In the beginning of the year, I started using Salesforce and Hightower leasing management platforms. Recently I have uploaded and switched from Hightower to VTS because an internal team that I am working with uses the VTS platform. How has this experience been?
Here are a few of my observations:
I am not using Salesforce; I am using VTS and this is primarily because the rest of the team is on it. Both VTS and Hightower do a good job with stacking plans. I prefer the Hightower plan as it is a “drill down” report that provides more information. Both systems take a little getting used to. Learning their respective names for assets and deal flows is a little quirky. Perhaps the systems were designed more for people that only handled either tenant or landlord. I do both. It is clear that in both systems the look and feel between the two sides are different. You can enter a deal matrix for comparing changing LOI’s on the tenant side, but not on the landlord side. Both systems will allow you to upload files and iterations. I do find that I have to stop and think sometimes if this is a “deal” or a “prospect” and how to keep tabs on the changing prospects.
After using Salesforce for about six months now, I have found that it is great at contact management but harder to use for listing management. I fall back on outlook because it synchronizes with my iPhone seamlessly. Although there is an iPhone app for Salesforce, it is not as intuitive and thus I use Outlook. My Outlook system does load much slower and sometimes crashes with the Salesforce synchronization turned on. I have had to reload Outlook several times and I am close to removing Salesforce.
This system started primarily for office users. Although they are trying to add additional modules, you have to create work around(s) for tenant representation, retail, industrial, and land. In my market I do almost all types of real estate, both tenant and landlord side. The software is easy to add properties and data. Hightower is pushing that you can add clients to their respective activities and thus let them poke the deal activity on their own. I have not used this feature as I prefer to create my own reports and send to various clients as they require.
VTS is a very good system that is also trying to come out with multiple modules for tenant rep vs. occupier. At the present time you can’t add your own new properties, but instead, you can upload an excel form and they take care of it. They have recently received some funding and are pretty aggressive at attacking the market. VTS exports many reports in Excel which is easy to change and customize.
All in all, I find that I really have to push myself to use these systems. Although they all have iPhone apps, my calendar and contact list are still critical to me. It would be really nice if the systems integrated with your own contacts so that you didn’t have to re-enter them. Because we are on a global platform with CBRE, every time you want to add a contact the system wants to check against the company database to see if someone else has already added them. In Hightower you have to scroll through all of the potential contacts and get to the end before you can add as a new contact, which can be really frustrating on a mobile device.
Since I spend so much time on the fly, I find it is very easy to fall back into my old ways and not let the software assist me. I find that it is easier to use the systems on a full size computer. The value in the systems is that they have to be current, and if I don’t keep them up, they can lose value quickly. I find that if I spend 5-10 minutes at the beginning and end of each day making certain I am current and that I have logged all prospects and deal communications for the day I am better able to stick with it.
Is anyone else using these? What do you see as the pros and cons of each? Do you have any suggestions of how to stay on track? Are you using something different that you can suggest?