Whether new to the industry or a long-time veteran, any commercial real estate loan broker knows how important it is to generate new leads on a consistent basis.
For CRE brokers of any kind, one tried and true mechanism of generating business is through cold calling.
With this article, we show the specific points that loan brokers and originators need to hit to generate new leads via cold calling.
Winning New Business with Cold Calling
Cold calling commercial property owners may seem like a prospecting practice of yesteryear, but that’s not at all the case.
Despite advances in technology, data sets, and marketing tools available to loan brokers, cold calling remains one of the most viable strategies for CRE professionals looking to drum up new business.
These tools actually help and improve cold calling, because they make it easier for loan brokers to connect with the right property owners at the right time.
In Defense of Cold Calling
The biggest difference for cold calling is simply how and how much you actually use it to connect with owners looking for financing.
In the past, it would’ve taken days to compile a healthy list of owners and find their contact information.
Now, by utilizing property intelligence and other tech-driven tools, you can search any market, spot owners looking to refinance, access owner contact info, and reach out directly, all in a matter of minutes.
For one, this directly impacts the efficiency of your cold calling efforts.
Secondly, it frees up time for you to improve your website, marketing, and other inbound lead generation efforts.
If you’re looking for commercial owners in need of refinancing right now, read on here.
Otherwise, let’s dive into some tips!
Tips for Building a Call List
There are several ways for CRE loan brokers to build a cold calling list.
TIP #1: Use property intelligence to find owners in need of refinancing and reach out directly.
One strategy is to build your call list by using Reonomy’s property intelligence platform to conduct research on specific properties and owners.
You can identify properties in your market with specific transaction and debt history.
Reonomy also makes the following property data available to users:
- Mortgage amount
- Loan origination & maturity dates
- Lender Name
- Mortgage Type
- Mortgage Signatory
- Sale recorded & executed dates
- Sale price
- Transaction type
- % ownership transfer
- Reported owner
- Owner name
- Owner phone number, email, and mailing address
- And more…
For example, you can use Reonomy to search for properties that have not sold within the last 10 years.
Assuming the owners have not refinanced or taken another loan against the property in that time, the owner likely has significant equity in the property that could be leveraged for several purposes: To buy another property, to invest in property upgrades, or even just for the sake of taking cash out to spend personally.
CRE loan brokers can also search for commercial properties by property type.
For instance, say you’re a loan officer whose bank offers an innovative, flexible loan product that is ideal for industrial property owners looking to invest in “last-mile” warehouse facilities.
Rather than calling any industrial property owner, you can use Reonomy to only target owners of light industrial properties in strategic locations.
Then, using Reonomy’s owner contact info unlock function, you can actually uncover that property owner’s contact information.
Dedicate several hours to research, taking detailed notes on these properties prior to calling the owner.
This will result in better conversations, leading to a higher conversion rate after making your initial cold call.
TIP #2: Build a list by tapping your existing network
Loan officers and mortgage brokers can often find great success by leveraging their existing network, as well.
Networking Strategy 1: Look back at the customer’s you’ve done business with in the past.
Maybe they purchased a property using one of your loan products, or used one of your construction loan products to fund the redevelopment of a property.
This might be a good time to reach back out to them to inquire as to whether they’d be interesting in refinancing the property, either at a lower rate or to take cash out and make additional improvements to the property.
If it’s been a few years, the owner may have equity in the property that they could leverage to grow their investment portfolio.
Networking Strategy 2: Contact your friends and family.
Let them know that you’re trying to grow your business, and would appreciate each person sending you the names of 2-3 people they know who might be interested in a commercial loan product.
Even if those names are not people in the CRE industry, or who do not need your services at this time, you can ask those people to make an introduction to 2-3 people that they know, too.
One of the biggest benefits to tapping your existing network is that it allows you to generate a list of people to call upon that isn’t entirely a “cold” call.
For those who you already know, but whom you have not spoken to recently, this is an opportunity to “reintroduce” yourself in a friendly, non-threatening manner.
And for those who you’re reaching out to through your network’s referrals, you’ll be able to start that “cold” call by referencing the name of the person who put you in touch with them.
TIP #3: Buy a list of names from a third party.
One of the most straight-forward ways to build a list is to just buy a list of property owners from a third party source (like an insurance company, for example).
These lists often have hundreds, if not thousands, of property owners in your target service area.
Yet one of the biggest mistakes CRE loan brokers make is to chase after a quantity of leads rather than quality.
The fact is, these might not be good leads at all.
For instance, the list may include small, residential, or “resimercial” property owners, when your focus is primarily on office buildings.
In that sense, it could be a waste of time.
It’s often the case that many of the numbers on these call lists are outdated, as well, or they’re business landlines that owners rarely answer.
At best, you’ll get in contact with a receptionist or someone far removed from the actual owner.
Crafting a “Warm” but Persuasive Call Script
Whether you’re a commercial real estate loan officer who’s new to cold calling, or you’re someone who’s been in the industry for decades, having a call script drafted in advance is a great way to stay on point when you begin reaching out to potential clients.
People are inundated with junk calls all the time now, so it’s important to approach each cold call in a friendly manner, with relevant, salient facts.
Remember, you only have a few seconds to capture the owner’s attention.
We generally recommend using a script that starts by acknowledging the owner by name – not leading with your name.
Instead of saying, “Hi, this is Mary Jenkins,” start with, “Hi Adam, this is Mary Jenkins.” Always put the customer first.
Even after you’ve introduced yourself, and the name of your company, the person on the other end of the line may be wondering how you got their contact information.
It’s always good to be transparent.
- When someone is a long-lost contact or previous customer, remind them of your past history or relationship.
