A Fresh Take on CRE

So You Want to Be a CRE Broker...

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Three senior NYC brokers sat down with CompStak and shared their best advice for rookie brokers. Now we want to pass it on to you.

Don’t do it

Steve Santoro, a Principal at Cresa New York, warns to carefully weigh the risks of going into CRE brokerage in the first place. Having seen too many young brokers flame out after their first couple of years, his first piece of advice was not to enter the business. The ruthless competition and the slow process of building business relationships make CRE brokerage a very tough gig that may not be for everyone.

There are many paths to a career in brokerage

Consider starting in the owner/developer side of the business. In doing so, you have the option to learn about the business and get trained while still receiving a regular paycheck. Some of the brokers we talked to suggested this as a good way to see if brokerage is something you really want to do without breaking the bank.

Don’t take no for an answer

If you do decide to stick with it, then be in it 110%. Tenacity is the key to success in a field where you will be competing with hundreds of others who are striving for the exact same business as you. A principal at a top Manhattan firm who spoke with CompStak said that without “fire in the belly” your chances of success are virtually non-existent.

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The senior brokers we spoke to broke down the work of a young broker into three steps: canvas, canvas, canvas. When they are starting out CRE brokers have to try hard to build the leads and network to establish a solid reputation and launch their careers.

Get used to being a dollar short

You won’t make a single dollar in your first 12 months working as a broker. Make sure that you are able to support yourself until your first commission. Even when the money does start coming in, be aware that it might take 3-5 years to bring in enough to make it all worth it. CRE brokerage is a career that offers a lot delayed gratification.

Canvassing has gotten harder

Before 9/11, a broker could just go to an office building, ride the elevator to the top, and work his or her way down talking to each and every tenant. You could engage tenants one on one and form relationships with them. These days, additional security and restrictions have made it much more difficult to generate this kind of valuable interaction locking brokers into cold calls.

Find mentors

Walking into a meeting fresh out of school is tough - and it can be very helpful to have someone to guide you through your first steps. The best new brokers emulate and model off already successful brokers, so try and find someone to teach you the ropes. Family members or friends who are already in the business are perfect for this. Alternatively, find a good senior broker at your firm and sell them on taking you in as a mentee.

Have a roadmap

Lay out a plan for your growth and progress in the business. It’s easy to get lost chasing leads and making cold calls over and over again. Instead of flailing around it can be helpful to set goals (actually write them down!) for growing your network and learning useful skills. Having a good plan is an first step to visualizing your career in CRE. Remember to stick to it!

Use technology to your advantage

The past few years have seen a proliferation of tools to help increase brokers’ productivity and effectiveness. These tools range from workflow management systems, to data tools such as CompStak Exchange. Linkedin can also be a great resource to gather information about prospective clients. Many of these tools are available on the cheap or for free, and using them wisely might just help you.

Be aware of the pitfalls of technology

The Internet and the CRE tools on it might make some prospects more accessible, but they can also make you easy to ignore. It’s easy to screen your calls, or send your email to the spam folder, so get creative with the ways that you reach out and don’t end up in anyone’s spam filter.

Be a jack of all trades - especially sales

Several brokers have used strategic thinking to build successful practices by specializing in niches no one had thought about. Above all, you need to perfect your sales skills. Even experienced brokers pursue formal sales training to hone their skills.

Find a niche, but be good at everything in it.

Having a background in finance, some marketing know-how, and an understanding of business strategy will help you stand out from the crowd when reaching tenants in any fields. When these skills become truly valuable though is when you are able to provide them for a specific niche clientele that has been previously underserved by the brokerage community. It is better to find an environment, especially when you are starting out, where you can be the person who specializes in that subject.

Build a network

You can make it with very few contacts, but you have to develop your own connections as soon as possible: leverage alumni networks, not-for-profit groups, foundations, and any group of people who may need your services. You have to be out and meet the people who can potentially become your clients. Getting to know people in a social setting sets the groundwork for them to consider your services down the road.

Your reputation is in the room 10 minutes before you

Every action you take affects your reputation, and in brokerage reputation is everything. Treat people the way you want to be treated, and give more than you take. As basic as this sounds, many brokers do not apply these rules and end up with small and ineffective networks. You can really set yourself apart by through a thoughtful responsible approach to dealing with your clients and their needs.


CompStak Exchange is a free platform for CRE brokers, appraisers and researchers to exchange verified commercial lease comps anonymously. CompStak Enterprise offers unlimited fee-based access to comp information to CRE landlords, lenders and investors.*

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