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Stacey Harmon interviews Evernote user Realtor Ranny Welton and discusses his digital system for lead, client, and transaction management. Learn exactly what role Evernote plays in Ranny's day-to-day workflow and why it is valuable for him. Learn from your real estate peers what works and what doesn't, and get ideas for determining the proper digital workflow for your real estate practice.

Video Highlights

Original Air Date: July 2014

[2:30] Ranny introduces himself and his position
[9:00] Evernote vs. OneNote
[15:15] Evernote as a dashboard
[17:00] Using a CRM
[27:35] Using Evernote for storage


[Stacey] Welcome to this Hangout on Air. I am Stacey Harmon, Principle of Harmon Enterprises and also an Evernote Ambassador and Evernote Business Certified Consultant. We’re having a conversation today with Ranny Welton who I have done some consulting with. I've been so impressed with his selection of a purposeful digital system.

He is an excellent case study and he was kind enough to agree to let me just chat with him about why he's choosing the software that he chooses to run is business. In particular I’m very interested in the role that Evernote plays in the digital real estate transaction and process. It's a nice contrast to the last one of these I did, which was with Dean Ouellette. He's very Evernote centric in his process as well as a CRM as well but he’s heavier in his Evernote use and I wanted to show different perspectives because there's really not a right solution but I'm very interested in what the decisions are and why agents choose particular pieces of software to really have a productive and efficient workflow. Thank you for taking the time today to chat with me.

[Ranny] Thanks for having me! It's an honor to be on one of your interviews. I’m in Spartanburg, South Carolina I do business in two MLS’s in Spartanburg and Greenville. I've got an interesting background; I did not grow up in business I haven’t been in the business forever. I grew up building houses with my dad back in Virginia and then as I jokingly say, I took thirty years off from the business and I was in distribution and logistics fore several places across the country following college. 

About 7-8 years ago I moved to Spartanburg for a consulting job and moved into real estate which is what I plan to do. I’ve been here in Spartanburg working what we call the “Upstate” which is Spartanburg and Greenville. I’m with Better Homes and Gardens real estate company and I just really enjoy what I do, because as you can see I’ve got a lot of gray hair and I have moved many many times myself, so I just really do enjoy helping people go through the process of buying or selling their home.

[Stacey] Are you the broker, are you an agent, do you work with a team?

[Ranny] I am by myself I am NOT a broker; I do work with the a relatively large company in Spartanburg. I think we have in the neighborhood of 30-40 agents in two offices. I'm by myself and frankly I would prefer to keep it that way in terms of building the team and so forth.

[Stacey] Do you collaborate with a transaction coordinator or have any support that's on the back end?

[Ranny] No I do not. It’s something I’ve considered, but have not made the move yet do anything.

[Stacey] Give the audience a perspective on how many transactions are you doing within a year? How many does your system have to manage?

[Ranny] My system manages about 15 or 20 transactions a year.

[Stacey] How digital would you consider your clientele?

[Ranny] I have found across the board… I just recently closed with an eighty-year-old gentleman helping him sell his house, and he told me right up front I don't own a computer I don't want to own a computer… and out totally 100 percent paper. I've had also several things in between. I’ve never run across a client yet who was totally digital. But other than this one gentleman, everybody is open to what I talk about in terms of Evernote, Dropbox which I know we’ll get to, but open to that.

[Stacey] That's your clients and where they are in their digitalness… where would you say that you? On a stale of 1-100 and 1 is completely analog and 100 is I wouldn’t touch paper with a 10 foot pole. Where would you put yourself?

[Ranny] I’m probably about 90-95 when I talk about my listings. The last listing I had on my contract I don't think I ever printed one piece of paper. Probably closer to 75 to 80 percent on my work with buyers. I still like creating a notebook for a buyer and putting the appropriate stuff in there so they keep everything together.

[Stacey] When you're working with this client who doesn't want to have a computer and refuses to be digital and wants to work in a paper oriented way, do you throw your digital system out the window?

[Ranny] Absolutely not! I mean I'm paperless. That house that just closed, I don’t have a piece of paper left on it. It's just I had to print everything, meet up with him, get him to sign it, etc.

[Stacey] Has your entire business as a REALTOR been that way? Or has that been a progression for you?

