They say that ‘curiosity killed the cat’, however that is not the case in commercial real estate brokerage. Curiosity is a good thing for any agent or broker to develop, and will encourage the right information that helps with results in prospecting and marketing efforts. Are you ready for the ‘curiosity’ challenge?
So it is a fact, being ‘curious’ should be a core skill to develop for any property agent or broker. Asking questions in a professional way will help you get to the right facts of the market, and the best people looking to do something with local property.
In a sensible and professional way, questions well-crafted will help you find listings and client opportunity. An agent or broker that cannot or does not ask lots of questions will not succeed as a top agent, and will struggle to find market share.
Here are some basic ‘sample’ questions to explore as part of that process of questioning and establishing professional agent curiosity:
Owner Occupier Buyers
- What property types do you prefer?
- How did you find this property?
- What have you looked at recently?
- Do you need to sell another property to make this work for you?
- When is the right time for you to buy?
- What improvements do you need on your short list of requirements?
- What budget do you have?
- What services and amenities will you need in the property?
Owner Occupier Sellers
- When is the right time for you to sell given your current property use?
- Why will you need to move?
- What strengths and weaknesses do you see in the property?
- Will you need to relocate and have you found something else?
- Given the property market today, what expectations do you have of the sale process?
- What are the outgoings for the property today?
- How much space do you need?
- What’s your rental budget?
- What have you looked at locally?
- What improvements do you need?
- What staff access and amenities will you require?
- How does car parking and customer access impact your property selection?
- How long will you be holding the property?
- Is your priority centred on income or capital gain?
- What priorities will you have in tenant mix and lease tenure?
- Is redevelopment a consideration in your purchase?
- Have you explored financing options today?
- Is this a ‘blue chip’ single investment for you or part of a portfolio balance?
- Is this purchase a part of a portfolio strategy?
- How will you be using the property?
- What are the critical improvements and fitout configurations that you must have?
- When is the ideal time of property changeover for you?
- Are you moving from another location?
- Who are the decision makers when you finally find the right property?
- What have you looked at elsewhere?
- What have you liked about where you are now?
- How do raw materials, customers, or end user markets impact your property decisions?
Are you ready to ask some good questions? I hope so; the best property agents do it all the time.
When you work in commercial real estate brokerage you need plenty of quality listings, and then a buyer management system to support and encourage offers and sale contracts. If you choose the right listings, enquiries should come your way; every enquiry is an opportunity for the future and that is why the process should be well managed.
As a special note here, exclusive listings help you control buyers; open listings by contrast give you little control over the property, the client, and the buyer enquiry. So your primary focus should always be to attract and convert exclusive listings that you control as an agent or broker; if the listings are of quality, then you should have a good ongoing source of enquiry. That is where your database becomes really important, but more on that later.
Here are some buyer management ideas:
- Buyers are sometimes ‘liars’ (or selective information providers), and on that basis should be fully qualified before you do too much with them. Understand exactly who they are (including contact detail), what they want by way of property, how they have found you, and question deeply their ability to act on a property purchase. All of this has to happen before you do anything else. Expect the buyer to limit or manipulate the information they give you; careful questioning should solve that problem and get to the real facts.
- Have they seen other property locally? If they are working with other agents and are considering other property to purchase it is best to know about it up front. That is why ‘exclusive listings’ are so important; you control the listing stock and so any inspections are yours to create and control.
- What do they know about the local property market? That information is part of the qualification process. See what they know about competing properties, prices, and methods of property purchase (see what purchase method suits them the best).
- Are they a ‘hot buyer’? By ‘hot buyer’ I mean someone that has the ability to act and is motivated in some way to take immediate action. Find out what time frames they have to satisfy the property need as well as the critical ‘must have’ factors in property location, improvements, and property type. If they are ready to act on a purchase then they should rise to the top of the enquiry list, and a full review of your available listings should occur.
- Don’t show them too many properties at any one time; 3 or 4 are usually enough in any one property sitting. Too many properties inspected at one time will usually frustrate the buyer decision and deal momentum.
When you understand these things you can put some urgency into the property selection, inspection, and purchase process. That’s how you work with buyers of commercial property today.
