In commercial real estate agency the clients that we serve are a critical part of the market share that we build. The relationships that we create with those clients should be growing within a system and strengthened with relative property market content. This is a very personal process for each and every salesperson or agent.
The cycle of commercial real estate activity is relatively long. It can be some time between lease or sale requirements for the average client. This then says that a client contact cycle and system should be ongoing to a plan and a process. It could be months or years before the client is ready to make or take the next action steps in a property transaction. Over that time the relationship you have with that client or prospect needs to be nurtured and strengthened.
To be a top agent your clients must understand and respect your skills; you must be the ‘go to person’ when it comes to getting a result with a sale or lease situation. When you specialise in a property type and location, this is relatively easy.
Here are five action steps to structure a client contact program in your agency structure:
- Review the clients account history, their property needs, and the potential new business potentially coming from them in the future. As part of the review, consider the variations between sales, leasing, and property management needs. You can also obtain fees from project leasing, tenant retention planning, special lease reviews, and renovation or refurbishment strategies. You will need full and complete details relative to the clients property ownership portfolio, and the lifecycle relative to property holding. Understand the pressures that apply to the portfolio including property age, tenant volatility, income potential, and lease expiry. All of these things can lead to professional service requirements and extra fees.
- Given the previous point, determine the reasons for ongoing contact based on the clients requirements and the fee potential. Every contact call, meeting, and direct mail piece should be consistently focusing on the biggest need that you believe applies to the client and their portfolio. Create consistency in your contact plan by including this determined need factor.
- At a minimum or basic frequency, you should be contacting all of your clients or prospects at least once every 90 days. When you know that the person is moving to some property activity the contact cycle should shorten and be much more specific. It is a known fact that the ongoing contact made to a single client in this way will build agency relevance and immediacy. After the second or third contact to the client, you are likely to get better conversions to new business activity. The organisation behind this process should involve a database with suitable flexibility.
- The client contacting process or system that you create should involve dialogue practice. Call contact and meeting activity will be a daily process. You can improve your conversions in both of these situations through prospecting and dialogue practice. Determine the weaknesses that you have when it comes to dialogue and presentations, then take some steps to improve those weaknesses given the prevailing market conditions.
- Gather some up to date market information relating to the local area and particular property types. Display that information in various ways including charts, market trends, photographs, and benchmarking. This information will give you substance and confidence when it comes to connecting with your clients and prospects.
A client contact strategy in commercial real estate is a very specific process. If requires planning and consistency. Over time you will find that the process will help you establish a stronger market share and generate many more quality listings.
In commercial real estate agency the goal setting process is quite important to the new business, listings, and commissions that you must to create. Without those goals and targets it is hard to know if you are improving individually, and or if that is applying across the team. Rarely will an entire team all reach peak listing and commission performance at the same time.
Any real estate agency without a successful performance management system and established goal structure is an agency that is doomed to failure. So many things happen given a seasonal listing and sales cycle that the trends and results from the market just have to be tracked; that tracking then should be related back to the performance of individual agents and salespeople. A successful real estate agency is a team effort.
Every property market is different and the same can be said of competing agencies within a market. The mix of property offering, listings available, and agency staff capability will all create challenges. Here are some rules to help you establish your goals and targets:
- Define the period and the market segment that will apply to the goals to be set. At any one time there will be differences between office, industrial, and retail property. The same can be said for sales and leasing activity in each. Assess your competitors as part of that process. What is your market share?
- Understand the history of the area when it comes to property transactions and time on market. Look for the patterns that apply to market activity. In any period of 12 months there is usually an activity period of 10 months where most of the business will come in. Look for the lag time between listing and closing on a transaction. What are people looking for in the market today and do you have plenty of those listings on your books or available for prospecting?
- What growth can you see in the property market and in what segments? Get details of the changes to population and business growth in your local area. Is there to be further opportunity for growth in those segments?
- Look for additional income or commission streams that can be built from sales and leasing activity. Generally that will be in property management, tenant retention planning, project leasing, renovation, or relocation strategies and plans. Set the critical factors of performance that matter to the business.
- Work from a basis of team goals and break that back to team members, territories, transactions, and property types. Get the team to come back with their estimates and targets given their market segments and property types.
- Set regular updates and progress meetings from those established and agreed goals.
A successful commercial real estate agency is a reflection of established business performance plans. The team targets are realistic for the available skill mix and the prevailing market conditions.
There are two types of marketing plans in commercial real estate. There is the one that applies to ‘open listings’, and then there is the one that applies to ‘exclusive listings’. There is a radical difference between the two.
An ‘open listing’ is a process of luck, so get away from listing in this way whenever you can. You have no control over your client, the property, or the parties to the deal. I would go so far as to say that you cannot trust a client in an open listing situation; they are likely to be talking to other agents constantly and comparing your offers or inspection results. If you want to dominate your market as an agent, get away from ‘open’ listings as soon as you can.
Only an exclusive listing process will give you the best solution for promoting and marketing a quality commercial, industrial or retail property. The time and effort required in matching a property to its target market requires the commitment of the client to one agent for a reasonable period of time; usually 4 months. The selected agent can then dedicate the right focus into finding the best people to talk to and setting the momentum to inspections and offers.
Here are some marketing tips to help you in establishing a quality promotional campaign with an exclusive listing:
- From the full inspection of the property you will understand the best target market that you should be tapping into with the marketing. Give the client a complete understanding of what that market is looking for and how you can work with that.
- Determine the features of the property that can help you with the momentum in promotion. Build a story and a pitch for all your advertising using the property features. Select the 5 property features that are of the greatest interest to the target market. Use those as dot points in all you advertising. When you change from advert to advert in different publications, create different messages. This is most important on the internet so the search engines give your advert broader appeal.
- Use keywords for your advertising based on the internet search terms. You can get this information from a ‘keyword’ search on the major search engines.
- Build a headline and sub headline for the property using words that sell. You can see good examples of that with magazines and other property adverts. The history of the property may be relevant to the local area and on that basis can be used in the marketing to real effect.
- Match your marketing recommendations to the target market so the client can really see that you understand how to solve their property problem. Be very specific at a personal level to help the client see how you will take the property to the market.
- Always give your client 3 alternatives of marketing so they have a set of promotional choices to consider.
Successful marketing campaigns in commercial real estate agency are built from specific focus and speciality. The ‘generic’ promotional process in property today does not work.