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Real estate industry leader Dave Crumby is founder of real estate CRM Realvolve. Dave talks with Stacey Harmon about his service's integration with Evernote and what role a CRM should play in a Realtor's workflow. Learn from real estate leaders what works and what doesn't, and get ideas for determining the proper digital workflow for your real estate practice. Watch the replay now. 

Video Highlights

Original Air Date: July 2014

[2:00] Dave gives us some background info about himself and his career
[7:00] Dave described the different between lead management and a CRM
[9:40] Dave describes the benefits of centralizing your data in Realvolve
[15:15] Stacey and Dave discuss a few other important tools to use alongside a CRM
[18:20] Dave describes the "entry point" for agents looking to digitize their workflows
[22:00] Learn the importance of a beautiful interface
[23:50] Dave live demos Realvolve
[24:40] Dave live demos the Evernote and Realvolve integration


[Stacey] Hello and welcome to this Google Hangout on Air. I am Stacey Harmon, principal of Harmon Enterprises and I am here to have a discussion with Dave Crumby, the CEO of Realvolve. Thank you for being here; for the audience what I just wanted to do was have a discussion with Dave who I stumbled across his CRM software Realvovle, which I've been highly impressed with. Dave and I have such a high affinity of mutual contacts in the real estate industry, so I was reached out to him to see if I can get some more information about his perspective on this ongoing conversation I'm having with multiple people about digital workflows for a real estate agent today and the choices that they have and what's the best answer. 

I think there's lots of options, so I’m endeavoring to educate or at least have a discussion with the key players and agents who have a really digital workflow and the tools and their perspective on what tools should work best and what to consider when you're trying to be efficient and productive in building a actual real estate business. Dave has clearly got  a great perspective on that and I wanted to bring that to you.

Let's just get started and get a little background information. Can you tell me a little bit about your personal background, where you're located, and how you came to where you are today?

2:00 [Dave] I live in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been a real estate agent and broker since 1996. I have lived and breathed real estate and the technology side of it for almost twenty years. About six months ago I wrote a book called Real and it has the CEO's of Zillow, Trulia, BHHS, Christina Wise… a lot of you know big key industry players and we've been one of the best-selling books in real estate for the past few months. Behind the scenes for the past two years we have been building a CRM for real estate. We feel it is the most important core software that every real estate agent needs to build a business. 

[Stacey] That actually leads to my next question is. Can you define what your definition of a CRM is and what role it plays and in a real estate transaction? I know from the home page of your website, you say that not every agent needs or has a CRM. So what’s the definition first?

[Dave] What I learned you know over the past almost two decades in the business is there's two types of real estate agents: those with the habits and infrastructure to build an actual business (which is really all  of our goals) and those with the habits and infrastructure where even after a decade or two in real estate, they really only own a job. The big difference between the two is having a good CRM. 

The purpose of that is to hold the information on your contact so you can foster relationships with them. That is the key component and the difference between actually building a business- it doesn't matter if you are selling real estate, you’re doing nails for you know you’re accountant, you have to have your customer base- that is the key difference between often from deal-to-deal, month after month, year after year, or actually building a business.

[Stacey] Having repeat customers and focusing on the relationship. So the CRM is designed to help foster and facilitate that relationship building and that communication. So tell me about Realvolve and how you are  solving the problem with maintaining the conversation with your contact.

[Dave] Really, it’s just having one place where all of your contacts are and being able to add information that evolves as your relationship does. We talk to agents every day that have their context scattered between Excel spreadsheets and G-mail or Yahoo, they’re all over the place. So having a place where all of your contacts are stored and organized that you can access from anywhere is crucial. It has to be a platform that allows you to take notes on people. As you get hundreds a contacts you need to be able to remember the key things about their lives. It's not just a place for you to store their addresses and emails, you need to store the good stuff, the things that allow you to have an authentic relationship with a person.

[Stacey] One of the things that I assume you recognize is that the data is really scattered amongst social channels, e-mail platforms, contact databases, and I assume you work to centralize that for an agent. 

[Dave] We help you import that data from everywhere but you don't necessarily need to bring everyone over. As much work as we put into Realvolve and really changing how CRM's in our space should be, it still requires work. It's not magic software, you still have to put in the time to really get all the critical people in that you want to go through life with.

It's not about importing everybody that you are friends with on Facebook or every e-mail that you've ever collected through your lead generation, it's really the people that want to have a relationship with you.

[Stacey] So a filtered, focused platform that allows you to focus on those things that are going to build your business over time through your relationships.

7:00 [Dave] Another important distinction to make is, a lot of people think that they have a CRM when they have a lead manager. If they're generating leads online and you’re housing that data, they're using that as a CRM, which really is a mistake. I know online lead generation quite well and, at best, you're going to convert between one and four percent of those online leads that you generate and over the course of a few months or a year, 95 to 98 percent of those people that you collect have no interest in having a relationship with you. You have a collection of data that is really useless for the purpose of building an actual business.