In commercial real estate brokerage today the negotiations required for some properties can be complex and protracted. On that basis you should have an established negotiation management process to use at a personal level or within your real estate office. The process helps you and also the team leader or sales manager to understand the status of the current deals and the commission opportunities.
It is a sad fact that some agents are less experienced when it comes to complex property negotiations. On that basis the negotiation tracker can assist in deal momentum and closure. The sales manager or team leader can then closely monitor the stages of the deal and potentially get involved if closure is taking too long.
Here are some strategies to help you with a ‘negotiation deal’ tracker:
- The tracker itself should apply to the separate stages of activity in both sales and leasing. This then suggests that you will have a checklist specifically designed for property sales and another for property leasing. If you get involved with retail leasing, the complexity of that will also require a specific checklist.
- This process can help maintain control across deals and agents when the market is busy or the property is challenging. The levels of experience between agents can sometimes expose a brokerage to liability and indemnity risks. The checklist can help you from an insurance and risk management control perspective.
- A rule needs to be set that all deals will be documented in and processed through the negotiation checklist for the office. At the end of every working day the checklist should be updated by each agent for the deal and the client in question. In this way the sales manager can oversee the momentum of the negotiation and help with any hurdles that may be occurring.
- As a general concept, any negotiations should be soft on people but hard on the issue; don’t bring personalities into a negotiation, but focus on the issue.
- Every sale or lease negotiation will have documentary requirements to legally protect the client as they move to contract and on to settlement. Some agents will have a weakness when it comes to documentation; accuracy and knowledge are a challenge for some. The checklist can help identify those weaknesses and control the actions of individual agents. Again, this is beneficial from an insurance and risk perspective.
- A good negotiation should be a satisfactory outcome for all parties (including the agent on behalf of their client). The momentum to the process will be established through a sense of urgency and the professional skills of the agent.
In many respects you can improve an agent’s negotiation skills through ongoing training and role playing when it comes to selling or leasing the various property types. In any market and at any point in time there will be common problems of negotiation that pop up and require action; the weekly sales meeting is the best place to talk about them. In our industry you never really stop learning.
Closing the gap on any property negotiation should be the target in any property sale or lease scenario. Design a checklist involving the factors to achieve that control and directed momentum. The client will appreciate the professionalism, and over time that will help you with other business opportunities and referrals.
In commercial real estate today, agents are and should be responsible for marketing themselves. That requirement is in addition to the general brokerage marketing process. At a personal level ‘information marketing’ can be a valuable strategy for individual agents to develop and use. You can build it into your personal sales plan.
So what is ‘information marketing’? It is the provision and use of ‘quality information’ to attract prospects and people online. When correctly implemented, that ‘attraction factor’ can help real estate agents get substantially more online profile as an ‘expert’ in a property type and or location. The strategy works well in commercial real estate and will help you attract more property enquiries locally, and people to use your real estate services.
Here are some of the big issues to help you get started in ‘information marketing’ as a real estate agent or broker:
- Focus your information and efforts on your local area and your property type. Everything that you do in the marketing process should be centred firmly in your market ‘niche’ and location. To achieve this, decide what area of your town or city is your ‘territory’ of focus. Within that area, what property type(s) will be your special field of endeavor? All of your local marketing efforts should be built around those answers. For example, you may focus on ‘industrial warehouse leasing’ or ‘shopping centre sales’. Choose on market segment and drill down into it. Define your market ‘niche’ and work within it as part of your marketing processes.
- Start a real estate blog on one of the blogging platforms (Blogger, or WordPress) and focus your blogs on your property type and location. Everything that you post to your blog should stay within those niche factors; that will help the search engines see you as an agent and the relevance of information that you provide. Topic consistency is the key to the process.
- All of your blogs should be written about the location and the property type. The blogs should be ‘informational’ and not ‘advertorial’; in other words your blogs should be helpful and useful. When you provide valuable local property market information, you start to build trust with your readers.
- On your blog site, link an auto responder and database service to your blog articles so interested people can register for more information about your property type, and town or city. You can now see why fresh ‘information’ is so important to making this marketing process work. Lots of agents advertise prolifically, but not many actually help people with local property information in a convenient way such as an online blog.
