When you are about to meet a new client to discuss their property, prepare a list of questions beforehand to get to the facts of what the client is trying to achieve. There are five key questions here that I always start with when meeting a sales client for the first time. Preparation is the key to a productive sales marketing campaign. The questions help with that.
Of course, there are always more questions that evolve from the first five questions, so be prepared to probe the client for information, and document the answers that you get. Preparation is the key to getting to the real facts of the property and the client’s situation. Note taking is then wise to protect yourself from misleading events or later disagreements.
Why ask all these questions? Well, it is a known fact that some clients will hide or not disclose the full information about a property. They tend to think that withholding the negative information at the start of marketing will give them a higher price or perhaps better enquiry. The reality is that any hidden information will usually come out in the sale or due diligence process.
The buyers of commercial and retail real estate today are smart and informed. The earlier you can get all the facts about the property, the better it is for you and the client. Explain to the client that they must disclose all that they know.
Watch for What Is Not Said in Listing or Sales Negotiations
As another note on this here, any hidden information will usually do a few things to your transaction including:
Stop the negotiations and any progress
Threaten the legality of the transaction
Jeopardise the ability to achieve a settlement
Risk the transaction being taken to court
Allow claims to be lodged against the property owner and agent for misrepresentation
Don’t allow yourself and or your client to be involved in these difficult situations. Get to the full facts of every property transaction before you take it to the market; when in any doubt ask more questions. Through all and any property enquiries, do not speculate about any information that you may not have available.
Key Sales Questions
Here are the key questions that I believe are the starting points for getting to all the client’s property issues. These questions allow you to go further and deeper into issues identified:
When and why did they purchase the property? This question allows you to understand the original motivations of the client in the first acquisition. Perhaps they purchased the property for investment and or as a base for their business to operate. When you know why they purchased the property, you can then judge whether the asset has satisfied their needs.
What is the ownership structure of the property? Sometimes there are multiple owners and or decision makers to the sale and marketing of commercial or retail property. Understand who they are, and more importantly, that you understand their motivations and agreement to proceed.
What are the restrictions and limitations applicable to the property? Some properties will have issues of operation, compliance, legality, and function. The best way to probe these things is to use a checklist of questions that you know would apply to property types in the location.
Has the property been on the market recently? It is very possible that they have tried to sell the property recently. If that is the case you must know about that activity and the results that evolved from the promotion. Buyers locally will see the listing coming back into the market; you must have your answers ready.
Why are they selling and what is their target price today?Perhaps these are quite direct questions, but the variety of answers that you get will help you with knowing the momentum that the client may have towards any sale and marketing process.
As mentioned, these questions allow you to go deeper into the client’s situation and their property as it appears to you today. Be prepared to ask these questions and others as part of the listing meeting and before the property is released to potential buyer enquiry.
In commercial and retail real estate, there are different ways to find new property management listings and clients. Some strategies are more successful than others. Either way, the growth of a portfolio under management is a good part of commercial real estate brokerage today.
A thriving and successful brokerage and agency business will have an established process to finding new management appointments. That process will or should be ongoing.
So why do this? The object here is to build growth in a property portfolio under management. That portfolio will bring fee stability to a brokerage and potentially future sales and leasing stock over time. Every person in the sales and leasing team should be encouraged to raise the ‘property management question’ in all interactions with good clients and established contacts.
Locating Good Properties to Manage
Where can you find new property management business? Try these for starters:
Sales activity – as properties are sold, some purchasers are investors in some way or form. They don’t have the time or the skills to control the leases and cash flow from investment activity. The greater the number of tenants in a property, the harder the work involved. They will likely need property management help. Recognise the complexities of property management with arrears, lease management, vacancy reduction, and property optimization. Sell your management services through to buyers of your listed properties.
Leasing activity – every lease converted will allow you to ask the question of landlords as to how and who manages their property now. Are they happy with their existing property controls and services? Are there things that you could do that are better?
Referral business – knowing that you should have a good list of clients or properties on your books now, the referral question is a strategic advantage. When should you put the referral question to, and who should ask it? Sometimes the sales and leasing team must be reminded or shown how to introduce the idea of property management services into a meeting and or a discussion.
