Tech Talk: Answer Men

Is your hardware gathering dust? Not sure how to manage your contacts? Let our tech experts e-mentor you.

March 1, 2000

REALTOR® Magazine print, recently asked two technology experts to assess two salespeople's tech usage and recommend improvements to help them become more efficient, communicate more frequently and easily, and make more money.

In March 2000, they addressed a number of questions e-mailed to us by readers. Following is the wealth of those exchanges.


Q: "I'd like to use an Internet provider with more business or professional service and I also need a recommendation for better e-mail management. By the way, what is Eudora?"
Laurie Bush,, Harris/Bush Realty, Bay City, Mich.

A: The most important consideration when choosing an ISP (Internet service provider) is that it have a local number for you to call to connect to the Internet. Other points to consider are:

  1. How many local dial-up numbers are available?
  2. Are access numbers available nationally?
  3. Are there 800 dial-up numbers available?
  4. What is the pricing for unlimited monthly service?
  5. Can I use my browser of choice?
  6. Is 56Kbps modem access available?
  7. Is there an extra charge for 56K?
  8. Do they have a 24-hour/7-day-a-week, toll free help line?
  9. Is there a charge for using your own domain name? Having your own domain is the only way to insure that you have a permanent e-mail address. This will allow you to change ISPs in the future and keep the same e-mail address, a must for real estate professionals. What should you choose for your domain. Nothing works better than the brand you already use--your name. ( The best place to buy a domain?

You might also consider DSL or cable modems if they're available in your area. Ask your ISP and your current cable provider for more information on local availability.

Eudora is a robust mail manager. It provides much more functionality than most practitioners need, and for that reason I don't recommend it.

One of the best and easiest mail managers is Outlook Express and it's free--packaged right into your Internet Explorer browser, which comes loaded on just about every computer and is available for download on the Internet at the Microsoft.

InternetCrusade will be demonstrating some of the functionality of mail software at the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Midyear Business Meetings, May 18-22 in Washington, D.C., and also at the Annual Convention and Expo in San Francisco this November.
Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

A: I just "weened" myself from America Online 5 months ago. I wish I had done it earlier. You need to find a local ISP or a national ISP, such as Earthlink or Mindspring.

I use Earthlink. It has local numbers all over the country.

Regarding your e-mail management software, you have 2 great choices with Outlook 2000 or Eudora Pro. Both of these e-mail managers work with any ISP and offer tons of great e-mail management functions. Both Outlook and Eudora have "light" versions that are free. However I suggest that you purchase the full blown versions. I use Outlook 2000.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q: You recommended the Palm VX for use with Top Producer and other programs. Can the Visor Deluxe do the same thing or is the Palm the only one? I need to make up my mind soon; I'm relying on you.
Jane-ann Bell,, Smythe, Cramer Co., Chagrin Falls, Ohio

A: The Palm works best with Top Producer. You might have a problem transferring all the contact fields from any other contact manager. My advice would be to go with the Palm. It's quickly becoming a standard.
Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q: Is there a Palm product loaded with Top Producer and access to MLS property data on the market? If so, where can I get more information. If not, when do you expect a product like this will be available?
Cathy Hunter,, Goggins Real Estate, Northhampton, Mass.

A: The Palm Vx comes loaded with Top Producer for Palm. The price is about $419. Top Producer for the Palm stand alone sells for $149. Top Producer is the best product you can buy to integrate your contacts with the Palm.
Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q: I bought all sorts of tech toys in 1999. And I was hoping to start Y2K with a bang. But I need a mentor. Is there someone in my neck of the woods? I'm lost with a pile of great electronics.
Barbara Alves,, Coldwell Banker, Hollywood, Fla.

A: First, learn how to operate all the hardware you bought and then get help with the software you purchased. Here are some ideas on finding a local tech mentor.

  1. Ask your friends if they have a techie son or daughter who could help you.
  2. Call a local college or tech school and ask the computer department if they have any students who can help you get to know your equipment. You still may have to pay them, but it's not as expensive as a real consultant.
  3. Call a local computer store and ask if they know of any consultants or freelance techies who would spend the time with you.
  4. Look in the Yellow Pages for computer consultants. They'll be the most expensive--anywhere from $35 to $75 an hour. Before you hire anyone, ask for references. Check out candidates as you would investigate a babysitter.

Next you need to learn the software you bought. Call the vendor and ask it the company offers any classes in your area on their software. Don't try and teach yourself, unless it's therapy. You need hands on training from someone who knows your software and hopefully who knows the business of real estate.

Many vendors have video training or computer based training that'll help you if you sit down and watch them. Most salespeople who purchase this type of self training aids have good intentions to listen or watch, but never find the time. Ultimately, hands-on training is the best.

Good luck. I've always believed that when I had a problem there was someone out there who could help me. I just had to keep asking and searching to find that person.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q: Approximately how much would the complete package of tech goodies--breaking them down individually--that you gave to Gracinda Maier and Susan Sanders cost?

Did they have to personally purchase everything?

Do you make a profit by marketing these tech companies' products? Thank you for your answers. The article helped me out!!! :~)
Emily Knell,, Liberty Realty, Las Vegas

A: Laptops run between $1,200 and $2,700 depending upon the brand and the power of the computer. The computers that Gracinda and Susan received were in the lower range. If I were to advise them on a computer purchase, I would advise that they buy a more powerful model then they received. I would recommend:

  • Pentium III 500
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 6 GB (or more) hard drive
  • 56K Modem
  • CD-ROM

The lucky ladies were given all of the following for participating in the program. And, the products and services were selected because they were donated by the companies.

—Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

A: I don't have a complete breakdown because the products came from different sources, however the value was in the $5,000 to $6,000 range.

I received no compensation from any source for my participation in this program. In fact I have many non-reimbursable expenses, and will continue to have as I mentor Susan Sanders over the next several months.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q: I'm in the process of choosing real estate software. I thought Online Agent and Top Producer where different styles of the same concept. Therefore, why do you recommend having both programs? Why not have only Top Producer software? It seems to me that that would be the perfect match to transfer information from PC and Palm? I'm sure you took this into consideration before making your final recommendations.
Michelle Tyszka,, Century 21 Twinstar Realty, Twinsburg, Ohio

A: I don't recommend having both programs. They're similar programs. You would use one or the other depending on your style and which one you liked the best. I look at these software programs like I look at floor plans of houses. They do basically the same thing, but do it differently. You'll either like one or the other.

Palm connectivity is a very important issue. Top Producer currently has a Palm interface and Online Agent will have one in a few months. We were guaranteed this when the choice was made. Also another important issue in the choice to use Online Agent was my expertise on Online Agent. As a mentor, it made more sense to use a program that I was skilled in. Another reason for the choice for Susan Sanders is that Iowa Realty, her company, also recommends and supports Online Agent.

Top Producer is also an excellent program and should be considered by any salesperson in his or her choice for a contact management software.
&mdashRolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

A: We didn't recommend both or any specific software. Gracinda and Susan were given the software that was donated by PREP and Online Agent. And it's up to them (with a little help from their friends) to master the learning curve, each one using a different application. Susan is using Online Agent; Gracinda is using PREP.

Let's look at software applications in general.

Most word processing software has the same functionality. Most financial management software has the same functionality. Most real estate agent productivity software (Top Producer, PREP, Online Agent has the same functionality.

To put it in a real estate metaphor, they're all "3 bedroom, 2 bath" with different "floor plans." Which one is best: The one "they use."

Just owning the software does no good. Using it will make them more productive.
Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q: Do you know of a company that will register my domain name for $60? If so, will it offer the same services as the $70-$100 options?
J Griffin,, Metro Brokers Better Homes & Gardens, Atlanta

A: How about $54.95 (at the with the ability to purchase domains up to 67 characters and registered in real time?

The $100-$70-$60-$55 fee secures or reserves a domain for you. Registration is the same at all registration sites. You become the owner of the domain, which is ultimately listed in the one place in the world, "Root Server A," the ONE Domain Registry, at which all domains are recorded.

Some sites register in real time, others are delayed depending upon the technology in place.

To activate a domain and use it will cost a few bucks more, depending on the services you want. Not all registration sites offer additional services at the same price. You can register a domain at one site and use the services of a different service provider.
Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q: Our company, which is the second largest in the state, doesn't always come up very high in search engines results. There are thousands of real estate Web sites in our market. We thought we had done all the right things, including using meta tags. Please advise.
Dawn Eaton,, Bob Parks Realty, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

A: Yes, metatags and keywords and phrases can help. Ask your Webmaster.

Have said that, the best way to market your Web site is to include your URL or Web site address in all the advertising marketing, and promotional material you disseminate.

Most companies that promise high placement in search engines can't provide high ranking for you with any degree of consistency. Those sites that appear in the top 25 at one search engine don't appear at the top at others.

As you can imagine, everybody is trying to "fool" the search engines and come out in the top 10 or top 25). It's a losing battle. Depend more on you current marketing to get visibility for your site.

Some businesses are driving targeted traffic to their Web sites by paying to appear on's search listings.

A company that I'm impressed with and does better than most at search engine placement is Advanced Access. The president is John Morris.
Saul Klein, Internet Crusade, San Diego, Calif.

Q: Thanks for taking questions. What a relief to feel that there's someone out there who's shedding some light on the murky Internet world we're swimming in. You're both greatly appreciated by this dot-com practitioner.

I'd like to consolidate my early morning e-mail checking, calendar to-do lists, and prospect management. Colleagues in other high-tech fields recommend Microsoft Outlook as a great way to go. I've bought it, but I'm stumped. Is this contact management software?
Alice Plato,, Coldwell Banker Jon Douglas ,Marina del Rey, Calif.

A: While I only use Outlook for my e-mail management program, it could be classified as a contact management software.

Plato: Should I input all my contacts?

Rolf: If you choose Outlook to be your database, yes, you should input all your contacts.

Plato: Does e-mail updating work if I'm on American Online? Or do I have to be on a Microsoft server?

Rolf: I'm a little confused by your question. If you're on America Online for your e-mail, you can't use Outlook for your e-mail manager. If you're going to use Outlook for your contact database, then you should quit using America Online and get yourself a local or national ISP for your e-mail address and Internet access. Any ISP will work with Outlook.

Plato: I get my servers confused with my database management software, and everything confused with real estate-specific programs, such as Top Producer. I hesitate to buy any new software because I don't know if it's redundant.

Rolf: If you use Outlook for your contact database, you won't need another contact management software. That would be redundant.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

Q: What's the difference between the Palm, Visor, and handhelds? I want to put ACT on my PC and would love to have same information in the field.
Paul Ogden,, NAI Walter Wagner, Louisville, Ky.

A: The Palm has its own operating system, where most other PDAs (personal digital assistants) or handheld computers use a scaled down version of Windows called Windows CE.

Which one you buy depends on what software you want to use. There's a sync program for ACT and the Palm. I believe there's also a Windows CE sync, however I'm not sure. I have used ACT and the Palm and it works well.
Rolf Anderson, CRS, Rolf Anderson Seminars

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