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Turning Technology into Business

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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, January 26, 2010—Rob Levy, broker and team leader of The Rob Levy Team at Prudential Northwest Properties in Portland, Oregon, can answer without hesitation when asked what his key to 22-year success in the real estate industry has been: technology. Here, Levy shares the specifics of how he remains successful as the industry—and technology—continues to evolve.

Rob Levy
Broker
The Rob Levy Team
Prudential Northwest Properties

Maria Patterson: You’ve been a number-one Prudential agent in the Portland Oregon area several times over the course of your career and attribute technology to much of your success. What is one of your most significant technology practices?
Rob Levy:
Using a tablet PC and an air card. This allows you to sign listing agreements at the client’s home or wherever you happen to be and upload the listing to the MLS immediately, or have buyers sign offers onsite, and this also allows you to have a life. For example, on New Year’s Eve an offer came in by fax and I was out of town but I was able to get it sent and signed from where I was. A tablet PC allows you to do more in less time.

MP: Why did you form an agent team?
RL:
I’m married with three boys and I’m a very driven guy and a hard worker. I realized I was ignoring my family, so I got some help with marketing so that I could concentrate on getting out in front of people. That made me more efficient and helped me get even more business…and then I was back in the same mess. Working with buyers takes the most amount of time, so I hired my first buyers agent at that point. Today, I have three full-time buyers agents, one assistant, and one business manager.

MP: What is your biggest source of new business today?
RL:
Even though we do a super job of working with our past clients and their referrals, in the last year more than half our leads came from the Internet.

MP: What’s your key to generating so many leads?
RL:
We use a Real Pro Systems stealth site in addition to our regular site. RobLevy.com is great for people that know me, but if you’re moving to Portland, you’re going to search for a site where you can get data about the area. That’s why we also have a stealth site, portlandmls.net. People are far more likely to fill out a form on that site than they would be to go to my main site. And the proof is in the pudding—98.6% of all my new internet business comes from the stealth site. In the old days, 22 years ago, my job was to market Rob because I had all the data. Now all the data is out there, so let’s give them the data and then market Rob.

MP: How do you manage your Internet leads?
RL:
We use Real Pro Systems Platinum to track all the leads that come in through the stealth sites. I can tell from this system who’s viewing listings and even see what houses they are looking at and how many times they have looked at a particular house for example. At that point, I would generate Real Pro’s CRM system to start e-mailing this lead with information on the Portland market and information on me so I can gently start selling myself. The system allows me to know when to differentiate between leads and prospects and start to convert a lead to a prospect. This has been a real boon for us, we now focus only on the prospects, and not on the leads, we let the system do that for us.

MP: How does technology facilitate real estate transactions?
RL:
In so many different ways. For instance, when I go on a listing appointment, I send my presentation in advance as a PDF or downloadable link. This gives the homeowners time to review all the documents, including the comparable listings and see my entire marketing plan in advance. This has two benefits. I don’t have to leave any materials at the house because it’s all been delivered electronically and it cuts down the amount of time I spend at the house because the clients have their questions ready since they’ve reviewed the presentation in advance.

MP: What would you say to Realtors who are still hesitant about utilizing the Internet and technology?
RL:
I would say, “You have no choice.” All modern buyers use e-mail. I’m down to six pieces of stationery in my drawer. I haven’t done any print advertising for five years and I’m still the top Prudential agent in the state. I would tell them, “Your competitor today is a 24-year-old Realtor with a tablet PC and an air card.” To stay current, Realtors need to learn how to play that game. Also today’s technology is so much more plug and play vs needing to know so much detail on how it all works before.

MP: How do things like blogs and podcasts help you get more business?
RL:
The interesting thing about blogs and podcasts is that even though people might not be reading or listening to them, they still think it’s really cool that you have them which causes them to think of you. It’s sending the message, “Hey, I’m on top of my game.”

MP: What strategies do you employ to ensure that you continue to get business in today’s difficult market?
RL:
You have to continue to stay in touch with current clients. I am touching my existing clients 36 times a year. I send out an electronic twice monthly and send annual calendars. I use also a program that sends them an automated current market value of their house once a month. For the most part, that’s something that people won’t unsubscribe from, and here is why…. For instance, I get a monthly statement of my retirement account and always know how much is in there, but yet I don’t know the value of my house from month to month. Now my clients do as we are sending them valuable information.

You don’t have to be a nerd to do this kind of stuff. Creating a newsletter, for example, may seem overwhelming, but there are programs that do it for you. I do it all including emailing to over 20,000 people now with my RealProSystems software. A lot of Realtors who are in the business 10, 15 years think of technology as something scary where you have to create everything. These days, everything is available off the shelf.

MP: How has the meaning of being a real estate broker changed since you started in the business?
RL:
There’s a lot more respect for true real estate professionals now, especially since the market has turned because there’s less competition. Sellers and buyers respect us, and most importantly they listen to us. I can’t think of a better time to be in the business. This is a very rewarding business and we provide a very valued service. For me 22 plus years later, there’s still nothing more pleasurable than helping a young couple into their first home.

For more information, please visit www.roblevy.com.

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