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 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.
As a general rule in commercial real estate brokerage, every proposal that you put together should be benefit focused on the client. Show the client exactly how they will benefit from using your comprehensive services as a marketing specialist.
Use a Gantt chart to show the client the stages of listing, marketing, inspecting, and negotiating. This illustrative charting method is very effective when it comes to helping the client through a comprehensive and complex marketing process. It can also be a major point of difference in your proposal layout.
In today’s property market, the generic listing and marketing approach really doesn’t work. The competition in the marketplace is significant from other listings, and the experience and expertise of your competing agents and brokers will also place pressures on your listing conversions. Give the client some real reasons to choose you as the top agent of choice to solve their property pain.
It is worthwhile remembering that the client doesn’t want to be an experiment in marketing. They want their property to achieve the best levels of enquiry in the most effective and direct way. You hold the keys to the process and your proposal will need to clearly outline the strategies and recommendations.
Here are some tips to help you with constructing and submitting a proposal to sell or lease a commercial property today:
Stand out as uniquely qualified to handle the property type in the town or city. You will need some testimonials and market evidence to help the client understand those situations and recommendations.
Review the property for the strengths and weaknesses that will have an impact on the marketing campaign. The weaknesses may need to be addressed prior to the commencement of promotion. The strengths can be helpful when it comes to advertising layout and points of attraction.
Determine the target market that will have a keen interest in the property type. Build your marketing campaign around the target market using specific points of difference and promotional processes that clearly tap into the target audience. Help the client understand those strategies and the reasons you are making the recommendations.
Show the client how they will clearly benefit from utilizing your brokerage services and market coverage. Use your database as a point of difference when it comes to creating enquiry and spreading the message about the property. Create a shortlist of buyers or tenants as the case may be from the database; tell the client how you will be connecting into the short list of qualified parties as a priority as soon as the property is released to the market.
The focus of your proposal should be to attract the correct level of inquiry and generate inspections as soon as possible. When you get the inspections underway, you have something to work with and can then give the client feedback from those inspections.
In commercial real estate today, you will find that the competition and the market can become quite frustrating unless you are taking sustained and consistent action each and every day. The agents that rise to the top of the market are those that have an action plan and a business strategy.
It stands to reason that the best commercial agents and brokers have the best business plan. Certainly that is the case; however their business plan is supported by business activity and consistent focus.
Here are some strategies to help you with establishing your market share and business activity. You can modify the list or add to it as appropriate given your sales territory and brokerage brand:
Don’t spread yourself too thinly in the marketplace. Concentrate your prospecting on a zone by zone basis. Each zone can contain approximately 100 properties.
Track and measure all of your activities with particular attention being paid to prospecting and cold calling. Every day ensure that you are reaching out to new people as part of your growth of customer base.
Determine exactly who the key clients are that you should be working with. You will need to identify them and find them. That research can take time, so each night you should be researching the calls and the contacts to make the next day.
Check out all of the listings in the local sales territory or focus area. Understand the listings that are creating the most interest today. Look for the listing opportunities within the most commonly attractive property types and locations.
Some properties will be offered for sale or for lease by owners. In most cases, those owners will not have the market penetration or the skills required to develop significant levels of enquiry. On that basis you can merge these property owners into your prospecting system. It is interesting to note that their motivation for self-marketing is usually to save on commission. When they list with an agency or broker, they tend to load the price accordingly so that the net price or rent result is the same. If you are going to work with these property owners, condition them to the prevailing market conditions, and be prepared to walk away from an overly inflated price or rental structure.
Connect with the clients that you have acted for previously to understand their needs and requirements for property in the future. Ask for referral business where possible.
To be effective in this market place as a top agent, you do need to track and measure your activities on a daily basis. In this way you can see what is working for you and the things that are wasting your time. Refine your skills and your actions accordingly. Directed habits towards successful actions will take you to the top of the market with quality listings and good clients.
In commercial real estate, and most particularly with the property agents and brokers, sales team performance should be optimised throughout the year to adjust for the changes in property activity and regional demographics. In any period of 12 months, the market will change and on that basis similar changes will need to occur with prospecting, listing, negotiating, and marketing.