[Ranny] Absolutely a progression in 7 or 8 years. I started out with a company that was totally paper oriented, and actually I started out after so many years in distribution, had a knack for working with the computer so I started taking things… using Excel and creating models rather than fill out blank forms all the time. It's been a progression since then. I have used some other software like Evernote since the beginning. I actually predate Evernote I started using OneNote, the Microsoft product back when I was doing consulting. I use that for CRM and everything. When Evernote came out I took a look at it and liked it much better than OneNote. So I moved over to that.

[Stacey] That’s a common question I hear. Maybe you could share your perspective a little, if you remember. Sounds like you've been using Evernote for over six years. Do you have any reason for people to use Evernote over OneNote? Where do you see the differences between the two.

[Ranny] When Evernote first came out, it wasn’t where it is today. I still liked several things about the look and feel. I'm not anti-Microsoft but I don't use much else with Microsoft. I'm totally in the Apple with all my equipment. I just migrated. Now I do not know where OneNote is today. I do know that Evernote, whatever I pick up whether I’m on my iPhone, iPad or MacBook or stop in the library and sign into my account, I’m on my same Evernote. OneNote didn’t have that flexibility.

I had been using OneNote quite extensively but the more I used Evernote, the more so I liked it better. I have a stack of books in my Evernote now which is OneNote… all my OneNote stuff recaptured in my Evernote account.

[Stacey] You’ve hit upon something I’d love to explore as a separate topic. I think that it really highlights the importance of having some strategies. Evernote could go away, but having a workflow strategy and then finding software to support that is what I think the name of the game is. Clearly you have done that because you're able to be nimble with the software you choose.

[Ranny] Amen! That is something I have to remind myself. I can too frequently be a geek and get sidetracked looking at stuff in terms of software and hardware. I constantly have to remind myself and others that asked me my opinion that you know you have to have the process first and then select what software works.

[Stacey] That is the point of these discussions is to enlighten people a little bit more about what is your process, what software supports that process for you and so I’d love to get into that a little bit. I think we need to start with what's the foundation that you have? Give us the array of hardware tools that are apart of your system.

[Ranny] I have an iPhone, iPad and a MacBook and that's basically it. My home office over my shoulder, I do have a PC that I will utilize. There is still too much in the real estate game that haven’t discovered Apple or Mac yet. I've spent 30 years totally on PC.

I use a ScanSnap scanner, and that predates Evernote. I bought this long before Evernote built a relationship with them. It’s the S1500.

[Stacey] Great tool in a digital workflow.

[Ranny] I actually have it plugged into my PC so I don't have to keep on plugging and unplugging it into my Mac. That’s another beauty, it goes right into Evernote, sometimes to Dropbox, but goes there and I have it everywhere. Even from a real estate standpoint we've got now the options of no longer having to carry around a …be for the electronic lock boxes I work that through my iPhone.

[Stacey] Tell me what tools you selected for your overall system. We know you’re an Evernote user. What role does Evernote have in your overall process? 

[Ranny] Evernote is core for me. I am an avid note taker. I take notes on everything and I use Evernote predominantly for that. I'm also a David Allen Getting Things Done fan. I developed quite a while ago the process that I use. I read multiple things on Evernote, including your book and many others, and but I've just like most things have come up with my own aspect.

[Stacey] It's very similar to how I use Evernote, it sounds like. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I want to clarify that it sounds like Evernote is a dashboard for you. For managing your real estate transactions and business.

[Ranny] Absolutely. As you recommend, I have an Inbox set up on Evernote, I email to it, I clip to it… it all goes right into Evernote. I have a reading stack of all those articles that I can’t get to when I see them. That's part of the beauty: the Web Clipper and the capability to email directly and so forth. I also use it for my personal stuff, and I keep everything you know that my wife and I actually introduced her to it, kicking and screaming, by the way she finally is quite used to it.

We put all our shopping lists on it, updates of whoever gets the grocery or wherever or Costco first, we've got the same shopping list. It's pretty dumb application in many people's regard but it works well.

[Stacey] Yes it saves a lot of time, too.

[Ranny] What I’m looking to do now is to expand Evernote to have more information on my client base.

[Stacey] Let's go real quickly through the other systems you use. What is your email, calendar and contact system?

