Lead Generation in Commercial Investment Property

In commercial real estate and investment property your leads for new business come from a number of sources.  The more leads that you can generate and optimise, the more successful you will be in getting the best listings.  In this market, the quality of the listings is so important given that the buyers and the tenants can be so selective.

When the market is saturated with owners and businesses that are struggling to keep afloat, it is the quality properties that you want to market.  These are the ones that will generate the momentum even in difficult times.  The banks are also not as reluctant to lend on the higher quality asset with established cash flow.

Does this mean that you turn your back on poor and unattractive commercial real estate listings?  Perhaps you should for this time given that you want results to your marketing.  It’s your choice, but at the very least, be selective as to what you list and how you do it.  Your time is your only resource and how you use your time is essential to generating fresh and marketable listings.

What are the Sources of Leads?

We cannot cover all the sources of commercial real estate leads here as they are unique to your market in many respects; however it is worthwhile raising the main common ones so that you can have them covered.  Importantly you must know what a lead or source of new commercial real estate business looks like in its early stages, and then you must know how to convert it to fresh momentum and a deal.

There is one main rule on the topic of leads; when you see a lead, you must react to it in a professional and timely fashion before someone else does. 

Leads in commercial real estate are not just for the things that happen today; they can be for things that are potential deals in months or even years.  The more clearly you see this, the further business you will generate for yourself.

So here is the most obvious leads generation list that you must have covered in one form or another.  See how you score on these items and make sure that these foundational matters are under control.

  1. Business Acquaintances locally – these are most particularly those people who you have known for some time and who are likely to cooperate as an extra set of eyes in the market place.  Choose of these people with care and remain in contact with them constantly.
  2. Professional Business People – in your marketplace, there are a number of categories of business people to whom you must remain connected.  The highest on the list are solicitors, accountants, town planners, financiers, architects, local politicians, and engineers.  All of these people have significant involvement with the commercial property industry and the property owners.  They will likely hear about a commercial property transaction before you do.  In many cases these people need the assistance of a good commercial real estate broker to help their clients in a variety of ways.
  3. Local businesses – local businesses produce change and flux in the marketplace.  As time progresses, you should constantly encourage ongoing contact with all the major businesses in your precinct.  They are the ones that regularly need to buy, sell, and lease premises; this means all the local managers and business proprietors who are involved in property decisions and creating commerce generally in the community.  Recognise that they do not normally know much about commercial real estate.  You can bring them updates on rental and property prices regularly to assist them with a future property need.
  4. Colleagues within your office – many commercial real estate offices are cooperative business environments with salespeople working productively with each other.  This means that they share leads and opportunities in sales and leasing.  Sharing part of your commission with other colleagues in your office is far better than giving the commission to another outside competitor an agent in the same region.
  5. Building tenancy schedules – from time to time, you will see or obtain tenancy schedules or inventories that relate to major buildings in your area.  Whilst they should be regarded as confidential documents, they will give you a wealth of opportunity if used correctly.  Any lease that is to expire inside the next three years is a target for future contact.  The relative tenant will need to do something to preserve the function and occupation of their business.  It is surprising how many tenants leave such matters to the last-minute.  The ongoing contact with tenants of this type is highly productive.  Your main focus with these people is to establish trust so that they come to you when they need you.
  6. Competition agents and brokers – normally speaking, the competitor agencies in your area will cooperate on conjunction transactions with their exclusives.  The commercial real estate industry is relatively specialised and such cooperation is common in sales and leasing of office, industrial, and retail property.  Importantly, any conjunction arrangement involving other agent’s listings must have a completely signed and documented conjunction agreement before you proceed.  Cooperate with other agents, but do so with care and professionalism.
  7. Satisfied clients – your agency business, if it’s been operating for a number of years, will have a significant list of established happy clients from previous transactions.  It pays to keep in contact with these people given that most transactions in commercial real estate happen every 4 to 10 years.  The satisfied clients are going to need your services again. 
  8. Old campaigns – any commercial real estate campaign and marketing event will have created leads and people who ‘changed their mind’.  All of these people should be on your constant contact register or data base.  Feeding them regular market updates is essential.
  9. Other Agents old deals – as a further extension of this item above, you can also monitor the transactions of other competing agents in your area.  Any transactions that occurred through other agencies over the last 4 to 10 years should be monitored for future re-activity.  It is interesting to note that many real estate agents and brokers are lax when it comes to keeping in contact with others.
  10. Industry publications – any newspaper or industry publication in your area should be reviewed daily for information involving businesses relocating, expanding, contracting, or merging.  It is surprising how so many agents overlook this obvious source of listing.  These publications will also frequently name the key people in a business such as the CEO, President, or CFO.  In all cases these business leaders go on your contact list and get a letter on a regular basis.  Note that I said a ‘letter’ and not an ‘email’.  In this high-tech world you want your correspondence to be seen and read; an email will not achieve this in most circumstances.
  11. Other agent’s signboards –when another agent puts a signboard on a property, it is imperative that you contact the other adjacent and nearby owners of commercial property in that street.  These people are likely to have an interest in competing with the property that’s just come on the market.  They are also more likely to use you as a competing agent whilst the other agent’s property moves through its promotional period.
  12. Financiers and bank managers – these people need property transactions for their business to survive.  They are also receptive to working with professional real estate agents who understand commercial real estate and act professionally.  If you can supply them with the source of a new large mortgage or property development, they are likely to offer you the opportunity for a listing or a sale with their clients in the future.
  13. Planning approvals – keep close to the local council or office of the planning committee in your region, as they constantly consider new planning matters.  Some of these offices have minutes of planning approvals that are available for public scrutiny. Check out these minutes and follow through on the opportunities that you can see.  The historic planning approvals over the last few years are also great sources of leads and listings.

The inventory above comprises the most obvious categories of leads and opportunities.  You will be able to add to this as time progresses in your marketplace.  Importantly make sure that you have these items well under control as the essential foundations of your business.

By John Highman

John Highman is an International Commercial Real Estate Author, Conference Speaker, and Broadcaster living in Australia, who shares property investment ideas and information to online audiences Worldwide.