Why You Should Use a Simple CRM – ClientLook – CRE Tech & App Review

I am a systems geek.  I’m not really a techie.  I love to use technology, but I just know enough about how it works to break it.  That said, when it comes to using technology in my Commercial Real Estate business, there is nothing more important than a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management).

iStockPhoto via Erikona

iStockPhoto via Erikona

On the front-end, I must confess to being a CRM-hopper.  I started my career in 2004 with a legal pad – literally.  Then I moved on to Outlook.  Please pay attention when I say this.  Outlook is not a CRM system – sorry Dad.  It is simply email with contacts and a calendar.

I then graduated to a real CRM platform in ACT! by Sage, then to Realhound, back to ACT!, and then to REA9 (Real Estate Assistant). All of these desktop applications have these things in common.

  • they all have a tremendous amount of functionality.
  • they are all loaded on your desktop/laptop (to be fair, some or all are coming out with cloud-based versions, though I see this as playing catch up).
  • they are huge programs.
  • they have bells and whistles on their bells and whistles.

Michael Griffin, the President and CEO of ClientLook, calls these and other desktop software programs Technology Legacy Anchors.  These programs tie you to your desktop – chain you there.

clientlook logo

I’ve been using ClientLook for over a year now.  What follows are the reasons you should consider switching to this cloud-based CRM system.

  1. ClientLook resides in the cloud – As opposed to the Technology Legacy Anchors, ClientLook resides in the cloud.  This means that your data can be accessed from anywhere where the internet can be accessed.  That means from your smart phone, a coffee shop, on the road, in an airport terminal, or even from a client’s office on their computer.  And we are way beyond worries of losing data at this point.  I would guess you have more of a chance of your office burning and losing your data.
  2. It is simple, simple, easy – In contrast to the other CRM programs, ClientLook is as easy as they are complicated.  It is formatted much like Facebook.  You can log notes on all your conversations and contacts.  You can schedule events and tasks and link them to projects and/or contacts all on your calendar.  It generates task lists.  It is super easy to search.

    Actual ClientLook Screenshot

    Actual ClientLook Screenshot

  3. It seamlessly syncs with Google – This is really what made it work for me.  I use an app called Calengoo on my iPhone 5.  It syncs beautifully with Gmail and Google Calendar which I use religiously.  Whatever I put on the ClientLook calendar, ends up on Google Calendar and on my iPhone.  Everything is synced automatically without me having to do anything.   This is the awesome part, though.  If I update a task or event with notes and next steps on my phone, it gets linked back to the correct projects and contacts in ClientLook.  This is a beautiful thing!
  4. It has Betty White – I am in my car all the time making calls.  I can be very productive while driving.  The problem is you can’t take notes.  You can forget to follow through on something committed to.  You can forget when you said you would call back.  This problem has always made me hesitate using windshield time to its fullest potential.  No longer.  ClientLook has virtual assistants.  You can call in and dictate notes, set appointments and next steps, etc.  You simply call in, leave a message with your account info and what you need recorded, then hang up.  When it is done, the VA will email you so you can confirm their work.  Now, on my phone, I have named the ClientLook VA number in my favorites list as Betty White.  So I make a call.  Then I call Betty White.  I make another call – then Betty White.  Nothing ever falls through the cracks, and my productivity is at an all-time high.
  5. It allows for virtual management of a team – If you manage a team, you can see what they are doing.  This really helps with a virtual team working on tasks together.  You can see notes, previous calls, etc.  You can see if someone is not making calls.  And this can be set up per the needs of the team.  Maybe you don’t need to see what someone else is doing in your company.  All that can be set.
  6. It is a great transaction management tool - You can give your clients access to their projects.  This means that they can log in and see what you are doing.  I have never lost a listing when I told my prospects that they have a way to hold me accountable.  This is also a way to allow your clients to drive you crazy so be very careful with this one.
  7. Great customer support – They respond to emails and listen to suggestions.  They have added features because I asked for them.  Super people!

Now, if I could change anything (and so that you know that this isn’t a sponsored post):

  • The search functionality is Google simple and fast.  However, when scanning through your contacts, it is difficult to navigate.  The user interface could be better.
  • Overall, the site runs a bit slower than most sites – for me.  This could be my 6,000+ contacts, but that should be pretty normal in the CRE industry.
  • There is no separate property database.  I simply used the Projects functionality and it works perfectly.  But for those power users of REA and Realhound, this is going to bug you.  To the rest of you, simple is the way to go, and I’m just talking to 100 people anyway.

