In Conversation with Damien Ruggieri of REI Solutions

Damien Ruggieri is founder of REI Solutions and designer of Deal Pro, a Podio CRM system for real estate wholesalers. After being underwhelmed by an off-the-shelf CRM system he purchased, Damien built his own Podio system to fit his specific real estate business. As he showed it to friends and associates, they wanted in. That sparked his idea of scaling the CRM business, offering turnkey solutions and custom builds, and REI Solutions was born. 

Damien believes in the power of purpose. His Deal Pro solution is built specifically for wholesalers, and it incorporates smrtPhone, built specifically for Podio. 

Damien recently got together with smrtPhone co-Founder Jordan Samuel Fleming, to discuss the power of integration and having the right tools that fit your business. Below is an excerpt of that conversation. 

You work in real estate and you have your own Podio setup. Can you give us a little background?

Yes, we’ve got a system that we built. It’s called Deal Pro; it’s aimed at wholesalers. And I think it’s pretty much the most advanced one out there for getting in the door with a wholesaling system.

We’ve got a phenomenal concept in there that we use to get real time MLS-style comps. All the information about our system is available on our YouTube channel and on Facebook to check out, if you want. 

How does smrtPhone work into your system? 

We love using smrtPhone in our system. We’ve got a lot of our subscribers that are switching from the other dialers and platforms, because smrtPhone is just so much better for us. We pair Deal Pro with smrtPhone a lot. With our system, it comes ready to go so you don’t even have to do an install. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of calling and texting. 

And, I use smrtPhone in my own business. So if you’re calling and getting our support, that’s how you’re talking to us. We are using smrtPhone to answer your questions. We’re sending you texts via smrtPhone.

What do you think is the importance of integration? 

What a lot of our subscribers are doing is trying to get all their data in one place, instead of jumping from here to there. With smrtPhone, it’s all right there. 

As far as integration, people are able to just call right out of Podio. There’s no “press one on your phone” or do any of that extra stuff. It’s so much smoother to integrate. Everything is right there in Podio. And, we use it and love it. I can’t say enough about it. 

From our point of view, we’re focused on: ease of use and single system – one system right out of the gate, right?  

Yes, definitely. And also in line with that:  we use your smrtDialer as well. We work with people who have other systems, but they have to jump around. They have Call Tools or  Xencall or some people are still Mojo, for some reason. But smrtDialer, like smrtPhone, is also right there in your Podio system with everything you need. 

You can make a list from anything in Podio. You simply create a campaign in smrtDialer and pull a Podio view and there you go. That’s it. Now you’re calling these people, and all of the information is right there in Podio. You don’t have to go load your list somewhere and then push to CRM and circle back – it’s literally all right there. 

Following up on the dialer element… to me if you don’t have clean data you’ve got nothing. You’ve got pain and a nightmare. One of the things that I love about smrtDialer is the full integration into Podio. You click the button that says convert the call disposition, and on the back end, you can create automations that say “oh this guy’s converted now let’s put them in to our actual live leads.” Is that how you approach it?

We definitely do that. We use a kind of list app where they’re essentially putting in their potential prospects. Then, based on the dispositions (and we add dispositions like follow ups, and that kind of stuff) if they convert that’s when it goes over to the Leads App. Because it’s not a real lead until you talk to the person. 

I’ve seen systems where people have 10,000 leads in their Leads App. I ask,“Have you spoken to any of these people?” and they say, “No.” So we know it’s just a bunch of names and addresses here and nothing more.  

We feel strongly about clean data. We format all of our data when it goes over to the Leads App so that phone numbers are all the same formatting. It’s all the same, consistent data.

Texting is a huge part of the sales process in real estate. You have the SMS API. Tell me a little bit about how that integration works either for drip sequences or following up via text and call. 

