Episode 308 – Eleni Sommerschield, COO – Wise Agent

TRES 308 | Wise Agent

TRES 308 | Wise Agent

 

Customer relationship management is very important in real estate. Organizing your database and customers can be very tiring, which is why CRM tools are a must! And Wise Agent is a CRM tool for all realtors out there. Join Bill Risser as he talks to its COO, Eleni Sommerschield. She gives agents the information they need to build and scale their businesses. Listen to this episode to understand how to properly create relationships. Remember, you don’t have to overwhelm yourself when it comes to CRM. Discover the power of Wise Agent in today’s episode!

Eleni Sommerschield, COO – Wise Agent

I go back to my old stomping grounds in Phoenix, Arizona, the East Valley. We’re going to be talking to Eleni Sommerschield. She is the COO of Wise Agent. It is a CRM that I’ve been familiar with since 2006 or 2007. I’ve known about them for a long time. It’s a wonderful tool. We’ve interviewed Brandon, the CEO, quite a while ago. I needed to get Eleni on the show. Let’s get this thing started.

Eleni, welcome to the show.

Bill, thanks for having me.

I should’ve had you on here a long time ago. We had Brandon Wise on here a few years ago. He is CEO and Cofounder and you’re the Chief Operating Officer of Wise Agent. I’m a big fan of Wise Agent, especially the value you get. When I lived in Phoenix, I could say we were neighbors because we were both in the East Valley. I was down at the valley floor in Gilbert and you’re up in this super cool sometimes crazy place called Fountain Hills.

It’s a cute little town. You can’t find it unless you run into it on accident.

It’s not on the way to anywhere other than a casino maybe or a golf course if you’re coming from Scottsdale.

There are a lot of women in real estate. But the higher you get in the industry, the less there is a women's presence. Click To Tweet

If you’re an avid golfer then you do know Fountain Hills because we do have some good golf courses here.

To give the readers a little taste of Fountain Hills, talk about some of the cool things there. It’s got one famous thing. If you’re looking at a map of where Scottsdale is and Scottsdale’s this long skinny city, towards the top of it and if you go East in 12, 15 miles, you’re going to run right into Fountain Hills.

We’re in the Northeast Valley and it’s about 1 hour from Payson, which is where you would find snow and 1.5 hours from Flagstaff where NAU is. We could be in the snow if we feel like it but I’m coming from Chicago. I don’t feel like ever being in the snow. We live here in Fountain Hills. It’s a little bit higher in elevation so you can get a little bit cooler temperatures in the winter and the summer. Unfortunately, in the summer, only 1 degree cooler. Everywhere else is 112 and here it’s maybe 111.

You’ve got this famous fountain up there. I don’t know if it’s the world’s largest.

It is used to be but then it’s maybe third. I haven’t looked that up in a few years but when it was built in the ’70s, it was the largest fountain. It was engineered by a group out of Germany who came here and built it. The cool thing about the fountain is that it goes off every top of the hour for fifteen minutes. In 2021, they added lights to it. It is always lit but there are different color lights. A couple of times a year, they changed the color of the fountain. On St. Patrick’s Day, they change it to green. Veteran’s Day, they changed it to red. At Christmas time, it’s red and green. It’s pretty cool.

I’ve seen it flying into Phoenix. If you time it right coming in from the North, you can see that fountain from the plane. It’s very cool. If you ever do truck over to the Phoenix area, it’s worth a trip to go to Fountain Hills. There are little shops and one difficult golf course. You grew up in Chicago.

TRES 308 | Wise Agent

Wise Agent: When looking for CRM tools, always look at what the support and training look like because that will tell you a lot about the company.

 

I grew up right outside of the city in a small little suburb, smaller than Fountain Hills called Lincolnwood, which is a stone’s throw from the city. Chicago’s a great city. It has a high population of Greeks there. My parents chose that city for its Greekness if you will.

Talk about having a real urban area or city, as you got older taking the L or the train in there to hang out in the city. It had to be a lot of fun.