So what CRM solution do you use?  What do you like about it?  What benefits would have to see to switch to a cloud based solution?  You can comment below!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://N/a Jim Harley

    Great stuff Bo. I was a “posty note” guy………but this looks much more usable.

  • Bo Barron, CCIM

    I remember the post it notes!

  • http://@carterbyrnes Carter Byrnes

    Been using REA for over 10 years. Its has its flaws, the software is clunky and no iphone or cloud support yet. However, the pain of switching has kept me locked in to REA – so how easy is it to load in all your info?

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Great question – and the answer would probably make a good post by itself. One thing that I did not mention about these technology anchor software applications, is that they are like black holes for information. It is very easy to export contacts and their information and then import into ClientLook. However, all the notes, etc. that are associated with those contacts are very difficult to get out. This is true of ACT!, REA, RealHound or others.

      The question becomes, when are you going to keep throwing your data down the black hole? The best answer would have been 10 years ago. The second best answer is today. If you believe like I do that CRM’s will all eventually be in the cloud, then make the switch today. I would run 2 systems during transition. And the good thing about REA is that the data is all still there on your machine. Hope that helps!

      • Tanner McGraw

        Hey Bo-

        A shameless plug for ourselves but we can get everything out of any legacy system

        Tanner

        CEO/Apto

  • http://www.uniqueprop.com Mike Caarnes

    I have been using ClientLook, however have not been as satisfied with it as you are. The site is super, super slow and I feel like I loose an hour a day of productivity waiting for it to navigate from screen to screen. I also dislike the lack of property database, however, I was told they are launching that feature in a couple of weeks. I have been beta testing a new CRM that in my opinion is ClientLook on Steroids with it’s simplicity, a property database, Cloud Based, and 100 X’s easier to navigate and follow. The great thing for now is that I will use the 2 side by side to determine which one I like the most.

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      As I mentioned in my post, I would like the ClientLook site to move faster. I feel like I lose a couple minutes a day – certainly not an hour. And I am also looking forward to the property database.

      One of my favorite things about ClientLook is its simplicity. I don’t want it on steroids. Now, I was never a power CRM user, though. I want my info fast, and I want to log in quickly what has happened. I want to be able to easily report to my clients. I want my information at my fingertips on the go. I want great support. I want a product site that I don’t need to spend hours learning how to use. ClientLook does all these things.

      Thanks for your comments!

      • http://www.uniqueprop.com Mike Carnes

        Bo,

        By stating CRM on Steriods I was referring to quickness of navigation. I agree with your simplicity concept, as I too am not a tech guy and just want a system that I can set up and have it all there to get in and out. I am in a new marketplace which means call, after call, after call. An hour comes from adding the contacts and notes from a full day of calling. I look forward to the days when I can just log in and use it for follow ups and deal tracking etc… I don’t fault ClientLook for this, I just don’t know if I am far enough along in building my database to reap the benefits yet. An off topic note, I see you are a coach for Rod and have looked into that program with him as I am in the market for that now as well. Would you mind continuing this discussion with me on my email as I would be interested in learning more about that from you.

        • Bo Barron, CCIM

          Mike – I’d love to talk to you further about coaching. In my opinion, it is the single greatest investment you can make towards your growth into a top producer. Check out my coaching page and you can connect with me further through that page. My best!

          • Joe Heffernan

            Interesting since the new office I just joined has clientlook yet they do not provide it, up to each broker to sign up on their own. No one here really is using the capabilities to fullest, main use I have heard is for the ability of participants to login and see all activity 24/7. However I like what have heard re: true CRM use, yet, you mention using an app for your calendar, isnt the Iphone calendar supposed to sync auto with phone, desktop calendar anyway? Also, doesnt Clientlook have its own calendar/contact/sync function via their cloud? seems redundant?

  • http://www.scotthughes.ca Scott Hughes

    I’m experiencing frustration with Apto (Salesforce) it has a CRM and property database. I was looking to go with ClientLook and hoping the new property database is workable. Mike, can you share your beta test CRM, it sounds hopeful.

