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Free Smart Tech Tools/Users/adamp/Desktop/May Mag Images/Makeover

Our experts show a sales associate which tech tools can help him work smarter.

Before Brian Tucker even had a chance to go looking for a company to hire him after passing the real estate exam, a broker who thought his outgoing personality would be “an asset to the team” approached him. “I was flattered because I didn’t know anyone was actively recruiting in this market,” jokes Tucker, who joined that broker at Levin & Rinke Resort Realty in Pensacola Beach as a sales associate last fall.

Tucker’s colleagues have even welcomed him with advice and guidance to help ease his initiation into the industry. “But the technology side of the business concerns me,” says Tucker. “I feel sure I could work a lot more efficiently with the right tools.” He doesn’t want to invest time and money into software and gadgets only to discover that he never needed them in the first place.

Bring in the Expert
Tucker consulted with the technicians who staff the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) Technology Helpline. Before Tucker invests another dime in technology, they suggest that he consider using some of the free tools that FAR offers its members. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Get Your Free Web Page
Potential buyers typically turn to the Internet before they contact a real estate professional, so a Web presence is a must-have tool for every sales associate. Tucker already has a Web site (www.BrianTuckerLiving.com), but the FAR Technicians recommend that he supplement that with the free Web page that FAR offers each of its members on the public Florida Living Network site. “You did the right thing by buying your domain name—that was a very good place to start—but many consumers who are searching for Florida properties will find you on Florida Living Network first,” says a FAR Technician. “In fact, anyone who goes to the search engine Google (www.google.com) and types in the phrase Florida properties will find the Florida Living Network listed on the very first page. And FAR members get that exposure free.

First, go to http://fl.living.net.
  1. Click on the "Find a REALTOR®" link at the left hand side of the page. 
  2. Enter your name in the "Search by name" on the left.
  3. Click on your name. You will then be directed to your free web page
  4. Click on "Personal Profile" located under your name and company affiliation.  If you have already registered a password for www.floridarealtors.org you will use the same password, otherwise, there will be a registration button below  the instructions.  In order to continue, you must have a registered password.  To register your password, press the Registration button. 
Once you enter the password-protected area you’ll be able to control the page’s design, content and links—even refer people to your main Web site from there.

You can also select which market areas you want to feature, community information and even your specializations and designations.

2. Implement IDX
Next, the FAR Tech Helpline staff recommends that Tucker check out another free tool provided by FAR called IDX (Internet Data Exchange). This is also known as Broker Reciprocity because it allows brokerage firms with an MLS presence to display each other’s listings on their own Web sites. “I can see that your broker hasn’t registered the company’s profile yet,” says the FAR Technician, who logged on to Tucker’s  newly created Florida Living Network page. “I would suggest that you ask your broker to turn on IDX so that it’s available to you.” 
  
Once Tucker’s brokerage makes IDX available, he can give consumers the ability to see every other property for sale in his local market (and even statewide) when they visit his Florida Living Network Web page or his external site, using the links provided.

“We also provide a lead-tracking module on IDX,” says a FAR Technician. “Virtual Customer Management (VCM) is the one we recommend because it gives you the most information about the consumer. For example, if I visit your Web page and find a home that I’m interested in, I can click on a button and request more information. Then it will ask me for more information about myself and for my contact information and e-mail address. It will then send me a password so I can log in again and again. It will also save my searches and ‘wish list’ of homes. Then you, the sales associate, can see my searches and wish list, and find out what I need before you contact me for the first time.”

3. Free Contact Management
Contact management is another tool that Tucker shouldn’t live without. Since he recently started using Microsoft Outlook 2007 for e-mail, the FAR Tech Helpline staff suggests that he use the program for contact management as well. “There’s no need to spend money on expensive programs because Outlook is a powerful tool for contact management. It’s a great place to bring contact management, scheduling, tasks and e-mail together. And there are several template programs that you can use with Outlook  that are specific to real estate.” [For a list of products, go to any search engine and type in “real estate specific templates for Outlook.”]

4. Keep Things Running
Finally, the FAR Technicians encouraged Tucker to keep the Tech Helpline number handy for those unavoidable times when he encounters a problem with his PC.  “When things start to gather up on your PC and your system slows down, give us a call,” says a FAR Technician. “We optimize probably five machines a day, so we can go through and get rid of the barnacles on your machine. You’re paying dues, so you should take advantage of everything that FAR offers. We’re here to save you money.” The Tech Helpline support team is available at (407) 587-1450, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This column provides advice from industry experts concerning marketing, technology and business issues. It won the Silver Award in the 2007 Best Column category from the Florida Magazine Association.