Invest in Automation
Implementing a technology-enhanced system can add to your success.
often gives rise to innovative ideas. At least, that was the case for William
J. Byrd, CCIM, a broker with Colliers International in Houston, when faced with
the challenge of successfully marketing a 1,100-acre land tract with
significant development impediments, assisting the seller in selecting the most
qualified buyer, and closing the deal within a five-month time frame.
our traditional methods this would have been nearly impossible to do for this
particular property," Byrd says. "We needed to look at selling it
with different tools - we needed to approach the process in a more innovative
and efficient manner."
commercial real estate has not been an especially tech-savvy industry, but
that's all changing. Technology systems that lead to faster closings, happier
clients, and more time for brokers to meet with future investors have been used
successfully by early adopter brokers for years. Process automation is not a
technology of the future - it's available now. Commercial real estate is moving
to a business model where brokers "write once and publish
everywhere," enabling them to manage both client contacts and properties
more efficiently than in the past.
Can Be Automated?
most brokers acquire a new listing, they input the same summary information
about the listing into a whole host of marketing platforms including a property
marketing database, a letter to their best clients, a postcard that goes to the
entire database of contacts, a general flier, the company Web site, other
listing sites such as CCIMNet, blast e-mails, and a summary sheet in the full
time and effort spent on this labor-intensive process may be nominal for a
single listing, but when multiplied by the number of listings a broker does in
a year, or when there is a great deal of technical information to convey, it
adds up to a significant amount of time.
were able to disseminate unlimited amounts of due diligence material at once -
and it went to everyone who needed it," Byrd says. "It didn't tie up
people's time in the office or prospects' time in completing evaluations.
Timeliness was of the utmost importance in our listing, and technology sped up
the process tremendously."
automation technology, the manual process is transformed into a single input of
master property data into a broker's property database. That data automatically
flows into an offering letter template and is sent to a printer. With the click
of a mouse the property is pushed to three different Web sites, and a blast
e-mail is auto-generated
and ready for final review before being distributed to thousands of investors. Most
brokerages have not reached the point of 100 percent automation, but many
industry teams are developing templates and working with Web and print vendors
to define an automatic exchange of data between their computers instead of
management automation systems have been implemented on a national scale by a
few companies leading the way. When investors register to view offering data on
a brokerage Web site, their information automatically flows back into the
broker's contact database.
allows us to] dedicate our efforts internally in chasing leads that we know
have the potential to lead somewhere. We're not blindly following every buyer
that knocks on the door, we can prequalify potential buyers," Byrd says.
"What's more, by taking advantage of the technology, we can see who is
interested in what aspects of the property by where they're spending time in
the online memorandum. We already have a sense of what's motivating the
prospects before we speak with them. The technology makes us more than
efficient and effective."
on an investor's answers to a quick acquisition survey at the time of
registration, the investor automatically is added to mail, fax, and e-mail
distribution lists to receive timely information about the property types in
which they are interested. A record of all the listings an investor views on
the Web is kept and is incorporated into the broker's contact database
alongside all other marketing events related to that investor such as phone
calls, e-mails, and letters sent to them.
to the Marketplace
are many benefits of process automation for investors to use. Property sellers
benefit because their brokers are spending more time on the phone with
prospects - instead of preparing marketing materials - and sellers can see a
record of all marketing activity and interaction with prospects. This is
something that would not be possible without technology.
methods always require people to be involved at every step," Byrd says.
"Technology enables interested parties to evaluate the merits of the
property at three in the morning if that's when they need it. It expedites the
reap the benefits by receiving data about new listings earlier. The information
also is more specific and tailored to their interests. With updated listing
information automatically pushed to a self-service Web site, investors and
their staff have 24/7 access to the due diligence information and are not
bogged down with property information that is irrelevant to them.
benefit by having more time with more buyers (who often turn into sellers) on a
daily basis. Brokers also have more time
to treat their buyers and sellers with a higher-level of customer service.
a process automation system may seem intimidating at first, but if taken one
step at a time it can be straightforward.
had a specific situation that required a solution," Byrd says.
"Automation technology came through for us in this case, so of course
we're evaluating the use of technology on some of our other, more routine
most brokers, whether it's a two-person office or a large national brokerage,
the first step is to combine property and contact data into one shared
database. Streamlining this information allows a brokerage team to share it
with other programs, Web sites, and vendors. Offices equipped with in-house
programmers can have them create a custom property and contact database, and
work with outside vendors to make that data flow back and forth to anyone who
key to setting up a process automation system is to analyze redundancies and
then decide if an off-the-shelf product, an outside vendor, or in-house
programmers can take the first steps toward managing client and property data
more efficiently. A broker's time is better spent managing the transaction and
investor relationships; let technology manage the data.