    • http://www.uniqueprop.com Mike Carnes

      Sorry Scott I have been given strict instructions to not share that with anyone yet. However, I want to stress my comment that I am also holding out for ClientLook’s property database feature to determine what I want to do with them. I often feel that for me it’s pilot error instead of program error. Perfect example of less is more…

  • http://www.clientlook.com Michael Griffin

    Bo, excellent post! I’d like to follow up on a few of the great responses to help clarify some points.

    Cloud-based. CRM, more than just about any other technology tool, thrives in the cloud for all the reasons Bo described. Our vision with ClientLook was to provide a simple solution that follows you seamlessly throughout your day always ready to feed you information or receive updates at your convenience. None of this is possible in the desktop, which puts desktop users at a competitive disadvantage.

    We’ve given entire webinars on the merits of living online. Don’t wait around for your desktop software to “migrate” to the web. It won’t work. You will be disappointed. Find a tool that was born online.

    Importing. That black hole that Bo described is real. You will migrate to the cloud. The longer you wait the bigger hole you dig. You can’t export notes out of most desktop programs. Just export what you can and reference your old programs for legacy data. At ClientLook, we’ll even do your initial import for you.

    Property database. We’ve got some big plans for our property module. We’re ironing out the details now, and should make an announcement soon. Like our Virtual Assistant service our property module will be something the industry has never seen before. I guarantee it. Stay tuned…

    Speed. Nowadays I buy the fastest Internet speed my providers offer. Chances are that I’ve got too much bandwidth, but bandwidth is everything. It’s like upgrading your RAM or processor speed in the desktop world. You will see speed increases in ClientLook (and all your web tools) if you pump up your bandwidth. Either way, we’re working hard to optimize performance at our end. We’ve still got some work to do.

    For an overview of ClientLook’s main features, visit: http://www.clientlook.com/commercial-real-estate-crm-software

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Thanks for your comments Michael – extremely helpful and I look forward to the continuing upgrades and new functionality!

  • http://loopcommercial.com Jason Sandquist

    The UI/UX is a deal killer. Companies should stop ignoring this right now.

    I currently use Streak.com, which sits right on top of Google Apps in my email.

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Jason – your comment actually got picked up by the spam blocker – probably because you are using acronyms that I don’t understand. What is UI/UX?

      • http://twitter.com/gcpursley Chase Pursley

        UI: User Interface – the design

        UX: User Experience – how user interacts with and perceives product

        Think of a chair. It could have a beautiful design (UI) and poor comfort (UX) and usability. I can’t speak for clientlook, just wanted to define those terms.

        • http://www.bobarron.com/ Bo Barron, CCIM

          Thanks for the clarification!

  • http://www.ascendix.com Camille

    Bo- indeed a great post and you and comments prove that brokers want a simple CRM. I would invite you to our webinar on February 6th as we will show how having both a simple and complex interface can satisfy the enterprise uses. Simple and fast for the brokers, and more in depth for admin and research departments that take a more active role in mining data (and need the bells and whistles on top of bells and whistles). Of course, this is a 5+ user solution so it caters to a different user base. But in the name of research I offer you and yours and invite:
    http://info.ascendix.com/new-commercial-real-estate-mobile-app-increases-broker-efficiency-in-the-field#quickpreview

    Again, great insights!

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Thanks Camille!

      • http://www.uniqueprop.com Mike Carnes

        Michael, I look forward to the Property Database option.

  • http://www.beckpropertyco.com Justin A. Beck

    Bo,
    I’ve been really happy with Clientlook, my team has been using it in earnest for about 4 months and it has definitely increased the communication and accountability. The support is super. i used a salesforce CRM for a while and never really got into it because of how cumbersome, Clientlook is simple and effective.

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Justin – that has been my experience as well. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  • http://www.clientlook.com Michael Griffin

    Joe, Bo may respond with his reasoning for using local apps to sync his ClientLook activity data, but for most people it’s just a personal choice.

    Through Google, ClientLook seamlessly syncs your events and tasks to the native address book and calendar of whatever mobile device(s) you use. Alternatively you could just login to your database live through your phone or tablet too. If you’re more used to adding appointments to your iPhone’s calendar or address book though, for example, then you might continue to do that instead of login live. It’s up to you.

    Either way, apps often “sweeten” the experience. They are purely optional though. If you’re interested we’ve got a great video tutorial that shows you how the whole sync process works. See http://www.clientlook.com/sync-clientlook-with-google

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Joe – Michael is correct. I use the app for the ‘sweetness’ factor. That is a great way to describe why I would pay for an app that replicates the native app. It is not necessary though – just a preference.