It is wise to have a process of tracking the key indicators in your property market. When you consider an average period of 12 months, most property markets have only 10 months of real activity in sales, leasing, and property management. Seasonal changes and market conditions will take up the other two months of downtime. Team performance needs to be suitably handled and adjusted within the agency to get the best results from 10 months of hard work.
Here are some ideas to help you improve your agency sales team performance:
Top agents and brokers specialise in particular market segments. The segments may be geographical, or set by property type. Either way, specialisation is recommended. Specialisation process helps you cover the quality properties, key clients, and pockets of high level activity.
Establish a prospecting model within the agency that can be tracked on an agent by agent basis. That will help you identify any weak links within the team. Some agents need help when it comes to prospecting, presenting, or negotiating. The tracking process will help you see those weaknesses and implement the necessary training and education programmes.
Establish budgets that can apply to each agent or broker. The budget should be split into key indicators. Those indicators will normally be cold calling, meetings, door knocking, presentations, listings, exclusive listings, inspections, and closed transactions.
Track the results that you get from every marketing campaign. The results that you get from an exclusive listing will be very relevant to your business activity. Open listings are not easily assessed in the same way given that the marketing of an open listing is random at best.
At the end of each week, have the agency team provide a summary of activity including call numbers, meetings, listings, and inspections. You will soon see the differences between the members of the team and how effective they are when it comes to building their business.
When you track all of these numbers, you can see where the priorities lie when it comes to each agent and each broker in the team. Given that the property market changes throughout the year, adjustments will always be necessary at an individual level to ensure that quality listing stock is attracted to your business.
So what type of listings should you chase and attract? Quality listings create better levels of enquiry and will sell or lease faster. Over time that will improve your agency market share and commission opportunity.
Should you walk away from a low quality property listing? The answer is yes, if it will take you away from the other good properties in your area and sales or leasing territory. Commercial real estate marketing is a specific process needing effort and focus. Don’t waste your time.
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.
In commercial real estate agency each day, we are negotiating with many people across a number of challenging situations. Our ability to negotiate is a key part of growing market share and improving our commission opportunities. This then says that we should practice our dialogue and a negotiation skills at every opportunity.
A good negotiator in commercial real estate is one that understands the circumstances, the market, the documentary processes, and the intentions of the parties. It is sometimes a difficult equation to bring together. The clients that we serve expect their agents to be experienced and experts when it comes to the negotiation process.
So what are the negotiation stages and situations that we strike? Here are some of the main ones:
The cold calling process is really a negotiation to establish a meeting with a new person. Your dialogue needs to be exemplary when it comes to communicating and connecting across the telephone. It is a specific skill that requires regular ongoing practice. In this way you can build connections with fresh prospects for your pipeline of new business.
A cold call can also be something that applies to dropping into a local business to introduce yourself as a property specialist. The dialogue in that situation is totally different to the telephone process. This strategy can also reap significant rewards through practice.
A sales pitch or presentation with a new prospective client is a negotiation to achieve a listing. That listing will involve a marketing package, marketing strategy, and listing process. It is interesting to note that the top agents within the market are very good at converting a new property to an exclusive listing. Those more ordinary agents in the market usually take the lesser alternative of an open listing. Unfortunately the ordinary agents struggle with market share as a result of this, and have little control over the deal that could possibly evolve. The message here is quite clear. If you want to convert more exclusive listings to grow your market share, then you need to refine your sales pitch and presentation process. A role playing strategy in your sales team meetings will help. Personal daily practice will also be necessary.
When you find a suitable tenant for a buyer for a property, another negotiation stage will evolve between the parties. It is wise to remember the requirements and intentions of your client as the negotiation proceeds. Every stage of a negotiation should be carefully checked and documented. When you get to the final stages of offer and acceptance, the agreement document between the parties should be legally accurate, comprehensive, and correct. Some property transactions can be quite complex and for that reason you will need outside assistance to formulate the final document from the offer and acceptance situation.
Given these very common negotiation situations, you can see why dialogue improvement will help you strengthen your market share and commission opportunity in commercial real estate agency. Practice is required.
