When you work as a commercial real estate agent or broker, it is essential that you develop and implement a prospecting program to generate new business leads. It is a personal process and it is not something that you can or should delegate.
I am amused sometimes when I hear that an agent has paid considerable money to a marketing company to ‘cold call’ their entire sales territory or market segment looking for leads and prospects to serve. Delegating the prospecting process to a marketing company or another ‘unskilled person’ is a waste of time and money. Commercial real estate is an industry built around personal relationships and trust; a marketing company or employed canvasser cannot offer that level of communication or service.
So why would a real estate agent employ such a ‘marketing firm’ to make prospecting calls? The answer in most cases is glaringly obvious; the agent doesn’t have the skill or the discipline for the prospecting process to be successful.
If you want to win the new business, then you will need to do it yourself. Yes, it takes time to get results and you will need to develop some new skills, but discipline will help you get to the results that you are seeking.
One thing should be said here; commercial real estate brokerage is tremendously rewarding for the sales people that can work hard and to a system or plan. Looking for leads and opportunities is part of the process or game. It’s a personal thing and it can’t be delegated.
Here are some way’s to find new business, better property listings, and good clients:
- Redundant Properties – Some properties will move to a level of redundancy due to age, deterioration, change of zoning, or lack of tenants. When this happens it is time to move to the next phase of the property ‘lifecycle’. A good real estate agent can see the signs early and work closely with a property owner as they start to deal with the issue of investment change.
- Vacant Land – As a city expands or suburbs change, vacant land will be rezoned for new development. Keep ahead of this opportunity by monitoring the planning and development applications at your local planning approvals office. Get copies of the public minutes of the planning committee meetings.
- Old Listings – Some listings don’t sell or lease at the first attempt. What you can do here is withdraw the property from the market today and then revisit the property marketing effort a few months later in another and perhaps different marketing approach. Refreshing a listing is a valuable business process.
- Open Listings – The best way to sell or lease a property is through an exclusive listing process. Open listings are very much a process of luck; most open listings stay on the market for a very long time and on average are far less successful when compared to the dedicated marketing efforts of an exclusive listing. Revisit old open listings to see if they can be optimised for a fresh marketing effort.
- Larger Businesses – Local businesses are involved in property either as tenants or as owner occupiers. Business owners will need help with property from time to time. The best way to tap into that opportunity is through direct and ongoing contact. Cold call every business in your town or city and speak to them regularly about property needs and changes.
- Surrounding Other Listings – When a competing agent puts a property on the market, you can use that listing as a reason to talk to all adjacent and nearby business and property owners. One property listing can be the catalyst to talk to others to see if they would like to compete or do something themselves.
- Street Canvass – On a street by street basis, systematically move through your sales territory and research all property owners. Eventually you will create a good list of owners for your database. Ongoing contact will allow you to build valuable client relationships and the levels of trust that help grow commissions and listings.
- Cold Calling – The telephone remains the most effective business tool that we have. Direct calls handled in a professional way will help you reach out to new people. Selectively researching the property owners and business people in your area will support the cold calling process.
A simple list like this will give you an abundance of property leads and opportunities. The secret to making things work for you is in doing it yourself.
In commercial real estate agency today, you as an agent really do need a personal prospecting system. When you can establish a prospecting system that is geared to the local area and your relevant property experience, things get a lot easier when it comes to market share and growing your commissions.
One key problem that exists in the commercial property industry is that many agents work with far too few clients. When they lose a few key clients, they lose a massive amount of income and momentum. It takes time to build up good and productive client relationships.
Your personal prospecting process should bring new clients into your ‘pipeline’ of client contact and networking. Be prepared to lose a few clients every 6 months or so. Prepare for the loss by building new relationships. Nurture good clients and quality listings; it is a deliberate process that is ‘formulated and commenced’ at an individual level.
The cycle of commercial real estate sales and leasing is quite long. On that basis it can be months if not years before a client is ready to act in a sale, purchase, or lease. Your networking system has to continue in a relevant way for the ongoing time to capture that business. The only thing that you should determine at the outset of a first contact is that you then know that the person or prospect has the potential to need your services in the future.
