A CRM is a software program that is typically used to organize and manage customers for a business. It stands for Customer Relationship Management.
In real estate, many people use a CRM to manage seller leads. Depending on the size of your business, you may or may not think you need a software program to manage this aspect of your business. However, I can tell you from experience that even the smallest real estate company can benefit from using a CRM.
I know historically, many companies would just put any kind of data pertaining to their business in spreadsheets. Over time, these spreadsheets get larger and larger and harder to filter through. While free tools like Google Docs has made it easy to share and collaborate on spreadsheets, I believe that using a true database is almost a better fit in the long run.
What to Track in Your CRM
In my business, we actually use two different CRM’s to track different aspects of our business. Both of the CRM’s we use are free and have been very good tools to help keep us organized.
We use CRM’s to track the following:
- Properties – We have a module set up where we store everything pertaining to each property (closing dates, purchase price, repairs, agent, source, rent status, rent amount … you get the picture). Because we are buying, selling and putting new houses under contract every week, it’s imperative that we stay informed on every property. Not a day goes by where we are not updating some piece of information in our CRM to keep us up to date on every property.
- Contacts – We also store contacts in the same CRM as well. Any investor that we’ve spoken to or sold properties to goes into the database. We can write notes, attach emails, log phone calls, etc. for each contact in the database. There is no possible way that we can remember everything about every investor we talk to … but logging this information in the CRM allows us to have a complete history of our interaction with each investor.
- Motivated Sellers – We recently set up a new CRM just to track our motivated seller leads. With the large number of leads we were generating and from many different sources, we wanted to try a different program for this aspect of the business. Using a CRM to track seller leads is absolutely crucial for any real estate investor. In our CRM, we track things like name, address, source, motivation level, amount owed, offer amount, etc. Over time this list will become very large …. but will remain a very good source for future deals. Even if a seller says no today, chances are that a percentage of those people will want to sell at some point in the future. Being able to call, email drip and mail these leads in the future often times becomes your best source of deals.
A Look at 2 Good Free CRM’s
Using two different CRM’s may not be ideal and we will probably migrate to only one at some point in the future, but here are the free CRM’s we use right now that I would highly recommend.
- SugarCRM – SugarCRM is a software company with both a commercial version and an open source version of its application. The open source (or community edition) is completely free and can be hosted anywhere. We host ours for less than $5 a month with one of the big hosting companies … but I know other companies that host it internally and have even done a good bit of custom programming to it. I like this application because its very robust, but also very flexible (okay … I’ll admit that I’m cheap and like the fact that its free too). Through the admin function, you can add and rename fields, add or remove entire modules, integrate your email, use any number of available plugins to communicate with outside applications, etc. While we probably aren’t even scraping the surface of it’s capabilities, it’s been a great tool for our needs.
- Podio – Podio is a newer, cloud-based software platform that can be used for almost any environment. It’s designed using workspaces where team members can collaborate on different projects. I really like it because it’s extremely easy to customize and has a great webform feature that allows you to set up external webforms that feed directly into the database. We use this with our VA’s who we don’t necessarily want to have access to the CRM, but need to be able to enter data into it. Podio is also free for those businesses with less than 5 users.
For those investors with aspirations of scaling up, keeping good records and staying organized is an absolute must. The days of keeping track of data inside of spiral notebooks or even in Excel spreadsheets is over. With the number of really good free applications out there that can be easily customized to track any information pertaining to your business, there isn’t any excuse to be stuck in the stone-age.