10 Tips for Starting Strong in CRE Brokerage
Part 1 of 3
Congratulations on landing your first job as a CRE broker. Building a successful, sustainable career in CRE brokerage isn’t easy. Unfortunately, quality training can be hard to come by and mentors, sadly, are often too busy managing their own client relationships and deal flow to focus on your improvement. My hope in writing this is that this three-part series can be useful to anybody who’s just getting started as a CRE broker.
Before founding Enaia, a technology for CRE brokers, I was a long-time CRE broker myself, where I worked at a boutique brokerage in a secondary market before getting recruited to join the largest CRE brokerage, CBRE, in the company’s most dynamic market by revenue (NYC). I’ve had great mentors, seen a lot of poor ones, and I’ve worked alongside some of the industry’s most accomplished brokers. I've had successes, made mistakes - and everything in between. I also started from nothing with zero connections amidst the Great Recession. My hope is that this perspective is useful as you embark on your career journey. Good luck.
1.) Welcome to the Sales Game
If you haven’t seen the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin gives a famous monologue about the intersection of real estate and sales. He tells an office of real estate sales agents to "Always. Be. Closing” or “hit the bricks, pal!” (i.e. “quit”). It’s a famous scene, but notice something - Baldwin mentions nothing about technical skills, knowledge of the market or anything other than closing deals.
As a new broker, you may already know this, but if it hasn't sunk in yet, you need to understand that at the very core of CRE brokerage, it is a sales business. You need to embrace this if you want to be an elite broker. You may tell your friends and family you work in commercial real estate (and you do!), but it’s important to mentally accept that CRE brokerage is a sales business first and a real estate business second. Those who can bring in new business are always the rockstars within their brokerages, far more so than those who service business once it's won. As you grow, hopefully you will be able to do both extremely well.
A part of why starting in CRE brokerage is so challenging though is that while it is, as stated, a sales business first, it is also a very important service business. You should strive to be a master of your craft, and I’ll detail practical ways you can do this later, but the first point here is the most important - CRE brokerage is a sales business. You should not wait around to become smarter about your market, more knowledgable about LOIs, contracts and leases, etc. You should work on your craft as a sales professional, even if it does feel like you are selling a service you don’t yet know very well.
Take heart. The business rewards resilient, creative, and fearless self-starters who can sell as they learn and learn as they sell. You should see handling rejection as both a skill and a superpower and lean into it. Most importantly, embrace the sales-oriented nature of the business and don’t be ashamed of it (after all, good sales professionals are the most valuable members within any company). Choose instead to reflect on what your unique style and sales tactics should be based on your personality and strengths.
2.) Get to know your brokerage community…without getting distracted
In addition to prospecting for new business working with team members, you should make a concerted effort to get to know other CRE brokers in your market. In addition to being one of the easiest actions you can take during your first year, the relationships you build with these brokers will go far if appropriately managed. Not only will you share market information with one another, but you’ll build genuine friendships and establish trust that will be invaluable throughout your career. It’s likely you’ll also refer deals with brokers that are less directly competitive, although you should strive to befriend the direct competition as much as possible too. While these individuals are competitors, CRE brokerage is a career, not a job, so investing into long term relationships and always doing right by these fellow brokers will pay dividends for your reputation (which is extremely important). Besides, as a new broker, you're still finding your way and have no real competition just yet. Make a habit out of meeting up with one or more CRE brokers per week for coffee, lunch, drinks, etc.
While it’s important to invest into these broker relationships, I would advise you not to get carried away. The most important asset you have is your time, and your time is best spent on your sales prospecting and team relationships so you can work on deals and actually make money. Take it from me - I have seen far too many brokers put too much stock into being the “nice broker” who is excessively involved in trade organizations and internal company commitments. Look around at your own market and you’ll likely see that the very best brokers in any market avoid this common mistake and remain laser-focused on winning new business and closing deals.
So do yourself a favor, when creating your business plan, prioritize befriending other brokers in your market (especially other young brokers). Just don’t overdo it or think that these relationships are an indicator of personal success.
3.) Make planning, organization and consistency your superpower
By now, it’s likely you’ve figured out there’s not a lot of structure in CRE brokerage, but take it from me - planning, organization and consistent action are massively underrated.
I can’t stress this enough - If you’re smart, disciplined and organized, the industry’s lack of structure is your greatest ally. You should set goals. You should plan your week. You should plan your quarter. You should share these goals with your team and get their feedback. If you’re going to drink, you shouldn’t go out drinking with the other junior brokers in your office just because they are. You need to understand the value of both your time and energy while simultaneously believing in yourself enough to force yourself to do the things you may hate but that will have an outsized impact on your career. As Mike Tyson says,
"Discipline is doing what you hate to do, but doing it as if you love it."
Taking the time to plan and set goals is something you cannot afford to not do. Don’t know how to do it? Talk to your senior manager or senior broker. If your senior broker isn’t giving you enough time, I highly suggest working with a professional CRE brokerage coaching agency such as the Massimo Group or HBS Resources. These two organizations have proven that planning, efficiency and actionable commitment can multiply your production, calm your anxiety and supercharge your career.
Remember, CRE brokerage is a career, not a job. You are a professional from day one, even when insecurities have you feeling small at first. Your team, your company and your future clients will respect you, but the most important reason has to do with you achieving massive success that comes when you stop, plan, focus, execute and reassess.
CRE brokerage is an entrepreneurial career. You should see the industry’s sales nature and lack of structure as something to be harnessed to your advantage, not simply criticized, and you should monitor your actions in order to accomplish attainable yet challenging goals. Click here to continue reading.