Large investment groups and companies – many larger corporations have property portfolios and need help with facility management, property management, reporting, and risk reduction. Generally, those companies are not property specialists, and they do not want to employ teams of people internally to solve day to day property problems. Can you offer a cost-effective and professional way of managing properties to those larger groups and businesses? Build a ‘corporate property management package’ to be specifically promoted in your region and those identified key corporate groups.
Family businesses – some successful family businesses put money back into the property or their portfolio. Research all the local property owners to find those families and understand what they own. How could you help them with rent collection, vacancy reductions, and property optimisation?
There is a good foundation of new property management business to be extracted from this list of initiatives. Build a system of business development around it and shape it to your location and preferred property types.
Show me a commercial or retail property manager, and I will show you a busy person. Rarely will a property manager have much spare time; 10 hour working days are not uncommon. Systems of control and reporting are required to keep the workload of a property manager in balance and optimised for the best results.
Large properties have teams of people to control and respond to the numerous property events as they happen; shopping centres are a case in point.
Property Management Pressure Points
So, why is a commercial or retail property manager so busy? Here are some of the most common reasons:
Large properties are active assets of importance and volatility. Lots of things are happening most of the time with tenants, customers, maintenance people, and property performance.
Reports have to be prepared and submitted on critical property facts such as income, expenditure, budgets, lease events, and critical dates. Every landlord will have certain requirements with their reports and facts.
Maintenance issues will be both planned and unplanned. Either way, they have to be managed to a budget and a safe outcome. The larger the property, the more complex the maintenance events; risk events also have to be watched. There will also be ‘unplanned matters of crisis’ that occur, so be prepared for all issues. It pays to have some structure in place to monitor all the larger mechanical elements of the property to contracts and routines. If you have a good group of contractors, the maintenance issues are supported by contractor communication and regular reporting.
Financial matters vary throughout the year. Income expectations will vary based on occupancy, leasing, incentives, expenditure, and tenancy movement. That being said, most of the factors of property income can be structured to a budget, so the client does not have too many variables to contend with. A good property budget will bring stability to an asset over time.
Undertake a lease audit as soon as possible and stay ahead of lease events and critical dates. The greater the number of leases in the property, the more significant the time required to keep ahead of lease changes, dates, and events. A lease audit will show you the critical dates and lease changes applicable to rent reviews, options, outgoings reconciliations, and the lease expires. The important fact to remember here is that all leases should be optimised for a good market rent and long-term Vacancies will happen, but you can stay ahead of lease vacancies with a proactive marketing campaign to attract new tenants. That is what shopping centres do most of the year, so they are not exposed to rental disruption when leases come to an end.
Taking all of these points in balance, it is easy to see why a commercial or retail property manager is ‘busy’ most of the time. When they are then loaded with more assets and properties, the ‘busy factor’ just gets deeper. Ultimately that can lead to stress and property performance problems. Unfortunately, that is all too common in the industry.
There are differences to consider in a sales pitch for a lease listing in commercial or retail real estate. You are working with elements of rent, vacancy factors, supply and demand, property types, and certain target markets of tenants. Landlords need a bit of help in knowing how you see the ‘attraction factors’ that apply to their property. Tell a story about their property and how you will move on the leasing requirement; demand exclusivity for your intense focus and time commitment.
Before going too much further here, it should be said that the leasing part of our business is very lucrative as you can connect with plenty of local landlords and that can lead to sales appointments over time. Be prepared to work with lease listings and convert them; go ‘deeper’ and make direct calls to local or targeted tenants.
Quality is important in working with lease vacancies and the different properties. That is a rule to ‘live by’ in brokerage. Choose the properties that are likely to create tenant interest. Know what motivates a tenant to look at or take up a property. That knowledge can be gained and used as you talk to plenty of local businesses.
Listing Facts for Presentations
Take every potential lease listing and do a ‘SWOT’ analysis before you engage with the landlord client. You are then prepared to ‘pitch’ for the listing. Here are some things for you to talk about with the landlord as the client for you:
Levels of enquiry – show the landlord what is happening with the inbound enquiry and list the questions by a group as to what tenants are looking for. Will the landlord’s property satisfy that list of questions?
