Technology can greatly improve lives, whether allowing us to connect with people across the world through social media or buying products online and having them in your hands within days, but it also can cause deep distress among people about how it will change the way we’ve always done business. The internet has created a “direct-to-consumer” revolution and demonized the idea of a middleman.
In no case is this concern more prevalent than with real estate brokers. Commercial real estate sites like Zillow for residential or LoopNet for commercial offer prospective real estate customers the ability to browse and search for properties without the help of a real estate professional. The internet also offers an abundance of information on navigating the real estate process, information that not so long ago resided primarily in the minds of brokers. With tech giving the average buyer or lessee access to properties and a treasure trove of real estate knowledge on their phones, who needs a broker, right?
Fear not, friends. And as we all know, real estate is a relationship business and agents are much more than a middleman that marks up a product. Technology is great, but it can never manage human relationships like a broker. According to Tanner McGraw, founder of Apto, a leading real estate CRM, technology won’t make real estate relationships less valuable. “While brokers are no longer gatekeepers for data and information, they still have a lot to offer clients from a market expertise standpoint. They also have their network of relationships and their inside knowledge of the market. Technology means that brokers need to adapt, but strong relationships will still be an important part of the equation.”
Buying or leasing a commercial property is a time-consuming, complicated, and often stressful endeavor that requires trusted real estate professionals to provide their expert opinions to help buyers and lessees keep moving toward the finish line. But although real estate is still a relationship business, don’t go and sit back resting on your relationship laurels just yet. In this day and age, tech has made us all expect faster and better transactions in just about every aspect of our lives. While the client relationship is hugely important in real estate, speed and efficiency are just as vital. Effective brokers must harness tech to provide the transactional expertise that avoids the stress that keeps buyers awake at night, gives them cold feet, and kills deals. And, as this blog post by Google’s CRM Copper suggests, we are living in “The Relationship Era where transactions have evolved into long-term and mutually rewarding partnerships between teams and customers. The one-to-one sale is dead. Cross-functional ‘relationship teams’ are the new norm, and they’re made up of relationship makers from every corner of your business.”
The interactions between one buyer and numerous members of your company helps build excellent relationships but also adds a layer of complexity since leads need to be passed off and all interactions need to be shared. This is where software like CRM comes reaps huge benefits. “Technology helps brokers stay more organized, which cuts prep time for any given interaction,” notes McGraw. “In a CRM, for instance, you keep all your information together in one place. That means when you pull up a contact, you have notes on the last time you spoke, any properties they own, lease rates—whatever you need. Having this information on one screen helps you make a quick connection without having to dig through your emails for context. And since you can share necessary information with your team, everyone stays on the same page, making client interactions seamless.”” With all this information in a CRM, brokers can avoid lengthy and unnecessary conversations to recall the exact needs of a client and get straight to brass tacks. In a world that demands speed, having easily-accessible information is crucial to help brokers enhance transactional efficiency, and save both you and your clients’ precious time. And having more free time will allow you, in turn, to build better relationships with your current clients and build relationships with new ones.
With a wealth of knowledge about your clients at the tip of your fingers, you can also help better serve their needs when new opportunities arise. By using a CRM, says McGraw, “when you get a listing, you can quickly pull a report of buyers’ needs you’ve already recorded to be a quick matchmaker for your clients. What better way to build relationships than to get the deal done efficiently?” This type of action will demonstrate to your clients that you are proactive, not reactive. In an industry where brokers get a huge number of new clients by word-of-mouth referrals, don’t you want to show your current clients that they are never “out of sight, out of mind” and that you always have their interests at the forefront, even if you aren’t talking with them at that moment?
Technology shouldn’t scare us. Although we’re all worried about a nightmare situation where humans become obsolete in the workforce of the future, robots can never fully replace brokers in real estate. Buyers and lessees can never sit down and talk through options and gut feelings with their smartphone. Apps will never be able to calm a client’s fears. Brokers are essential, but in a world that is constantly seeking instant gratification, and an industry where customers interacting with several team members is much more common, technology must be embraced to ensure you provide the utmost value to your clients by combining transactional speed and efficiency with the human touch of a quality relationship.
Don’t fear technology. Putting your head in the sand and doing business the same way as before is a good way to get disrupted—not by a robot but by a competitor that is using them. Embrace your tech, acknowledge there are things it can do better than you, and use it to enhance your customer’s experience and build your relationships.