Five Simple Steps to CRM Selection

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1 Lasso CRM Whitepaper 1. Determine your requirements 2. Generate buy in from stakeholders 3. Decide between on demand or on premise software 4. Select vendor carefully 5. Integrate wisely How do you decide which CRM solution and which provider is right for you? There are a myriad of options available in terms of products and even delivery methods, and the only thing more important than utilizing CRM software is utilizing the right CRM solution for your specific goals and business needs.

2 Page 2 1. Determine Your Requirements the needs and wants Before reaching out to any real estate CRM vendors, spend some time taking a close look at what is motivating your drive to implement CRM software, or why you are re evaluating your current CRM. Rather than focusing on generalities, incorporate specifics wherever possible when asking yourself these questions: What are the biggest sales and marketing challenges you are facing right now? What are the biggest opportunities you are passing by or not capitalizing on to their fullest? This process generally works best if you: Create a simple, brief one to two page outline of your requirements a prioritized list of needs and wants. To help you organize your list, you may want to complete a basic CRM Health Check that helps identify key business issues and priorities. Then rate your current levels of satisfaction in these tactical areas of marketing, sales and service. The combination of the Requirements Checklist and the Health Check will help guide your CRM selection process and keep you on track as you hear about a wide variety of features and capabilities. I also recommend getting representation from marketing, sales, administration and customer service at this initial stage, offering them an opportunity to voice their own wants and needs from CRM. Their input often crystallizes the many details that are so important to any key business initiative. This is also provides a good chance to pave the way toward the team buying in to the CRM initiative from the start.

3 Page 3 2. Generate Buy In from Stakeholders From the top of your organization down to the front lines (and across departments), there needs to be a commitment to finding a better strategy and approach to tracking and nurturing leads from initial interest through purchase and escrow to occupancy and beyond. Inevitably, there will be pushback from those who are perhaps not as technologically savvy as they should be, or those who see a system in place that is working already and don t understand the reasons for change. The following will help get everyone on the same page: Complete Requirements Analysis (from the previous page) Establishing your requirements, your key needs and priorities creates the foundation and measurable guidelines for success. Involving key people, who know the day to day business and activities, from impacted departments builds team work. Executive Buy In Ongoing commitment from the executive in charge of the CRM strategy is crucial; be it the CEO, VP of Sales, or whoever is in charge. The executive in charge must go beyond the first planning meeting and signing the cheque. They need to walk the talk as CRM is like anything important leaders need to manage change to make it a way of doing business versus being the flavor of the month. I recommend the executive in charge choose a CRM champion. Attributes of the CRM champion is a person that can make it happen, has a can do attitude and is from a part of the organization that has the most to gain. Make Users Lives Simpler It s important to remember not to weigh down successful agents and managers with administrivia, that peculiar blend of administrative and trivial tasks that can confound a results oriented employee. Less key strokes, eliminating duplicate entry, and minimizing reports are all good things and should be a result of technology working for people rather than the reverse scenario. In some cases, it may be worthwhile to delegate an admin whose primary task is to become the internal CRM expert, interface with the sales team, and maintain an accurate database. Identify Quick Wins The requirements list can seem quite daunting. So look for quick wins that are important and that build momentum. Quick wins could be as simple as capturing and assigning every lead, establishing a consistent rating system, or implementing communications with a common community branding and theme. Communicate The need for good communication is obvious. A couple of things to keep in mind: Good communication includes seeking out feedback and suggestions. Don t be deterred by naysayers. Change for the better better results, better process, better relationships takes determination. Ongoing commitment from the executive in charge of the CRM strategy is crucial.