In commercial real estate agency, you really do need to understand what is going on in the marketplace and then make some solid choices at a personal level to improve your prospecting and deal activity. Everything comes down to a personal level and process in our industry. Success has little to do with the agency that you work for.
Outsiders and new agents to the industry are tempted to think that commissions and listings come easily. Nothing could be further from the truth. The quality and the growth of your business will come from personal focus and momentum. The choices that you make on a daily basis, and the actions that you take in prospecting and marketing will drive your business forward. The agents that struggle in the industry are those that have little or no system when it comes to business generation and market share.
Here are some strategies to help you initiate a business plan as a commercial real estate agent. Consistency in focus and the actions that you take every day are the keys to getting momentum and traction with your market share. Here are the ideas to help you:
Understand the condition of the market today in deal activity, competing agents, and future growth. Look for the opportunities in sales leasing and property management activity. Understand where you fit when it comes to those three distinct disciplines.
Choose the property type that you understand and can relate to. That may be in office, industrial, or retail property. The clients that we work for require specific expertise when it comes to resolving a problem with a quality property. The marketing and inspection process with any listing is not an experiment. It requires specific knowledge and expertise to tap into the right target market.
Determine the cycles of the local property market when it comes to leasing and sales turnover. You can do that by reviewing the history transactions through the region. In most markets, a commercial or retail investment property will change hands or be upgraded at least once every seven years. It takes that long for the appropriate capital gain to occur or the client to reach the next stage of portfolio change and growth. Be sensitive to the cycles, and start prospecting the right people inside their property cycles.
Start prospecting on a daily basis ensuring that you’re talking to new people as well as current contacts. The whole process should take you about 2 or 3 hours per day every working day. In a very short period of time you will find some new business opportunity. When that occurs, keep the prospecting process underway. That’s how top agents grow market share.
When a competing agent puts a signboard on a property, it is an opportunity for you to talk to the property owners and business proprietors in the immediate and adjacent vicinity. This then says that the marketing processes of a competing agent give you leverage when it comes to building your market share. It is a fact that nearby property owners and business proprietors like to compete rather than cooperate with a nearby property sale or lease transaction.
When you list a property, personally market the details of the property to the local region of property investors and business owners. This involves door knocking and telephone calls. From this process you will identify other opportunities to work on in the future. Pay particular attention to the immediate property location and the streets around the subject listing. Walk the streets and knock on the door’s to introduce yourself and the upcoming listing. Ask questions and talk to more people; it is amazing how much information you will extract from the market when you do this.
Building your market share in commercial real estate agency is a simple and yet ongoing process. You should have three or four solid strategies underway such as those above to help you connect with the right people and build the right relationships.
In commercial real estate agency, you should be adaptable to the challenges of the property market today, and the requirements of the client. This is really easy to do when you are a specialist in a property type and a location.
As a specialist in a property type and location you will or should understand the factors of pricing, rentals, tenancy mix, time on market, marketing, and negotiation. You are the specialist that can take over the clients property challenge and turn it into a successful property outcome. Specialization is the key to the process.
The clients that we work for require the right information and strategically relevant skills on the part of their agent. If you pitch and present your services correctly, your conversion to an exclusive listing will be quite easy.
Those agents today with an abundance of ‘open’ listings are those agents that have not sufficiently branded themselves as experts in the local area. They have no real point of difference when it comes to pitching their services. The clients they work with can see no real benefit in exclusive listing with a particular agent. If you want more exclusive listings, you will need to solve that perception. I go back to the point that specialization as a property agent is essential to the process. Top agents win more exclusive listings and that is the rule not the exception.
To be adaptable as a specialist real estate agent means that you have the necessary skills and the information required to handle the following situations comfortably:
A client requires a vacancy in a property to be leased efficiently and effectively. The tenancy may have been vacant for some time. The client therefore requires innovative solutions that apply to the leasing process. They need that vacancy filled as soon as possible.
A vacant property requires repositioning in the market so that it may be sold or leased. The pressures of the prevailing market conditions and the zoning requirements set the guidelines for the target market and the efforts that you need to undertake.
