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Contact Management for Outlook - Thursday, April 9, 2009

Contact Management with Outlook – All the bells and whistles without the big learning curve.

What is Contact Management?

In the most basic form Contact Management is a system/process that a sales person uses to maintain and manage current information about the list of people that make up their universe of suspects, prospects, customers, clients, friends, etc.  A contact management system is an enabling tool that allows a person to effectively market and stay in touch with their contact base.

Why is this important?

As an agent you must differentiate yourself from every other agent out there.  One way to do this is to build deeper relationships with your prospects and customers.  With the harried pace we keep today there is no way for us to remember everything about all of our contacts – enter your contact management system.  With an effective contact management system you can record the important events and attributes of your contacts, set up reminders to stay in touch and even have the contact management system manage the correspondence that you use to stay in touch with your contacts.

The bottom line is that your contact management systems should save you time, make your life easier and provide a systematic way of remembering all those important facts about your client(s).

The ugly truth about the ‘average’ agent’s contact management system.

As a sales person we all know how important it is to have a contact management system, right?  So, why then do so many agents not have one?  Or have one and never use it?  Well there are many reasons, but one that I hear over and over is that they (you) do not have time to learn software or your job is to “sell” and not master the latest and greatest piece of software….

The KISS approach to Contact Management.

I bet that we all can agree on one thing: having something that provides some basic Contact Management or CRM (Contact Relationship Management) features that you will use is better than nothing (or having a overly complex system that you will never use).  Also, by being able to leverage a piece of software that you may already be using (and are comfortable with) will allow you to gain some of the CRM efficiencies without having to climb the steep learning curve.

There lies the case for looking at a product/products that you are already using and see what efficiencies they can provide with respect to CRM.  The product that I am referring to is Microsoft Office – specifically, Microsoft Outlook.  If you own any version of Microsoft Office (except for Student and Teacher Edition) you have Microsoft Outlook.  If you know how to write a letter in Word®, or use any of the other tools in the Office Suite then you have 80% of the knowledge to use Outlook since the user interface is largely shared by all the tools in the suite.

So, what do you get with Outlook for a CRM point of view?

Back to our definition of Contact Management: “maintain and manage current information about the list of people.   Outlook has 4 major areas: Mail, Contacts, Calendar and Tasks.  If you look at the Contact section you will notice that you can:

·         Create and save any number of contacts

·         Group your contact by type (using categories)

·         Store information about each contact, including the following:

o   Name,

o   Address (home, work and other),

o   Phone (19 types of phone numbers),

o   Company name,

o   Job Title,

o   Email addresses (up to 3 email addresses),

o   Website,

o   IM or SMS address,

o   Birthday and anniversary (if entered they will automatically be added to your calendar and remind you),

o   Spouse

·         Link contact to events and emails.

·         Capture and save notes on the contact

So, looking over the list above you can see that you can maintain and manage a good selection of information about the contact as well as segment your database (group them by types of contacts), email them and document your interaction with them.  Certainly beats a bunch of ‘Post-It” notes on your paper files. 

One other important benefit of keeping your contacts in Outlook is that it you can sync this data to your PDA or Smart Phone.  Most all the Smart Phones (Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile, iPhone, etc) have already written programs to allow you to share your contact between your PDA/Smart Phone and Outlook. 

So, what about all the bells and whistles?

As you can see Outlook fulfills the needs of a basic Contact Management system, but what can’t it do and where are the holes?  What we see as the 3 main areas that agents need more than what basic Outlook can do is:

·         Extended Contact info - Buyer requirements, kids’ b-days, closing dates, contact source, etc.

·         The ability to automate your normal transaction and marketing processes – Listing checklists/campaigns, lead follow-up plans, etc.

·         Tracking Listing/Purchase Transaction information.

So, what can an agent do to fill in these holes? 

There are several ways to be able to leverage the experience and expertise you have in the Microsoft Office Suite and still get the bells and whistles you want/need to most efficiently run your real estate business. 

You can customize Outlook to fit your needs.  Outlook allows you to modify the contact forms as well as add new forms to represent the items that are missing (e.g., transaction records).  If you are like most of the agents that I talk to, about right now you are saying ‘I’m not a techie, I’m a real estate agent – modifying forms is not for me’. 

This leads me to the second and recommended approach.  Look at a program that extends the features and functionality of Microsoft Outlook to fill in the holes that exist when used as a CRM solution for Real Estate.  Active Agent for Outlook is a best-of-breed real estate CRM – it provides the contact, campaign and transaction management functions an active agent needs without the painful learning curve! 

As a wise person once said “the best software is one that you will use!”  That is why we offer a free trial of all of our products.  In particular, Active Agent for Outlook has a free fully functional 14 day trial.  To access and download this trial, just click on Active Agent for Outlook on our home page (http://www.sonomaenterprsies.com) and on the right side of the product page just above the ‘Add to cart’ button there is a Download Sample Button.  If you find you need more than 14 days, no problem, just email us at support@sonomaenterprises.com with when you want the trial to end and we will send you a link to extend your trial so you have adequate time to try it out.

 

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Active Agent for Outlook 2.0 - Sharing Data - Thursday, April 9, 2009
What to share your AAO data in a team environment.  Read and share your best practices in this blog.
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