[Stacey] When you start to build information around the relevant customers and building a “story,” so to speak, around those people that are most important to you. That's what your CRM is. That’s what CRMs in your definition, do.

[Dave] That’s what they should do. I would recommend keeping your lead generation tools to foster those leads separate from the CRM you're building a business with.

[Stacey] The CRM is going to have context for the most important contacts for you. Great definition and description. Having this system is important, then the next step is, though, the processes and the workflow. This is an area that I'm very interested in. I think it's about having a system and about having a defined workflow. I talk to agents all the time that have different choices for those things. Often agents that are in flux don’t have clarity about what their workflwos are. What software, in particular, do I use to store my digital transaction files? What do I use to track contacts or to take notes about them? Will you tell me your personal philosophy about workflows and how it plays a part in your CRM.

9:40 [Dave] With Realvolve, you have all of that in one place. Realvolve has the most powerful workflow platform in existence. Everything else just provides a one-dimensional series of tasks that need to get done. That's good; that is helpful. We just took it a step farther to where not only can you provide a simple list of chores that need to get done, but we built in some infrastructure that actually helps you get that work done. The ability to set trigger dates on when certain emails and communications go out; a way to manage a checklist of forms and activities that need to get done. We took it a different level.

[Stacey] Are those template solutions?

[Dave] That is custom by the user. They can create them as simple or as robust as they want.

[Stacey] I love that. One of the things I’ve found in real estate is that there are no two people that are doing things the same way.

[Dave] They vary state by state. A question we get asked a lot about is, do you have drip campaigns? Of course we provide the architecture for you to send out communication that needs to go out often and frequently as they do with listings and transactions. But, we really feel agents need to be careful with sending drips. We’re not a fan of them, we don't think that people like to be dripped on. Oftentimes we think we want that automation but it can hurt more than it helps.

[Stacey] This goes back to the social media side of my interest. Drip campaigns don’t often provide quality content. They can meet the need of a touchpoint, but you have to be careful if that’s annoying or informative.

[Dave] Our philosophy is that if you have a strategy to have a relationship, you're already on your way to losing it. It doesn't take that much to foster a relationship with a human being. We just over complicate it; we think that we need too much technology, when really we just need to be real and be ourselves.

[Stacey] “I’m not a lead.” Right? What do you view as the essential tools, or the full set of an agent’s modern workflow?

 [Dave] I think just the customization aspects of it. To be able to think through how you really want to work and be able to customize from there. That's what sets us apart. Being able to actually have that workflow, get work done for you. That's really the purpose of technology. It's not just to say we have powerful technology it's too get work done for you so you can go live life. I think that's what everybody's goal is.

[Stacey] Thinking more globally about an agent’s setup, obviously CRM is going to be a big part of that, your system can be customized and defined for that particular customer. What other tools do they need? An e-mail system? Do you advocate any one in particular? 

[Dave] It depends. We allow the ability to send out the email within Realvolve and you can even send to tagged groups so you can see have relevant content. If you are a user that is sending out thousands of emails at at one time and need sophisticated tracking, there are other services that do that really well. For small batch communication to your contacts, we handle that within the system.

[Stacey] Tell me a little bit about your integration  with Evernote, which is near and dear to my heart. To my knowledge, your’e the only CRM that currently integrates with Evernote. Tell me a little bit about that decision and how that feature works in Realvolve.

[Dave] Evernote has some really powerful features. We’re just in our beginning phases of what to do with that. We want our users to guide what they’d like to see. For now, any contact, listing, or transcation that you take notes on, you can create new notebooks or sync them with existing notebooks within Evernote. There’s a two way sync between the notes you’re taking between Realvolve and Evernote.

[Stacey] We’re mirroring the data we have, so that whatever place you favor as your data entry platform will be in sync between the two software. What led you to do that. 

[Dave] A lot of people are using it. Evernote is such a a great tool to stay organized and take notes and share communications with your contacts. It was a natural fit for us.

[Stacey] I’m very interested in the discussion of “Where’s the line between using my CRM and what should I do in Evernote?” There's actually a third part to that, too. The next question I get is where should I store large files? Should it be in Drive, Evernote, or my CRM? What's your take on what the right answer for that is?

15:15 [Dave]  Our focus is to keep agents organized in their contacts. There are other tools that are good platforms for sharing important information; Google Docs is good and Evernote is one of those. If you're organizing a contact or listing or transaction, you want  those appropriate contract disclosures, forms, organized it’s often easier to have them elsewhere to have sharing involved and annotation involved. 

[Stacey] I tend to agree that that's feature. Tools like Drive and Evernote are built for those specific purposes. CRM's tend to be more focus on, maybe project management of a client? How would you describe it?

[Dave] It’s a little bit of both. It’s the organization of that data and the tools to get the work done with that data. You know, when it comes to the files and sharing those other platforms are better suited for that.

