman wasn’t an Avenger – not to mention he didn’t have a pony-tail.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I bring up the Avengers for a different reason, though.  I feel like the Hulk is sitting on my face.  I have the distinct pleasure of having both nostrils out of commission.  So, I’m going to tell a quick story and then ask a few questions.  Then I’m going to bed.

 

The Story

This may be hard to believe, but my favorite subject in high school was physics.  I am a thinker.  I’m not sure why.  I’m not much of a feeler, a bit more of a doer, but definitely a thinker.  I want to know why stuff works the way it does.  Physics was full of ‘Aha’ moments for me.  I remember when Mr. Claypool showed me the formula behind why a curved road is banked at a certain degree.  This was super cool to me.

I remember toying with actually majoring in Physics in college.  Turns out that I majored in playing guitar into wee hours of the morning and dropping class….  My youngest brother is currently studying physics at my college right now.  In some ways I envy him.

But enough about physics.  Do you know how Physics is like Commercial Real Estate – or any other business?

If A=B and B=C then A=C

What do I mean, you say?  Consider this about your business.  What works?  What led up to that big sale – that big deal?  Did you know that if you repeat certain patterns you will get certain desired outcomes?  My business of CRE is just like yours in this regard.

The question is how do we do more of those patterns to get more of those desired outcomes?  You need a formula that works.

In my business and with my coaching clients, we call these systems.  I understand that if I send out this many letters and follow-up with this many cold calls, then I will get this many meetings.  If I get this many meetings, I will win this many assignments.  This is prospecting, and it needs to be a system.

Repeat certain behaviors to achieve desired results.

A Few Questions

Why don’t you systematize your business?  One of my hero’s in the business spends 2 hours a day cold-calling.  He’s the boss of is office.  He is working a system.  And he’s killing it.

Have you ever sat down with your team to brainstorm what works – and what doesn’t?  You’d be shocked at what you find out.  That is, if you’ve created a team that trusts enough to tell you truth.  Break things down to their smallest parts.  Delegate.  Maximize efficiencies.  Spend more time with clients and prospects.  Let your staff do anything that they can do so that you can do the tasks that only you can do!  Systematize!

What’s keeping you from taking that time needed to work ON your business instead of IN your business?  Something to think about:  top performers have accountability and coaches.

Let me hear your thoughts.

The 5 Steps to a Paperless Office

In Monday’s post – The Difference Between a Commercial Real Estate Broker and a Drug Dealer – I shared the story of how I was able to drive by a Dollar General Store in the middle of Kentucky and get the owner on the phone before leaving town.

The key to pulling that off was having a paperless office.  All my data is in the cloud.  All my data is accessible to me anywhere my iPhone has a signal.  I can access it on the fly.  It means I can jump on opportunities with lightning speed.  And speed kills.

In today’s post, I am going to share with you what you need to achieve the paperless office, and the steps to take to get there.

What You Need

The first thing you need is at least two monitors.  Think this through with me.  When you are using paper, you lay the paper on your desk, refer to it, and use your computer.  To go paperless, all the paper is in digital form.  Therefore, one monitor is to “lay the paper on your desk” and the other is for working.  I personally use 3 monitors.  I had 4 for a while, and it was overkill.

The second thing you need is a scanner.  The one that I have is a Fujitsu Scansnap S1510 (affiliate link).  I highly recommend it.  It is ridiculously easy to use – one big shiny blue button.  I scans directly into the file you choose.  No emailing to yourself, downloading, and saving to a file.  It also scans super fast and gets the front and backs of pages at once.  It scans in color and b/w, and is durable.  It is also very small so it doesn’t clutter your fabulously clean and paperless desk!

Let’s be honest – if converting your paper files is not quick and easy, you won’t do it.  Having the right scanner makes the tedious conversion process so much easier.

The third thing you need is a Dropbox account.  See my review of Dropbox for more information.

Steps to the Paperless Office

Now that you know what you need, here are the simple steps to achieving the bliss of the paperless office:

Step 1:  Set Up Dropbox – If you don’t have a Dropbox account yet – click here and sign up.  It is simple and free.  There are other apps like Box.net, and others as well.  Dropbox is the category leader and what I use.  Download Dropbox on all your computers.  Then download the Dropbox App on your phone, iPad, and everything else.  Your data will sync seamlessly between them all, and you can access from anywhere on the fly.  Genius!

Step 2:  Design Your Cloud-Based Filing System - This step is hugely important.  Before you start scanning in all your old files, map out your digital file system.  Mine looks like this:

Note a couple of things.  Put these main category files in order of how often they will be used.  Then number them.  This makes the filing and finding process so much easier.  The next level of the SVN folder looks like this:

Same deal here.  Put them in order of most used and number them.  You are essentially making an organizational file tree.  This exercise alone will give you great clarity regarding your business.  When you open the ’1 – Listings’ file, you see this:

Open the ‘Current Listings’ file and you get all my current listings:

Your tour behind the curtain ends here.  The key to converting your listing files from paper to digital is simple.  Duplicate the sections in the paper file into the digital file.

Step 3:  Scan In All Your Paper/Files – This is tedious and takes some weeks.  I could take longer depending on how far back you decide to go.  Pick a date.  I chose the beginning of my career – Nov. 2, 2004.  Before that, I have stored paper files.  After that, it is scanned.

This is a job for an assistant or a temp.  Do Not Do This Yourself.  You will get lost in nostalgia, and it will take forever.

Step 4:  Commit – Once you get everything scanned in, commit to yourself and to your office to remain paperless.  It is efficient.  It is green. I only print files when I have a client requiring a copy.  When you execute a new listing agreement, scan it in and give the original to your new client.  Receive an offer via email?  Save it directly to the appropriate file.  Commit!  You don’t need to print anything.  It is all on your phone!

Step 5 – Back everything up, and then do it again!  I back my top 5 main category files up daily.  Everything gets backed up weekly in 3 place:  my machine, an external hard-drive, and an off-site data center.  And they back it up again daily.  If you aren’t willing to be religious about backing up your data, then don’t go this route.

So what is preventing you from going paperless?  This is a big transition to consider.  What are the pros and cons as you see it?  Let me hear your thoughts.