Are non-technical commercial real estate agents and brokers losing business by ignoring technology?
In short, yes… and it’s not a pretty future for the brokerage business.
About a year ago Digsy surveyed more than a thousand commercial real estate agents about the technologies they use for growing their businesses (aside from listing services like CoStar and LoopNet) and guess what 60% of them said?
When we asked them what other technologies besides Outlook they used, they mentioned ACT!.
Do you see the problem?
Outlook and ACT! were technologies built in the 90s that require a lot of manual data entry and are hard to maintain. They’ve offered very little sales innovation over the years, especially troubling in today’s world where technology has become much more automated to allow salespeople and commercial real estate agents to focus on growing their businesses — instead of manually doing all the work.
CRE agents are not exploring better alternatives
The problem is not ACT!, the problem is not Outlook. The problem is that no one we surveyed mentioned any of the sales technology tools that successful salespeople at top companies mention in a heartbeat. Salespeople in other industries are using more advanced tools to make millions of dollars and laugh on their way to the bank with their commission checks.
Think about it. IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, TripAdvisor, Uber and other well-known companies are using better sales tools to increase revenue. Meanwhile, the commercial real estate brokerage industry is still using Outlook and fax machines (yes, many of you still use fax machines on a daily basis — don’t lie).
Why on earth are commercial real estate agents not emulating other companies to grow their businesses?
A few challenges to tech adoption
Two of the main reasons are awareness and technophobia.
CRE agents are very busy individuals, and talking to people outside their industry about the tools they use takes time. CRE agents are talented salespeople who are constantly in front of customers — not a computer. Sure, there are many agents who embrace technology, but most technology tools agents have seen over the years are hard to use, require training and take up too much time to adopt. They just aren’t aware of the better options out there.
The software tools presented to the CRE industry throughout the years have left agents with a bad taste in their mouths. It’s the perception of complicated software tools that has jaded many CRE agents, making them less prone to explore their options.
Luckily, these days there are plenty of great, easy-to-use sales technology tools that can help commercial real estate agents grow their businesses.
Why technophobia will kill your commercial real estate business
Commercial real estate agents compete with each other internally and externally. It doesn’t matter if you both work for the same company, agents compete for clients all day long. If the agent in office next door gets a new client, that is a client you didn’t get. The question is, “How did they get that client?”
Was it an established relationship?
Was it a referral?
...or was it a programmatic sales email campaign with automated follow-ups sent through a sales technology tool, such as ZenProspect?
To win business, you have to overcome the challenges to tech adoption. Relationships and referrals are great for business, but they are few and far between for many agents.
Outbound sales efforts, for example, are crucial to growing a commercial real estate client base. Cold emails are great for this, but it takes time to create an email database, dump it into a CRM, hook them up to mass email service and then manually follow up if someone has not responded. It’s a lot of work. Did you know that there are online software tools that have fixed this problem and salespeople at big companies are using them to grow their commission checks?
I personally know many commercial real estate agents who are allergic to using technology, but are using these tools to radically grow their customer base. These agents are winning more clients than their peers, essentially eating the lunch of other brokers in their marketplace. By simply leveraging sales technologies used by salespeople outside of the CRE industry, these commercial real estate agents are becoming smarter, faster and richer than other agents in their market.
What you can do about it
It really sucks to lose. It also stings to see a new 30-something year old agent in your office make more than you because of the tools they’re using to grow their brokerage business. It’s time to become aware of sales tools you can use to compete and grow your business, too.
Just do a Google search for “sales tech” and you will find tons of articles and whitepapers on what other companies are using to accelerate customer acquisition and grow their businesses. There’s absolutely no reason why a commercial real estate agent should be unaware of tools like ToutApp or SalesLoft to automate outbound cold emails and follow up. Or any other tools to automate other sales efforts and processes.
Are there any cool software tools you’re using to grow your business? Please share in the comments below.