Using Salesforce Effectively in a Real Estate Agency
Salesforce was originally designed by ex-Oracle employees who understood how a CRM needed to work for Enterprise Software sales. That DNA is the key to understanding how Salesforce organizes its record structure out-of-the-box.
But B2B software does not have the same workflow nor participants as a real estate agency. To configure Salesforce for a real estate agency, a Salesforce admin needs to think through the listing process and people that are involved in the sourcing, executing and closing a listing.
My recommended approach is outlined step-by-step below.
Step One: Create a Listing Object
The first step is to rename the Opportunity object in Salesforce as a Listing. The word, Opportunity, does not really capture how a real estate agent thinks about her or his job. The word, Listing, makes more intuitive sense.
Step Two: Create a Custom Stage Field in Listing object
Within the Listing object, a custom field needs to be added in order to track the stage of the Listing. The Stage custom field will be a drop-down menu with phases of a typical listing in chronological order.
- In Contract
The Stages can be used to group and sort Listings so they are easier to work with and monitor. Expected values (Pipeline Value) can be associated with each Stage so reps and their managers can forecast revenue. An additional custom field can be added that marks the Listings as either Sell or Buy so deals can be further sorted.
Step Three: Display Stage in List View
Then go to the List View menu for the Listing object and add Stage to the default List View by moving it into the Display List (step 3 of the List View editor). With Stage displayed, users can sort the List View by Stage by clicking the column Header.
Step Four: Reconfigure the Page Layout to 3-Column
Reconfiguring the Listing Page Layout so that it has a highlights section and three columns, it a way to optimize the amount of information on the Listing screen and minimize white or wasted screen space. Generally, the left column is used to show Details, the middle column Activity, and the left column Related Lists. Put the Path component in the Highlights ribbon so it is easy to see the Stage of the Listing.
Step Five: Activities – Calls and Meetings
Tracking call and meeting activity is done manually using the Log A Call or New Event buttons at the top of the Activity section of the Page Layout. If the Log a Call or New Event buttons are not visible, add them in Global Actions.
Related to the Listing object will be done through a combination of two methods: Adding Calls and Meetings to the Listing and Automated Subject Line Word Matching for emails.
Step Six: Activities – Emails and Attachments
Tracking emails can be done manually using default Salesforce tools or automatically using a third-party app (bingo! Match My Email does that).
To use the SFDC manual tool, open an email that has been synced to a Contact and relate it to a Listing by doing a three-character lookup in the Opportunity dialogue box on the right side of the Email Details screen. The tool involves a five click sequence for each email, which makes it time-consuming.
Automated matching to Listing is done by a technique called Subject Line Word Matching. If the address of the Listing – for example, 24 Maple or 24 Maple Apt 11 – is in the Subject Line of an outbound or inbound email, the email will be automatically posted to the correct Listing. Automated email syncing in Salesforce has the advantages that is always on, hands-free and creates totally accurate email information. Subject Line Word Matching has the further advantage that it syncs emails from people who are not Contacts in Salesforce, so emails from third-party vendors involved in the Listing – counterparty agent(s), inspectors, mortgage bankers, title insurers, homeowners insurance agents etc – are consolidated in the Listing as well.
Automated email apps will sync emails to multiple Salesforce record types simultaneously so every record that is relevant to a particular email shows a copy of the email in it. For example, emails from the customer will be in their Contact record as well as in their Account record and a Listing record.
Step Seven: Tracking
After a while, Salesforce will contain a lot of information about the Listings, their Stages, and their Activities. This information can be used to track Listing activity. List Views can be created that will show Listings that are Cold, i.e., Listing that have not Sent an email in the past week or days or called, and those that are Hot, i.e., that have Sent an email in the past two days or called. These List Views are easy to create with the SFDC List View editor. They make working an agent’s To Do list more organized, because the Listing drops off the list as soon as an action is taken. Agents don’t have to create Tasks and then close Tasks. They can just work the List Views. The net effect is fewer screw ups and things falling through the cracks.