Selling a Service

These four tips offer a better business model for brokers.

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I offer a service: I help resolve issues that my clients have by disposing of or investing in real estate. I get hired to solve problems. I am in a service business, and my product is real estate.

Not many commercial practitioners view their businesses this way. But if you stop to think about it, your lawyer, accountant, and insurance agent all approach their businesses in this manner. And if commercial real estate professionals can embrace this thinking, we have the opportunity to grow our client base, enhance our existing income, and end up with more referral business and better customer retention.

It is not something that happens overnight. But all the tools and procedures you have developed over the years that have taken you where you are today remain valid. This approach focuses on applying a different mindset to the same topics you have dealt with in the past.

Steps to Better Service

A service approach is like a three-legged stool: It requires knowledge, time, and a problem-solving attitude. As a CCIM, you have the education and access to technology and networking resources, which allow you to maximize your time management and continually improve your knowledge base. To enhance your problem-solving abilities, move your thinking and actions into a more service-oriented process.

Remember, the most successful commercial real estate professionals have above-average skill sets. There are very few clients who want to work with an average real estate broker when they have access to above-average brokers. These few tips will help you present yourself as a service-oriented, problem-solving professional and showcase your above-average skills to clients and colleagues.

1. Respond to inquiries within 24 hours to 48 hours. Speed of response with accurate information is critical in this industry and expected in today’s business culture. If you can’t respond personally, do you have people you can rely on to get the information out for you in a presentable form once you have approved it? If not, consider hiring an assistant or taking on a partner to help move yourself into a more credible position. In addition, develop the habit of being able to meet with potential clients at the times that are most convenient for them. Having an assistant or a partner also can help you meet this goal.

2. Differentiate yourself from competitors in the way you market properties. If you can’t imagine what this would entail, consider hiring a marketing person (even a part-timer) who has the expertise and understanding of what possibilities exist. Just imagine the credibility established when you can tell somebody, “I’ll have my marketing director give you a call.”

Online marketing is a given in commercial real estate today, but providing above-average marketing assistance may mean employing target marketing as well as video, e-blasts, and other methods. If you hire a marketing expert, make sure they have digital experience. And don’t forget about resources such as CCIMREDEX, where you can enter property information once and push it to various outlets.

3. Use technology to extend your ability to provide answers and services. For example, use Argus or LeaseMod to provide the financial analysis your clients need. Or use real-time online reporting, such as ClientLook, for marketing updates instead of 30- or 45-day written reports. Consult STDBonline for market demographics. All of these technology tools are tremendous time savers that provide immediate and valuable information to your clients so they can “see” the progress.

4. Boost your industry knowledge. To provide a service, you need to know how to solve real estate problems. So you need answers –- lots of answers. Learn the tax consequences of installment sales vs. conventional sales, the timelines and structure associated with 1031 exchanges, and the concept of present value using discounted cash flows.

Along with becoming the go-to expert in your own market, leverage the resources of the CCIM Institute to increase your knowledge. Use Mailbridge to pose queries about and find contacts in other markets your clients are interested in exploring. Listen to free Ward Center Webinars to learn about disposition strategies for distressed assets, or sign up for a workshop to learn about data mining in your market. And while it’s impossible to have all the answers at your fingertips, know where to find that more-specific information that may mean the difference between closing a deal and being closed out of the running.

By using people wisely and investing in the proper technology and knowledge, you go beyond being a real estate agent or broker and become a problem solver. The proportions in which you use technology and people are entirely up to you. Some brokers utilize very high levels of technology. Personally, I prefer a more balanced approach employing both people and technology at about a 60/40 split. Find a comfort level for yourself by investing in people and/or technology and place yourself in a service business mindset.

William M. Gladstone, CCIM, SIOR

William M. Gladstone, CCIM, SIOR, heads the Bill Gladstone Group of NAI CIR in Harrisburg, Pa. Contact him at


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