It was great. Chicago has changed over the years. When I was growing up there, it was completely different than what it is but it’s still a great city with great restaurants. There are a ton of things to do. Times are different too, though. It was still a busy city but not as busy as it is. When I was growing up, you’d cross the street and there are 15, 20 people and years ago, you were crossing the street with 150 people almost like Manhattan, New York.

Getting there is an interesting story too. We’ve chatted about this and it’s a great story. Let’s share with the readers that how your parents met is cool and how they ended up in Chicago. That’d be great.

I grew up in a very strict Greek household. Think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That was my life. My parents met through my mom’s sister and her husband who knew my dad. They were living in Chicago, all three of them. My mom lived in this tiny remote village in Greece. My dad said to my uncle, his future brother-in-law, “I’d like to find a woman like your wife. Does she have a sister?” He said, “Yes. She has a sister. She doesn’t have anyone here. It’d be great for her to have her sister here. You would be perfect together.”

They called my mom and my grandfather and said, “We have a husband for you. Come here.” My mom came to Chicago on April 30th, 1974. She met my dad and a week later, they were engaged. A month later, they got married legally because my mom had a green card and my dad didn’t. They got married legally in the courthouse two years before I was born, which was crazy. I didn’t find that out until I was eighteen that they had to get married legally. They never celebrated that anniversary. They ended up getting married in July 1974.

The 'R' in CRM is the most important part of customer relations: relationships. Click To Tweet

Did your dad originally route through Canada?

He went from Greece to Canada. He was in Quebec in that area. He and one of his buddies that he’d known pretty much his whole life got on a bus to come to Chicago to see their friends. They came with the clothes on their back and nothing else. They didn’t get checked at the border. They came in illegally, by accident on the border patrol side. They were like, “We’re not going back because we don’t know if we could ever come back to Chicago and life is good here.” They had a lot of friends in Chicago so they ended up staying.

If you ever sit down with Eleni, start asking her about her family, it’s a lot of fun. I like to ask this question a lot. You’re fifteen years old and in high school. What do you think you’re going to be doing? I’m sure it’s quite different.

I grew up in a strict Greek household. I have an older brother and a younger sister. I’m the middle child. My responsibilities were the older one of the three of us because I had to make sure that if my mom needed help, I needed to be there to cook, clean and iron. I was groomed to be the good Greek girl and good Greek wife. I did a lot of that stuff. I still like doing a lot of that stuff. I still cook and entertain a lot. My dad owned a business, a liquor store on the Southside of Chicago in Bridgeport. He opened that store when I was four years old in 1980.

TRES 308 | Wise Agent

Wise Agent: Real estate is a really big industry. There are a lot of subsets of groups that know each other really well from across the country.

 

It was a family business. He needed help and he would call on my mom to come to help him, my brother and myself. He would keep my brother at the store until 11:00 PM. My brother was five years old and he had to run the beer from the cooler and help my dad stock things. He was the original staff boy. I grew up and learned to work there.

My dad passed away a few years ago. My siblings know this so it’s okay. I was my dad’s favorite. I was daddy’s girl. At fifteen, he was grooming me to take over the family business. I love the liquor store, learning from my dad and watching him negotiate the orders. It was on the Southside of Chicago and it was a liquor store so we did pretty good. I learned how to negotiate with him. He did not take anyone’s crap or BS.

I have a good gauge of who’s BS-ing me from him. At fifteen years old, I was his bookkeeper. Being Greek, they like keeping things in the family. As much as things can be kept in the family, I was going to be the Greek wife that was cooking, cleaning, taking care of the business, doing what I needed to do and taking a cue from my parents.

That changes a little bit. You live North of the city but the store was South of the city. Was it a White Sox or Cubs?

We were two minutes away from Comiskey Park. It’s not called that anymore but I’ll forever know it as Comiskey Park. We lived on the Northside. Everyone in my family is North-siders, a fan of the Cubs but I had to be loyal to Bridgeport and our family business. I was always a Sox fan. I loved Ozzie Guillen and I still do. He’s awesome. I thought he was a great player and he was fun to watch even as a coach. He was a hothead.

