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When you’re running any kind of real estate business, the phone is going to be an important part of your life.
Even if you hate talking on the phone and you choose to route your callers through a special voicemail message, your phone system will STILL be one of the primary communication tools you use to find new opportunities, follow-up with leads, close deals, and make money.
If you’re going to be effective in the business world, you must have a reliable, efficient, cost-effective, and easy-to-use phone system that allows you to accomplish those essential, daily tasks every business owner needs to do. There’s just no way around it.
Even if your goal is to spend less and less time on the phone (as mine has always been), you still need the right infrastructure in place. If you haven’t already taken these steps, you’re probably working a lot harder than you need to, or you’re not doing the best job of managing your verbal communication with clients and customers.
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 actually an essential thing to pay for from day one.
One of the better cloud-based phone services I’ve known about for years is called RingCentral.
Let me give you a look around so you can see how it works…
RingCentral isn’t perfect, and it’s not the cheapest business phone solution out there. There are SEVERAL other companies that offer similar packages (FreedomVoice, Phone.com, and Grasshopper are some other options) and in my experience, they all have similar advantages and shortcomings.
That being said, RingCentral is one of the solid players that I’ve had a good first-hand experience with, and 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.
Faxing Capabilities (Incoming & Outgoing)
When I first set up my business, I didn’t realize how important faxing capabilities would end up being, but it’s actually kind of a big deal.
The fax machine isn’t something most of us gravitate towards these days. Email, texting, and other digital messaging options have made it much easier for people to send and receive documents, images, and other types of information.
The problem is, it’s not just about your or my preferences. When you’re dealing with every kind of buyer and seller under the sun, you’ll learn pretty quickly that there are MANY different levels of sophistication out there. Just because you normally use a fax machine doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of other people who do (perhaps they’re stuck with ancient technology or maybe they’re using it out of necessity).
If you’re working with a property owner who has a property worth $100,000 and they’re willing to sell it to you for 10% of market value – trust me – you want to make it as easy as possible for them to work with you, even if that means allowing them to send you a fax.
If a fax machine a person’s only way to send you their signed acceptance – you DON’T want to create obstacles and make it hard for them to give you what you want.
Answering Rules & Extensions
If you choose a paid service like RingCentral, be sure to record a nice greeting (or even a longer message – like the one I mention in this blog post), create some extensions if you need them, and set up some basic answering rules.
- Are there certain hours of the day when you’re not available to talk? Tell the system when you’re “open for business” and 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.
- If your business receives calls from different types of people (e.g. – buyers, sellers, vendors, business associates, etc.), set up a few extensions for each type of caller. Give these people a better experience by providing them with 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 honestly don’t even pick up the phone when a prospect calls me. My phone system is programmed to route callers straight-to-voicemail and this message (below) is what that they hear.
Note: If you want a copy of this exact voicemail script, you can find it at the bottom of this blog post.
Toll-free numbers are one of the many perks that come with a paid phone system. In my opinion, a toll-free number is probably the least critical item on the list (just being totally honest), but it’s nice to have one when the situation calls for it.
Working with one local number for everything is totally doable, but I’ve also found that toll-free numbers can be a great asset to have at your disposal (especially when you’re dealing with clients outside of 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 of the 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 in a way that aligns with this overall design.
Smart Phone App
From what I’ve seen of the RingCentral mobile app, it’s not overly complicated or fancy, but it does make it very easy to make calls from your business number, so you can conceal your personal cell phone digits from the people you’re calling.
At no additional charge, 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 as well, which makes it even easier to stay in contact with people who are trying to get a hold of you.
The app can really enhance the overall experience and provide a lot of flexibility (so you’re not tied to a computer every time you use your number).
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 in my business, a free service like this just isn’t a viable, long-term option. With the level of control I have with a paid service (with things like toll-free numbers, answering rules, forwarding rules, voicemail options and faxing capabilities, just to name a few), the benefits far outweigh the cost.
Even though a free phone solution won’t drain your bank account, it will cost you in its overall lack of convenience. While it may not consume your money, it will consume more of your time and mental energy. It might even result in lost business (the costliest part of all). Is it worth that cost to work with a system that is more cumbersome for you and your customers?
I’m not saying you need to start shelling out money for this right now. If you’re on a shoestring budget, it’s okay to skip this and come back to it later. However, I do think your phone communication is something that needs to work seamlessly without causing you 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 what you already have in place, do it sooner rather than later.