Business Tips

Get a Grip on Your Database

Contact management doesn’t have to be a nightmare

By Megan Craig

Almost all REALTORS® use some kind of database to manage their contacts, but for some, the word “database” is synonymous with “headache.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Pat Zaby, CRS, president of InTouch Systems in Dallas and Certified CRS Instructor, says the trick to using a database effectively is threefold: creation, maintenance and consistency.

“You would think with all the technology updates, everybody’s database would be in good condition, but in reality, they’re in worse condition today than they were 20 years ago,” Zaby says. That’s because people have focused on the first step—creating a database—but haven’t continued to enter their contacts or consistently scrubbed the data.

Here are three things every REALTOR® needs to know about their database:

1. Make your database part of your ‘ritual’ for best results

Your database is only as good as its contents. No matter how much information you have, if it’s not organized, it’s not useful.

“If we’re in an information age, the person with the most information wins. That’s it,” Zaby says.
Fix your organizational issues by making entering data into your database “a part of your daily ritual,” Zaby says. He follows one cardinal rule: If you meet or talk to or connect with somebody, no matter who it is, their information goes straight into the database. And if you talk with somebody who’s already in the database, make a note of it—that’s the part many agents forget. It’s impossible to prioritize contacts if you don’t know who you’ve talked to recently or exactly what you talked about.

“In the world of Google and Siri and Facebook, you can probably send a one-off message and get it to a person, but you can’t be consistent that way,” Zaby says. “You cannot take enough Ginkgo biloba to know what you’ve talked to everybody about if it’s not in your database.”

Whatever database or CRM you use, there’s sure to be an app for your phone or tablet that enters information straight into the database. Be sure that’s right in front of you everywhere you go, and take the few seconds to update contacts as they happen.

2. If you hate using your database, there are workarounds

A well-organized database is great, but it’s not for everybody.

“A database and contact management system are the ideal, but honestly, some of us get into those and want to pull our hair out,” says Monica Neubauer, CRS, a REALTOR® with Benchmark Realty in Franklin, Tennessee, and Certified CRS Instructor. “It’s all about proactive communication through systems, whether it’s a database or not.”

Many agents, even those with great database systems, find themselves using technology as they need it, which may lead them away from their all-in-one CRMs. Agents will find the technology that works best for them, but Neubauer suggests a few tried-and-true options for those who just don’t like working in their database:

  • For document signing and paperwork organization: Authentisign, DocuSign or Dotloop
  • For digital document storage: Dropbox,, Google Drive or OneDrive
  • For regular and proactive client communication through email: Gmail allows canned responses, which are templates you can use for repeated information. Set those up, and the worst part of creating that campaign is over.
  • For other email campaigns: MailChimp is free up to 2,000 entries.
  • For keeping dates straight: Folio (a Gmail calendar add-in that automatically puts all the dates for your contract-to-close period into your Google calendar)
  • To get all your apps working together: Zapier or OneSaas“If you commit to a database, that’s great, but some people just can’t or don’t,” Neubauer says. “If you find that the database keeps beating you down, there are other options.”

3. You need to have a backup, just in case

The beautiful thing about a database is that if you have it stored in a movable, simple place, you can use it anywhere, any time, says Rich Sands, CRS, president of Rich Sands Seminars in Centennial, Colorado, and Certified CRS Instructor. But if you don’t have all the information in that database stored in an Excel spreadsheet somewhere, you may find yourself in a tough spot.

“One management system doesn’t necessarily work well with others, so switching from one system to another may be difficult,” he says. “But because Excel works with close to everything, if I have my data in a spreadsheet, it’s a great fail-safe.”

Sands stores a duplicate of his database, in spreadsheet form, on his computer and in the cloud. That way, if he ever needs to make a change to new software, he can simply import his contacts from that spreadsheet.

Want to Learn Much More?

Coming to Sell-a-bration 2020? If you take the pre-conference course “Technology and Plans for Success,” you’ll learn about databases and so much more.

“With all the changes that happen in technology, this is a class that you can take over and over again,” says Pat Zaby, CRS, president of InTouch Systems in Dallas and a course instructor.

Here are some other topics the class will cover:

Keeping up with social media. Don’t just have it—use it to its full potential. “Everybody can use a refresher to update their usage habits,” says Monica Neubauer, CRS, a REALTOR® with Benchmark Realty in Franklin, Tennessee, and one of the course instructors. “Too many agents are ‘secret agents’ on Facebook. The days of trying to keep your information private are over.”

Favorite apps. At least 10 apps every REALTOR® should have on their phone to make life easier. Zaby says he likes to ask the whole class to talk about their favorite apps. “You always find out about something great that most people haven’t used before,” he says.

Email marketing. Fast, effective and almost free are the reasons approach this has become so popular. You’ll learn ways to increase your response rate and examples of what the best agents are using.

What your website needs today. Websites must be simpler today than they used to be, making them easier to update and maintain, Zaby says. He’ll also discuss the benefits of using a blog as part of your site.

Sign up for a pre-conference course today at Sell-a-bration 2020.

Megan Craig is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, New York.

Meet your Designation Maintenance requirement today! Read this article and How Agile Are You?, take a 10-question quiz and earn 2 credits. Go to to get started.