You’ve got a world series before the Cubs did. It was all good.

I was one of the fair-weather fans so I would root for the Cubs too. I did both.

You had gone to DePaul, which is a cool school right downtown. You got a degree in Computer Science. Where did that come from?

When I was four, my dad had a dream of having my brother be in electronics and do computers. It was the early ’80s and that was the hot thing back then. My dad brought home an IBM PCjr, which was the first personal computer for home use. My brother took one look at it and had zero interest. You had to learn DOS to use it. It didn’t have an operating system. I struggled throughout school in reading because my dad worked late hours and my mom was at home with us and did not know the language. She still is very limited in her language abilities in English.

You need to be able to lean on somebody when you're learning something new. Click To Tweet

I struggled with reading. For me, reading DOS commands, they were a one-word thing, I had to know how to read very little with that. I learned DOS and how to use the computer that my dad brought home to us when I was 6, 7years old. My parents’ dream was for their daughter to get married. I didn’t need to go to college. That was my dad’s dream, at least for me not to finish school.

My mom wanted me to go to school. She didn’t have more than a sixth-grade education. She was like, “I want you to finish school and get a degree.” They were like, “Become a teacher because they have school hours and then they’re off for the summer.” I didn’t like kids. I’m like, “That’s a terrible idea for me.” I was always good with electronics and things of that nature. Anything that would break around the house, I knew how to fix it. Inherently, I knew how to do things like that.

I wanted to drop out of college and my mom refused to let me do that. I wanted to go to culinary school because I learned how to cook and do whatever and that was a big passion of mine. They said, “No,” and so I listened. I said, “Fine. I’ll stay in school but I don’t know what I want to do.” My mom said, “Why don’t you get a degree in Computer Science? You like computers. You’re good at that.” I said, “I don’t know. Isn’t that for boys? That’s not for me.” She gave me the courage to apply for the school of Computer Science at DePaul and they accepted me. I then went and got my degree.

What was your first job? I always love the story of the first job.

Besides the liquor store, which is a huge jump from technology, after that, I worked at a company that did more networking. That’s where I met my husband. I worked in the tech support department there and did a lot of networking, telephony and technology support.

Were you still in Chicago at the time?

Yes.

Let’s get you and the husband to Fountain Hills. How does that happen?

Like every major life decision, you need to flip a coin and decide where you’re going to live and settle down in life. That’s what my husband and I did. We decided on a freezing bitter cold day in Chicago. We both wanted to leave the city because the weather was cold there. I wanted to move to Florida because that’s where a lot of Greek people lived and I felt like that would be part of my community. His parents had been snowbirds in Arizona in Fountain Hills.

He told me, “Let’s go to Arizona.” I was like, “Who’s going to Arizona? How hot is it there? It’s like you’re living in the sun. I don’t know about this.” We flipped the coin. He duped me in saying, “Heads, I win, tails, you lose.” We ended up here in Fountain Hills for a long weekend and we both fell in love with it. We came in July so it was blistering hot but we were out here for a long weekend and we ended up buying the place. We were like, “Let’s buy something.” We bought it in Fountain Hills.

At this point, you still haven’t met the guys at Wise Agent. They’ve been around since 2002. They’re the first cloud-based CRM in the real estate space. What’s that thing that happened where you end up for many years with Brandon and Mike?

Fountain Hills is a small town. The population here is 25,000 people. Even though I grew up in Lincolnwood, which has a population of 13,000 people, I was so close to the city. I was a city girl and slept in the suburbs. Living in Fountain Hills, we’re so secluded and isolated from the rest of the valley that everybody here knows everybody.

If you try to go out to the store or go anywhere like, “I’m going to go out without makeup. Hopefully, I don’t run into anyone,” you’re for sure going to run into somebody because it’s that small. My kids are the same ages as Brandon and Mike’s kids. Through mutual friends and kids, that’s how I met Brandon and Mike.

