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The phone is an important part of any real estate business.
This is one of the primary communication tools we use to find new opportunities, follow up with leads, close deals, and make money.
To be effective in the business world, we need to have a reliable, efficient, cost-effective, and easy-to-use phone system that allows us to accomplish these essential tasks. There’s just no way around it.
Even if your goal is to spend less time on the phone (as mine has always been), you won't be able to do it without the right infrastructure.
If you haven’t already taken these steps, you’re probably working harder than you need to!
We’re going to fix that right now.
Why Is This So Important?
A cloud-based, feature-packed phone system is one of the few items I think is essential to pay for from day one.
OpenPhone is one of the better cloud-based phone services out there, and it's the one I'm using in my business right now.
It's not perfect, and it's not the only business phone solution out there, but it's the best one I've had first-hand experience with.
I've also heard great feedback from others who use it because it offers all the features I've found to be VITAL for a real estate investing business.
Getting the Most Out of OpenPhone
Of course, it's not enough to pay for a service like this; you need to know how to make it work for you!
I do this with a few different phone numbers and set them up to perform specific tasks.
When you do it right, this will be a much better way to handle your phone calls than taking every call live, as they come in.
Answering Rules & Extensions
This should go without saying, but if you choose a paid service, record a nice greeting (or even a longer message, like the one I mention in this blog post), create some extensions if needed, and set up some basic answering rules.
- Are you unavailable to talk at certain hours of the day? Tell the system when you’re open and closed, so it knows when you're not willing to accept calls.
- Do you want calls forwarded to another number during certain times and days or after a certain number of rings? Tell the system where to send calls at the appropriate time.
- Suppose your business receives calls from different types of people (e.g., buyers, sellers, vendors, business associates, etc.); you can set up a few extensions for each type of caller. Give each person a better experience by providing a dedicated toll-free number and automatically routing them to the right person/department/voicemail box. This will save everyone time, especially you.
The ability to set up these kinds of rules and extensions is a HUGE luxury. It will take some time to do in the beginning, but you only have to do it once, and believe me, it's worth the effort on the front end.
These days, I don't even pick up the phone when a motivated seller calls me. My phone system is programmed to route callers straight to voicemail, and this message (below) is what they hear.
Note: If you want a copy of this voicemail script, you can find it at the bottom of this blog post.
Toll-free numbers are one of the many perks of a paid phone system. A toll-free number is probably the least critical item on the list (just being honest), but it's nice to have one when the situation calls for it.
Working with one local number for everything is doable. Still, I've also found that toll-free numbers can be a great asset at your disposal (especially when you're dealing with clients outside your immediate area code).
The additional cost of using a toll-free number is nominal, and it helps your business look like a serious operation. It also helps eliminate some minor reservations that some folks may have about calling you.
For years now, I've used two toll-free “888” numbers in my business – one for the buying arm and one for the selling arm of my business. My goal is to make these two arms appear and function like two separate businesses.
- With two separate phone numbers
- With two different company names (a simple dba filing with my state)
- With two separate websites
Luckily, this kind of cloud-based phone service makes it VERY easy to organize my phone numbers to align with this overall design.
The OpenPhone mobile app makes it very easy to send and receive calls or texts from your business number(s), so you can conceal your personal cell phone number from the people you're communicating with.
At no additional cost, you can have full control over your office phone system, all from the convenience of your smartphone.
You can also check your voicemails and fax messages from the mobile app, making it even easier to stay in contact with people trying to get a hold of you.
The app can enhance the overall experience and provide a lot of flexibility to your daily communication, so you're not tied to a computer every time you use your number.
At the time of this writing, I've found only one minor drawback with OpenPhone: its faxing capabilities (or lack thereof).
OpenPhone does not provide a way to send or receive faxes natively from your OpenPhone account.
I've decided to handle this by simply not sending or receiving faxes anymore. While some folks may still use faxing (for reasons none of us understand), I think this kind of expectation can be managed easily if you can communicate that any documents should be sent by other means (in other words, when you're asking people to send you any written communication, don't even mention the faxing opinion, because it's not relevant anymore).
Nowadays, it's even easier for people to email or text documents back and forth when needed. If you encounter someone not living in the 21st century yet, tell them to get on the bandwagon!
The Cost of a “Free” Phone System
I’ve talked to several folks who have tried to rely entirely on a free phone service like Google Voice.
I’m not saying this can’t work, but a free service like this isn’t a viable, long-term option in my business. The benefits and control I have with a paid service (with things like toll-free numbers, answering rules, forwarding rules, voicemail options, and faxing capabilities, to name a few), far outweigh the cost.
Even though a free phone solution won't drain your bank account, it will cost you its overall lack of convenience. While it may not consume your money, it will consume more time and mental energy. It might even result in lost business (the costliest part of all). Is it worth the cost to work with a more cumbersome system for you and your customers?
If you’re on a shoestring budget, it’s okay to skip this and return to it later. Just realize your phone communication needs to work seamlessly without causing constant headaches and getting in the way of doing business.
If your phone system isn’t easy to work with (and be honest about this), this is something that should be near the top of your priority list. If you need a better system than you already have, do it sooner rather than later.