Let’s face it. We operate in a very social industry. We’re all a bunch of sales people. We love to go to parties, catch that final drink at the bar after dinner and attend swanky events sponsored by technology companies. In general, we just love to schmooze! Its part of our real estate DNA!
I definitely count myself on the list of schmoozers. We host at least three parties a year and countless dinners and events beyond that. They are a great way to get to know people and start new relationships.
All of this networking is great, but we all need to be cognizant of something.
When it’s time to make an important decision about what MLS system to purchase or what Transaction Management solution will work best for a brokerage, we have to try to separate the schmooze from the substance. Just because a company has bought you a drink or a dinner doesn’t mean they offer the best technology solution for your company.
When we facilitate RFPs for MLSs and Brokerages, we sometimes hear a lack of interest in a very viable candidate. What is the reason? We don’t “know” them. That’s code for we haven’t partied with them at Mid-Year or Inman or any other conference. We haven’t been wined and dined by them.
While, of course, trust relationships enter into any decision when choosing a new technology partner, I sometimes feel like our industry is biased more toward the schmooze than the substance. If you are making decisions for your members or your agents, it is incumbent upon you to separate your personal connection so that you can truly try to examine the company and the quality of its technology offerings.
Going through a disciplined selection process with WRITTEN product requirements and a formalized method for actually testing the product with users is critical to making a successful decision.
Looking beyond just the technology is critical too. How is the company funded? Are they a start-up with a shiny new object or have they proven their worth with your peer organizations? How profitable are they?
Do they currently service customers with similar needs to your own? I just heard an example recently where an MLS was using a technology that was used mostly by brokers. While the product in question did a great job of meeting the needs of broker clients, it was not so great at addressing the unique needs of an MLS. Just because a company builds technology does NOT mean they build technology that works for your particular requirements.
What kind of customer service do they provide? Can they provide you with independent customer satisfaction scores from their current customers? Can they provide you a report on the turnaround times it takes to respond to a product suggestion or recommendation and actually implement it? During what hours will they support you and your agents/members? Does this fit with the times when you know your agents are most active?
Don’t just listen to the company either. Talk to their current customers. Maybe even see if you can find someone that USED to be one of their customers and find out why they didn’t renew their contract. There’s nothing like talking to actual customers to get the straight scoop about how well the company delivers day in and day out.
The next time you’re in the position of making an important technology decision for your organization be sure you’re truly doing the due diligence required to make a thoughtful and defensible decision. Put aside the schmooze factor and focus on the substance.