10 Tips for Starting Strong in CRE Brokerage
Part 2 of 3
This is the second part of a three part series for CRE brokers who are just getting started. If you haven’t read Part 1, you may want to start there.
In Part 1 of this three-part series, I highlighted three important truths that new CRE brokers should embrace about the CRE brokerage industry:
- CRE brokerage, at its core, is a sales business
- You should cultivate strong relationships with other CRE brokers in your market (including your competition)
- You should exploit the industry’s lack of structure by being exceptionally well-organized, goal-oriented and consistent.
For Part 2, let’s get more tactical.
4.) Teamwork and collaboration trump being a lone wolf
While it’s generally cliché advice to hear that new brokers should seek a good mentor, the advice is sound - learning from others with more experience expedites growth and minimizes mistakes.
The fastest way to accelerate your new career as a CRE broker is to join a high-producing team of veteran brokers who can benefit from your energy, dedication and trustworthiness. In CRE brokerage, teams vary in size and complexity, so I’m not exclusively talking about the large CRE brokerage teams that often comprise 7+ team members. I’m referring to any group of brokers, whether they be small or large, who work and share information closely with one another.
It’s important to know that teams in CRE brokerage are dynamic. They rarely work on every deal together, but they share information about their deals and first-hand market knowledge with members of the team, so trust is essential, and you should continually strive to earn the trust of your team members by never sharing information your team members share with you with anyone else.
While there are many reasons for joining a team, the biggest ones have everything to do with access.
- Access to knowledge: When working on a high-producing team that shares information well, you hasten the speed at which you learn. Exposing yourself to conversations where you’re the dumbest person in the room is extremely refining. You don’t know what you don’t know, so these conversations fill in the gaps. At CBRE, I was fortunate to work closely with a Vice Chairman who led a relatively small team despite generating an enormous amount of deal flow. I paid extremely close attention to his communication style, mannerisms, work habits and how he engaged with clients and prospects. In CRE brokerage, “more is caught than taught,” meaning that much of your education will come simply by watching more skilled professionals manage their business. Eventually, I would go on to work on a number of deals with this team where both my style and technical abilities grew at a rate that would have never happened had I been trying to operate as a lone wolf, which brings me to the next point.
- Access to deal-flow: You should strive to join a team that needs support and wants to grow the pie. Both are important. Sadly, too many senior brokers bring on “juniors” to do the dirty work of business development that they themselves either aren’t very good at or don’t want to do because they think it’s beneath them. This type of broker often needs support only to keep up with their personal revenue goals (and they aren’t interested in your success). The best brokerage teams grow carefully because bringing on too many brokers without sufficient deal flow dilutes the revenue of each team member, creating the problem of having too many mouths to feed. You should assess whether the team you’re working with or want to work with really needs support and is eager to multiply opportunities for everybody. Having closely monitored some of the most successful teams in the industry, the best teams without question have enough deal-flow that they need support. If you are fortunate to be included in the deal flow of other team members, you should be grateful, diligent and attentive to the details (don’t just copy/paste LOI’s, tourbooks or leasing/sales reports without reading them closely!). You should not have any strong expectations for commission splits, and you should work diligently on these deals without sacrificing your own business development efforts. In other words, play the long game. If you can show the team that you’re capable of servicing deal flow while not slowing down your business development (i.e. prospecting) activities, you’ll continue to be leaned on as opportunities arise.
- Access to the team’s brand: Not all teams are created equal, and many teams have specific brands you can leverage to accelerate your business development. Some teams specialize in specific transaction types, some specialize in the industries they work with and some specialize in geographic areas. Whatever your team’s brand, this is a powerful weapon to harness as you seek to add value to your team by bringing in new revenue opportunities. Comb through the Linkedin accounts of your team members to identify possibly unknown opportunities and learn to pitch your team’s deal flow as a reason for why prospects should meet with you. Building a brand takes a considerable amount of time and work so you should wield the brand effectively and responsibly.
Lastly, I touched upon it a bit already, but good CRE brokerage teams are rare. I can think of a lot of very successful CRE brokers who bring on junior broker after junior broker, never actually working with them long enough to see them succeed. Sometimes this is because the junior broker didn’t have the patience required to succeed in CRE brokerage, but often it’s because the senior broker took no pride in building a well-oiled machine that could scale beyond themselves and no long-term intentions for partnering with their junior brokers. There are times when leaving a team like this may be what’s best for your career. Only you can decide that for yourself, but make sure you soberly evaluate the habits of your team’s leadership versus your own internal self-analysis as to whether the problem lies within you, the team or both.
5.) Become a creative marketer
I’ve spoken already about harnessing your sales skills and developing a personal business plan, but sales and marketing are not the same, and you should think about your personal CRE brokerage business through a marketing lens as well.