- Integrate your blogs and articles to your social media platforms. Whilst most social media platforms concentrate on being ‘social’, most agents only achieve and focus on that level of interaction (which can be self centered and of little interest to others). Take a step further in personal marketing by being ‘helpful’ with local property market information and articles from your blog; provide the links accordingly across all of your social media channels.
All of the above strategies are simple and yet advanced. They can be implemented to a substantial and successful level by any agent in real estate. They are very suitable for commercial real estate agents and brokers. If you are struggling with being ‘seen’ as a broker in your local town or city, now might be a good time to start the online marketing process. Use local information marketing to achieve that.
They say that a person can change a career a few times in their working life. In commercial real estate that doesn’t need to be the case. There are so many options within the industry that you can easily move around within property types and specialities; variety and opportunities are always available to those that look for them. A good career can be obtained by those that are prepared to learn and work hard.
Here are some tips and ideas to help you with your business activities and focus in the industry:
- Market knowledge – You will be tested by property owners, business leaders, and others as part of prospecting and networking. Local property market knowledge will be valuable leverage in connecting with more people. Most people and the prospects that we work with don’t have the exposure to the market; they need good real estate agents to tell them what is going on in sales, leasing, and new property developments. Build your knowledge so that you can be of real value to the people you talk to.
- Observe and interpret – Observe the market intelligently and completely. Look at the relationships between prices, rents, and investment. There are reasons for your clients and prospects to transact a sale or a lease. Look for those reasons. Look for distressed properties, changing of use, lease pressures, vacancy factors, and returns on investment. Those issues will all offer opportunities for new business and listing activity.
- Practice – I cannot understate the importance of practice. Our industry is one of professionalism across key skills such as listing, prospecting, inspecting, negotiating, and marketing. Each of those factors requires regular practice if you want to accelerate results.
- Prospecting – Connecting with new people and particularly those looking for property opportunity or change should occur every day. Most agents struggle with the disciplines to do that. For those agents that devote the time to prospecting and networking for new business, the market can be very rewarding in so many ways.
- Systems – The actions that you take each day will be boosted by systems that can be monitored and improved at a personal level. Have a careful look at your systems and activities in prospecting and marketing. Both of those issues are so critical to growing market share. Your database will be part of that process of growth and change.
- Client collateral – Your clients are the lifeblood of the market that you work in. Over time look to grow your client relationships and services. Improve your value by specialising in certain segments of the market.
So these 6 simple things are so vital to opportunity in commercial real estate agency. They are the foundations or ‘corner stones’ of a successful commercial real estate career. Now might be a good time to look at any weaknesses in these factors that can be improved on or modified for better personal performance.
Personal branding in commercial real estate is quite important. At a personal level you can be a ‘cool brand’, and that by definition is someone that is good to know and an expert in their field of real estate and in the location. On that basis clients and prospects will seek you out at the ‘go to person’ for solving property problems. You could say that you then have real ‘market attraction’.
This image will help you with listings and growth of market share. Are you up to the challenge? Let’s look at this a bit more.
So how do you create this very special image as a top agent and expert in your field? Prospecting will help you a lot, but in saying that you can add some rules and processes to the prospecting process. There is no point in being ordinary in our industry as you will just fade into the already large group of other brokers and agents; every listing pitch will then be a competitive event. Consider these alternatives:
- Ideas person – many properties and clients will be unique and challenging. For that reason you can be an ‘ideas’ person to help solve the complex property situation facing the client. Every exclusive listing should be handled with a high degree of creativity in marketing and promotion.
- Great negotiator – some properties are challenging as to the complexity of the sales contract or property lease. Make sure you have enough knowledge to build the negotiation momentum for your client. Any hurdles to the marketing of the property should have been resolved early in the property listing process. Preparation is the key to resolving negotiation issues.
- Solution provider – some of your competitors will be quite ‘generic’ when it comes to marketing a property and establishing a campaign. Your solutions must be better than all the other agents; that’s how you can convert exclusive listings much more effectively.
- Stand out in a crowded market – to help you stand out in your area and sales territory get plenty of sign boards into your zone. As a priority make sure your signs are more effective in placement and detail. That will mean some vendor paid funds to take the listing to the market.
