For any business owner, technology is a powerful tool. When used to its full potential, it helps you save time, make money, and can make the previously impossible a possibility.
On the flipside, technology is equally as powerful in its ability to slow you down. It can cost you money. It can create huge challenges in your business - if you don't know how to use it.
For most agents I work with, the biggest challenge is learning how to use technology wisely. For example, I'll often meet an agent in class who says, "Denise, I need a system to organize my client contacts."
I ask them what they're using. They usually give me an answer like, "I'm currently using Microsoft© Outlook, but it's just not powerful enough."
I have to stop them dead in their tracks because I know for a fact that Microsoft® Outlook is an amazing program. It's actually very powerful, but the average agent has no idea just how much so. Most agents have never taken an Microsoft® Outlook class. Instead, they've had the program installed, read a few tips and pointers about how to use the basic features, and assumed that's it.
What you don't know about the programs you're using may be even more powerful than what you do know. Before you run out to buy something new, first find out what you truly have right now. Your current tools may have a lot more potential than you realize.
One of the most important ways to take the fear out of technology is to face it-to actually take a hands-on practical course on how to use your software. Courses are structured so that you learn it while using it. This helps if you're the type of person who learns by doing and can commit to a scheduled series of courses. Sometimes that's hard in this business!
Some people-although very few in my experience-have the ability to browse through a manual and jump right into using the software.
But most of us lean technology best by doing it - by actually trying to use a technology, having a challenge, and trouble-shooting until we find a solution. It's kind of like when you were a kid and asked your parents how to spell a word. If your parents were like mine, they probably told you to look it up, because you would remember the answer better than if they simply told you.
Well, technology is no different. One of the most powerful websites I've discovered for teaching technology is lynda.com. With over 800 courses and 42,000 tutorials, there's information on everything from Access to Zbrush3! In addition to every software system you can imagine, there is training available on Google, digital photography, podcasting, blogging, and email management. Lynda.com is the source if you have a technology challenge. The site offers the choice of either a $25/month subscription, or an annual subscription at two different price points. So not only is there information on almost any imaginable technology, you can log in and learn either via scheduled sessions or as you run into a problem and need help!
Whatever you're doing in your business, at some point you will need technology. You can fight it for only so long.
It may seem hard to believe, but I know some agents who have quit the business because they couldn't handle the new technology. Can you imagine that? These were strong agents with fantastic people and negotiation skills-and they leave the business due to technology!
What a sad ending to amazing real estate careers. All because they didn't invest the time to learn about technology.
So, what specific technology should you master as a real estate agent?
First, I recommend a quality contact management system. This is critical. Whichever system you select, it needs to keep track of your contacts, your schedule, and your "to-do" list. It is your organizational system. We all need one. As I said earlier, I love Microsoft© Outlook - yes, Microsoft© Outlook!
You should also be able to understand and use Microsoft® Excel. So much can be done with this powerful program. There's hardly a business in America that doesn't rely on it for spreadsheets and analyses.
I also recommend that you know Microsoft® Word and Microsoft® Publisher. Microsoft® Word offers word-processing, while Microsoft® Publisher is a great tool to use when creating flyers and managing editable templates you use over and over in your business.
Regardless of how you learn, you need to invest some time in technology this year. And when I say, "invest time," I mean on a regular and ongoing basis. You can only absorb so much information at a time, you need to have regular technology teaching times set aside in your business.
Whatever software you choose, you have to use it. Face your fear and invite technology into your business. When you do, you will soon see how it helps your business run like a well-oiled machine.