First of all, you know technology. You’re not afraid of coding, hardware and all that stuff. How do they find out about that? How do they slot you into that?

I’m one of those people that I know what I want and that’s not how I was early in my life. I very much did whatever my parents told me to do but I quickly grew out of that in my early twenties. My youngest was three years old and I told Brandon and Mike, “This is what I want. My family needs to come first. I’ll work twelve hours a week. I need to be home with my family and raise my kids.” Here we are years later and I work twelve hours a day. It went from me running and managing the development team, the appropriate projects are being done at the appropriate times. I got a lot of things more organized and streamlined.

TRES 308 | Wise Agent

Wise Agent: When you’re having a conversation with a realtor, you have to know how you met them, their interests, and their hobbies. It has nothing to do with real estate but everything to do with relationships.

 

Joining Wise Agent, this was your first experience with the real estate industry?

As far as work is concerned, yes but my dad also did commercial and residential real estate investment. I helped in that. I was the one that got my dad into residential real estate. He was always on the commercial side of things and had some storefronts besides his liquor store. He had other stores and buildings. My dad wanted to buy another building and I was seventeen years old at the time. I said, “How many more offices are being built and started? How many more businesses are opening up? Everyone needs a home to live in. Why don’t we buy a house or a townhouse and rent that out?” That’s how he started doing residential real estate investment.

This is a little different because you’re working closely with realtors. Some are going to be very tech-savvy, some are not so savvy and some still use a Franklin Covey planner. Talk about that introduction and how that went.

What I was shocked is there wasn’t much technology that real estate agents were using. When I started years ago, it was a different environment and scene in the real estate industry. I was very much shocked because a lot of the realtors I knew were all females. I thought, “This is a very women-driven industry.” I was shocked to find out that the higher you got in the real estate industry, the less of there was a women’s presence.

It’s a big industry. There are a lot of realtors around the country but there is a subset of that group that knows each other well from across the country. That was one of the things that I found was unique and different and what I loved about that. Even though you’re an agent in California, your best friend is also an agent and they live maybe in Florida or somewhere else in the country.

You’ve tapped into some of those networks. They’re unbelievably important especially from a tech vendor point of view as I see that myself. I’ve talked about CRM a lot and it’s weird I call it CRM. It’s not CRMs. It’s just CRM. Everybody must in some way keep track of their customers. They have to and know that. I believe they’re still a small little portion of them that thinks, “I’ll remember everything. I’ll be fine.” They then get older and the memory is going away.

There are the paper people I made fun of but paper works if you’re consistent with paper. Spreadsheets came along. There are people still who work off of an Excel spreadsheet and do a decent job of keeping track of what’s going on. CRM comes along. I’d like to hear what the biggest obstacles are for agents to adopt or understand and make it work. Is the first one like, “I don’t know where all my stuff is.”

That’s a big one. That is probably the number one thing. Even bigger would be, “I have all these people on my phone.” They’ll go to their phone and see, “I’ve got 4,000 contacts in my phone. How do I get them in my database? How do I get them in Wise Agent, spreadsheet or somewhere?” It’s like, “You have to understand how phones work. That is an important concept to understand. It can be complicated. It depends on what phone you have. If you have an Android phone, it’s a lot easier because they forced you to use Google Contacts. The majority of the time they’re going to go there. If you have an iPhone, it can be trickier.”

Your CRM should help you get your message out there to the appropriate people. Click To Tweet

You have to understand the hardware and software side of it and where contacts are coming from. I was having this conversation with somebody. You could have your contacts syncing to your phone from LinkedIn, Google and from a phone number that you added. Let’s say you met Robert on LinkedIn. He goes by Robert Jones on LinkedIn but on Facebook he’s Bob. I met him at a party and he was Bobby. I’ve got three different contacts all for the same guy but because I’m syncing my Facebook, LinkedIn as well as my Google contacts on my phone. They all have 3 different names so they’re going to be 3 different records.

