Ashley Verrill is a CRM analyst for Software Advice where she writes buyers’ guides and product reviews. She has spent the last seven years reporting and writing business features for print and radio. Her work has appeared or been cited in the New York Times, Inc., Forbes, CIO.com, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others.
Ashley is an expert on CRM solutions and has extensive knowledge in this area. Currently, her research focuses on various topics related to CRM software, sales, customer service, and marketing strategy. She is well respected in the industry and has a wealth of knowledge to share.
IXACT Contact recently sat down with Ashley for a special Q&A blog post. Enjoy!
IXACT Contact: Hi Ashley, thanks for chatting with us today.
Ashley: My pleasure! Always glad to speak with you guys.
IXACT Contact: Tell us, why do you think a real estate CRM is a “must have” technology tool?
Ashley: CRM systems allow you to see what’s working and what’s not so you can constantly improve and grow your business. A CRM is also great for staying organized, building key relationships with your sphere, and maximizing your referrals.
IXACT Contact: Do you believe that REALTORS® should choose a CRM geared towards their specific industry (a real estate CRM)?
Ashley: I definitely think it should be an important purchase consideration. Obviously, Realtors have activities, verbiage and business processes that are unique to their industry. A standard CRM might cover some basic needs, but it wouldn’t necessarily leverage the full possibilities of automated workflow. And on the opposite end, a standard CRM might include functionalities that you would never need, so you end up paying for features you never use.
IXACT Contact: Makes sense, we completely agree! Now in terms of price, some people wonder if $30 or $40 dollars a month is too much to pay for a real estate CRM, regardless of how good it is. What are your thoughts?
Ashley: These people aren’t looking at the big return on investment. Without a CRM, you have no choice but to treat every lead the same. And as a result, lots of leads never become clients. CRM systems provide the mechanisms for identifying the kinds of leads that convert most often, and also the fastest. This means you can spend your time only on those contacts mostly likely to convert.
Also, you can make sure your communicating over time with these leads, so when they are ready to use your services, you’ll be the one they’ll call. At the end of the day, CRMs help you close more deals faster, while increasing total efficiency. When you look at it this way, $30 or $40 a month is nothing.
IXACT Contact: It’s true; people forget to look at the big picture and the return on investment of something like a CRM system.
What should people look for when shopping around for a CRM?
Ashley: A good CRM system needs to have robust contact management capabilities (for example, ability to easily group contacts and store detailed contact profiles), powerful transaction management capabilities to manage your listings, and fully featured email marketing (some systems even come with a professionally written and designed e-Newsletter). Ease of use is also a key consideration as well as the system being compatible with both Mac and PC and tablets like the iPad (a CRM for Mac and iPad is important).
Most systems offer risk-free trials so I recommend trying out a system you think might work for you and taking it from there. Often, free customer support is included with the trial so if you have any questions, you can always call a Customer Support Rep. for help.
IXACT Contact: Absolutely. Speaking of fully-featured email marketing, what do you think of CRM systems that come with the ability to do drip marketing? Are you a fan of drip campaigns?
Ashley: I think drip marketing campaigns are crucial for making the most of your leads and converting them into clients. And drip campaigns can save you a lot of time because you’re automating some of your real estate marketing.
That being said, the email content that’s part of your campaigns is key. No one is going to read your emails and click-through unless they feel like they are getting some value from you. So if you’re “selling” in your emails or it’s all “me, me, me!” then you’re probably not going to get the results you want.
A good CRM will come with drip campaigns pre-designed for you with emails already created. This will give you a good idea of the types of content you should be sending. You can then create new emails based on that content, customize the content that’s currently there, or send out the emails as is.
IXACT Contact: What kinds of business results have you seen as a result of folks integrating a good CRM into their business?
Ashley: Increased sales. Increased sales. Increased sales. I know it sounds super obvious. But when CRMs first came out, salespeople were extremely resistant. They wanted to spend all of their time selling, not entering data in a database. What they actually found was increased productivity and organization. Most people or businesses that implement a CRM see increase sales and recouped ROI in the first few quarters after implementation. Obviously, you need to invest the time to learn the system and you need to use it on a daily basis.
IXACT Contact: Yes, you bring up a great point when you say “you need to use it on a daily basis.” If you’re not committed to actually using a CRM and integrating it into your business, you’re simply not going to get the results you’re talking about.
You wrote a great article on the history of CRM software. How has CRM evolved over the years?
Ashley: The biggest change in CRMs over the years is SaaS, or software as a service. Basically, this just means the software is hosted in an external database and delivered via the Internet, rather than installed on anyone’s computer.
This has a few advantages. One, updates happen instantly. Two, they are far cheaper because you don’t have to maintain your own servers. And finally, probably most important, your CRM is available anywhere with an Internet connection. More and more work is taking place in the field. Cloud-based CRMs ensure you and your team have access to your database, whether that’s from a home computer or mobile device.
IXACT Contact: It’s interesting how technology evolves. Cloud-based systems are definitely the way to go these days.
We know you use a CRM yourself on a daily basis. Which parts of it do you enjoy the most?
Ashley: I feel like my brain moves a mile a minute. I used to find myself bouncing from one project to another in the middle of a task, then going back to it, then forgetting I need to follow up with this person on another project.
The tried and true task list in CRMs with associated due dates are my best friend during the workday. Whenever I find myself going down one rabbit hole or another and forget where I started, I always have something to refer back to and tell me what I should be working on right that minute.
When I was a sales manager, the reporting functionality was crucial. We were able to be constantly “in the know” of what was working and what wasn’t in our business. We knew exactly where our sales were coming from, who our best customers were, and what we should spend more and less time and money on.
IXACT Contact: That’s great, it’s clearly been a big help.
Enough CRM talk. Tell us, what do you enjoy doing on your time off?
Ashley: Well, true to my Austin roots, I spend a lot of time outside with my dog. I live on the river, so we run the trail, swim or canoe. Then of course, there’s tons of live music, so you’ll find me at a bar or music venue watching bands at least once a week.
IXACT Contact: Sounds nice. Thanks so much for speaking with us today. We know that our blog readers will really enjoy and benefit from what you’ve had to say.
Ashley: Thank you!
What did you think of our Q&A blog post with Ashley? Would you like to see more of these in the future?