The API is insanely easy to use. It’s all built in for when we send the text. One of the key things with the smrtPhone text is that there’s no cut off for how many characters you’re sending. I know people who use other platforms that have an issue where they reach 140 characters and now the message stops in the middle of a word. When you’re evaluating systems, you don’t even think about details. But then you’re in a different system and it gives you an error, such as too many characters.

Whereas in smrtPhone if you want to type an email for a text message, you can. I’ve seen it where people put in a signature line and everything. It makes it so much smoother to be able to do that. 

We use the SMS API in our follow up sequence. The instant a text goes out it’s added to the Communications App. It’s logged in the lead item, including the message the agent sent and everything. 

The other thing is the multimedia messaging that goes right into Podio. If someone sends you a picture of their property, with smrtPhone we’re actually able to bring that over in our system. We attach it as a file, and we also make an iframe embed for the image so they can see what they’re looking at. On a lot of the other platforms, that same text would just be empty because they don’t they don’t support multimedia messages. 

You are a great example of working closely with your clients, being hands on, so you have a good sense of what they’re doing. What are your thoughts on the smrtPhone mobile apps? 

We designed them to allow people to work from anywhere. Because the app is directly connected to my CRM in Podio, I can find people; I can text them; I can call them; I can see their numbers; I can take my notes; I can do my call dispositions – all while sitting on a beach if I want.  How have you guys seen your customers use the mobile apps? Have you found it very useful? 

It’s huge. And, it’s getting better every new release that smrtPhone does. 

One of the big things is: if I’m out, not if I’m not at my desktop, I can still go into my Podio contacts. Because we all know, the Podio app is terrible. There’s no mobile friendliness about the Podio app. Trying to search a contact and type an SMS in the comments. It’s nearly impossible. With the smrtPhone mobile apps just being able to get a reminder, call this guy, boom, there it is. Or send them a text. And it’s, again, all right there in Podio. 

Then, the team can see we already contacted the person and everything is good. They can listen to the recording. Or the text messages show up in the sequencer.  

Yeah, the smrtPhone mobile app is huge. 

What about smrtPhone Pro? Do you use it and like the features? 

I love the Pro.  First, when you start out you get five numbers. With the basic plan, you don’t get the numbers included. So that’s huge, because in real estate, you’re going to be using multiple phone numbers. We have a team, so we definitely use the numbers. And then the geo calling, and all the other features that are available in the Pro versus just in the normal package, to me it’s a no brainer if you’re in real estate. 

If you’re actually doing deals in real estate, why wouldn’t you want all of that for just a few more bucks a month? If you’re actually doing stuff, the extra cost is not a big deal and it makes everything so much easier for you.  

Do you use the Pro call monitoring features? 

I use it mostly for quality checks. In my system, I’ll go back and play the calls for the week. I look at: why didn’t we convert that? And you listen to the call and you see why. Then you can do coaching from there. You’re not gonna win them all, but there are things you can coach through. You can play the call right there with your team and you can do a play-by-play breakdown. 

Also, the reporting in smrtPhone is fantastic, all of the agent phone reports. Everything on there as far as call times, who’s had the most connects, and all that kind of stuff.  

Well, Damien, you know you’ve seen smrtPhone develop over the last little while. Are there any specific things you’re excited to try and get us to do more of? 

I think it’s going very much in the right direction. You guys are very responsive to suggestions. I’ve seen the form in Podio [in the smrtPhone User workspace] where people put in their suggestions.  And you actually go in there and respond. The fact that you guys are in tune with the client and actually want to make it better. 

I think one of the big development pieces that I know I want to work with you guys on is the multi-line dialer, as far as extra things that can be added in there.  

Well, we’ll be excited to get that. We’re rolling out some things right now. And we’ve got a couple projects this year for both smrtPhone and smrtDialer, to level up both of them. 

And, as always, from our point of view, we do that by listening to people. There’s no point in assuming we know what people want. We go out and listen and talk to them, so that we can know what they want. So I’m excited to hear your ideas. I appreciate you stopping on here.  It’s really fantastic to work with you and always a pleasure to see you.

Thank you