[Ranny] I use Google apps for email and for calendar and contacts as well. I also use Top Producer as a CRM, which is synces to Google so everything I have on TopProducer goes into Google. I’m also testing Realvolve right now.  

[Stacey] I think it's got interesting possibilities for digital agents.

[Ranny] I learned about Dave and Realvolve through Gary Wise and the paperless group. Several things that Gary said about Realvolve stuck with me, so I immediately went out and got it. One of the key things was that it links with Evernote and links directly with mostly social media. Many CRMs say they link with social media but I just like the look and feel of Realvolve.

Another thing that I really liked about it is the simplistic approach. It’s a very simple interface. One of the things about Top Producer, it is the ultimate of things you can do. I proudly don’t use ¾ of it.

[Stacey] What do you use it for?

[Ranny] To keep track of all my clients, keep track of workflow and that’s what I use for transaction management; I keep track of everything that has to happen in a transaction. I keep track of all my listings and communications and then more importantly after the transaction is completed, keeping track of why it's going forwared. Stay in touch with them to use them for referrals. I think that's the main deal of a CRM.

[Stacey] Are you doing your lead management through your CRM as well?

[Ranny] Somewhat. Some of my leads will go to Top Producer. I'm wrestling with that right now. Typically when I get a lead that responds, I put it in my CRM so I can track them. I know some folks use Evernote to do that, but I like to put it in there now. It washes out quickly you usually can tell that that's why they have the delete button on all of them.

[Stacey] The question I’m really interested in here is, in talking to Dean in our prior conversation, his transaction management is a lot in Evernote. He also values very much the CRM for the prospecting feature. He used Try This, different take there.

What's an agent to do? Why should they pick these certain software? You said that it’s the simplicity and integration with social and Evernote that really appeals to you for Realvolve.

[Ranny] They also, even though I'm not on Realvolve yet, I’ve only tested it, is the workflow. Most systems, the workflow is just a list of to-dos or next actions based on where you are. The Realvolve workflow let’s you just go in to all kinds of different details and actions depending on a previous actions and so forth.

[Stacey] Give an example of using that.

[Ranny] You get a prospect, even it’s a cold lead, you can attach a workflow to make sure you stay in touch with them and follow up with what they want. If you've got a buyer or seller, that's a whole different process. If you’ve got the listing and the seller, I want to contact personally everyone on my listing every week. Some want me to text them, some want email, some want a call. The CRM keeps me honest in contacting them every week in the right way. After you have a transaction close, you still want to keep in touch with everybody going forward.

[Stacey] The social integration is a good channel for that.

[Ranny] Evernote is so easy, and you can tie them to a notebook.

[Stacey] Share with us your perspective on how you actually choose where you’re doing your note taking. You’re an extensive note taker, you have a CRM… what is it that makes you decide that you're going to use the CRM over Evernote for that note taking? What in your mind is the differentiator? 

[Ranny] That’s a challenge, to be candid. I use Evernote as my dashboard. I'm constantly taking notes there. I've got my to do list based on where I am and what I'm doing and all. Then I use a separate note in Evernote to just take notes on what I'm doing. What I do then is just copy and paste it over into Top Producer. If I'm totally on Evernote, what I envision is taking all the notes in the appropriate place on Evernote if I'm already there and then it leaks into Realvolve.

[Stacey] That’s a common theme between what you said and what Dean has said. Evernote is where I am. So it’s the centralization that it provides for you as a core feature that you’re using in your workflows. What you also seem to be saying is you know my clients and my transactions are just clearly a very important part of your business, but it's one segment of what you have to do. You still have a grocery list that you’re sharing with your wife and other life management that Evernote is providing you.

[Ranny] I don't really see how you separate business and personal when you're doing something like that. I mean if I’m in Evernote, and I think about something I need from the grocery or from Costco or whatever, I can boom… have it done.

[Stacey] In terms of storage, that's another area of real estate that generates a lot of digital bandwith. Walk us through what you selected for that. Are you in Dropbox? Are you in Drive? Or Evernote? Where do you store files? Particularly your closed transactions and when you’re in the midst.

[Ranny] I am in Dropbox right now and and I've played around with putting it in Evernote. Dropbox is totally clean to me. I can sit anywhere with my iPad and I go to Dropbox and I can pull out tons of closings from last year, if I need to. I’ve got my filing cabinet in my hands. The way I've got Dropbox structured, it again, both personal and business, I've got it set up almost like a pocket.