  • http://www.pdxtenantrep.com CONI MACKEY

    Hi Bo, we are in the process of switching from REA9 which was not user friendly to a cloudbased system, however a concern is our database information. I’m sure clientlook backs up their system, but what if their system goes does…what happens to all of your client’s information? Is there a way to locally back up your client’s information?

    • Bo Barron, CCIM

      Coni – thanks for your question. I am not an expert here, but my understanding is that there are so many back-ups and redundancies, that your data is safer in the cloud than in your office. I’m going to ask Michael Griffin to address this specifically, but you should be able to sleep better with your data in the cloud.

  • http://www.clientlook.com Michael Griffin

    Coni, security is a valid concern. I remember from my days as an desktop software user that we always had to backup our database. We always had to make sure our computers never got viruses. We also had to deal with occasional crashes that were prone to corrupting our local database. It was a real hassle.

    The good news is that because of ClientLook’s cloud-based architecture you no longer have any of that personal responsibility. Your online database is backed up daily and is generally immune from all the desktop issues I described.

    You do need local Internet access though. If that goes down then you can always access your contacts and calendar in your mobile device (because you’re synching). Fortunately we’ve never had an outage at the ClientLook end.

    Bo is right in that your data is more secure and accessible online than stored on some hard drive. And, you’ll never need to upgrade your hardware again to catch up with resource greedy software. You win all the way around when you move to the cloud.

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  • Michael Carnes

    I wanted to once again re-visit this topic since things have changed for me since my original post. As I stated previously I was beta testing another CRM and using side-by-side with Clientlook. After 1 week I started digging deeper into Clientlook and utilizing it’s features better and I am so glad I did. By week two I ditched the other CRM and ran with Clientlook which has helped my business grow ten-fold. They also just launched new features that speed up the program and I hear the property database feature is right around the corner. I can truly and wholeheartedly say now that Clientlook is the CRM of choice. Thanks to Michael Griffin for creating such a great tool for us to use.

    • http://www.bobarron.com/ Bo Barron, CCIM

      Michael – you are correct. ClientLook is much faster than before – blazingly fast, in fact. I, too, am very much looking forward to the property database. ClientLook is a great product – one that Sperry Van Ness International provides for all of our advisors nationwide.

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  • Lucky Stars

    I checked out Client Look as well. The client collaboration is nice. If you want something simple very similar to outlook in the ease of use. However you still need your email client! That is the problem with all crms! Except the following. I have used outlook for 15 years, know it like an old friend .I found Prophet which fills in the holes I need for my real estate. Perfect keep using outlook as I use it now and be able to add the real estate details to boot. Also solves the synching of my desktop and laptop
    solved with their web app. Cell phone can connect to the server and get the info as well and any info changed via cell phone is updated back at work etc. One other option I have to check out still is using Microsofts own crm that also is outlook based, might be more complicated and expensive then I need. As far a client collaboration this can be easily done with many third party options, and Microsoft has sharepoint as well. I think I am set after looking into 20 or so options, give me my outlook baby Crm!!

  • http://AutoBizBrokers.com AutoBizBrokers

    We are trying to make ClientLook work for us, but the “default” form fields, “default” contact list headers and “default” groups is going to end it for us soon, I fear.

    We need to be able to create our own forms and groups and be able to use our own contact header for easier searching and ClientLook REQUIRES multiple “default” form and group fields and list headers which makes it cumbersome to use the dropdown pick-lists. For such a simple to use, and apparent customizable CRM, this is NOT customizable in many ways, which is a deal killer for us.

    We are a very Niche oriented company and the required fields do not fit our niche and we’re stuck with them as long as we want to use ClientLook. We really want this product to work for us because of some of the features, but the “default” requirements are ridiculous.

    Michael, I hope you’re listening. Please consider eliminating the required form fields and list headers. You can call me to discuss further, if you wish.

    Thank you,

    Scott Krause
    Automotive Property Group, LLC
    AutoBizBrokers.com

  • http://AutoBizBrokers.com AutoBizBrokers

    UPDATE: We have officially ditched ClientLook for one reason.. ClientLook will NOT remove the ridiculous hard-coded form fields! You are stuck with what someone else thinks is important to you! As un-American as that sounds, it is true. When ClientLook stops being our CRM “big brother” and removes these requirements and placement of these requirements on our contact forms, then I will gladly use their product.

    Come on guys!