Property types – put the client’s property firmly in a property grouping for the zone. At that point, you can then tell the client what they are up against with other listings and lease offerings.
Location preferences – explain how different tenants look for location advantages such as roads, transport points (ports and airports), location to end users or markets, and other local businesses. Some locations are more attractive than others when it comes to those elements.
Target marketing – shortlist a few tenant types that will be valuable in the target marketing process. Your promotional strategies can then be direct and deliberate as you spread the word about the property. Tell the client how you will do that.
Local area comparisons and coverage – list the competing properties in the precinct, and then take some photos, get the property facts in each case, and look at the strengths and weaknesses of each property. The competitive position for the listing is then something that you can talk about with the client and make some clear recommendations.
In saying all these things, simplicity is important in what you say, do, show in the listing process or pitch. Help the client see and hear how you can move things ahead with a direct focus on results. That is the best way to pitch for a commercial real estate lease listing. Be different, real, and relevant to the property and the client.
In an average working week, as a broker or an agent, you will attend plenty of meetings with clients and prospects. Your listening skills and meeting strategies will be tested; they should be refined and optimized for each situation that could evolve.
Improve your communications skills and your listening skills. Strategically connect with ever more people in your location and with your property marketing activities.
Accurately listen as part of a property discussion or negotiation. Watch what happens with all your conversations relating to commercial property, and know what is being said by the stakeholders.
Take notes to support discussions and progress; send off an email soon after a discussion to detail the current position. A full understanding will help you with your position of negotiation or the desired strategic outcome.
The Challenges of Negotiations and Clients
It is a fact that some clients will be more difficult than others when it comes to negotiation, listing, property documentation, and marketing. The same levels of difficulty apply to prospects and the third parties to any transaction.
Through all stages of the property transaction, there will be issues to discuss and opportunities to create. Improve your professional communications skills through practice and deliberation. Set your communication systems in place to help you with prospecting, listing, and presenting properties.
Here are some rules that can help you with all your listening skills, client connections, and negotiation opportunities:
Where possible, choose the place and the time to meet with other parties as part of any property negotiation or inspection. Try to keep control of the discussion or negotiation through meeting location selection and timing.
Check your property and listing information before you give it to others. Ensure that you have all the supporting documentation validated and ready to display or use in any inspection and or presentation. Expect that you will get questions on property matters, so have your supporting information ready.
Don’t just listen to the other person but watch what they say and observe how they do it as part of explaining their position or negotiating. The body language of the other party will give you some valuable indicators to work on progressing a transaction forward.
Understand all the alternatives that can apply to the negotiation. Do the people or stakeholders in the transaction need to achieve an agreement, or can they walk away from the discussion?
Take plenty of notes as part of a negotiation process and meeting or conversation. Your notes will help you in the future remember what was said and done or perhaps agreed. Sometimes disputes occur between the parties in a property transaction, and your notes will be the only way to protect your position and recollection.
Ask plenty of questions relating to a property and or client situation. When in any doubt, ask more questions. As you get the answers that you require, observe the other party in what they are saying and how they are saying it. Look for the problems of interpretation and message accuracy.
Qualify any comments and restate the position of the other party. The stakeholders to a property transaction will have a position or belief so you will need to document that fact accurately and legally for the property and the client. Don’t proceed with documentation until you know that all is correct.
Any action that is agreed between the parties will need to be taken in a timely way. Timeliness is important and can sometimes be a ‘deal breaker’. Know the legalities of the matter, and how you can document things accurately for the client’s position, their instructions, and the facts of the property.
Listen carefully and comprehensively as part of each property meeting and negotiation. Establish your rules and your systems of communication control so that every negotiation can be directed and shaped towards the outcomes that the client requires.
Your ability to set up a clear marketing system will directly impact your results and enquiries in commercial real estate brokerage. If you want to pull in the interest of buyers or tenants, then the marketing system should be specific and direct.
Don’t fall for the ‘general’ approach to property promotion. Put your full efforts into your real estate business; talk to people and build promotional momentum in the target audiences.
As you grow your listing base and market share, you should have more exclusive listings under your control. There is a limit as to the number of listings that you can handle at any point in time. Property types and size of property will dictate the ‘limit’.