That’s where the complication comes from. You have to understand that. Once you do then it’s easy to get them over. You have to know and not just take that one-on-one conversation with somebody. If you don’t have that one-on-one conversation with that expert to help you understand and help you figure it out, it can be a challenge and you could be beating your head against the wall.

There are lots of dead accounts that maybe people don’t even realize they’re still paying for because they bailed on it. They didn’t get the right help. It is such an important thing to get done but it’s not the simplest thing. We all know how important it is to have your contacts organized. The relief of having them organized would be a wonderful benefit but let’s go deeper than that. What are some of the key things you see agents using the CRM for? What is most relevant?

TRES 308 | Wise Agent

Wise Agent: Don’t get overwhelmed with the concept of organizing your database. Instead, make sure that you focus on the relationships and how to systematize what you do.

 

The R in CRM is the most important part. That R in CRM is Relationship. That’s what you’re doing business for. Your business is about relationships and getting to know them. That goes for me, as well as for you. We’re not realtors. We don’t sell properties. We sell software. It’s the same thing. You have to build that relationship and rapport with somebody. As you’re doing that, you’re talking to a lot of people. If it’s a healthy database, it could be more than 2,500 contacts but we find that the average is around 2,500 contacts per agent. When you’re getting up to that amount of people, there’s no possible way you could remember all the details on any one of those people.

When I’m having a conversation with somebody, I have to know, “Where do we meet? How did we meet? Where were we introduced? What are some of your interests and hobbies?” It has nothing to do with real estate but it has everything to do with the relationship. How do I get to talk to them? How do I build a relationship with them? It’s important to know that information and recall it.

At those critical moments in their life, they’re celebrating a birthday, work anniversary or a home anniversary from the realtor side to the consumer side even if they didn’t sell them that house. If you’re looking to sell, you could take it to that next step if you want if that’s where your relationship is at because they know, trust, like you and all that other stuff but if not, it’s okay to say, “Congratulations on living in this house for twenty years.”

With all the technologies that exist in the real estate space, the one that has the most entries and people buying for the attention of the realtor is CRM. All the different tools are out there. They ranged from virtually free up to thousands of dollars a year. HubSpot is not specifically for real estate but you could go free if you wanted to. For an agent, maybe they’re newer in the business trying to think, “How is this going to work for me?” How do they find the right fit?

I’m a list person. I like making a list of things. What are my top requirements? For any technology, I also recommend to everybody, “What do their support and training look like?” That’s going to tell you a lot about the company. You need to be able to lean on somebody when you’re learning something new. When I’m learning some new technology, I need to know, “Is this partner of mine going to have that support,” where I could call and say, “Explain this a little further to me. Let’s dive deep into this.” The training and the support are huge.

The other thing is, “What are the features that you’re mostly going to be using? What marketing features are you looking for?” Email marketing is huge. That works, consistent something that you can set up and have a drip campaign. Don’t put people on a drip campaign, especially if that message isn’t relevant to them. Be mindful of that. Have a system where you could organize everybody in a way where you could segment them and say, “These are all the people that I know from this gardening club, school thing, church thing,” or whatever it is for you. You can organize it in a way where you can speak to that group in 1 tone and 1 way and it will resonate with all of them.

The number one premise of the CRM is to be able to group them in a way where you could speak to them all like that. Once you have them in groups then you can do all your email marketing campaigns, texting, video texting and doing everything else with them but at the very top part of the CRM is being able to do that.

Pricing for that solution is affordable.

It is affordable. I get this question a lot, “I have my contacts all in Google so can I use them in Google and use Google as my CRM?” “If you have 40 contacts, sure. I’m sure you don’t have 40. You have 400 or 4,000. You can’t scale that. It’s not scalable.” Let’s say, you do have 40. If you want it to scale, you can’t rely solely on Google because Google won’t let you BCC more than 100 people or something.

You should never send a bulk message to everyone having people CC’d on it or a giant group text message. Don’t put people in group text messages either. There are fundamental things that your CRM should do to help you get your message out there to the appropriate people but also that there’ll be there to help support, guide and train you in best practices.

