CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT (CRM) software from Latista Technologies is helping the Washington Business Group of Brookfield Homes in Fairfax, Va., integrate its sales leads and use an extranet to improve communications with customers throughout the full life cycle of the home buying process.

Janet Howell, vice president of sales and marketing at Brookfield Homes, says the builder ex-software at all 16 of its communities by the end of the summer.

Latista, a software company based in Herndon, Va., markets CRM software to government agencies and the home building industry. Brookfield's Washington Business Group, which closed 600 homes last year, has 180 employees and sells single-family homes, townhomes, and condos at an average selling price of $515,000. The company goes to market under two brand names: Brookfield Homes for production-style homes and Kestwick Homes for custom homes.

Howell says the main reason Brookfield hired Latista was to help the builder integrate its sales leads. She says Brookfield had leads coming in from its Web site, from home builder portals such as and newhomesguides .com and via fax, print ads, signs, real estate agents, and referrals.

“There was this hole,” Howell says. “Leads were paper based or were coming in by phone. The solution was to come up with one integrated Web-based system that collected leads whether they came in from the sales offices or from various other sources.”

Now, all of the sales leads come into a centralized database, and Brookfield salespeople can click on a Web-based sales interface and sort leads by any category. Searches can also be sorted across communities by day, week, and month. The leads come to a subcontractor Brookfield calls the “concierge,” who assigns the leads to the correct salesperson.

“We used to have multiple people calling the same prospects with the same information,” says Howell. “Not only was it a waste of our time, customers got annoyed.”

Improved communications with customers is at the heart of Brookfield's new CRM system, and integrating sales leads is just the first step.

Now, Brookfield's customers have access to a streamlined view of the same Web-based interface its employees see during the construction process. The company's construction process is divided into 24 stages. As their house is being built, customers can go online and check the status of the project during each stage, send messages through the site's contact manager, click on Brookfield news items, check a calendar to see when inspections are scheduled, and keep electronic notes to remind them to call their customer service representative.

“What we're trying to do is make sure that our purchasers have up-to-date information from the time they walk into the sales office to after construction,” says Howell. “The system takes all the information and moves it over to the next stage as they go through the process.”

Looking forward, Mark Gregas, Brookfield's director of information technology, says the company has had some discussions with its purchasing department to have subcontractors access the CRM system, but Gregas says the plan now is to focus on the customer extranet and the internal CRM applications.

“The vision is, at some point, to have our entire system integrated,” says Gregas. “But we're still working on it.”