Actual documents go to Dropbox, all the conversations and everything else goes into Evernote. I'm split, not like a lot of folks.

[Stacey] You use Google Apps, but not Drive?

[Ranny] I tried Drive against Dropbox and once again I really don't remember but Dropbox just had a better feel.

[Stacey] Let's talk about collaboration. You obviously need to deal with buyers, sellers, title, escrow and finance. How do you manage that? What role do these software play for you in that? What’s the advantage of your system in that regard? 

[Ranny] I keep up with all the folks we all deal with in Top Producer as non clients. I have everything synced to Google, which syncs to my phone so I have everybody that I need where I need them. I just keep those in my notes both in the CRM and in Evernote.

[Stacey] Are you sharing data with your clients during the transaction?

[Ranny] Depends on the client. I have with some, but the majority I have not. I typically have used Evernote and Dropbox to share the folder.

[Stacey] Are there any challenges that you find with your system? What are you trying to tackle that it doesn’t quite do for you? 

[Ranny] Not really. A couple things that I didn't mention, also two other integral parts of what I do is Zip Forms and DocuSign. DocuSign is crucial to my clients not just outside of the state, but with clients that have a lot to do.

[Stacey] It's not possible to miss a signature or initial. 

[Ranny] You don’t have to get in the car, either.

[Stacey] I consult through Skype and other digital channels. I’ve still been able to establish relationships without the travel time.

[Ranny] Back to your question. The biggest downfall was me. I think I've got everything in place now you’ve got to do it day by day by day. Back to our friend David Alan; you get everything set up, then you have to do it. One of the things I wrestle with is the Tickler file. I gave it up even though it works for you. I created another system, and anytime I want something I just put it in that notebook, set a date on it, and then it reminds me via email and via alarm on Evernote.

[Stacey] The reminders feature really enabled some additional functionality with that. There's got to be timesavings here for you as a result of the system. How would you compare what your’e doing now and how you to work with a client from what you’ve evolved from? How long would you say that process has taken you to get here?

[Ranny] It’s taken all the years I’ve been in the business. There may have been an Aha moment, but then I had to make it happen.

I think the biggest time saver for me is not looking for stuff. If I need something from two years ago, the search feature on both Dropbox and on Evernote makes this so easy. You can put your hands on stuff immediately. I used to have to make clients wait, but now I can find things easily and quickly in front of those clients. That’s the biggest time saver.

[Stacey] You’ve been immensely generous with your time. Let’s conclude with you talking through your transaction process. What does that workflow look like?

[Ranny] The first thing that I've probably done when I go to the listing appointment, I've had a telephone conversation, I've got a model and I've gone through their necessary questions to respond to them. Then when I secure the listing, that's when I kick in the workflow to say “hey this is what I need to do.” I like to get the listing listed right away.

[Stacey] Is that in Evernote? Do you have a checklist in your CRM? What software is supporting that?

[Ranny] I’ve got a classic template in Evernote with what I want to cover with clients before I even meet them. I have multiple sets of questions devised. Basically, it’s what Gary Wise has provided to the paperless group. Then I set them up on the CRM. I do have the checklist and I've got them in both places. I've got the checklist to make sure everything is done. Sign’s up, the lockbox is in place, the warranties entered, and we all know what pieces are just on the normal.

[Stacey] Let me make sure I’m following. I know it’s not that complex; your interaction with the client initially, your notes about that what their needs are, making sure that you got the right actual listing process is happening for you in Evernote. Then there becomes a point where there's now an actual real estate specific workflow that needs to be tracked. You start by putting them into the CRM and they're going through the process in the CRM through that those defined workflows, which for you is in TopProducer.

Then you're doing showings and you’re getting leads. Where do you put leads from other agents?

[Ranny] That goes right into my CRM with that property so I can track the property there.

[Stacey] Does Evernote play a role in the listing process for you?

[Ranny] Not really, other than the check lists. Then all the documentation that comes up goes into the Dropbox folder where I've created their name under my Active clients there.

[Stacey] It's not complicated because you have a process in place! That’s what agents are really struggling to understand. What needs to go in what spot? How do I not overlap? I think it’s what agents need to learn and think about.