[Stacey] Your take is, there’s really a role for both. I have this theory and I'm pretty sure that you will agree with it, but I see agents who have really sophisticated solutions and agents that don't have sophisticated solutions tend to get kind of glassy eyed about new technologies, and I try to comfort them and say if you want to move forward, you have to unbundle sophistication with effectiveness. You can have a low sophistication strategy that’s highly effective. You can also have a highly sophisticated strategy that does lots for you. But also one that does nothing. I like to recommend that people begin with a simple set of tools that will work for them, and show results, and prove that they should continue to invest in developing workflows or developing features or paying for different tiers.

Number one, do you agree with that? And if you do or don’t, what would you suggest is the entry point for an agent who is looking at CRM's or trying to automate and digitize their workflow?

18:20 [Dave] I absolutely agree with that. We tend to over complicate everything in life. Especially when it comes to building our businesses and thinking we need more technology than we really do.

Step 1: organize your contacts; get them in one spot. That is crucial to actually building a business.

[Stacey] We’re probably assuming this, but agents need to capture the email address. They don’t always automatically think to do that.

[Dave] That takes work. It takes time for you to organize several hundred people and make sure you have data on. Don't get overwhelmed, take it in baby steps, in one place get all of your contacts. Those people are going through life with you, and no matter how good of a marketer you are or how good you are at lead generation, the only way that you're going to actually build a business is with them. Get them organized into one spot.

The area that we break down and we over complicate things… I tell the story over and over again is that we think that we need some sophisticated infrastructure to foster relationship. It is simple: pick up the phone. You really only have to call people 4-5 times a year and just have an authentic communication. Just talk about life! You don't need to sophisticated drip campaigns or mailing systems, you just need to call them and for them to know that you care. We have the numbers on this. We’ve spoken with hundreds of agents across the country. If an agent has 1000 contacts that they have a reasonably good rapor with, they will do between six and 12 percent penetration into that list year after year. 1000 people, that's a minimum of sixty transactions, 500 people that's thirty transactions. That is a business that you can depend on. It’s there in good markets and bad.

[Stacey] Back to that basic principle and use technology to support and organize, which helps move the process along.

[Dave] Take notes on people! When you're calling people, you need to have a spot to remember those things. If you are calling 10 people a day because you have a thousand people in your database and over the years you're reaching out to them four times… that size and amount of people you're not going to remember all the fine points in their lives. You need to know what their kids are up to, what's important for them, are they changing jobs? You have to take notes on everyone that you talk to you and make sure you have a platform that allows for that. 

[Stacey] Excellent advice. It’s those details that really do matter. Those details can be repurposed in many modern channels, too. This has been very helpful. I have a couple other quick questions. One of the things I’m so impressed with on your platform is the emphasis on quality design. There has been a lot of though on design, color and user interface. Could you talk about what the role that design has?

22:00 [Dave] The tools that we use everyday have an effect on our well-being. Whether it is a phone, watch, car, the clothes we wear, the things we surround ourselves with… if you have core tools, it can set the tone for the rest of your day. We know that we want to provide an environment that was aesthetically pleasing, you know easy to find stuff. We always want to get better, I’m not suggesting that there will never be issues or things we won’t improve within Realvolve. But we wanted to start with the baseline of a place that would be in  enjoyable to go and spend time with.

I’ve been involved with Real Estate for so long and there has been so much legacy software out there that is just poorly designed and you get a headache just logging in and it pops up all these windows and it looks like it was you know remnants from the Microsoft Dos days. We wanted to do provide a place that was pleasing.

[Stacey] Mission accomplished! It's actually interesting, it's one of the things that attracts me to many other software solutions I have chosen. I'm not on a day-to-day basis doing real estate transactions, per say, so I don’t have a need for a CRM, but in the business I’ve built as an independent entrepreneur, I’m very reliant on design driven technologies. It’s one of the things I love about Evernote. Tools like MailChimp and Apple, you know, these kinds of things have a common theme.

[Dave] It's our team, we do we have a combination of scientists and artists. It was important from day one that we provide something that is intuitive and just pleasing to log into. 

[Stacey] Would you mind showing a little bit of the interface?

23:50 [Dave] Very simple, very easy to get around. We have a global search here, your list of all your contacts, listings, transactions, files, tags, etc. Really easy to add stuff to get done, see what you gotta do, navigation is a breeze. We integrate with the social media, you can email from, text message from here. We save all the communication you send with Realvolve through here; save all the contact information properties; it's really simple, really easy. 

[Stacey] And the Evernote integration? Could you demo that a little bit?

24:40 [Dave] All the notes that you take in Realvolve, and within Evernote, you just clicked this little Evernote icon, it will load up your notebooks and you can sync with an existing notebook, or you can create a new one and it will create a new contact within Evernote and then from then on out it'll sync back and forth.

[Stacey] Great! No doubt about it, it’s a pleasing visual environment. Especially for something that can be perceived as so complex. Kudos to you and your team. Where can agents learn more about what you guys have going on? 

[Dave] Realvolve.com is a good place to start. Our philosophy is that we’re all going through life together. We’re never going to stop getting better, we’re always going to be improving and calibrating what we offer. We want to help agents build an actual business so that they can go live life. We’re going to listen to our users and pursue everything that we can to do that.