If you're reading this, it's safe to assume that I don't need to convince you of the importance of using a Contact Relationship Manager (CRM) to run your real estate business.
Simply put, your real estate CRM software should help you easily manage your database of contacts, nurture leads, produce more referrals from your sphere and track your transaction pipeline.
Being a tech-junkie and addicted to trying out new software, I've personally used and tested well over 30+ CRMs over the course of my real estate career. Between using a CRM in my personal business and helping agents choose and set up their own CRMs, I've learned a lot and seen just what works and what doesn't.
*Please note that CompleteAgent is not being financially compensated in any way whatsoever by these companies and these opinions are truthful and genuine.
Which Kind of Agent Are You?
The first thing you have to decide is what kind of agent you are and want to be. When I say what kind of agent, I'm talking about the main three agent business models.
There may be a few more but these are the most common (and successful) models that we know work. Let me just say that each agent business model listed below is capable of generating just as much income as the other.
The Referral Agent
The referral agent has built their business on providing an amazing and personalized client experience with hand-written notes and timely touches.
The Prospecting Agent
This agent loves the thrill of cold-calling and door-knocking and has “Chasing No's” tattooed on their back in old English.
Just kidding, but if you're gonna prospect, only some CRMs offer specific features to make it easier.
The Online Lead Gen Master / Teams
These are the techy agents (and teams) that heavily invest in online lead generation across multiple platforms and as a result need a CRM that integrates with different lead sources, easily and reliably.
What's Your Budget?
Please don't say free. You can't tell me you want to become a successful real estate agent and not spend any money. You get what you pay for and like they say ‘it's the cost of doing business'.
With that said, different products will cost different amounts of money and CRM's can range from $29/mo to $500/mo for a fully-equipped team solution.
Here are the CRMs that we'll be breaking down:
Now if you're looking at that list above and wondering why a few other big name CRMs aren't listed, allow me to explain.
I removed any CRMs that met any of the following criteria:
- Too expensive to sustain.
- Tied to a website that you don't own.
- Tied to a website with limited customization.
- It just flat out sucks.
Here are the ones that we won't be looking at:
- Boomtown – $1,750+/mo.
- Kunversion – $750+/mo.
- Commissions, Inc. – $1,250+/mo
- Top Producer – Just don't. I warned you.
Which Features are Essential?
Buyer & Seller Closing Plans
Activity plans don't just help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks during the listing or closing process, they're also vital to providing a WOW Client Experience.
Drip Email Campaigns
Drip email campaigns have gotten a bad rap the past couple of years, and for good reason; they were poorly written spam that was used and abused.
However, drip campaigns can work when done right and a great CRM will have some fresh templates for different contact types including; buyer leads, seller leads, expireds, FSBOs, and past clients.
Your CRM should make it easy for you to manage your transactions and get a birds-eye-view of your overall business health.
Keeping things all in one place will keep you more organized, saving you time and money.
Lead Capture Integration
New leads need to go into your CRM immediately. Whether it's a lead from your website, the MLS or Zillow, it should go into your CRM ASAP.
One of the keys to converting leads is responding fast! And no one has time to be hounding their emails waiting to transfer a new lead's information into your CRM.
Get a CRM that has an easy integration for importing new leads from various sources. Or better yet, make sure it integrates with Zapier (Zapier is a FREE tool that allows you to connect over 700 different apps).
A sales pipeline is a great feature that allows you to break down your sales process into different sales stage and is great for visualizing the various stages of all of your transactions.
A great CRM will allow you to fully customize your pipelines to adjust them to exactly how you run your business.
Breaking Them Down
|Contactually||LionDesk||Follow Up Boss|
|Best For||Referral Agents||Prospecting Agent||Online Lead Gen/Team|
|Ease of Use||Very Easy||Not So Easy||Pretty Easy|
Next, I'm going to cover each CRM option and tell you about the notable features that set each of them apart and summarize my experience using and testing the product.
Contactually is the most common CRM that we recommend for most solo agents because of the extra focus that Contactually puts on building relationships and not just making sales.
Here are some of the unique features that Contactually offers in their CRM.
Follow Up Reminders – Everyday on your dashboard you'll get automated prompts to reach out to your clients that need to be contacted based on which bucket they are in. You have the option of snoozing, following up, or recording an interaction that you've already had with the contact offline.
Contact Buckets – One of my favorite features of Contactually is their bucketing method. They make it super easy to categorize your contacts by buckets – but the real magic is in setting the frequency that you want to be reminded to contact that specific bucket.