Here are some other tips to help you with your personal prospecting system in this property market and economy:
- Define your business area and your property type so you clearly know where you are focusing. You should also determine why people should use your services. If you cannot establish that information for yourself it will be very hard to sell and pitch the idea of your services to anyone else. Confidence and relevance are key factors in presenting and pitching your agency services. You must be better than the competition agents; how can you do that?
- Given your special services, why are you a top agent? Can you sell that idea to a prospective client? What can you do that is more relevant and real than some of your competitors? Over time these things will need to grow and consolidate. They must become part of your personal brand.
- At any time and in any market you will find clients that are under property pressure in some way or form. Through consistent daily prospecting you will locate these clients and you can work with them to solve the ‘property pain’. If you are lacking clients and listings now, take a serious look at your prospecting systems and efforts. Most of the agents that are struggling are those that do not prospect enough. I have met agents that admit that they do little or no prospecting at all; I then wonder why they even bother being in the industry given the costs and pressures that apply to the average agent. Every property market has opportunity to identify and action.
- Track your prospecting efforts so you can see where you are progressing in conversions, calls and meeting outcomes. It takes about 3 or 4 approaches to some prospects and targets to get them to let you have a meeting with them. Consistency and relevance in contact are the key factors. When you ‘open the right doors’ with prospects, keep them open through ongoing relevant contact.
Given all of the above, the prospecting time that you apply to your career every day should be split 50% to established contacts, and 50% to finding new prospects. In this way you can build market share for the time that you lose a few good clients. Understand what works for you in commercial real estate and repeat the process over and over again. That’s a good way to get more new business.
In commercial real estate brokerage, the prospecting process is critical to the commissions and listings that you attract. The best agents and brokers in the industry have a quality approach and system when it comes to prospecting for new business. Every day they are implementing their system into new segments of the market and with new clients.
To revitalise your career and your market share, you can adopt a ‘top gun’ approach to all of your new business efforts. You could say that the approach is based on an ‘attitude’ more than anything else. When you direct your thinking towards creating new clients and new business, everything tends to follow with leads and opportunities.
Action is the key to getting anywhere in this industry. It really doesn’t matter what agency or brokerage you work for; personal branding and networking will allow you to achieve the results you want with listings and commissions.
Here are some ‘top gun’ tips to help you with your growth of market share and client conversions:
- Make it easy for people to contact you. Over time extend your brand into the local area and with the right people through constant contact. To do this correctly, you will require a networking and contact model that devotes 50% of your time to current contacts, and 50% of your time to new contacts.
- Take advantage of technology through the use of auto responders, e-mail marketing, social media, mobile telephones, and call prospecting. The ultimate goal in any new business effort is to get in front of the right people to establish a long-term relationship. In our industry, the elements of trust and knowledge go hand in hand. It can be many months if not years before someone is ready to use your services. Staying in contact over and for the long term is really important.
- Be prepared to put in the time and the effort when it comes to building your market share. Every day approximately 2 or 3 hours should be devoted to the prospecting and networking model you have devised. That itself can be a very large challenge for some agents. They simply do not have the discipline for the process and hence do not take the required action. When you think about it, this leaves the market wide open for those people that can get organised and stay on track when it comes to their real estate business plan and opportunity network. It is a personal thing. It cannot be delegated.
- Tracking your efforts and your results will be important to getting traction in building market share. Understand the number of calls that you are making every day, the meetings you are creating, and the presentations underway for new listings. Seek to improve the numbers in a logical and consistent way. Commit time to the process in your diary so that you can reach new people with new property requirements.
- It should be said that the prospecting process usually involves a degree of discomfort and skill development. You can fast track the process through practice and role playing. You can merge those activities into your regular weekly sales team meeting.
A successful prospecting model in commercial real estate will take you quickly into the local property market and help with many new quality commercial listings. Consistency and focus will be required to stay on track and get the conversions that you require. The agents and brokers that control the listings, control the market.