A sector of commercial real estate professionals believes that the rise of data is at odds with the broker. Like any sales professional, a broker is a people person, not a numbers person. A brokers’ natural strengths lie outside of data – as data is the antithesis to their verbal skills, instincts and winning charm.
But perhaps commercial real estate brokers are just thinking about data incorrectly. Data is simply information—and for brokers, information takes countless forms, from the names of landlords, owners and CEOs, to building sale prices, to the number of times they’ve reached out to a prospect. Sure, most brokers would rather be making pitches than crunching numbers, but if they can change the way they think about data, brokers can use their time more efficiently and improve performance in a way that doesn’t conflict with their natural love of the sales game.
There is not a broker out there who wouldn’t benefit from more organization, market knowledge, property specific knowledge and strategy and key performance indicator (KPI) tracking. If commercial real estate brokers can adapt to think of data as a powerful tool for growing their business, they will become even better at what they already do best: closing deals.
Data is a tool for nurturing relationships
Every relationship is composed of hundreds of data points that can be used to a broker’s advantage. The sooner brokers acknowledge this, the better. Once they do, they can begin to capture that data and use it to inform their real estate prospecting and relationship-building strategies. Aside from using data platforms for research and prospecting, most brokers use a customer relationship management (CRM) system or software, ranging from Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated, cloud-based platforms. This tool can help organize clients and prospects and all of the information that comes along with them.
Taking an overall data-led approach to relationship building in no way cheapens or devalues the importance of relationships or personality. In fact, it makes it easier to develop those personal connections. For example, brokers can keep track of the steps needed to nurture a relationship over time, as well as the actions they have already taken, from introductory emails to in-person meetings. A database can become an extension of one’s memory, and the notes can even comprise things like the name of a client’s spouse or child.
A people person has even more data points to draw on
Data helps brokers develop relationships and move deals along, but it goes both ways – relationships and deals also generate data. An exceptional people person who takes the time to really get to know clients and prospects most certainly has more data to draw on and, in turn, even more to gain from a systematic understanding of that data.
Data, and data analysis, are part of a broker’s value proposition
Data is knowledge, and in today’s competitive landscape, knowledge is an essential way for brokers to distinguish themselves from competitors and prove their value. There is a rise in technology solutions that aim to connect individuals directly, from buyers and sellers, to landlords, property owners and tenants, potentially disintermediating the middleman. Data is what makes those types of solutions possible. They provide the marketplace access to information that was previously harder to get, such as property listings, lease duration, comparables, and other market data.
But brokers know how to interpret that data. They know what it means in the context of real life. They can add a layer of analysis and anecdotal insights on top of the numbers to deliver unique value to their clients. Brokers have to see data as a tool for improving their business because everyone else in the commercial real estate industry already does.
Data improves efficiency
There is sometimes a misguided sense that time spent collecting and interpreting data takes away from time brokers could spend time making connections. But it is not an either/or situation. In fact, if brokers are organized in their approach to managing relationships and running deals, there will be more time to spend on prospecting and lead nurturing.
Data can be a tool for hitting sales goals
One of the most challenging things about being a commercial real estate broker is the uncertainty and volatility that comes with a commission-based career. Data can help brokers add a level of predictability to their sales efforts. Ownership information can be gleaned at a faster rate, and that creates more time for relationship building. By calculating conversion rates, such as calls-to-conversations and pitches-to-listings/assignments, brokers can work backward toward a target and better understand how much work is needed to hit it.
So much about commercial real estate is out of your control, but you can control how hard you work, how many calls you make, how many pitches you deliver, etc. Tracking conversion rates and monitoring them over time also helps brokers evaluate their performance and identify areas that need improvement or extra effort.
If commercial real estate brokers can combine sales prowess, industry knowledge, business acumen and organizational skills, they’ll have a recipe for effectively running, and growing, their business. It’s crucial, though, that brokers get over any distaste for data and rethink what the word means to them. It’s a tool for approaching their business more systematically and maturely and a crucial component of their sales pitch to clients. Data is what fuels the technology advancements that are powering the economy forward. Brokers need to get onboard, too, and realize that data is one of their most valuable assets.
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