At commercial or retail property has reached the end of its economic life given its current and present usage. On that basis the property needs to be subjected to a material change of use and redevelopment. As part of that process you will need to consider the approvals and strategies behind local planning and development.
The client’s property may be under-performing from an income perspective. You should know how to review the tenancy mix, lease profiles, rental strategies, lease documentation, and outgoings recoveries. On that basis you will soon see the discrepancies when it comes to income recovery and growth. You can add to this assessment the rules and legalities that apply to rent review negotiations, lease option negotiations, tenancy relocations, and redevelopment alternatives.
The client’s property today may be a future sales opportunity. In leading to that sales situation, they may have challenges that apply to the tenancy mix and the income profile. Over time you can help them with income modification and capital growth.
You can look at a property from a number of different perspectives. It may be vacant, unimproved, leased, or vacant. The value for the property can also be determined in a number of ways based on the identified potential and the prevailing market conditions. To assess the value of the property, you can cross reference two or three methods of valuation or appraisal to see what will work when it comes to any future listing price and marketing opportunity.
The top agents in a commercial real estate agency today are very adaptable. They understand how to move across the requirements and changes of the market. They know how to match the client and their property to the prevailing market conditions. You can do the same. Get to know your market and how it is changing and growing.
In commercial real estate agency, the sales pitch and presentation process is something that will hopefully occur quite frequently for you. On that basis you need to be ready to present your ideas and strategies at any time and on short notice. You never know when a client or prospect will want to talk to you about the market or the listing alternatives available when it comes to commercial real estate sales or leasing.
As a general rule, every agent should carry a complete and comprehensive marketing folder at all times with examples of property marketing solutions; those solutions should apply to leasing, sales, and property management.
Watch your competitors
In most property presentations situations today, you will be up against a number of other agents all seeking to attract the same listing into their agency. Those other agents will be using a variety of enticements and discounts.
It should be said that the provision of discounts to a client is not a good way to win a listing. Agents that cut corners on fees will generally cut corners on service. Given that the client wants a result with their property, cutting corners really doesn’t work. Adjust your pitch to suit that message.
You should win the listing based on your experience and relevance to the property type and the client. Your strategies and marketing solutions should be so comprehensive and relevant that the client can see no other alternative but to give you an exclusive listing. Build your presentation on that logic.
Discounts don’t work
The clients seeking a discount should be encouraged to understand the commerce of the deal and the marketing effort required by you as the agent. A few hundred dollars saved in commission is nothing compared to the better price that you can achieve for the client with a dedicated campaign that is personally conducted.
It is the quality of your presentation and pitching process that will help the client understand exactly what you are going to do for their property and its challenges. Your services need to be superior to that of the competitors locally. Be relevant and be different. Show the client why they need you.
Here are some tips to help you refine your presentation strategy when it comes to commercial and retail property.
Check out all the competing properties in the local area so you can advise the client as to how the listing needs to be comprehensively marketed.
The first four weeks of any marketing campaign are the most important. During this time you will need to connect with the defined target audience and create as many inspections as possible. Structure your marketing recommendations accordingly.
Be aware of the current market conditions relative to the property type, and the seasonal sales or leasing pressures that can influence the starting of the marketing campaign. If you have a quality property to release to the market, it may pay you to consider the ideal time frames to do that.
Use some sort of graphical display to illustrate to the client how you will move the listing forward. A Gantt graphing process is good for this application. You can show the client exactly how things are done and where those things will head over the coming weeks.
As a general rule, every property should be exclusively listed. In that way you can create the correct amount of momentum, optimize the inspections, and negotiate directly with the client knowing all of the facts that are involved.
Vendor paid marketing should be part of the exclusive listing process. Get quality photographs taken of the property to feature in all the marketing material created and used. Be aware of the opportunities that each marketing method provides. The Internet should feature in every campaign. In the first instance, it is the visual side of marketing that will attract more enquiry so use the best photographs wherever possible as part of your marketing effort.
When it comes to pitching for the commercial property listing, your strategies and ideas need to be well planned and optimized for the prevailing conditions and the property. Help the client see why your strategies are so important.
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