- Commitment to task – many clients will talk of ‘agents that have failed them’. The fact of the matter is that the generic support for clients with their property today will be of little benefit in converting a sale or lease. If a property is special then you should provide special ideas and momentum to the promotion process. You can only do that when the client has given you an exclusive listing. Can you convert more exclusive listings? If not, why not? Set yourself a challenge to list only exclusive listings of a quality nature.
When you review these points, apply them to your own personal marketing profile. How do you match the image? Can you do better?
Time is really precious to any business person, but in commercial real estate time is perhaps the most important resource that you have. How you spend your time will impact your listing outcomes and your commissions. We all have choices that are critical to our business.
There are 3 types of salespeople in our industry:
- Those that watch what others do and follow the ‘leader of the pack’. Those people may be happy but they will not make much money. They don’t stay long in the industry.
- Those that conform to the trends of the market and the business team. Conforming is a comfortable way to do business although not very rewarding. Generic performance is the outcome.
- Those that see opportunity and drive new business from unique personal endeavours. This group of agents and brokers are independent in their visions and actions. They don’t need others to put momentum into their business.
If you have chosen commercial real estate as a career, you have done so for a number of reasons. Here are some of the most common:
- Income opportunities
- Independence as a business person
- Professional skill development and drive
- Unique skills and interests in the property market
Perhaps you are one of the few that have a focus on all perspectives. Whatever your priorities may be, the way you use your time will be an important attribute of your business.
Here are some tips to help you use your time more effectively as a real estate broker or agent:
- The things that you do every day will have a significant impact on the results that you achieve. It is therefore critical to understand the matters that are of high value to your commission and listing opportunities. Those things should be repeated regularly as part of the daily diary activity. Habits are really important to our professional careers.
- Some of the things that we do in the market today should be tracked for improvement and results. You can do that with key performance indicators and comparisons relating to your property type and fellow agents. Look for those agents and brokers that are highly successful; check out their activities to see if any of them can be replicated. In this industry you can learn from the skills of others. You can also learn from your own personal professional skill development. Track and measure the things that are occurring each day from your efforts. Adjust those efforts to suit improvements in listing opportunity, client connections, marketing strategies, and negotiation outcomes.
- In many respects, you can bring most of the specialized skills that we have back to simple things that can be practiced. As they say, practice makes perfect. You can practice your dialogues, negotiation skills, and presentation skills. Every day we use those things in so many different ways.
So the message here is quite simple. Have a serious look at your diary and how you use your time every day. Devote at least 1/3 your business day to business building activities. Take steps to improve your core skills through regular daily practice.
In commercial real estate brokerage, what do your customers look like, where are they located, and what do they want from you? Why would they contact you? They are interesting questions; when you know the answers, you have the central focus of your prospecting model.
One of the biggest mistakes in commercial real estate is for an agent or a broker to prospect generically over a large area with little focus. The prospecting message then becomes clouded and non-specific. A message of that type will have little attraction to the target audience of local property investors and business owners. So it is clear that a few decisions need to be made regards the clients and prospects that you want to work with. I like to call it a ‘customer commonality’ process.
To get some direction with your customer focus and prospecting model, consider the following ideas and topics. See how they can be merged into your client contact systems:
- The best prospecting model involves personal follow up and contact. Anything that you send out by way of correspondence, marketing, or brochures, needs to be followed up with a telephone call. It directly follows that your letters sent and brochures dispatched should be in suitable numbers for new personal contact and follow through. The process should be repeated every 30 or 60 days.
- Understand the activities in the market today. What pressures are occurring on property owners and business leaders? Where can you offer the best levels of assistance and professional service? In a town or a city, there are likely to be a number of answers to these questions. For that reason you should consider separate prospecting models and messages for different market segments and different market locations.
- Review your area geographically so that you can split your prospecting efforts up into groups of buildings, groups of properties, and types of people. This then helps you significantly with the marketing message and central prospecting concept. It is quite clear that a generic prospecting letter is of little use and is highly likely to be put into the rubbish bin rather quickly. To lessen this chance of any failure factor, make your marketing messages quite specific and of interest and value to the person that you are connecting with. Provide some information regards the market, recent listings, prices, rentals, or industry changes. Whilst keeping the letter or the correspondence simple, a few dot points will capture the interest of the reader.