4 Page 4 3. Decide Between Software as a Service via the Internet or On Premise Software One of the most popular trends in technology in recent years has been the rise of Software as a Service or SaaS. Through this delivery method for software, the software functionality is provided via a high speed Internet connection. All maintenance, enhancements, upgrades, and customer support are managed by the vendor for a recurring monthly service fee. With an on premise deployment, the software is actually installed in the homebuilder s offices and maintained on site by the builder s own IT staff. Support will usually still be available, but any upgrades or changes to the software or hardware infrastructure will normally be conducted solely by builder personnel. The following chart summarizes the different characteristics of SaaS and On Premise. Category SaaS On Premise Software & Hardware Reside with vendor Reside at customer location Ongoing Maintenance & Support Network & system performance Reliability, data security & backup User support IT Staff Vendor responsibility Customer IT typically guides, but limited IT resource requirement Customer responsibility Customer IT has deeper involvement both upfront and ongoing Upgrades New features typically free & ongoing Typically paid & sporadic Costs Pay as you go fee structure Higher upfront capital costs Often by user or by project; per month Vendor Accountability High. Service can be terminated with short cancellation clause Low. Majority of fees paid up front Implementation Time Typically days or weeks Possibly months Customization Personalization by point to click Highly customizable Some vendors design are industry specific Application Access /Remote Access Internet via a web browser; anywhere, anytime Via company network; offline capability Data Ownership Resides with customer Resides with customer The SaaS market is growing rapidly, with hundreds of companies delivering all kinds of applications this way. Research firm The Gartner Group estimates the market was worth $6.3 billion in 2006 and predicts it will grow to $19.3 billion by the end of 2011, a 25 percent compound annual growth rate. Several years ago there were valid concerns about confidentiality and reliability of the public network of the Internet, but the SaaS market has certainly matured and the vast majority of concerns have been allayed in recent years. In fact, a 2008 study by Gartner showed that, of those who adopted SaaS solutions, 90% were happy with their deployments. CRM is an optimum SaaS application with low financial and technology risk, rapid deployment and easy cancellation.

5 Page 5 4. Select Vendor Carefully Four Guidelines Your business is building and selling homes. Your CRM software provider is in the technology business and they need to back up their promises in four key areas software functionality, quality of customer service, depth of industry (real estate domain) knowledge, and reputation. 1. Software Functionality How to determine if the software is a good fit? Measuring functionality fit can be as simple as validating that the software meets all or most of prioritized needs and the majority of wants from your requirements list. To find out: Schedule an initial top of the waves demonstration to reduce the potential vendors to a shorter list; often three companies. A thorough detailed demonstration should then be conducted for team members focusing on your needs and wish list (and the CRM health check if you completed one). Then regroup privately; list vendor s strong points and areas for concern. If necessary, schedule a final demonstration that deals specifically with areas of technology concern. If satisfied, short list to one or two vendors and proceed to finalize the balance of your due diligence process as outlined below. 2. Customer Service Any CRM company should understand the quality of service aspect and be well equipped to bridge that gap with exceptional customer service and training opportunities. You will want to fully investigate all of the customer service options available from your CRM provider their approach to deployment; online, e Learning and in person training opportunities, help documents, and phone and e mail support are especially vital. 3. Depth of Real Estate Knowledge What is each company s track record in providing CRM solutions specifically for the real estate industry? This is a key differentiator as many CRM companies out there offer a typical off the shelf product and nothing tailored specifically to real estate. So, by necessity, their implementation and support personnel must try to understand and support several different industries. Your best bet is a CRM solution that will closely mirror your business workflow, is easy to use, and will serve your specific needs in real estate, not something that will only partially serve your needs as a generic solution. This is something most organizations find worth paying a bit of a premium to get the few dollars you may save through going with an off the shelf product will never make up for the hours upon hours of frustration your team will experience in trying to customize to make a generic product perform real estate industry specific tasks.

