Computer Screen Showing CloudI had a long career in technology and had the privilege of doing lots of wonderful and exciting things.

For the last 10 years, I have been a real estate broker. I manage, mentor, support and supervise around 60 REALTORS® on a day-to-day basis. With my background, the agents I attract to my company tend to be the more experienced with technology or the more technically inquisitive.

From my perspective, the typical REALTOR®  today is confronted with too much technology.

I feel for them. The typical REALTOR® does not have a technical background or training. While trying to manage their day-to-day business, stay on top of their listings and escrows, keep in touch with their sphere and also grow their sphere and business, they feel pressured to keep up with the latest in technology that they see and hear about everyday. I am telling you, for most agents, it is just too much. So many end up wasting time and money on tools and software that they don’t use–or certainly do not get a good return on.

We all know the world is moving very fast. Consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated, and hence becoming more demanding. No question about it, REALTORS® must keep up to prosper. REALTORS®  today must have basic computer skills, such as knowing how to use email, websites, word processing and their MLS. They must also possess basic digital photography and video skills, meaning the ability to quickly and efficiently email photos (via Picasa Web Albums, for example) and videos (via YouTube or Vimeo)  to clients. That is a lot right there.

Beyond these basics, I work with my agents on three additional areas of technology–what I would consider key technologies that are important for REALTORS® to stay competitive, work efficiently and keep pace with the world we live in. We work on mastering these three areas before moving on to ANYTHING else.

These three areas are:

1. Move to the Cloud – Have one set of data (meaning email, contacts, calendar and docs) and be able to access this from ANYWHERE, meaning from any computer (anywhere in the world), your iPad or your smartphone (preferably Android or iPhone).

One set of DATA, in the CLOUD, always in SYNC, accessible from ANYWHERE.

The good news: compared with just a couple of years ago, today this is easy and inexpensive. (See Google Apps, preferably with your private domain.)

2. Lead-Generating Website and Software for Managing Leads – Have a clean, professional-looking website (or a blog for those inclined) whose primary focus is to generate leads. Keep it simple and focus on properties, not you. Use your own domain name and promote that domain name everywhere (on every email signature, flyer, postcard, etc.).

Then, make sure all your prospects, clients and sphere are in some type of software program – could just be a spreadsheet (in the cloud) or preferably one of the many web-based real estate CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems out there. Just be sure you are using SOMETHING. This will help you keep track of, keep in touch with and manage all your prospects, clients and your sphere.

Real  estate has NEVER seen anything like the Internet for generating leads. You need to be using the Internet to gain new leads, manage those leads and keep in touch with your sphere.

3. Master the Digital Transaction Path – Conduct all of your transactions digitally, mastering the path from zipForm® to digital signatures to contract execution to online Transaction Management. AAR is making this easy for you. All these services are provided by AAR as a member benefit. It’s time! Time to phase out fax and paper. No more waiting. Do it now. You will be glad you did.

Then, honestly, forget everything else (for now). Don’t worry about it. Relax. Focus on these three areas. These technologies will help your business and produce a good ROI for the time you invest in them. You will then be equipped to work smarter not harder, keep up with your clients and prospects, and have the time to do everything else you need to do to run your business. Maybe even have some time left over!

Now for all of you asking, “What about ___________?” [Fill in your favorite tool or the latest technology being promoted this month, such as  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zillow, Trulia, blogging, WordPress, SEO, Adwords, YouTube, videos, QR codes and Microsoft tags.] We can address those areas and more in future posts. But for now, my advice for the 95% of you just trying to keep up, grow your business and make your life easier, PLEASE just focus on the three items above.

Once those are implemented and you feel proficient with them, then look at additional technologies, social networks, websites and tools, and (carefully) assess if they can be utilized (with good ROI) to further assist your business and productivity.

At the end of the day, all this technology should WORK FOR YOU–and not the other way around.

Respectfully yours,

— Ed

[Ed will be doing a session on cloud computing at the AAR Winter Conference on March 10th in Prescott. Stay tuned for more details.]