Without giving anything away critical is there anything exciting on the horizon that you’re working on? Innovation is an important part of what you do.

That’s a big reason why I travel as much as I do. Typically, a COO doesn’t travel as much as I do, to be at these conferences, expos, state expos. I go because I love talking to the brokers and agents and hearing what are their pain points. I can come back here, talk to my dev team and figure out a solution. That’s what we do.

One of the things is we have a huge marketing suite within Wise Agent, where you could do the email, texts, video sending and all of that stuff. One of the things that we’re going to be releasing in the next couple of weeks is the ability to create digital ads directly from Wise Agent. Once you get the lead coming from either Google or Facebook, the lead will come automatically into your Wise Agent account where you can set them up and respond to them automatically, use the AI bot, distribute the leads and do whatever it is that you need to do.

The buzzword of the industry is who’s got that end-to-end solution. The more you can build into the product, the better off that agent is. I’ll be honest, I know your price point. You’re working in a very affordable range as opposed to others that are not so affordable. They might have other things that they do but what does that agent need to have happened? That’s great that you guys are working on that and keep adding those layers and tools especially your experienced users are dying to get.

These digital ads are something that is a hot topic to be able to generate your leads. It’s done for you, not as a managed service, meaning that there are things that you can go through and it walks you through everything. If anyone’s ever heard me on my webinars, my number one thing is don’t make me read too much on a website. I don’t like reading on a website, scrolling and clicking around.

I test everything pre-released from our dev team. I’m like, “You had me clicking 4 times and I could do that in 2. Go back and redo that.” If I wouldn’t do it myself, I wouldn’t anticipate anybody else doing that either. I don’t want to have to read a set of instructions on how to use somebody’s website. If there are instructions on the website, they’ve done it wrong.

The final question that I’ve asked every guest is what one piece of advice would you give a new agent getting started?

Don’t get overwhelmed with the concept of organizing your contacts in your database. Make sure that you are focusing on the relationships and how to systematize what it is that you do. Meaning, in the very new stages, you’re probably not listing any properties and not having any buyers buy anything from you so this is the time where you can say, “What happens when I meet somebody? What do I do? How do I take care of people?” Knowing how to do that and figuring that out is key at this point.

Eleni, if someone wants to reach out to you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

I’m on all the social networks but then my email is Eleni@WiseAgent.com. You can send me an email. You can call the office and ask for me. I’m always happy to take phone calls. Reach out and connect with me.

People are wondering, “How much does it cost?” Give me that pitch.

Wise Agent is $40 a month and that includes the texting services, which is an important aspect of what you’re doing. If you did not want to include the texting, it’s $32 a month, which is a couple of cups of coffee a month, especially if you’re one of those venti drinkers. Think about what’s best for your business. Is it having that extra cup of coffee or using a database, a CRM?

I’m a fan. I had to clean up my profile a little bit. I sent a request in for some help. Sometimes the staff is strained where they have all the issues going on with the pandemic and people deciding to do other things but somebody got to me within 30 minutes and took care of what I needed to get taken care of. It was awesome. That’s been something that you guys are proud of so continued success. Please say hi to Brandon, Mike and the gang for me. Thank you so much for your time.

Thanks for having me on. Thanks for your continued support and friendship. I appreciate it.

Thank you for reading. Please head over to RateThisPodcast.com/resessions to leave a review or a rating and subscribe to the show at your favorite app.

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About Eleni Sommerschield

TRES 308 | Wise AgentRunning day-to-day operations for the best CRM in the RE industry.

Creating the most useful and comprehensive CRM by leveraging technology, giving agents the information they need to build and scale their business.

Doing all this with the best customer support team in the industry!

Bill RIsser, Bill Risser

Bill has been producing The Real Estate Sessions Podcast since July 2015. Passionate about learning the backstories of Industry Leaders, Bill seeks out established professionals as well as up and coming stars in real estate.

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