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Shopping for CRE tech? 3 questions to ask your vendor you haven’t thought of

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59bec6362d43b_TechnologyOn the hunt for new technology to help you be a more efficient broker? Maybe you’re looking for a CRM to organize your data, or maybe you want tools to optimize your workflows for prospecting, marketing, executing deals, etc. And you’re probably aware at this point that any software you choose should offer the basics: a cloud-based system, mobile access, and ease of use.

Those are the obvious must-haves. But there are probably a few things you haven’t thought of yet. To choose tech that will help you be successful in the long run, ask each vendor you’re evaluating these three questions.

What happens to my data when I leave your company?

If you move to a new CRM, you’re going to have to import your data into the system one way or another. Your vendor should help with this process. It might take a couple weeks and a little effort on your part to clean up the data you have, but once it’s in the system, it’s worth it. Think of it like you would a move—a great opportunity to get rid of junk you don’t need, organize your most valuable assets, and then get set up in a clean new space.

The trouble can sometimes arise when you need to move again. Let’s say you don’t like this new space. You need to take out your furniture and belongings and move it all again.

Will your vendor help you move? Will they provide an easy export of your data that can then easily map to the next system? You spent time and effort making sure it’s clean and organized after all. You don’t want a vendor to hold your data hostage in return for your business, so make sure to ask upfront the process for exporting that data should you choose to move on.

Was the tech built for my business model, or was it adapted from elsewhere?

Some CRMs and other business tech are generic and can be adapted to many industries. And for a lot of industries, that works fine. Most sales people need names, contact info, addresses, a place for notes, and not much else.  

But commercial real estate is different. You have people and companies and properties, and then listings and square footage and NOI and rent rolls and stacking plans and cap rates and so on. You have to prospect and find new business. And then you have to get to work either finding the perfect property for your client, or finding a buyer for your client’s property. All this information comes into play at different stages of a long, complex transaction process.

In other words, the technology you choose to help you be a better broker should be designed by and for brokers. Fortunately, there are more and more tools out there that fit that description.

How long before I see value from the tool?

No matter how easy it is to use, any new technology takes a bit of time to get set up. You’ll need to get your data into the system, and you’ll need a little training on the basics as well.

There’s no magic number that this should be, but ask anyway to learn about their training and the average time to value for most customers. What are the quick wins you can capitalize on as you get set up? What does the ongoing training and support look like? They should be able to talk about this in depth.

(And a bonus for you) Will you use it?

Any new tools you choose require a commitment on your part. No matter how easy the technology is to use, you’ll have to make it a part of your everyday workflow to get the full benefit.

The good news is, if you choose that technology wisely, it’s worth it. Commercial real estate is finally coming out of the Dark Ages when it comes to tech, so it’s time to say goodbye to Excel and post-it notes. You can get much more done with software that organizes your data the way you think and applies it the way you work. You just have to get started.