I’ve only been a Realtor® for a few years. Previously I owned an Apple Computer store and so you might think I’m technically inclined. I not. I was too busy running a store to get caught-up in the technology and it’s no different with real estate, or at least it shouldn’t be.
The list of technology available to us Realtors® is immense but nothing is so important as a really good database. Without a systematic way to stay in-front of clients and track leads (even during busy times) it’s virtually impossible to keep a pipeline loaded. A good database resolves that problem.
Sure when it’s not busy there’s time for prospecting but I’ve found the key to uninterrupted sales is a pipeline that’s continuously replenished on it’s own via a campaign and the engine that runs that campaign is a good database. That’s why when my mentor suggested getting a monthly subscription to the number one Windows database for Realtors I pulled the trigger and anted up the required $50 per month.
For me however it proved to be less than functional, because I spent far too much time futzing with the database. The tool itself was getting in the way. I labored on that program for six months before ultimately reverting back to the simple programs that came built-into my Macintosh laptop. There were, of course, limitations to these simplistic programs. Basically I was doing everything manually with my address book, calendar and to-do list. I was staying in-front of people but and I wasn’t tracking anything. I knew there had to be a better way so I began to look for solutions in earnest.
That’s when I came across a $49 database program called Bento. It integrates at a system level with all the programs that come on every Macintosh. My built-in programs – the address book, calendar, to-do list and email already have plenty of integrated functionality but they don’t have what’s found in a good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data bate. Bento on the other hand does, and it integrates beautifully with Apple’s built-in programs. If I change one record in Bento, the same record gets changed in my address book transparently and visa versa. And here’s the kicker – these built-in programs also sync with my iPhone.
I’m going to add a bonus bite here that goes beyond the point I’m trying to make about databases and yes, I’m aware I might alienate everyone who doesn’t have an iPhone. Nevertheless here it is – I’ve tried (as in owned) every smart phone on the market and compared to the iPhone, they’re all crap and that’s being generous. If you don’t believe me, talk to anyone who owns an iPhone. It’s a life-changing tool. Nothing else even comes close. Best of all, there’s a sweet little Bento application for my iPhone that integrates with it’s sister-database on my laptop. Pretty cool hugh. OK, back to databases.
I consider myself a bit technically challenged but Bento couldn’t have been simpler, even for someone like me. All I did was watch a few short (5 minutes total) online tutorials and soon thereafter I’d built my own database. Bento users have a place on the web where they can share templates. I simply downloaded the template, modified it to suit my needs and soon I had everything necessary to take my real estate career to the next level. Best of all I was able to customize the database for the way I do things.
Let me give you a for instance. As I begin my day this morning I open Bento and generate a list of everyone I’m suppose to contact for the day. I see I’m suppose to contact Bill Jones about a listing that I’m writing-up next week so I decide to drop him an email. From within Bento I simply click on a button next to Bill’s email address and immediately I’m taken to my Apple Mail. After sending the email I decide I may want to remember what I wrote to Bill so I drag the email to the appropriate field in Bento. This enables me to link back to this email straight from within Bill’s record. I also decide to setup a reminder to call Bill later in the week. Since Bento integrates with my to-do list I simply type a reminder and assign a date to it. Later that week when I’m sitting in Starbucks I look at the to-do list on my iPhone no-less and am reminded to call Bill. I make the call and afterwards type a few quick notes on my iPhone about the conversation. I’ve also created a field in Bento to track these conversations. Next I schedule a follow-up call in Bento that will also show up in my to-do list. So whether I’m using the built-in calendar that came on my Mac or if I’m in Bento, I see the to-do item. Even better, it doesn’t matter if I’m on my laptop or my iPhone because just like my built-in applications, Bento runs on both devices.
Do you see how simple life can be? Yes, as far as I’m concerned simplicity trumps feature rich every time. Even if you’re technically inclined, should you really be futzing with a complicated program or might it not be better if you were filling your pipeline?
By the way, Bento does have a few limitation but the work-arounds are simple and don’t limit me. Yes in my mind, less is more. That goes for the iPhone and the Macintosh as well. Sadly Bento only runs on the Mac so if you’re a Windows person you’re out of luck. By the way I run both Windows and the Mac Leopard operating system simultaneously on my Mac.
Now I have a set of tools that elegantly integrates into my everyday life – personal and business. It’s profound and it’s almost like breathing – you just don’t think about the tools anymore. Everything just happens as a consequence of the way I work and what I’m about. What’s more, it’s yielding dividends in spades.