This article was originally published on Inman News:
Homebuyers and sellers today make inferences about real estate agents’ professionalism based on their ability to use current technology. The image we project to the public is heavily influenced by whether or not we keep up with the level of technological service they have come to expect from other industries.
This isn’t about being the most advanced and tech-savvy agent in your city.It’s about adopting the common-sense technology practices that make your business, and your relationship with your clients, more professional. Using technology responsibly and proactively allows us to enhance our outward business persona, as opposed to continually making excuses for why we’re not on board.
We often focus on the cutting edge of technology, but for those who may need a bit of sharpening up, there are a few quick and inexpensive ways to get past objections and move on to a stronger technology reputation:
1. Adjust Your Smartphone Attitude.
Statistically, it appears a fair number agents still don’t have a smartphone. There’s not much to say here. $99 — do it. Today.
2. Mobile Communication Is Still Business Communication.
“Please excuse any spelling errors – sent from my mobile. …” Erase this from your mobile email signatures. Remove it from every device you own. It shows a lack of care. Here is what it says to your clients/associates:
“I am too lazy to properly use this handheld device that has more computing power than the first Space Shuttle. I’m going to send you a garbled message because you’re not worth the 10 seconds it would have taken to fix it. LOL CUL8R K?”
This applies to email from your smartphone, business-centric social media interaction, and text messaging. Yes, there are reasons for shortened messages in mediums like text messaging and Twitter, but short doesn’t mean sloppy. You’re in business, so write like you mean business.
3. Speaking Of Your Signature …Where Is It?
While you’re busily removing that spelling excuse from your phone or tablet, take a second to create a real business signature on every one of those devices. If you’re using a native mail application on your phone/tablet, or a Web-based app like Gmail, it’s likely that you need to go into your device’s settings or the app’s settings. Add your name, title, and all appropriate phone numbers to that device or app’s email signatures. No matter what device you’re using, your email recipients who want to contact you back quickly need this info at their fingertips. Let them just click on your phone number instead of having to search it out on the Web.
Speaking of signatures, even your desktop email should be adjusted to add a signature at the bottom of every email, whether or not it’s a reply or forward. Again, you don’t know what device your recipients are using, and forcing a smartphone user to go back to Google and find your phone number is less than optimal. Make it easy on everyone.
4. Texting Is Here. If You Think It’s A Pain, You’re Missing The Point.
Remember back when agents in your office said they’d never send a contract by fax? Remember how you rolled your eyes and what you thought of them? Guess what your clients think when they try to send you a text and you call back every time?
Texting is not an inconvenience. It is a huge time-saver for your business. Text messages fill the gap between phone calls and email, and are an integral business tool. They don’t require the receiver to drop everything and answer a call, but they do get their attention in a faster time frame than email. Texts allow you to convey a concise message without committing to a conversation about the day’s weather. They’re also documented and recoverable, as opposed to a phone conversation, which can be harder to recall later.
The ability to reach another agent who happens to be in a busy/loud location or a client who doesn’t necessarily want to chat with you at the moment can make text messaging a highly beneficial tool for an agent. Use it professionally, though. No matter what the kids “r txting 2u,” your responses need to be in the manner of a business. Again, it takes only 10 extra seconds to write out full words in a text message and recheck the spelling. Your clients’ impressions of you as a professional are worth the time.
5. The Fax Is Dead. There Are Easier Solutions.
The fax machine creates an ultra-slow landline phone connection to another machine, and must maintain that pristine connection through the transfer of a large file from start to finish or else it has to start over from the beginning. If the other machine is turned off or it malfunctions, there’s nothing the sender can do but wait.
In terms of technology, that’s like the old phone operators plugging wires into holes to get your call to another city. It’s terribly inefficient. Luckily there are inexpensive solutions that provide far more accountability, speed and efficiency.
There are a wide range of multisheet document scanners that not only allow agents to scan and send a contract off quickly, but also create an immediate digital copy of the document for their files. For around $300, a laser printer with multisheet scanner and wireless capability is available from many companies. Frankly, if you use it correctly, you’ll rarely even have to print anything.
Plan on spending a few hours to set up the system correctly. Used haphazardly, new technology can create frustration. Take your time going through the settings, and figure out how to scan at a low-enough resolution to keep the file size small but the quality acceptable. Set it up to automatically save the files to your computer in a standard location. Print a page of a scanned document to make sure it is legible.
The efficiency of creating your filing system on your computer, or in an online repository, will set you free from the towering file drawers. Even if you must print a paper copy for your records, the ability to email your contracts to other agents and have documented proof of timely delivery is a huge benefit. There’s no need to match fax machine time stamps. It settles disputes quickly, reduces the need for printing, and helps to organize your business.
6. E-Signatures: Spend 2 Hours Learning To Show Clients And Agents That You Respect Their Time.
Plenty of agents will say that they don’t use e-signatures because their clients value the in-person time that their agent spends with them. In reality, there is no requirement that an agent using e-signatures spend any less time with the client. It merely allows you to spend less time if and when appropriate.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we real estate folks think we’re a little bit more fun to be around than our clients do. When we’re needed, they’re happy to have us. Upon the third visit to their home for another counteroffer signature, we become a bit of an unwanted guest. At 8 p.m. on a Friday night when we need another initial, we’re a real pain in their backside.
Don’t think that the agents on the other side of your transaction aren’t forming an opinion of your abilities as well. “My clients are out of town so I can’t get signatures for you until they come back in three days.” Meanwhile, the buyers who just signed the entire offer on their iPhones are expecting a response. I’ll let you imagine how that conversation goes.
Spend as much time as necessary with a client in person to educate them, but also spend a couple of hours learning how e-signatures work. It’s very simple once you take the time.
Don’t equate e-signatures with any reduction in client service. Respecting clients’ time, and the privacy of their home, is increasingly important with our ever more independent client population.
The reduction in wasted paper, gasoline and your personal free time should be enough to push you to spend the time to get on board. Even more importantly, the expectations of clients and their resulting impressions of your business demand it.
Technology Upgrades Don’t Have To Be Dramatic
Often the simplest of changes to the technologies we use can have large effects on our businesses and the impression we make on others. None of these items represent a particularly large investment of time or money. They simply require us to make a commitment to staying on top the technologies that will gain our clients’ respect and increase our businesses’ efficiency.