Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tips For Managing Your Network

Are Post-it? notes, business cards, and message slips littered across your desk, stuffed in pockets, and jammed into drawers? Do you have a dog-eared Rolodex? Are your competitors listing your missed opportunities? Do you frequently promise yourself "Someday I'm going to organize this mess!" - but the day never comes?
Would you like to turn your clutter into relationships that lead to money in your bank account? If so, read on!
As a child growing up on a farm in Nebraska, my father taught me "Half of any job is having the right tool." An essential tool for any real estate agent is a system for tracking people. Your contacts, whether they are potential buyers, or business service people who can quickly solve an emergency prior to closing, are the heart of your business. The care you give them can mean the difference between mediocre survival and wild success -- and a lot fewer headaches!
Tip #1: Today's mail is tomorrow's pile. Forget about your past failures. Start over! Choose a contact management system that will work for you, and enter the very next contact you get. Refile names from the old system as you use them. When you've exhausted its useful information, throw it away, or just put it in some less accessible space if the mere thought of throwing it away gives you heart palpitations!
Paper vs. Electronic Before the days of computers, the most sophisticated way to manage names and numbers was a Rolodex. Some people still feel more comfortable with a piece of paper than a computer screen, but serious business people are recognizing and appreciating the increased capabilities of an electronic system.
The biggest advantage of a traditional paper Rolodex is that it allows you to file business cards as soon as you receive them, without having to transcribe the information elsewhere. (If you choose this method, use a 3"x5" size, so you can staple or glue business cards right on the Rolodex card without having to cut it down. In addition, you will have space to write notes about the contact such as where you met, pet's name, or who gave you the lead.)
The biggest disadvantage is that you have to determine how you can file the lead so that you can find it again. If I file the lead under the last name - what happens I can't remember the name? Or what if it is a couple - and they have different last names?
The Power of Technology Unlike a paper system, technology allows you to organize data so it can be retrieved in a variety of ways. You can enter whatever kind of information you want--name, title, address, phone, fax, who introduced you, customer history, and so on--and to search, sort and retrieve it by whichever criteria you choose.
Contact manager programs, such as Outlook, Day timer, and ACT! combine database sorting with a calendar and word processing capabilities. You can use your contact manager program to retrieve every contact you have in a specific geographic area. For example, whenever I take a trip, I do a search by geographic area. Some of my most exciting and rewarding experiences were a result of that electronic search. In addition, you can write personalized marketing letters and speedy thank yours -- and easily print out envelopes and mailing labels. While you may use such programs only on your desktop computer, you have other powerful options.
If you travel with a laptop, you can use transfer software, such as PC Anywhere, to synchronize the information in your desktop and your laptop. Portable electronic organizers let you take your names and numbers (and frequently your calendar) with you. They range from the size of a watch to a small pocketbook. The simplest model stores a few hundred names, while the most advanced stores thousands of names and has word processing capability that allows you to create documents. With synching capabilities included in many, you can send and receive files to and from your computer, while some even have e-mail and fax capability. Many clients, who were never able to use a calendar or contact system successfully, consider products such as Palm Pilot their saving grace!
My favorite new tool: Card Scan. In a few minutes, it enables me to turn a pile of business cards into valuable, searchable data. No more racking my brain about where I got that pile of business cards in the rubber band on my desk!
A WORD OF CAUTION: A variety of circumstances--some explainable, some not--can cause any technology to fail. A backup system is priceless insurance for your real estate business and your peace of mind.

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