Master the basics of finding new clients.
One common thread links the newest CCIM candidate to the
most seasoned commercial real estate veteran: the need to acquire new clients
and maintain existing relationships. Without clients, you don’t have a
business, so prospecting is the lifeblood of any brokerage firm. And the most
effective way to turn prospects into clients is to pick up the phone and have a
conversation with them.
brokerage business has a three-part cycle: You enter the business cycle by
going to the market to find prospects with whom to do business. Once you have
found a prospect, you analyze their needs, make a presentation, and win the
right to represent them. Of course, winning the business isn’t enough, since
you also need to fulfill the assignment and close the deal.
these steps are important, but many brokers place their emphasis on the win and
fulfill stages. To keep your brokerage pipeline healthy, you need to always
keep re-entering the cycle by finding new prospects. This keeps all three
buckets in your brokerage continuum full.
Building a Prospect List
you pick up the phone, develop a solid strategy based on two essential
elements: determining who your prospect is and what you are going to say. You
can have the best list in the market, but if you cannot clearly articulate the
purpose of your call and the value to your audience, your great list is
worthless. Alternately, you can have a silver tongue and deliver consistently,
but if your calling list is outdated and not validated, you are not any better
off than the broker in the first situation.
by defining your target market. Your target market depends on how you see your
business. If you’re a tenant representative in a small market, you might need
to talk to every office user in the market. But if you’re working in a major
metro area, you might focus exclusively on CPA firms that take 10,000 or more
square feet of space in class A buildings in the central business district. The
more specific you can make your market, the easier it will be to prospect synergistically.
However, you also want to have enough opportunity to meet your earnings goals,
so don’t make your target market too small.
next step is to determine whom to call. When building your prospecting
database, try to only include the most qualified prospects. Ralph Spencer,
CCIM, a principal of Innovative Learning in Orlando, Fla., offers a list of
attributes of qualified prospects:
commercial real estate services;
he needs commercial real estate services;
the authority to act on his need;
the budget to back up his authority;
a sense of urgency to act;
your company and has had a positive experience in the past;
you and likes and trusts you; and
willing to follow your guidance.
more attributes that a person has, the more qualified as a lead they are for
you. A prospect with the first couple of attributes is worth talking to, but a
prospect that will take your guidance is practically a guaranteed client.
Formulating Your Pitch
you’ve identified your prospects, research what would interest them. This last
step is often forgotten. Determining a prospect’s issues gives you a good
reason to call and move the relationship forward. Learning about them, their
companies, and their real estate needs can help you to have a more pointed
conversation that is more likely to lead to a face-to-face meeting.
popular research sources for company information are Hoover’s and LexisNexis.
Hoover’s “First Research” product provides good insight and suggested questions
for key decision makers. For more direct research, leveraging an online
assistant such as Elance or Guru allows you to delegate your research
looking for discussion topics, don’t focus on the usual transactional
indicators such as lease expirations. Pay attention to bigger business issues.
This is the No. 1 mistake brokers make — focusing too much on lease terms and
too little on the business issues. Business issues drive real estate decisions.
Real estate issues generally don’t drive business decisions. For example, if
you learn that a company has just acquired a competitor, you can assume its
space needs will probably change and it will need brokerage services,
regardless of whether or not its leases are scheduled to roll over.
for some reason you can’t find a specific topic in your research, call for
other substantive reasons. These may include:
recent lease or sale that you successfully completed at a nearby or related
listing of yours that is of interest to the prospect; or
shared social networking connection with the prospect, such as being a member
of the same LinkedIn Group.
engaged in a discussion with the prospect, focus on the issues critical to the
prospect. Remember everyone’s favorite radio station — and I mean everyone’s —
is WIFM: What’s in it for me? Focusing on your prospect’s needs will set you
apart from the average broker who is simply trying to sell services. Critical
issues can revolve around building space, budgets, the industry, or more
specific items such as changes in the prospect’s employee staff size.
Making the Call
have finished preparing, generate a call list so you can sit down and do your
prospecting in one block of time. As you go through your call list and contact
your prospects, remember the reason that you are calling — to get the prospect
to sit down with you.
response to your call, prospects can give you one of the five reactions
the client says yes, book the meeting and end the call as quickly as possible.
