By Charles Wardell. Buying a home is a big deal for most people. That's why a little personal attention at the right time can win a customer's loyalty. It's also why unanswered e-mails or unattentive staff can quickly drive them to the competition.

Sales automation and customer relationship management software (CRM) can stop customer defections from happening. These interactive programs manage your company's relationship with each customer, prompting your staff to give helpful feedback and information at key points in the sales process.

For instance, if your company has a relationship with a mortgage lender who approves the Smith's application, the software could tell the Smith's salesperson to send them a congratulatory note. If they get rejected, the salesperson could be prompted to send information on other financing options right away and to follow up in a few weeks. Good programs can be customized, letting each company determine what its staff does at each point.

Since most people begin their home search online, your CRM software has to interface with your Web site. New technologies can track what each customer does on your site and use that information to decide what products or services they want, often before they figure it out themselves.

The steps below explain what a CRM application might do up to the point of applying for a mortgage. (It can continue to manage communication until after the customers move into their home.) The steps are based on the Toolbox Network (, but the basic concept applies to any good application.

1. A house-hunting couple registers on the builder's Web site one evening. The software sends them a welcome note "signed" by a salesperson, then notifies that salesperson of the new customers. 2. The customers focus on specific communities and models. The salesperson sees their browsing habits and uses that information to send them tailored incentives.

3. The customers choose a particular home. The software prompts the salesperson to invite them to the development for a tour. 4. After settling on a home, they apply for a mortgage online. Once approved, the software tells the salesperson to send them a congratulatory note and a construction contract.