- When you break your customer base up into a number of market segments, you will see that there are common factors and leads to be exploited. They may be associated with market trends, property activity, regional changes, and transport issues, property zoning, and planning matters. When something happens regionally that can have impact on property owners and occupants, you have an opportunity to make direct contact with your database in a relevant and real way. That’s what professional prospecting is all about.
In saying all of these things, it is wise for you to focus on a particular property type within a location. In that way you can relate specifically and accurately to the variations in price, rental, market interest, and the supply of new stock. The commercial real estate industry is not difficult; however it does require specific focus and property speciality.
In commercial real estate brokerage you need a ‘selling system’. That is a system that will apply to sales, leasing and or property management. It doesn’t matter what part of the industry that you work in, the selling of specialised services should apply. You are the best person to do that.
It can be said that not enough ‘selling’ goes on these days. All too often you see a broker or agent wasting time on ‘dead ends’ and unqualified prospects. The ‘selling’ process involves all of the following:
- Finding new clients to serve
- Promoting new listings in the local area
- Talking to new people every day
- Marketing a property to inquiring parties as part of an inspection
- Advertising online and in the newspapers etc.
So how can you do all of this with reasonable focus? You should have a system that controls your day and your focus. Stay on track in all respects as an agent or broker. Don’t divert your thinking or focus. Do the things that really matter to the clients and deals that you have underway.
You can split the ‘sales’ process up into these segments; in doing that you can improve your action and skills for each segment. Just how good are you at these things below?
- Researching new clients and properties to work on or for
- Prospecting consistently in your area and town or city for sellers, buyers, tenants, and landlords
- Identifying the requirements of people so you know if ongoing contact or perhaps a meeting is required
- Meeting creation for listings and presentations with clients
- Listing strategies that take into account the current market conditions
- Qualifying the right people to work with or take to listings as part of an inspection process
- Negotiation strategies for any stage of the property process and client situation
- Documentation processes and legalities
- Servicing the property, the client, and the deal
Every segment supports and leads to the next. If you have a weakness in any segment then you have a problem to address as a real estate agent. That is where training and role playing in your team can help. A career in commercial real estate involves ongoing and regular personal improvement. Prepare your selling system accordingly and stick to the plan.
Top real estate agents are easy to identify. They do the things that other agents avoid; they know how to tap into opportunity and the right clients. The good thing here is that top agents a far fewer in number (2 in 10 is a typical ratio); there is plenty of room at the top of the real estate market for those agents that strive to get there.
So what do these top agents have that other agents do not? I could summarise it really simply and say that it is ‘commitment and the right processes’. They know what to do and they do it every day. Over time they understand what works for them and they do those things every day.
Here are some ideas to help you get started on the road to being a ‘top agent’. Whilst I will give you a basic system here and now, take it and refine it as you progress. Adjust the system to your market and your property type.
- At least one third of your working day must be devoted to prospecting. That ratio should not change and if anything it should increase towards 50%. Track and measure your prospecting efforts. Understand what works for you and how you can do more of it.
- How you think will impact what you do on a daily basis. On that basis protect your thinking and your processes from the criticism of others. You are the person in charge of your business day.
- Watch what the top agents are doing. Can you replicate their processes or improve them? Success as an agent comes from doing a few specific things very well; not lots of things in a random way. Determine the 5 things that will help you drive your business forward. Decide how you can do those things every day.
- Quality properties should be converted to exclusive listings. When you control the listing stock the enquiries will come to you. Whilst it is good to know lots of other people that require a property to buy or lease, the top agents focus on listings. Find and convert the listings.
- You should have a prospecting system that is easy to implement and stick to every day. Do the required call research each night so you are ready to make the cold calls the next day. Don’t waste prospecting time on research that can be done ‘out of hours’.
Find out what people are doing with property now and into the future. A good client contact today can be a valuable client in the future. Build on your contacts so they trust and remember you at the right time in the future. That’s how you become a ‘top agent’.
The longer that you work as a commercial real estate agent or broker, you will soon understand the priorities of property choice and performance when it comes to certain clients and prospects. With that knowledge, you can match clients to properties and create transactions off market.
