Choosing from among the dizzying number of technology solutions marketed to real estate professionals is a vital part of doing business. Agents need workable, time-saving solutions for leads, transactions, and more; brokerages need to prove their value to retain and attract top agents.
Travis Saxton, senior vice president of technology consulting for T3 Sixty, leads the research for the real estate consulting firm’s annual Tech 500 report, which evaluates available real estate technology options. The hundreds of hours of research that go into the report each year also inform the advice the firm gives to its consulting clients seeking to improve their technology.
Here are lessons Saxton has for agents and brokerages assessing their technology options.
Assess What You’re Already Doing
The Tech 500 report includes 63 categories of tech solutions, and Saxton says, “It’s wise for a brokerage of any size to know what it’s doing in those categories.” Without an initial audit, you may miss where your current systems overlap or where wanted features are already being provided. “Choosing a customer relationship management system in a bubble and not looking at everything you’re doing around it is a terrible decision,” Saxton says. Auditing your current technology resources will also help you assess your budget to reallocate funds or fill in holes.
Look at Your Strengths
When approaching technology decisions, businesses should consider their true needs. “Every brokerage is a little different,” says Saxton. “A lead generation-centric agent is not going to be the same as a networker.” If your technology is oriented toward gathering online leads but converting those types of leads isn’t your strength, you won’t get the most out of that technology. Saxton maps out different agent personas with clients to find where they excel, then matches technology to those strengths.
Do a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis is a decision-making tool you can use to assess your technology options for a given category or need.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
The application’s strengths and weaknesses for your needs may be obvious, but opportunities and threats are just as important. Search for press releases or other news items that may show whether the company is on a trajectory for growth or may be struggling. For example, a company facing funding shortages may roll back features or support, potentially endangering the time and resources you’ve put into it.
Get a Demo, Ask Questions, and Get References
For your top choices, get a demo of the application and come ready with a list of questions you’ve compiled from your research. Saxton breaks down questions into three categories: technology, service and support, and financial stability. Ask for references and follow up with them. Saxton suggests asking references, “How can I work best with this technology?” You’ll get a more honest assessment of the product and advice on how to get the most out of it.
Get Everything in Writing
Put in writing what you expect from the service or product, and make sure it aligns with what the company provides. “People often overlook things and get nickel-and-dimed later on,” Saxton says. “That starts the relationship off on a sour note.” Consider putting together a list of requirements for any service in a given category, then work from there when negotiating specific contract terms.
The process from identifying a need to making a decision about which product or service to use typically takes about 60 days, according to Saxton. And after making a choice comes implementing it, which can be six to nine more months. “Making the decision is only half the battle,” Saxton says. “Fifty percent is maximizing the right technology.”