Know your Limits
Some property promotions can take a lot of your focus so know what you must do to attract the people to your property listings, and then seek the listing terms of engagement and marketing that you need.
Here are some ideas to help you develop your system of property promotion or marketing. Add to the list as you see necessary:
Inspect the property before you do anything else. Understanding the property and its location will give you more leverage in the client conversations around marketing and marketing costs. Take plenty of photographs in and around the property as you do the inspection; those photographs will help condition the client in the marketing conversation.
Develop an inspection strategy and use your photographs to illustrate the processes of inspection to be used. If the client can see that you do know the property and how to hold the inspection with buyers or tenants, then the listing and marketing conversion in a lot easier.
Define a target audience and talk about where they come from, how you will reach out to them, and why that target audience will listen to you. Help the client see that you can engage with the target audience with great effect and in a timely way.
Draft you adverts and then have another person review the layout, content, and correctness. Some brokerages today have a specialised person undertake that process for all advertising. In drafting the adverts, remember the property features and the ‘keywords’ that are likely to attract more property enquiry.
The ideal release of the marketing campaign should be part of a strategy and a timed process. Use a Gantt chart to show the client how you will approach the listing, inspection, and negotiation processes. The visual approach helps when want to enlist the thinking and decision facilities of the client or prospect. Gantt charts do that quite well.
Mix your online and offline marketing effectively. It is a known fact that newspaper advertising is becoming less effective and is highly costly, so a balance of media choices should be given to the client when listing for their marketing consideration and reflection.
Go direct where possible when promoting a listing. The direct approach helps with finding businesses and investors looking to move and or grow their property portfolio. Every listing is a good reason to talk to many people. You could say that ‘exclusivity’ is part of that process.
Review all your activities weekly so you can see where things are happening and how small adjustments can happen to your business approach with prospects. A successful year in commercial real estate brokerage is a combination of many different strategies deployed to a plan and a system.
So, all these things will help you develop your approach to property marketing with your better-quality listings. Take the steps forward to engage with your property market, prospects, clients, and business owners every day.
Your systems will help you achieve good results in your business. Don’t wait for the enquiries to come to you; go out and find the enquiries.
In commercial real estate brokerage, try to add value to all the activities and conversations that you have with clients and prospects. Sales, leasing, and property management are all the same; go that extra bit further with listings, inspections, feedback and negotiations.
Every client contact experience should be special, so you can then grow your real estate business in the right way and for the right reasons.
Today there are plenty of other agents just looking to take your listings away from you and or to influence the client away from your recommendations. Clients and prospects are valuable to your real estate business.
Set Your Engagement Rules
Follow the ‘rules of client engagement’. These are some good ones to start with:
Keep the client fully appraised of all transaction activity and offers
If you have exclusive listings on your books, then spend more time with all the specific clients and owners of those properties
As a promotional campaign commences keep the client briefed on enquiry, campaign momentum, and local area marketing
When you have undertaken an inspection, let the client know about the ‘third party’ feedback.
Provide plenty of ‘comparable property information’ from the location and across the property types
Write plenty of notes from meetings, telephone calls, and negotiations
These are simple rules, and perhaps you can add to the list in other ways. Importantly, create your rules that you can use with clients and prospects. These are then the ‘rules of engagement’, and they will help you with client conversions and interaction. Quality communications and professional business practices prevail.
It is interesting to remember that a small amount of ‘added value’ in customer and client service will help considerably at the time of a property transaction and negotiation.
You can win more local property business if you are a ‘target marketer’ for a location. The clients that we serve in commercial real estate like to have the best agent with the best market coverage working for them in every way possible. Random actions and the generic approach to the real estate business no longer works. A top agent needs to be specialised and targeted in the actions and marketing efforts.
A good agent has to have some special processes of driving the real estate listings out into the property market and to the tenants or buyers as the case may be; not just relying on advertising online and in the newspapers to do that. Only the ‘open’ listings of the market dictate a generic approach to marketing and client contact.
Think about your property listings now. Split your listings into the two groups of ‘open’ and ‘exclusive’. Your ‘exclusive’ listings should take priority in just about everything that you do as a broker or agent. Review your marketing efforts and your client contact processes between the two listing types. Are you connecting your listings to the right ‘target audience’? Can you improve those connections?