So every client will have certain priorities when it comes to property choice and investment performance.
Consider the following factors and opportunities:
- The income from a property may have allowances for growth given the rent review profiles within each lease document. Some leases are better than others. Some rent review strategies are also more effective than others when it comes to rental income performance. Understand the differences between the available rent review strategies and how they can be shaped within a lease negotiation.
- A new lease today with a lower rental start point can be shaped into a substantial income cash flow over time; that is providing you choose the right tenants and the appropriate rent review strategies. A good lease negotiator will understand the important factors of rental positioning and growth at the time of lease negotiation.
- Diversification can be an advantage when it comes to property portfolio ownership. If the client focus for a portfolio is too much within the same property type, the client can open themselves up to income instability when the market changes. The threat of a vacancy can be a real problem when the market shifts and changes. So there are different property types to choose from including office, retail, and industrial property. There are also different locations within a town or a city all of which can provide alternatives and opportunities as the market changes. Look at how you can provide your client with portfolio stability through property diversification.
- Review your area for properties going through change in lifecycle due to age and redundancy. The older properties may soon need a refurbishment and or material change of use. That can then lead to a variety of redevelopment, leasing, and sales opportunities.
- You can sometimes match the right people to the right circumstances; as an example you can bring a property developer together with a property investor. You can add to that equation a local financier with appropriate funds. You then simply need to add a suitable property to the relationship, and you will have the recipe for a potential property development and major project. Multiple sales and leasing opportunities can then follow.
- Some clients are very skilled when it comes to property improvement and repositioning. They understand how to take a difficult property and turn it into something that is more successful and highly marketable. It is not unusual for a client in that situation to turn a property around and resell it within a period of 5 to 7 years.
A top agent tends to work with clients and prospects in different ways. To do this, it is simply a matter of understanding the needs of the client, the opportunities of the market, and the different strategies that can be applied to bring a deal together.
There is nothing more rewarding than to put a deal together off market away from the pressures of the competition and the scrutiny of other agents. When you announce the deal to the world through an editorial or press release, the other agents are soon recognising that you are the top agent with all of the contacts.
The commercial property market is a challenge at the best of times. There are plenty of things to do when it comes to commercial brokerage and agency. Each and every day a certain number of hours should be devoted to the prospecting process. That activity will be at a personal level for any agent or broker.
It stands to reason that a good broker will have a successful prospecting model to encourage new clients and listings in a regular way. The earlier that agents and brokers move towards this planning process and its implementation, the faster they move up the ranks of the market with listings and commissions.
Here are some tips to help you with the prospecting process that should be applied to office, industrial, or retail property. Given your local market conditions, you can add to the list as appropriate:
- Understand the activities of the market over the last two or three years. As the market been attracting activity or has it been contracting? It is best to work within a market that has growth and opportunity. It is best to work with property types that have a future.
- Many brokerages employ agents on the assumption that the agents will bring in the required new sales and leasing business. Certainly that is the case to a degree; it should however be observed that a good real estate brokerage will have generic marketing strategies and material to help the agents with their daily prospecting activities. An agent or a broker with little or no support from their principal will struggle.
- It is critical that a broker or an agent get signboards into their territory as soon as possible. Those signboards should be on exclusive listings. Signboard presence will always help local market profile and encourage inbound telephone calls. On that basis you can build your database.
- The Internet today offers significant opportunity when it comes to business profile and property marketing. Every brokerage or agency should have a substantial business website to promote sales and leasing listings. The brokerage should always be updating the website with the latest technology tools to capture inbound enquiries. A database portal is part of that process.
- Set aside 2 hours per day to contact new people through the local area. The easiest way to do that is through a consistent and professional cold calling process. When you have connected with a number of people across the telephone, you can move out into the marketplace and door knock a number of businesses and property owners. Personal contact in our market today is really important.
- Every new property listing will give you an opportunity to talk to many other property owners and businesses in the same location. Every successful transaction will give you further reasons to connect with the market place. Use your existing listings and exclusive listings to connect with the property market.
In looking at these activities, it is easy to see that the involvement of the agent or broker at a personal level is critical. Momentum is required every day to establish a good prospecting model to convert more listings and commissions.