6 Page 6 4. Reputation So the software performs to your requirements list and the vendor personnel are friendly and seem knowledgeable. How do you validate their track record and reputation? Several actions are recommended: Contacting references is a no brainer, but often doesn t serve the intended purpose as they are, after all, the vendor s references. View the vendor s customer list on their website and promotional material. Ask the sales rep, then go ahead and call a couple of companies that you recognize that are not listed as references. View a sample contract or service agreement noting key sections such as payment terms, termination and liability clauses. Each vendor s contract will be skewed in their favor, but it will give you a perspective if they are difficult or reasonable to do business with. If selecting a SaaS solution, ask the sales rep if you can speak with one or two of the technical team that will be working with you. Speaking with the installation project manager and a network administrator about their experience and qualifications is mutually beneficial. Key points to find out about SaaS vendors: Data Facility Find out where their data center is located at SaaS providers in house or a third party facility. Insist on a world class facility and credentials. Security Find out about security infrastructure, redundancy and data back up processes. Permissions and Password Protection This should be robust yet easy to administer with access permissions by role and responsibility. Paying Customers and Track Record How long have they been in the business and how many similar companies to yours do they serve? If they have a substantial client base on an ongoing basis, year after year, they must be doing something right. Key points for SaaS vendors: Data Facility Security Permissions Track Record Lastly, you may want to speak with a vendor s President or CEO Ask about the company direction and experience. You are not looking for a sales pitch here; more an understanding of their strategy, their software development roadmap, their approach to customer service, their culture, etc.

7 Page 7 5. Integrate Wisely It would be a joyful world if one system would fit all the information requirements of a business. Unfortunately, there is no technology silver bullet. Very seldom does one vendor offer an integrated solution that offers best of breed for both sell side and supply side requirements. Sell side CRM systems offer the best and most comprehensive people management solutions for marketing, sales, and customer service. Supply side systems for construction, estimating, and accounting work best for transactional management purposes. What is most important is to determine the information and data elements that may need to be shared across the organization s systems for best business results. The objective is to make sure that relevant timely information is accessible and usable by the right person in the right department at the right time, whether that is via a download, a dashboard or a report. Then, only work with software companies that: Are committed to data sharing that support industry standards in integration and Web Services (such as CSV, XML, SOAP or REST), and Will work closely with you in the process. One last thing change takes time. That is one of the most important edicts in any industry, but especially when integrating new technology into an established business process. Once you have selected the right CRM software for your needs hopefully a best of breed provider that can act as more of a partner than a vendor, with a robust solution that mirrors real estate workflow and provides exceptional customer support then prepare to go through a few speed bumps associated with software implementation. Your team may take time to learn how features work and how best to use the software s many capabilities. You may not realize the full potential of your CRM solution until months after installation. Once you do, however, you will learn what the leading companies and real estate builders and developers in the world have already learned that Customer Relationship Management software is a critical tool in equipping your sales team to market effectively, close sales and build homebuyer relationships and referrals.

8 Page 8 About the Author Dave Clements, Chairman and CEO of Lasso Data Systems, Inc., has been a trailblazer in technology, marketing, sales, and operations for 25 years. He is part of the vanguard of Internet professionals who have been building the web into a useful business tool since the mid 1990s, and is renowned as an innovator, consultant, and top executive in both the U.S. and Canada. Lasso is widely known as a leading designer, developer, and marketer of innovative on demand CRM software services for the worldwide real estate market. Companies around the world utilize Lasso to create and manage their prospect and homebuyer databases, launch targeted marketing campaigns, administer their inventory, purchase agreements and deposits, and improve their customer service. Clements splits his time between Lasso s headquarters in Vancouver, Canada, and travelling the globe meeting with clients and alliance partners. Throughout his career, Clements has held top executive and management positions at Internet service and technology systems companies and consulting firms. He has been a pacesetter in marketing, sales, and business operations at both large global organizations and entrepreneurial startups. Formerly, as a partner of The Performax Sales & Marketing Group Inc., a management consulting firm, Clements provided strategic marketing, sales and customer service CRM expertise to high growth companies across North America. He was also a co founder of Burntsand Inc., an Internet technology integration and software services company, and was regional vice president of SHL Systemhouse, a global systems integration company. For more information, please contact Dave Clements at

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