Send a confirmation via email and, if the meeting is more than one week out,
send additional information between your call and the appointment that adds
value. For example, if you are meeting to discuss a lease, send a client
testimonial regarding a lease you just renewed or a tenant you successfully
the prospect says no, try to find an area of interest that you can use to book
a meeting. Remember the cardinal rule of WIFM. Use your research to address
possible business issues the prospect is facing, or share what their
competitors are doing in the market. Also, if the prospect is rude or hurried,
consider that you may have called at a bad time. In that case, call back in one
to three months.
the client asks you to send information, consider offering to send it as long
as they agree to have another conversation with you to discuss it. You can send
the information without such a commitment, but inevitably you will end up
chasing the prospect for weeks if not months.
you find out that you have the wrong person, ask who the correct decision maker
is or go back and re-research your contact information.
the prospect isn’t interested in meeting with you, find out why. If the timing
isn’t right for them, attempt to get a sense of a better time to call. This is
also an excellent opportunity for you to re-examine the value proposition that
you’re presenting on the phone. If it’s not compelling, you probably will get a
lot of uninterested responses. Sharpen your pitch and call them back in one to
Evaluating Your Performance
important thing about any prospect call is to evaluate each call when it is
over. Record your notes from the call in your database, but also take the time
to record what you did well and where you can use some improvement. Again, it’s
not about the quantity of calls you make, it’s about the quantity of targeted,
quality calls that you make.
you prospect, remember that persistence is key. If you don’t get someone on the
phone, leave them a voicemail message, then leave another if they don’t respond
to the first one. If you send out a blast email, send out another one the next
month. When a prospect turns you down, try again and respectfully give them
another reason that a meeting would be valuable for them.
have captured numerous opportunities based on my persistence. True, there is a
fine line between persistence and annoyance, but very few of us ever get near
this line. We quit much too early. If you have never been called a pain, then
it’s highly likely you aren’t calling as much as you should.
phone call you make brings you closer to your ultimate goal of winning
assignments and fulfilling them. Every contact you have with a prospect
increases your likelihood of securing that meeting, and that is what
prospecting is all about. Ultimately, prospecting is one of the key factors in
building a successful brokerage business.
Rod Santomassimo, CCIM, is
president and founder of the Massimo Group, a commercial real estate brokerage
coaching and consulting firm, and author of Amazon.com’s No. 1-rated commercial
real estate book, Brokers Who Dominate: Eight Traits of
Top Producers. Contact him at www.massimo-group.com.
CCIM Strategies for Making Contact
aren’t the only way to prospect. Many real estate professionals also have
success leveraging the power of the CCIM designation and CCIM networking
are the absolute best way to connect with others,” says Lee Y. Wheeler III,
CCIM, president of NAI Wheeler in Beaumont, Texas. He utilizes contacts made
through social media, local networking, and past clients to gain personal
introductions to potential new clients. “The CCIM designation alone helps
tremendously as it adds credibility to anything I do,” he says. “And by
educating those who refer me on what CCIM means, it allows them to refer me
“I use the
events sponsored by my local CCIM chapter to engage with many different
decision makers,” says Ira Korn, CCIM, managing director and partner at
Coldwell Banker Commercial Meridian in Rochester, N.Y. “I find that people are
generally more relaxed and open to making new acquaintances.” Attendees are
also a great source of market information, he adds. “Recently I explored the
purchase of a value-add opportunity located near a new development done by a
CCIM. Our conversation gave me a better grasp of the marketplace and local
politics, and allowed me to more accurately value this particular asset.”
Derek J. Doke,
CCIM, agrees. “There isn’t anything better than a good face-to-face networking
event,” says the managing broker and senior asset manager at Barclay’s Realty
& Management Co. in Kirkland, Wash. After meeting a fellow Washington State
CCIM Chapter member at a chapter-sponsored deal-making session, “we negotiated
a $1.4 million land transaction within 30 days that closed shortly
Doke also makes a point to connect with
decision makers outside of commercial real estate. “It’s important to get out
from behind your desk and mingle with other professionals. I receive leads from
doctors, accountants, financial advisers, teachers, fellow tennis players, and
a host of others,” he says. He leverages his past experience as a former
international tax specialist not only to make connections, but also to educate
and instill confidence in clients, something that many CCIMs can do, given
their depth of experience. “Most if not all CCIMs bring much to the table aside
from their CCIM credentials,” he says. — Sara Drummond, executive editor of Commercial
Investment Real Estate