Best Questions to Ask During a CRE Tech Demo
Daniel Levison | October 2, 2019
It’s no secret that technology is changing the way we think about commercial real estate and how we conduct business.
While the CRE tech landscape has emerged and is ever-evolving with more than ## CRE technologies, it often leaves the not-as-tech-savvy brokerage leaders feeling overwhelmed.
There’s a lot of technology options in the commercial real estate space, and hundreds of thousands more outside of CRE. MIT Real Estate group was tracking less than 500 CRE technology companies in 2013. Today, they track over 2500 companies. There’s so many technologies – you have to start by breaking them into categories (Proptech, FinTech, AL, OET (operation efficiency technologies).
How’s a brokerage leader supposed to choose? Better yet — what are the right questions we should be asking in a technology demo?
Compiled both from our experience as technology leaders and brokerage owners ourselves, here’s the list of questions you should be asking to help you choose the right technology, build a solid tech stack, and get the best bang for your buck.
How to prepare for a tech demo
You ever jump on a demo of a software product and leave the demo wondering what the heck you just saw? We’ve been there before, too.
That’s why it’s critical to do prep work before you jump on a discovery call and the demo.
A discovery call usually gives you a sneak peek of the product you’re considering bringing into the brokerage, and can be as short as 15 minutes with a few questions. A demo dives deeper into the product itself, how it works, and includes pricing information.
Before you participate in either, just make sure to check out the product’s website and do a little bit of digging on your own. Read some of the informational pages on the website. Download some of the content. Check out the testimonials and case studies. Good options are also CRETech and PropTech.com.
You’re likely already doing your own research, but it always helps to come prepared with a general sense of what the product does, how it’s helped others, and how it might help you.
“Is it possible to record this demo?”
This is something most brokerage leaders don’t think to ask!
The last thing you want to do is jump off the demo without a recording of some kind to send to the rest of the team. There’s a good chance you’re not going to remember every single detail of the product or the experience of actually using it.
This is especially important if the technology impacts the entire team — including both front office and back office. You might also miss certain key features that could be important to an agent or controller or office manager.
Even if they can’t attend the actual demo, they should *hopefully* be able to see it for themselves through a recording. Most virtual meeting technologies like Zoom or GoToMeeting allow for recordings of the demo, so don’t hesitate to ask for one at the beginning of the meeting!
“How would your software handle _______ scenario?”
Before you attend the demo, make sure you have a clear idea of the brokerage challenge you’re facing. Technology helps us solve problems: we’re either trying to save time, money, some future opportunity cost, make more money, or any combination of the above.
But you don’t have to know every single detail about the technology — you simply need to know what brokerage challenge you’re trying to solve with it.
During the demo, that brokerage challenge should be at the top of your mind.
Maybe your brokerage challenge is your office manager is severely time-constrained and burdened with processing commission splits and agent distributions. Maybe the managing partner is having trouble planning and budgeting for the brokerage. Maybe the agents struggle with providing transparency around their pipeline.
The best, most strategic question to ask should be around how the product helps you solve that problem.
For example, if your office manager struggles with commission splits and providing transparency about how commissions are calculated, you can ask “How would your software help us better handle commission splits and comps data?”
Understanding how a product directly tackles your specific use case and scenario will be critical in helping you make better technology decisions.
“Is your core software compatible and integratable?”
This is the money question. We’d argue the second question is also the money question because it’s really about the “strategic fit” a technology has with the brokerage along with its specific tactical features.
But in terms of data? This is where it can easily become priceless.
Software that doesn’t provide open access to your own data usually ends up costing you more in the long-run. The reasons why are simple: if the product doesn’t have an API or provide some way for you to take your data with you if you decide to choose another provider, you’ll still need to hire a technologist of some kind to “fix it.”
You might need to build your own integrations internally, or you might discover that the software provider doesn’t give you your own data back in an easily consumable format.
And unless you have deep experience wading through those murky data waters, the price tag can easily become enormous. We’re heard horror stories of brokerages paying hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to retrieve their own data from software providers and decided to try internally re-building a lookalike platform. The project failed not just once, but twice, and it cost the brokerage a fortune in the long-run.
That’s why this question is so important. Before you jump into bed with a technology provider, make sure you really understand how they handle your data and if they consider it “yours” if you ever decide to switch providers.
Follow-up questions can include:
- What happens to our data if we decide to choose a different provider?
- What integrations are available today?
- To what degree do those integrations work with each other?
- Do you have an open API?
At CommissionTrac, we take pride in providing our customers with open access to their data, and through integrations with API Nation, it’s easy to connect other technologies to CommissionTrac for simple and clean data transfer.
“Are there any scenarios where my brokerage wouldn’t be a good fit for XYZ Product?”
Demos always have a formula: there’s you, the product, and an excited account executive with very little chill.
A good demo will show you the ins and outs of the product and how can it solve pains for your brokerage.
A great demo will do the same, but it will also be very brutally honest about where the product doesn’t provide the most value or the use cases that don’t really fit.
That’s why we love this question: “Are there any scenarios where my brokerage wouldn’t be a good fit for ______?”
The demo will naturally highlight all of the strengths the product has, but this question will also help you understand where it doesn’t have either feature or value coverage for your brokerage. With technology, one size definitely doesn’t fit all.
It’s important to know how the technology provider thinks about where they provide the most value and if that aligns with your needs.
CommissionTrac Brings Trust and Clarity to Your CRE Tech Stack
Hopefully by the end of this article, you’re feeling more confident than ever on how to approach virtually any technology demo. In our experience, these questions will help provide more clarity and context for the kind of solution you’re evaluating. And if you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us personally.
CommissionTrac is here to assist you with all your back office and budget-planning needs, and all the analysis factors associated therewith. To find out how you can use CommissionTrac to gain clarity and insight on your brokerage’s performance, manage your company’s individual receivables, commission plans, invoicing and distributions, and experience why Techstars Atlanta and Cox Enterprises are lead investors in CommissionTrac, request a demo today by visiting our website.