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Maximize Mobile Tools

by Matthew Ferrara

Lady_phone_apps Matthew Ferrara

While social media has dominated the technology headlines for the last few years, mobile technologies have continued to completely reshape the way smart salespeople are doing business. Countless examples of mobility making selling easier can be found in retail stores, airport lounges and even, yes, open houses. So it's time to discuss some of the best mobile tools and applications that you can use to take your sales strategy to the next level.

The Hardware

Simply put, the salesperson of the future carries a tablet today. Smartphones are nice, but they are simply too small. Laptops are lighter than ever, but none can rival the battery life of a great tablet.

So the number-one hardware choice for mobilizing your sales is to get a great tablet today and a new one every year. Whether you choose an iPad or an Android-powered unit, your presentations, showings and open houses will immediately see an impact from your tablet.

For me, it’s the iPad, because the Apple eco-system is both huge (more than 500,000 apps from which to choose) and well managed. And the whole “can it do Flash?” question has long been answered. Even Adobe has given up on its own Flash-based approach, so it’s not a barrier for most well-designed websites.

Tablets work best when they are connected to the cloud to store data, access larger files, back up content and search the web. So your tablet will need an internet connection – not just WiFi for working in the office.

This can be accomplished by tethering your tablet to your cell phone or purchasing a mobile hotspot from your telecom provider (usually less than $100). Either way, you’ll use the data plan from your cellular account, but wireless access to the web is crucial to the real-time value of your tablet computer.

Mobile Apps

Next, you'll need some core mobility apps that specifically target your sales activities. Let's be honest: Looking up listings on a tablet isn't something that's hard for consumers – or agents – to do. They simply go to your company’s website and look them up, just like they would on a computer. What really matters is what your tablet makes possible beyond that simple real estate activity. That's where some great apps come into the mix.

For starters, go with the popular apps, such as REALTOR.com's app. The main reason we like the REALTOR.com app isn't because it searches all local inventory (because your website probably does that). Actually, we like the simplicity of the search, especially the ability to just draw a circle on the map and find all of the houses within a geographic area. That's how many consumers think when they shop for homes (remember "location, location, location?"), and that's what makes the app a real winner.

 Of course, other apps may do that, but if your company doesn't have one for itself already, don't bother making one. Just download the REALTOR® one and get out there and make some sales.

Making sales means being with people – in the car, seeing homes, at open houses. This is where your tablet will really come in handy. 

Some of the most basic tablet features can make a good impression when you're showing people around the neighborhood. Using the Google Earth mapping app, for example, can help buyers visualize a neighborhood right from the car, showing both street and satellite mapping that moves as you tour the area. 

Once inside a home, the tablet will make it easy to document the property. Use the built-in camera to snap photos and email them directly to your customer. Better, use a photo-annotation tool, such as Photo Annotate, to place little "pin" markers on the photos, and add text or audio notes to the photos. This will help customers remember what you explained to them when they receive the photos later. 

And if you really want to stay connected to the buyers, upload the photos to your Facebook business page, and ask them to become a "friend" to access the entire photo album later!

Using a Tablet

Now, let's flip the scenario and ask how a tablet computer can be used when you're conducting an open house and consumers are visiting your property. 

For starters, the tablet is the new "sign-in sheet," using apps like Open Home Pro to quickly gather email from visitors and send them instant follow ups, including price alerts, later. 

Next, use your tablet as a presentation tool as you guide consumers through the home. Hand them your tablet, and let them use the built-in camera to scan different QR codes you have placed throughout the property – to display additional text, PDF, photos and videos about any features, rooms or amenities – as you take people on a tour. It’s like having a handy "projector" that lets buyers explore further "depth" about any of the features of the home. 

Don't forget that the tablet is the perfect way to take an offer using any of the various document-management and e-signing software platforms like DocuSign. From initial greeting to signing an offer, the tablet turns the open house visit into an interactive Epcot-style exhibit.

Finally, let's look at how the tablet can help you manage your tasks and schedule throughout the day. Of course, every tablet can carry your address book, calendar and access email right out of the box. But keeping organized requires more than just a better day planner, and tablets take personal productivity to whole new levels. 

Because they are connected to the cloud, they can access any file you need while on the go. Apps like DropBox can place your entire archive of content on a secure online folder, so you'll always have the presentation, photo or video file you need to respond to an email or meet with a client. You can organize your endless-stream of personal notes, tasks and to-dos using a tool like EverNote, which collects any kind of "note" into organized "piles" that reflect how you work. 

You can even clip and store web content, rather than create separate bookmarks in your web browser, making it even easier to search, retrieve and organize your life. Finally, don't forget that tablets are excellent social networking tools – not least of which because they are easier to view your social streams than a smartphone screen. Apps like Hootsuite can manage multiple social networks in one program, while others like Zite and Flipboard help you find content to share with your friends and clients, by browsing millions of internet e-zines at once.

Brining mobility into your sales activities means more than just buying a tablet to do what your laptop once did. It means integrating the tablet into every selling moment, such as showings, open houses and listing presentations. In fact, in many cases, the tablet will make it more likely that technology will become a part of these events, as laptops rarely made it beyond the kitchen table in the past. So grab your tablet, flex your forefinger and start pointing – at the screen, and then more sales, as you add mobility to your sales strategy.

Matthew Ferrara is CEO of Matthew Ferrara & Company, an international real estate consulting, management, strategy and sales organization. For more than two decades, Ferrara has been helping top performing brokerages transform their marketing, technology and customer service strategies to create loyal clients and lead the competition in the next generation of real estate business. Learn more at www.matthewferrara.com

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