Marketing Strategies that Really Matter
Let’s get to the facts of how and why targeted property promotions really work. Put your exclusive listings into the process. Here are the most important skills of a target marketer in our industry today:
Providing the deep and relevant facts – with every listing, take the time to explain to the client exactly how their property sits in the local area by way of price, marketing, and potential enquiry. Do a SWOT analysis so that the client can fully appreciate how you can help them resolve their property challenge in a timely and meaningful way.
Understanding how to reach the right audience – every listing will have a target audience of tenants or buyers as the case may be. Show the client exactly how you will connect with that audience in a deep and meaningful way. Put yourself into the connection process so that you are the real point of difference when it comes to finding the right people to inspect and negotiate on the listing.
Creating momentum with property listings – take every listing and create momentum across enquiries, inspections, and negotiations. Soon the people in the local property market will understand that you are the agent of choice when it comes to creating churn and activity with a listing.
Understanding how to inspect a property to show all the features comprehensively and thoroughly – with all of your exclusive listings, develop a special inspection process to feature the property in both layout and improvements. Create an inspection strategy and explain to the client exactly how that will work in encouraging offers from the right people.
Building and segmenting a database for comprehensive property enquiry – your database can and should be at the centre of your real estate business. Each and every day you should be creating conversations with the VIP clients within the database, and adding new people to the list. It is a special skill to be refined and developed over time. If you are looking for new clients and new listings now, then review your database activities and your client list. How regularly are you connecting with those people in a relevant way? The top agents of the market know how to drive enquiry and interest from their database and their client list. Put your client list at the centre of your business so that you can find the right listing activity and the right buyers or tenants at the time of change and opportunity.
So the message here is that you can be a target marketer covering the specialized segments of the commercial property industry. In your town or city, review the best segments of the industry and the property types that will offer you the ongoing opportunity that you are looking for.
Look at how the property market is changing in your location and position yourself into the zone as the industry specialist. Market yourself accordingly in comprehensive ways. Let the local business owners and property investors see that you are the industry specialist that they will need when the next property challenge evolves. Help them remember you through deliberate and direct marketing activities.
In commercial real estate brokerage there are a good number of things that require practice and refinement over time. It’s a personal process that cannot be delegated. It is the faster track to getting results in brokerage with listings and clients. (NB – you can get our free commercial real estate course here)
So why is this so important?
There are many ‘top agents’ in a location be that a suburb, town or city, and they are all chasing the same new business across sales, leasing, and property management. Your recommendations and solutions offered to your clients and prospects should be well considered and clearly displayed. Your ideas have to be better than that of your competitors. Can you stand out in that way now?
Your solutions have to be better than the others that are put to the client and that are available. Expect the client to seek presentations from other agents as they work through their property challenge, and before they make a listing decision.
Your pitch has to be better than the others that are out there; you should be perceived as the professional that people need. Practice is required to achieve that status. If you pitch your services comprehensively, the ‘exclusivity’ process is much easier. Exclusivity is critical to market domination.
Practice your skills on key matters
Through your career in brokerage, you should practice your skills and strategies in a number of key disciplines. You can put that practice into your real estate business through personal disciplines, team meetings, and role playing. That specific practice will help you with deeper market confidence and better levels of communication; both are important factors when it comes to converting the client to your ideas and recommendations.
So let’s get this important business education underway. Here are some strategies to help you get that practice incorporated into your real estate business:
Listing pitch – Given the pressures of the current market, what are the better ways to list a property today to get faster outcomes in sales and leasing? That question has to resolved in any client presentation. Your listing presentation can be supported by research, computer based aids, statistics, and case studies.
Negotiation alternatives – Every deal can be closed in a number of ways. Show the client how one negotiation stalled; also show them how another was resolved. Put yourself into the solution as the facilitator of the positive outcome. Stories will always help you with client communication.
Vendor paid marketing – Show several examples of local property promotions where vendor paid marketing was the big difference in getting a positive outcome. As a general rule, vendor funded campaigns generally attract and facilitate more inquiry over the listing period, and the time on market is shorter when it comes to a positive result.