- If the owner you’re calling was referred to you by someone else, it’s important to acknowledge that too. It creates a level of comfort compared to someone calling with no connection at all.
But let’s say you found the owner’s contact information using Reonomy.
How will you introduce yourself then?
In cases like these, transparency is still important. Tell the owner that you’re a commercial real estate mortgage broker who’s been doing some homework on local property owners.
For example, you might approach the call like this:
“Hi Julie, this is Matt Jacobs. I’m a commercial loan officer with ABC Bank.
I’ve recently broadened my territory to include Smithtown so I’ve been reaching out to local property owners such as yourself.
Do you have a few minutes to chat? I’d love to learn more about you, your commercial real estate holdings, and any plans you may have to buy, sell or refinance in the near future.”
As you see, you don’t have to explicitly state that you’ve been using a property intelligence tool like Reonomy to track down their information.
Instead, you can simply share that you’re reaching out as part of fact-finding process to get to know property owners in your service area who may be a good fit for your loan products.
Commercial real estate cold calling requires a much different tone than the residential side of the industry, as well.
For example, a residential loan broker would want to be equipped with information about current rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages and 7- and 10-year ARM options.
Commercial real estate loans are much more nuanced. The rates and terms will vary significantly depending on the deal.
That’s why, as a commercial loan officer or broker, it’s important to start by gathering information about the owner and the specific property in question.
If you’ve done your homework using Reonomy, you should already have a great deal of information about the property you’re calling about.
You should know:
- When the owner purchased the asset
- How much they bought for
- (Roughly) how much debt is currently on the property
- The date and amount of any refinancing
- The condition of the structure (renovated or not)
- The tenant mix
- Whether the owner has invested personally or with others through an LLC
You can use this information to steer the conversation, but always let the owner share as much as he or she is willing to before probing too deep.
The goal of the call should be to make a warm introduction and to learn more about the owner and their intentions.
For example, if you find out that the owner only has one piece of commercial property and has owned that real estate for decades, you might ask whether the owner has any interest in growing their portfolio.
The owner might say that they can’t afford to do so, and then you can casually note how much equity they have in their current property that could be leveraged to buy another asset.
You can use a script to help you create “if/then” scenarios.
- IF a person says they are interested in growing their portfolio;
- THEN you can recommend several ways to do so – through a home equity line on their existing property, through a cash out refi, etc.
Other if/then scenarios might include:
- IF a property owner is interested in buying another property;
- THEN ask for more information about the types of properties they’re interested in buying.
The loan products for different asset classes vary, so have information about the most common asset classes (office, retail, multifamily, hotel, industrial) on hand to be able to share about loan products that could be utilized to invest in that type of property.
- IF a property owner is interested in selling;
- THEN ask them whether they plan to invest the proceeds of the sale into another property.
Ask whether they’ve considered doing a 1031-exchange, which would allow them to defer paying capital gains taxes for the time being.
This helps highlight your industry expertise.
- IF a property owner says they’ve always wanted to redevelop their site but don’t know where to begin;
- THEN ask whether they’ve considered partnering with a developer to do so.
Depending on what kind of development the owner has in mind, you might be able to draw on your relationships with developers to connect the owner with someone who’d be a good partner in that kind of deal.
You can also tell the owner about any advantageous loan products that assist with new construction or renovation projects.
There are countless if/then scenarios…
IF you work through these in advance, THEN you’ll have solutions and quick responses top of mind for when you cold call property owners.
Cold Calling Tips for Loan Brokers
Cold calling is not a new prospecting technique, and as such, there’s a body of literature around what makes an effective cold call. Here are some tips that we’ve pulled based on industry research:
TIP #1: Call between 10am and 2pm.
Research shows that the best time of day to cold call a property owner is between 10am and 2pm.
It’s generally recommended not to call right at noon, which is a time where people might be breaking for lunch.
Instead, shoot for times where someone might be at their desk or on-site at a property.
The least effective time to call is 5pm.
That said, a little trial and error will prove out the best times for you to call.
Keep a detailed list of who you’re calling and when, and over time, you’ll start to see trends as to when the most effective times to call are for your specific purpose as a loan broker.
TIP #2: Quickly grab an owner’s attention.
As we noted above, it’s critically important to grab an owner’s attention in the first few seconds of the call – otherwise, you run the risk of the property owner hanging up on you.
Grab the owner’s attention by calling them by name and explaining how you got their contact information, followed by a statement about the purpose of your call today.
TIP #3: End with an action item.
End each call with a specific action item. Are you going to follow up with more information?
Are you going to put them in touch with someone else (another owner, a developer, or another service provider perhaps) who could assist them with a specific property-related challenge they’re trying to overcome?
Put the ball in YOUR court to show the many ways in which you can add value. Think of this as the beginning of a relationship – not the beginning of a sale.
TIP #4: Follow up!
It goes without saying that if you promise to follow up in a specific manner, be sure you do so! Even if the follow-up isn’t for several weeks or months. F
or example, an owner might say that they’re potentially interested in refinancing, but they’re headed away on a long-standing family vacation and will be in
Europe for the next month. Offer to follow-up about a month and a half later, and then make a note in your calendar to do so.
TIP #5: Take detailed notes.
One mistake that many commercial loan officers and brokers make is not using a good CRM.
A CRM system is critically important to tracking calls, conversations, and follow-up items.
Every time you speak with a potential customer, jot down the call notes in your CRM system.
Make notes of things that are unrelated to real estate, too. Nothing impresses a person more when you remember the little details, such as a person’s birthday or detail about their kids.
When you next follow up with the owner, you can draw on this personal information to make a warm, friendly connection that feels more personal than a typical sales call.