When it comes to working with any new client or prospect in commercial real estate, the quality of the questions that you ask will help you get to the point of the listing or marketing process effectively and directly. Direct questions will help you win new business, convert more transactions, and grow your commissions.
Many of the clients and the prospects that you talk to will initially be quite guarded or reluctant share too much information about the person situation. Trust is a part of client and prospect contact. That being said, you really do need to drill down into the real facts of the property pressure they may be experiencing. The questioning process gets a lot easier when you understand local market activities including prices, rents, availability, and time on market.
One factor to remember here is that you are the property expert for the local area and on that basis you are entitled to ask direct and meaningful questions. If the client or the prospect is reluctant to share their complete property situation with you, then you should also be reluctant to give out too much information about listings and property facts locally.
Direct Qualifying Questions in Commercial Real Estate Brokerage
Here are some questions to use to help you identify property needs and opportunities with new clients and prospects:
- How have they found the property? – Always try to understand how new people have contacted you to make the initial property enquiry. Over time you will soon see the methods of marketing that are attracting the right levels of enquiry for you as the agent or broker. Have they reached you as a result of and Internet listing, the property advertisement, signboard, or a referral?
- What do they know about the local area when it comes to prices and rents? – Some tenants and property buyers have unrealistic expectations when it comes to prices and rents. That will usually be due to their lack of understanding when it comes to the local area. If you are working with a client or prospect with that problem, you will need to show them some other properties where results have been achieved at established market prices or market rents.
- What other properties have they seen locally with other agents? Most buyers and tenants will be working with other agents simultaneously to satisfy their property need in a timely way. On that basis you can never really be sure as to what properties they have seen recently, or what they may be negotiating on right now. Be careful when it comes to the prospects you work with and the potential connection with another agent. The inspecting party, be they a tenant, investor, or business owner, may very well share confidential property information inadvertently about your listings to the other agent.
- Do they have a budget relating to property choice and negotiation? – The budget that they have set when it comes to a property purchase or rental should be questioned. There are other issues to consider as part of the budget that the prospect may have overlooked. In the case of rental, they may not have considered the recoverable outgoings in addition to the rental structure. In the case of price, they may not have considered the associated costs of contract including taxes, moving costs, and any special applications that may apply to property use.
- What is the process that will allow them to make the property decision? – Every prospect business or investor will have a process of negotiation and decision. Make sure that you are talking to the decision maker where ever possible. If you are talking to a company as a prospect, they may have a Board of Directors that need to be included or involved in the final property decision. That Board of Directors may also meet irregularly and therefore the final property decision could be delayed. When you understand the pressures of time and decision, the negotiation for your client gets a lot easier.
So you can ask plenty of direct questions and qualify the prospects people that you work with in commercial real estate brokerage. Drill down into the facts of the matter when it comes to their property selection, intentions, decisions, and needs. Take plenty of notes when you work with these people so that any information they give you today can be proven or discussed in the future.
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.
In commercial real estate brokerage, the questions that you ask will help build listing opportunity. You may only have one chance to connect with a person or prospect. Tap into their property needs effectively and efficiently with better questions; then it is simply a matter of tracking the matter with a good database and follow-up.
Top agents and brokers match people to property situations. That is a great strategy in today’s market. So how many people should you know in this market? Whilst the number varies with property type and location, it is essential to connect with all the ‘players’ including the following:
- Property investors that own quality property currently
- New property owners that have entered the area
- Business owners looking for relocation or purchase
- Business owners looking for a sale and lease back opportunity
- Property developers (yes, I know they come and go from the market)
- Solicitors and accountants with property clients
When you look at the list it is easy to see that the questioning process is critical in each of the segments. Better questions set the scene for property action and opportunity.
Here are some rules that apply to connecting and questioning your prospects today:
- Understand that you are talking with a decision maker for the business or the property. When you are connecting with local businesses you will find middle management quite frustrating and time wasting.
- Look for leads and referrals through the people that you know now. They are the easiest business opportunities to convert. One good client is likely to know 3 or 4 other people of relevance to what you do.
- Find out what the current property situation is for the client or prospect today. In an ideal world how would they move ahead in investment or business decisions? What would be the timing of that?
- One answer to a good question about property ownership or use can be ‘drilled down’ on further, and in doing so you can get to get to the important catalysts of change. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing another agent or broker come into your client relationship and take or convert a listing away from your control.
- Recognise that when you ask good questions, you control the conversation. If the client is asking too many questions, you are not in control.
- Understand the differences in closed versus open questions on property ownership and use. There are many variations of issues to explore and investigate. One good response can lead to a contact call at a later time.
Top agents and brokers ask great questions. They then watch the total response so they can tap into the needs of the prospect or client. Control your commercial real estate market through great questions.