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The Things I Have Learned About Clients in Commercial Real Estate

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Over many years, I have worked for and with many commercial real estate customers.  In saying that, the variation of customer focus and interaction was sometimes large, unexpected, and challenging.  (NB – you can get plenty of commercial real estate tips here in our Snapshot program)

Not all clients and prospects are ‘equal,’ and should be respected for the individuals that they are and the property ‘challenges’ that they face.  The fees that you set for working with some of these ‘high end’ clients on a complex project or property challenge should be well considered based on your predictable time and effort.

Understand them first and foremost

The message to remember with some if not all clients and prospects is in the need to get to know them comprehensively first and foremost; that is in their thinking, targets, challenges, and investment goals.  You can only provide ‘help’ when you understand the ‘big picture.’

Look for the patterns and strategies that you can provide help with.  Only offer the client your fullest services and commitment when you fully understand what they are doing, what they are facing, and what they are looking for in solutions.

High value clients

Some clients are better than others from a ‘value’ perspective to you.  Have you set your ‘value’ criteria?  Try some of these for starters:

  • Repeat business over time
  • Property portfolio by size, location, and type
  • Services variation (sales, leasing, and asset management)
  • Commissions by amount and frequency
  • Referral opportunity from friends and acquaintances

In looking at the list, it is easy to see how some clients will be higher ‘ranking’ than others.  Categorize the people that you know now, and can connect with.  Communicate with ‘locals’ for the ‘right reasons.’  Focus your prospecting and communication efforts into the best individuals in a location.

So, where can you start with all this?

Look at your database of clients and prospects, and then split that list into VIP’s and ‘others’.  Most of your prospecting and new business efforts should focus into the VIP’s in your client or contact list.  When you know the value that these people can bring you, then you can know what to do in communication and connection.

Here are some facts about clients in commercial real estate brokerage today:

  1. They are always out there looking for properties to act on. If you have a good selection of high-quality exclusive listings, you will find other ‘high quality’ investors approaching you about listing information and inspections.  The ‘quality’ rule is easy to follow and understand.
  2. They require market evidence. Keep abreast of local property trends and changes so that you can use them in an informational and relevant way.  You should capture the facts of the larger deals in sales and leasing so you can use those points in your client conversations, presentations, and listing pitches.  Market evidence is hard to refute or dispute.
  3. They like to work with ‘specialists.’ Most clients like to work with the established and active property experts for a location.  Real estate is not an ‘experiment’; put yourself into a ‘specialization’ category and help your clients and prospects understand that fact.
  4. They know what they are doing when it comes to local property.  So, take your time in helping them, and show them respect as you move through their asset challenges and known issues. Seek to understand them first before you pitch your ideas and strategies.
  5. They will generally listen to logic. When you work from a basis of local market evidence, the clients and prospects will listen.  Have some visual and informational tools to use in the customer conversation or meeting process.
  6. They like to have a ‘win’ with a listing, negotiation, or inspection. Some negotiations can be lengthy and complicated.  Let your clients feel as though they are in control as you move them ahead, and that they are at the ‘winning’ end of the equation.  A small ‘win’ will usually be a valuable tool to closing off on a negotiation or transaction.  In saying all of this, remember who your client is in the transaction, and help them move on the right opportunity.

Property clients are at the center of everything we do in commercial real estate brokerage.  Market yourself, your knowledge, relevance, and skills into your customer list.  That is how things work in commercial property today.

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Checklist for Creating Clients for Life in Commercial Real Estate Brokerage

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Make your client list a personal process.

In commercial real estate brokerage, the clients that you convert and work with can give you plenty of property business over time.  Get into your database and split it up into client categories, zones, property types, and budgets.  Update all of the contacts in your database and reconnect with the best people.

(N.B. these ideas are also sent out to regularly to our friends in Commercial Real Estate Online Snapshot to help amplify brokerage results…. Get your access here)

Look for the quality clients that you can work with productively and exclusively over time. They will be your VIP’s when it comes to contact and service.

Understand how you can add value to their property situation and exactly when they should need that special help in solving an investment or property occupancy challenge. Refine your services accordingly.  You are (or should be) the expert so build your brand with your clients accordingly.

Quality clients are good business

So your good clients should be with you for the life of your real estate business. If you like, that by definition is the window of your professional career. Over time your real estate business then gets easier and more consolidated; that consolidation comes from the quality of your client connections. How can you do that?

Do you have some good clients now or some targeted clients that offer more property related opportunity to you? Think about these things:

  1. Industry updates – Think about your location and explore the things that are happening. Visit the local planning office to see what new developments are coming up. From the list of upcoming development applications, you may be able to write or talk about precinct enhancements and changes.
  2. Market coverage – Most clients like to know that they are working with an agent or broker that really controls the market for the location. Specialization will help you do that. Drill down into a segment such as offices, bulky goods warehousing, investment performance, shopping center leasing, and then look at your opportunities in each. Write articles and editorials about the specialty segments. Share those articles and information editorials into your social media channels.
  3. Use Social Media with focus – Most agents and brokers don’t use social media very well at all. They simply do not lift their social media profiles enough using relevant and high quality comments and content. Consider how you can be of value to your clients and prospects. What do they want to know about? What are their local property interests? From those 2 questions you can write specific articles, share statistics, create charts, and take photographs. The increase of electronic media tools gives you a lot of alternatives to work with.
  4. Treat your VIPs differently – When you know that a client or prospect is of importance to you, consider how you will interact with them over time. Be personal, relevant, and real in how you contact people and talk to them. Ultimately you want your VIP clients to remember you as they get to the next property challenge. It is a simple recipe to remember and market your skills and knowledge with.
  5. Seek referrals and contact people often – At a basic minimum, contact all of your clients and prospects frequently. That will usually be once every month, or any period up to 90 days. After 90 days the client and prospect contact process is less meaningful. Build a contact process into your database that sets the right client momentum and awareness through personal contact.

Put clients at the center of your commercial real estate business. Create relationships with your top clients that will extend for the duration of your professional career in property.

(N.B. these ideas are also sent out to regularly to our friends in Commercial Real Estate Online Snapshot to help amplify brokerage results…. Get your access here)