For example, if we have an “A” bucket aka clients that we've done at least 2 deals with, we'll set up that bucket to remind us to reach out to everyone in that bucket at least once a month.
Send a Card – One of the coolest features Contactually has is the ability for you to send a handwritten card or thank you note. There is an extra small fee for the card but it actually comes out to less than what you would spend on a nice card from the store and not to mention the time and stamp too.
Contactually does a great job gamifying the relationship building and lead-nurturing process but there are some limitations. If you are going to be doing a ton of online lead generating and/or planning on starting a team, then you may want to have a hard look at investing in Follow Up Boss right off the bat.
We have to admit, LionDesk offers a heck of a lot of value and functionality for the price and is the perfect choice for the techy real estate agent who fancy's themselves an online lead generating maestro.
You'll have plenty of ways to market, target, and follow up with all of the leads you generate online.
Here are some of the unique features that LionDesk offers in their CRM.
Video Email & Texting – The integrated video email and texting is pretty cool but it's not one of it's strongest features and may take some time to perfect.
Power Dialer – For those agents out there who love to hit the phones, the power dialer option is built right in and you can get started dialing in just a few clicks.
This feature could be a game-changer for agents who have geographic farm areas (or those looking to break into new areas) by allowing them to power through hundreds of calls effortlessly.
Want to become the go-to area expert? Read our guide, Geographic Farming: The Top Producer’s Secret to Neighborhood Domination.
If you're used to a more modern user interface then getting used to LionDesk might take some time. It definitely has that Microsoft Windows feel to it but the functionality is there, especially for real estate agents that need an easy-to-use built-in power dialer.
Follow Up Boss
Follow Up Boss is the ideal choice for a team leader with multiple lead sources who want to not only instantly assign and notify agents directly, but who also wants an easy way to keep a close eye on things like average lead follow up time.
Here are some of the unique features that Follow Up Boss offers in their CRM.
100+ Lead Sources – Rest assured that if you get leads from somewhere, it will most likely have a direct integration with Follow Up Boss.
Built-In Texting – One of their core flagship features is their built-in texting from within the platform. It's pretty awesome to not have to use your personal number but have an easy way to use a team number to follow up with leads automatically and still get notified instantly.
Follow Up Boss Summary
If you're already running a team of more than 2 agents, you should take a good look at Follow Up Boss to replace your CRM. Hands down it offers the best user interface and their built-in drip marketing material is very very good, which can't be said about a lot of other CRMs.
Yes, at $149/mo for 3 users, it's definitely not the cheapest but it is definitely the best option for a real estate team.
When and if you evaluate any other options, there are five main technical things you should be watching out for (I already did the homework for you on these 3 and they pass the test):
1. Does the CRM have a mobile app? Don't just make sure they have a mobile app, check it out for yourself and even look at app store reviews to make sure it's a quality experience.
2. Does it integrate easily with other apps? If you already use some online tools (I'm sure you do) then you'll want to make sure that your CRM plays nicely with your favorite tools.
3. How does email work in the CRM? In some CRMs, you can do all of your email from within the app or website. In others, you have to do all of your email from within Gmail or your preferred email client (this might be preferred for some).
4. Does it connect to Facebook Lead Ads for free? If the CRM doesn't work with Facebook Lead Ads out of the box then you'll have to use an app like LeadsBridge to transfer any leads from Facebook to your CRM which runs at least $29/per month.
5. Do they update often? In the tech world, things move fast, really fast and it's important to choose a company that is proactive and has a desire to innovate often.
Don't get stuck with a company's product that still looks and behaves the same as it did in 2005 (ahem, looking at you Top Producer).
At this point, you're probably pretty tired of all the things you have to think about but this is going to be the backbone of your business and making the right choice now can save you tons of time, energy, and money in the future.
What I've tried to do in this post, is give you a framework for understanding your own needs and goals so that you can make an educated and intelligent decision on which CRM you'll ultimately use.
Each of these CRM options delivers tons of value. Some are better at somethings than others, but the reality is that the right one is more of a product of your needs than of their features.
Choose a CRM that you'll actually see yourself using. If that means choosing one over another because of a prettier interface, so be it.
The truth is that the best CRM for you is the one that you'll use every day.
Are you using a CRM that you like and feel like it belongs on the list. Leave a comment below and let me know!
Honorable Mention: Zoho CRM
Zoho is an established web software company that has impressed me in the past but their new version of their Zoho CRM looks killer.
Although it's not real estate specific, it's extremely customizable and extendable, using their full-suite of business apps.