by Grant Dolgin, Co-Vice President
We’ve all heard the old saying, “Everything takes time.” While applicable to just about everything in life, it’s especially true when it comes to being a commercial real estate broker. Not only is success contingent on a number of factors that are often beyond your control, achieving profitability as a newcomer can take up to six months.
Of course, the biggest challenge new brokers face in the beginning is getting listings from sellers who are willing to guarantee you’ll get a commission if the property actually sells. Another big obstacle many new brokers face is fear — an inability to get out of one’s comfort zone and take chances. It also underscores why having the right tools in place can make the difference between accelerated career growth or petering out before you even really started. My family had been in the commercial real estate business for 115 years and we’re in our 4th generation. Here are ten tips to help get you on the path to success.
1. Know the Inventory. Like in any business where knowing the ins and outs of your product is key, the same applies to commercial real estate. That’s why it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of the various buildings you’re hoping to sell or lease as they relate to the specific needs of the prospective client.
2. Focus on a Specific Area. One of the best ways to find perspective listings is to focus on one type of industry or neighborhood you know well. While your knowledge of niche markets and locations will grow as you become more successful, in the beginning try and focus on properties in areas where you have either lived and worked in the past or are familiar with because you know others that have. Keep in mind that commercial real estate is flooded with agents casting a wide net of “contact me for your needs,” which is why developing a niche within and area or industry your familiar with is key.
3. Create a Personal, Relatable Brand. Another piece of advice I often give new brokers is to build a personal brand by accentuating a particular skill set that will help you stand out. In my case, for example, I often try to emphasize the fact that before I got into real estate I worked in finance and how this background brings a unique analytical skill set to every transaction.
4. Cold Call and Knock on Doors. In commercial real estate, this is also called canvassing. While it’s not always the easiest way to get a listing, its one of the industry’s most tried and true methods of finding potential clients and it does work if you’re willing to work hard enough. Also, when you do it, try and call them or stop by in person as early in the day as possible. Something else to bear in mind is that property owners usually sign up with the first or second broker who calls them, and that even if they’re not immediately ready to sell you should stay in touch so that you will be on the radar when they are.
5. Take Advantage of PropTech. Regardless of the size firm you’re working with, chances are they will have invested in leading CRE portals such as PropertyShark, Reonomy and LoopNet, which are just some of the technologies currently out there. When used along with traditional canvassing, all of them can be extremely useful tools when it comes to eliminating much of the guesswork and helping you narrow down your scope of what’s available in particular neighborhoods. Another added benefit is that many of these services list the names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the individual property owners.
6. Learn from Others. Everyone has to start someplace, and one of the best ways to learn the real estate ropes from somebody who has already been in the trenches. Something we pride ourselves on here at Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates is the willingness of our senior staff to mentor our new brokers. I would encourage others to do the same, and for those just beginning their real estate careers I can’t emphasize enough the importance of asking their colleagues for help and guidance. Especially if they have overflow business, some of them might even give you leads.
7. Contact Local Developers in Your Area. Although this is often easier said than done in the beginning, you should try to get to know one or two local developers in your area. Even if they are already working with another agent, trying to form a relationship can still be advantageous if they like you and are willing to help you get any new listings.
8. Widen Your Network. In addition to networking with developers and other CRE professionals, learning how to effectively build rapport with others outside the industry is one of the key ingredients to success. One way to achieve this is through community involvement. Not only will it expand your client base, it will strengthen your knowledge of the neighborhoods where your properties are located and the people who live in them.
9. Amp Up Your Social Media Presence. Promote yourself and make it easy for people to find you online. It’s where most real estate searches begin, after all. As soon as you can, create social media accounts as well as accounts on real estate listing sites and keep them up to date with your listings.
10. Make Integrity Priority Number One. Success needs to be built on strong values and integrity. Always answer your client’s questions accurately and with as much information as possible even if it’s not always what they want to hear. While being successful in commercial real estate isn’t about some magical formula, always being ethical is. It’s a broker’s most important attribute.
Grant Dolgin is co-vice president of Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates. Founded in 1904, Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates (KDA) has grown into one of the New York metropolitan region’s leading commercial and industrial real estate firms. Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates specialize in all aspects of real estate services for developing, managing, selling, leasing and marketing commercial and industrial property. KDA’s highly-trained professional brokers offer clients a practical, street-wise approach to commercial and industrial real estate brokerage, leasing and sales, supported by the latest in real estate marketing, management and research technology.