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Five Tech Basics/Users/adamp/Desktop/Jan images/makeover

Our expert helps one sales associate get up to speed on essential tech tools.

As an industry veteran, Kay Kelley might seem an unlikely candidate for a makeover. But as she explains it, she “knows nothing” about technology. Though she sold real estate full time for 26 years in Michigan, her tools were a giant MLS book that came out every other week, a tape measure and a 35-millimeter camera.

And since coming to Florida in 2000—she got her broker’s license and eventually opened her own company—she’s continued to do business “the same old way. … I still keep my customers in a little notebook,” says Kelley, who closed her company and recently joined Century 21 Sunbelt Realty in Port Charlotte. “A [sales associate] in our office, who’s been in real estate just two years, had to show me how to do a CMA through the MLS on the computer. I’ve come to realize that I know nothing; I need help!”

Bring in the Expert
Real estate technology trainer Randy Eagar agreed to give Kelley a quick lesson on these five must-have tools of the trade:

1. Get a Web Site
“No matter how much technology we talk about, realize that all I’m trying to do is improve your people skills, get you in front of more people, and make you more effective,” Eager says.

A Web site is one way for Kelley to do just that, he says—provided she has the right type of site. “Your site must have a professional look and feel. It can’t be something a friend [quickly] put together for you,” he says, pointing out that it isn’t enough to simply have a Web presence. “Remember, content is king. If you’re not giving the viewer the chance to search the MLS, find out about the area (i.e., churches, schools, etc.), you’ll drive them away.”

2. Go Digital
Eagar says a digital camera will help every sales associate save time and money. Since photographs are now stored on a memory chip, instead of on film, there are no processing costs and the images are instantly available for use. When Kelley gets a new listing, for example, she can go out to the property, photograph it from all angles (inside and out) and upload the photos to the MLS and her Web site (and even put them in open house fliers).

“Make sure you get a model with at least 3 megapixels and wide angle and telephoto lens function,” Eagar says. Canon, Kodak and HP are the three brands he recommends but Kelley’s price range should dictate her choice.

3. Download Free Programs

“Make Web browsing part of your daily routine, just as you would reading the newspaper,” Eagar says. 

He advises her to go to any search engine like Google, for example, and look for these three free tools: Picasa, Microsoft Photo Story 3 and Google Earth.

“Picasa is a photo-editing and organization tool,” he explains. “Download it and it will immediately go through your hard drive and take all your images, bitmaps and graphics and organize them for you, similar to the Dewey Decimal System.”

Microsoft Photo Story 3 will let Kelley create slideshows. “This program makes you look like a genius. You can attach music and play it in the background as each individual picture comes up. You can create slideshows for your listings, burn them to a CD and give them out at open houses.” Kelley can also place the slideshows on her Web site so that prospects can become familiar with her listings’ features.

“At listing presentations, you’re going to want to show homeowners where their home is in relation to schools, churches, shopping malls, other houses, etc.,” Eagar says. “Google Earth has three-dimensional mapping [especially for that].”

4. Use Contact Management

Next, Eagar says it’s imperative that Kelley start using a contact management program. “Top Producer and Respond are very popular among real estate professionals,” he says, adding that Top Producer provides a complete range of functions (e.g., contact management, mail merge and the ability to create presentations). Respond is a template for Microsoft Outlook that was created specifically for real estate practitioners by trainer Pat Zaby, of Seminars & Systems in Dallas.

“Contact management lets you keep track of everyone in your geographic farm or your sphere of influence,” Eagar continues, adding that Kelley will need to categorize each contact separately (i.e., prospect, buyer, seller, vendor, etc.)

5. Buy a Smartphone
“Kay, I want you to buy the next-generation cell phone: a smartphone, which will basically take all the information on your contacts from your manager [program] and sync [using Bluetooth] or copy it so that you’ve got all that information on your cell phone,” Eagar says.

Bluetooth is a technology that allows communication between different devices, such as mobile phones, laptops, PCs, etc., via radio signals over a shared wireless platform. 

Smartphones also help users keep track of appointments, send and receive e-mail, and search the Internet.

Eagar recommends three major brands. “One is called a Treo (they make Treo for Palm and for Windows). The iPhone is the Apple version of the smartphone, which was recently released. And then there’s the Blackberry,” he says.

Eagar offers one final piece of advice: “Don’t get all of these tech tools at once. Get one item at a time, Kay, and become very adept at it before moving on to the next one.” 

This column provides advice from industry experts concerning marketing, technology and business issues. It won the Silver Award in the 2007 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine
Association.