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3 Systems Every Realtor Should Have — and the Best Tools for Them

If you perform a task more than three times, then you need a defined process for how to do it. These "systems" can help you improve operations—and your bottom line,

When Betsy Pepine traded a pharmaceutical marketing career for real estate in the mid-2000s, she had no idea what systems would make her business more efficient.

“I wish I’d had the foresight to anticipate what I would need as I was growing,” says the broker-owner of Pepine Realty in Gainesville. She and her team were forced to confront the issue head-on as their volume became unmanageable, she says. And in doing so, they redefined operations with systems for transactions, listings, marketing, onboarding team members and training.

“When you systematize with clear and specific tasks, you increase the quality of output and experience fewer errors,” says Pepine, who holds a master’s degree from the Wharton School. “Efficiency and time savings are the biggest benefits.”

Pepine Realty also has offices in Ocala, Orlando and St. Augustine and recently added an in-house title company and mortgage broker. They also have a property management company if owners decide to rent. Pepine’s 13-member team—herself plus seven buyer’s agents and five listing agents—closed 507 units over the last year.

She credits systems with helping her team meet and exceed their goals.

The challenge many sales associates, teams and brokerages face is, like Pepine, it’s hard to slow down long enough to implement systems when sales are rolling in. “They’re great salespeople, but creating systems is not in their passion zone,” says Las Vegas-based real estate expert Julie Youngblood, of Youngblood Coaching & Consulting. “Their mindset is, ‘We’re doing well enough to not have to systematize.’”

Systems take the guesswork out of the equation and allow you to leverage your time to serve more customers efficiently, says real estate coach Verl Workman, founder and CEO of Workman Success Systems in Salt Lake City. “If there’s a task that you or your team are doing repeatedly, it’s time to build a system around it. Anything you do three times should be a system.”

If you’re wanting to streamline your business, here are some basic, yet essential, systems (and tips for how to create them):

1. Start with a CRM

Your contacts are your most valuable resource, says executive coach Liz Bentley, president/founder of Liz Bentley Associates on Long Island, N.Y. She explains that you must dig deep into your contacts and, more importantly, know how to use them to build relationships. It’s not about how many contacts you have but how much you know about the contacts you already have. A good customer relationship management (CRM) system is essential for organizing customers, leads and prospects in one place, she says.

How to Use It: Maintaining a CRM requires discipline and consistency. Youngblood recently helped a small team in Arizona get its CRM on track. “It was a mess,” she says. “They had 15,000 people in their database, and everybody was working it their own way.” She eliminated the chaos by creating rules for engagement inside the CRM and training agents on those rules. “As a team lead, your CRM is literally your business. Contacts should be defined within your CRM according to whether they are hot, nurture or watch, and have a clearly defined protocol for how to treat them.” A watch is 12 or more months away from taking action, and hot is buying, selling or investing within the next 90 days. “Hot leads deserve more of our time, so agents follow up once a week.”

Rose Sklar, who together with her husband, Dean, leads The Sklar Team at Coldwell Banker in Weston, recently switched her team’s CRM to Follow Up Boss after realizing they were missing leads. “I’ve also added an inside sales assistant to manage it. What I like about Follow Up Boss is they show you what leads are looking at and how many times they click. This is huge because if somebody clicks 500 times on something, you know they’re interested, and you spend more time with that person.”

Matthew Brookens, team leader of Agile Realty Group at Real Living Casa Fina Realty in Tampa, also uses Follow Up Boss. “We have a three-point follow-up process after each sale. First, we email a thank you for their business. The next month we follow up to see how the move-in went and remind them to file their homestead. Six months later, we ask them for a referral. It’s all about relationships, and it’s done through our CRM.”

CRM programs to consider:

2. Lead generation and management

More leads equal more business, so creating a system that ensures leads are captured from all sources (i.e., your website, email, online real estate marketplaces like, Zillow and Redfin, social media, etc.) will prevent potential buyers and sellers from slipping away. Pepine hired an inside sales agent to manage her team’s leads. She also uses BoomTown software to track and nurture leads and monitor her team’s engagement. “BoomTown makes it easy if somebody’s going on vacation because another agent can take over the file or I can go in and see the status.”

How to Use It: Workman stresses the importance of making certain your team is working the system correctly. “As a team leader, you want clear transparency on what’s working and what isn’t. With BoomTown, for example, if the team leader doesn’t go in to look at how fast agents are contacting leads or if they’re making a call or sending an email or text until they get engagement, they get a low conversion rate. However, when the team leader checks the system, there’s a higher level of accountability, and conversion rates go up. You will also know how many leads came in, where they came from and which agent is converting what percentage of the leads. My rule of thumb is if we get a six-time return on any lead source, I’ll increase it. If we aren’t getting much return, we figure out why or replace it with a lead source that generates success. Without a system, your decisions aren’t based on data; you make decisions based on your gut.”

Lead generation programs to consider:

  • BoomTown (track and nurture leads, monitor team sales and success)
  • Brivity (manage leads and convert them into customers)
  • Cole Information (lead generation, data enhancement and CRM integration)
  • Market Leader (includes a lead-generating website and marketing center)
  • Prospectiv (create true brand engagement that results in qualified marketing leads)

3. Social media

Sklar says it’s easy to underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to build momentum with marketing and social media. “I think the key is to automate as much as you can, but with a personal touch. When we did our Halloween Spooktacular event to raise money for the Bahamas, I told my team to do their own social media to boost [our reach]. It’s really all about embracing the technology.”

How to Use It: When you take a listing, it’s good to have a marketing plan in place, Youngblood says. “Brivity [cloud-based platform] automatically handles social media. You can create collateral for Facebook and Instagram, and it gets blasted out. That should be part of the checklist for new listings.”

Busy agents simply don’t have time to effectively manage their social media marketing. Bentley recommends hiring out for social media and creating a strategic editorial calendar to interact daily with customers across all social platforms, manage campaigns and track deadlines. Posts can be scheduled in advance, according to which content will be shared and when. For example, new listings could be posted every Wednesday and open houses promoted on Fridays.

Pepine has a social media coordinator for her team. “Our agents don’t have to do [the actual work] on social media unless they want to.”

There are tools available that will let you automate social media to consistently reach the right audience. You can schedule multiple posts across multiple social channels simultaneously, optimize posts for engagement and curate content relevant to your audience. But social media still requires a human touch, Bentley says. “It’s important that your engagement isn’t too canned; it must be personal to be effective.” So, mix it up with content that shows your human side, such as posts about your neighborhood, charitable events, photos of buyers on closing day, how-to articles and anything else that will help build genuine rapport with your audience.

Social media programs to consider:

More tools to help you systematize

Once you have the big three in place, consider adding these marketing-system tools.

1. Email marketing

  • Happy Grasshopper (send short, timely emails filled with engaging content)
  • Constant Contact (email newsletters, surveys, events, Facebook promotions, online listings and more)
  • iContact (automated email campaigns that deploy once a subscriber interacts with a landing page, makes a purchase, clicks a link or meets any specific criteria you determine)

2. Google

  • Google Docs: free web-based app for creating, editing and accessing documents online
  • Google Voice: free telephony service that forwards calls to multiple phone numbers and sends text messages
  • Google Analytics: tracks and reports website traffic

3. File Syncing, Storage and Sharing Platforms

  • appFiles: cloud-based document sharing
  • Dotloop: online network for real estaste paperwork

Leslie C. Stone is a Vero Beach-based freelance writer.