Of all the changes that CRE brokerage has undergone in the last decade, the industry’s embrace of creative digital marketing tactics is among the most significant. I’m not talking about leveraging your company’s marketing department to produce better company brand assets such as better marketing flyers or market reports. Your brokerage is hopefully already doing these things. I’m talking about how you, individually, create unique marketing channels for yourself (and your team if that’s relevant). After all, what do you care if your brokerage’s reputation is flawless, the company is achieving all-time revenue performance, everybody in your office is closing deals and popping champagne, yet you’re struggling to close deals and get promoted. This is all too common a reality for many CRE brokers.
Take social media for example. A decade ago, I couldn’t point to a single CRE broker who was actively marketing him or herself on social networking platforms. Nowadays, brokers aren’t just on Linkedin - they’re oftentimes on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and more, creating compelling content that reaches prospects, clients and other brokers. There are now countless brokers who believe these marketing channels have generated new, meaningful business. A decade ago, this was relatively unheard of. Nowadays, it’s powerful.
As a CRE broker, invest into your marketing “engine.” Don’t rely on your brokerage when your personal success has to do with your personal performance and ability to close deals. If your goal is that YOU are the reason your clients work with you (and it should be), it’s imperative that you stand out, even within your brokerage.
Here’s a small list of ways you can stand out through outbound email campaigns:
- Create a market report that you regularly send out. If your brokerage produces a market report, highlight relevant market details and attach the report. Use outbound email platforms such as Mailchimp, Brevo, etc. to gauge open rates, click rates, etc.
- If your goal is work on large tenant rep or landlord rep deals, create a “large block” summary of the blocks of available space over 50,000 sf, 100,000 sf, etc. (the size of your market will dictate what a “large” availability is). Try to also track the upcoming large lease expirations so you can highlight that there’s upcoming availabilities that have not yet hit the market (you’ll know if a space is upcoming because those large companies have signed leases elsewhere). Send these out to the decision makers of large companies as well as the landlords so they know you’re specializing in this. Include the asking rent, space size, floor plate size (for office), relevant consumer analytics (for retail) or information about dock heights, ceiling heights, freight access details, etc. (for industrial).
- Send prospects recent comp information, including deals you worked on, and add personal commentary.
- Send information about the most promising opportunities in the market.
- In addition to sending these deliverables out through email, post them on Linkedin, a curated blog and/or other platforms where your target audience goes for information.
Being an excellent marketer requires time, commitment, creativity and boldness, but if you’re successful, not only will deals find you, but other brokers and brokerages will take note. As you scale your business, new brokers will reach out to you for opportunities and more veteran brokers may see this skillset as an asset worth recruiting.
Lastly, whatever you do, stick with it. Consistency is key. Refine your tactics based on what’s working and not working and don’t be intimidated by putting yourself out there.
6.) Leverage your relationships. All of them.
Almost every CRE broker has felt the pain of learning about a transaction that happened in their market because somebody they knew (or were easily capable of knowing) didn’t think to call them first. When this happens, it’s too late to ask “Why didn’t you call me!?”
Don’t let this happen to you.
Proactively asking friends, family members and acquaintances for introductions or referrals is a key business development channel that not enough brokers are confident or conscientious enough to leverage. The lowest hanging fruit as you start your career is your existing relationships.
Early in my career, a mentor gave me this advice:
Mentor: You’ve heard people say “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, right?"
Me: Ya, of course
Mentor: You have to know everybody.
Mentor: You’ve also heard it said that "So-and-so was in the right place at the right time, right?”
Me: Yes, of course.
Mentor: Well, you have to be everywhere too.
Know everybody. Be everywhere. This is obviously impossible, but hopefully you get the idea. People will not call you when they need you if they don’t know what you do and they can’t know what you do unless you tell them somehow.
You will learn throughout your career that timing is crucial for winning CRE deals. Why? Because CRE deals are rarely predictable (with unique exceptions such as tenant reps tracking lease expiration dates...but even good tenant reps know how important it is to be ahead of these dates because so many other brokers are already tracking them).
When telling your friends and others what you do, be specific about the types of people you are hoping to meet (your ideal customer persona or “ICP”). Without being annoying, ask them to make intros to ICP’s they know. Don't be afraid to show some humility with "I'm trying to accelerate my career so who do you know that __________." When or if they say “Well I don’t think so-and-so needs real estate help now,” tell them you just want to meet them to let them know what you do because real estate decisions, as already stated, are not predictable. If they say they don't know anybody, ask them to repeat what you do so they remember it.
In the earliest days of your career, you owe it yourself to start here and include your current network into your business plan so you don’t read about a deal in the news that you should have been a part of.
In Part 3, we’ll hone in even more on how you can supercharge your career, but in summary, leveraging the knowledge of team members and/or mentors, developing creative marketing tactics for yourself and your team members and taking advantage of your existing relationships, even if you don't think those in your network can help, will set you on a path to success. Click here to continue.