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Take Your Business on the Road

Dorene Clark
It doesn’t matter if she’s stuck in traffic on her way to the office, giving a listing presentation at a client’s home or having lunch with colleagues, Dorene Clark is only a phone call or an e-mail message away. A devoted personal digital assistant (PDA) user whose most recent model is the BlackBerry 7100i from Nextel, Clark can send and receive e-mail, search the Internet, manage all her contacts and appointments, and even sync the palm-sized device with her Dell desktop and laptop from anywhere.

A sales associate with Amerivest Realty in Naples, Clark says themobility and flexibility that the$400 gadget provides helped her net $3 million in sales last year, her 13th year in the real estate business.

“I’ve been using PDAs for several years now and bought my latest one eight months ago,” says Clark, who’s become accustomed to listeningfor specific ring tones and watching for the little “flashing light” on her device to turn red, indicating the receipt of a new e-mail or voice-mail message.
 
Here are four ways that Clark uses her PDA to work on the go:

1. Access E-mail Remotely
Any sales associate who remembers the days when retrieving e-mail meant either traipsing back to the office to sit at a desktop, or calling a receptionist to find out if any messages had come in, will truly appreciate the way Clark can seamlessly check her e-mail while on the road. Using the RIM (BlackBerry’s operating system) interface, she can program the device to check any e-mail address and “push” the messages to her automatically, without having to hit “Send and Receive.”

Clark also uses the QWERTY keyboard on her device to respond to and create new e-mail messages while away from her desktop or laptop. When an e-mail inquiry arrives for one of her listings, for example, Clark can quickly answer and enhance her chances of getting the business and/or being known as the “most responsive” real estate sales associate.

“I can shoot messages out from wherever I am, and let people know that I’m there for them around the clock, no matter what I’m doing,” says Clark, who can also include attachments (such as text documents) with those messages, when necessary.“Clients never have to wonder if they’re working with someone who is responsive,” she adds.

2. Sync Data
Because Clark’s PDA syncs with Microsoft Outlook using a software program known as Intellisync, she can link it up with her computer via a USB cable at the end of the day to ensure that her PC-based contact database and upcoming calendar events match those on her portable device. “It’s as easy as hooking it up and hitting ‘Synchronize’ on the software that sits on my desktop,” says Clark. She can also sync any memos and task lists created on her PDA with those on her desktop computer.
 
“I carry around all of my contact management and scheduling with me at all times,” says Clark, who, like many sales associates, considers her portable address book to be one of the most valuable aspects of her PDA. When a client calls with an “unavailable” caller ID signal and forgets to leave his or her number, for example, Clark can quickly refer to her PDA’s address book to find the number and return the call immediately. “Having that information at my fingertips is invaluable,” she says.
 
3. Search Properties Online
Internet browsing technology for PDAs is still being perfected, but that doesn’t stop Clark from using her browser to link into the local MLS and search for listings while she’s away from the office. And while she’d prefer to use her laptop and wireless PC card to get the job done, she says that’s not always possible.

Take, for example, the time Clark was recently showing a selection of homes and learned that her buyershad an entirely different type of home in mind. She was able to pull out her PDA, bring up her Web browser, access the MLS and come up with better alternatives that more closely matched what her customers were looking for. “On more than one occasion,” says Clark, “it’s served its purpose when I was in a pinch.”

4. Talk Hands Free
Clark’s PDA is Bluetooth compatible, equipped with a speakerphone and push-to-talk long-range walkie-talkie technology, has text-messaging capabilities and allows her to add on various types of productivity software. Of those options, Clark says she uses the speakerphone the most, particularly when driving and doing business at the same time.

“I like to have my hands free, especially in traffic,” says Clark, who upgraded to her latest PDA after learning that the model was Bluetooth compatible, allowing her to use an earpiece with microphone when talking on the phone.

Overall, Clark says using a PDA that’s equipped with phone, e-mail and Internet capabilities not only has made her more productive as a sales associate, but also has freed up the time she used to spend running back and forth to the office. “It has also helped differentiate me as a [sales associate] who is responsive and available,” says Clark. “That’s important in today’s competitive real estate world.”

This column, designed to offer examples of how salespeople and brokers are using technology in their offices, won first place in the 2006 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association. The column is for general information only. Opinions expressed here don’t necessarily reflect an endorsement of the views by Florida Realtor® magazine or the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).