Listing refresh – Package your presentation to allow you to refresh the advertising every 2 or 3 weeks. Don’t let a listing stay too long on the market. Watch the trends of enquiry and tune your property advertising frequently.
Client conditioning – How can you condition a client to the prevailing market conditions in your location? There are many different property challenges as there are clients. Make sure that you can handle the most common client concerns in today’s property market.
So there are some real things that you can practice here. Take the pressures of the properties that you work with, and practice your pitch and presentation recommendations. That practice will help you stand out as the ‘agent of choice’ for the client and their property today.
As you consolidate your career in commercial real estate brokerage, there are plenty of opportunities to be had across the segments of the leasing market. There will usually be a good selection of local businesses, landlords, and tenants struggling to resolve occupancy issues.
If this is the property market segment for you, then consider how you can boost leasing inquiry and provide professional services to both landlords and tenants. There are some critical steps to the process to help you build your leasing momentum.
Let me set the scene here in your local area:
Some tenants are looking to relocate due to pressures of expansion and or contraction.
Some landlords have vacancy issues and pressures to deal with. Look for the vacant properties and then talk to the landlords directly.
Some properties are quite complex in tenancy mix and occupancy. The larger properties are likely to have an array of leasing challenges including variable market rentals, upcoming lease expiries, and a changing tenancy mix.
Market rents are changing in your town or city. Track the market rentals that apply to the different property types and precincts.
The factors of supply and demand in the local area will shift occupancy rates and market rentals. Look for the local developments that could influence future supply and demand. Adjust your marketing efforts based on the upcoming changes to occupancy supply and demand.
Many tenants today are looking for improved conditions of occupancy and better buildings. In talking to the tenants locally, you will soon identify what they are looking for in any new occupancy.
Some landlords are overly aggressive when it comes to market rental negotiation. The landlords that push the levels of occupancy and rental recovery are usually the landlords that lose tenants over time. They are likely to have higher vacancy factors in their investment buildings.
Many tenants are looking for improved factors of economy and cost when it comes to lease occupancy. Understand how you can bring factors of occupancy cost improvement into the tenant lease negotiations. Market rentals, outgoings costs, and rent review processes are ways of achieving a better rental package for the tenants that you serve. If you work as a tenant advocate, this will be a big part of your professional advocacy services.
New projects are coming onto the market, and those projects will require a professional occupancy and leasing strategy. Many project leasing opportunities are quite large and can take months if not years to complete. If this is the type of work that you are focusing on, then be careful when considering commission charges, marketing costs, and resources to be applied to the project. Many developers will look for lower levels of commission and minimized marketing costs. They will be looking to offload many of the project leasing costs to the marketing agent.
All of these things are happening in most cities at any given point in time. They are all related to leasing and property performance. You are the best person to help resolve these challenges.
So here are some of the rules that you must follow to improve your professional profile as a top leasing agent:
Concentrate on the market segments that have the best levels of churn and opportunity. There will be certain property precincts and buildings in your town or city that are higher on the selection list for new tenancies and new tenants. Work the buildings, the landlords and the precincts that have the best opportunity for change and churn.
In talking to local business owners and tenants, adopt a checklist approach to understand where their business is located now, what they may need for ongoing successful business occupancy, and when their current lease may expire. When talking with decision makers, understand the pressures of today that they may be experiencing, and how they are looking at their future in the location. Show them the economies of the area that could influence their choices to relocate. Most business owners and tenants will be attracted to factors of efficiency and economy.
Track the market rentals that apply to the property types and the precincts. When any new lease transaction has been completed, seek out the facts relating the finalized lease, and the agreed rental.
When focusing on new properties to lease, bias your activities towards the larger properties, the quality locations, and the good quality buildings. In that way you will achieve a higher level of rental and better levels of interest as you market the vacancies.
So these are all strategic issues that can easily be applied to the tenant and landlord leasing services locally. Understand the factors of attraction in the local commercial real estate leasing market. Work the factors of attraction through your prospecting and marketing processes. The better buildings, precincts, and market rentals will always attract good levels of quality inquiry. Work with your landlords and tenants on that basis.
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