Cold calling… Many CRE brokers love it.
But for others, it’s the bane of their existence.
In fact, even the most successful professionals with decades of experience may dread cold calling as a way to drum up new business.
Thankfully, for those professionals, technology and social media are making cold calling as optional as ever.
In this article, we show how you can generate leads in commercial real estate without cold calling.
First, we’ll show how you can set up the right tools to enable potential clients to get in touch with you.
Then, we’ll highlight an interview we had with Coy Davidson, Senior VP at Colliers International, where he highlighted how he used social media to avoid cold calling for 10 years.
Generating Commercial Real Estate Leads without Cold Calling
It may seem counterintuitive, especially given how powerful a tool cold calling can be, but there are many reasons why CRE brokers may want to prospect without cold calling.
For some, it might simply be that they’re an introvert and don’t feel comfortable dialing up a stranger.
Others might simply see more value in nurturing existing relationships.
Whatever the case may be, there are many ways to continue bringing in new business without cold calling—whether you enjoy cold calling or not.
First up? Your website.
1. Generate Inbound Leads with Your Website
Building out a professional website should be first on your list of to-do’s.
There’s two big things to consider there:
- The information you include on your site.
- How internet users can find that site.
Generally, any broker or brokerage should denote all of their services online, list their properties, showcase the past portfolio of wins, and include their contact information.
From there, it’s a matter of setting up the right optimizations and features to assure that visitors stay on your site, and eventually, reach out to you.
First off, you should consider hiring a designer to make sure that site is impressive to the eye, as well.
That one is pretty straightforward. The better the user experience, the more likely someone is to engage with your website.
From there, it’s a matter of making sure you have the right balance of paid advertisements (in search engines like Google/Bing and on social media) and search engine optimization.
These practices set up a path that allows for easy access to your website, and when done successfully, can bring a ton of traffic to your website (traffic that is not limited to a single area, mind you).
2. Use Predictive Analytics and Property Intelligence
Some of the most successful lead generation efforts start by leveraging big data, predictive analytics, and property intelligence.
Many CRE professionals underestimate how valuable data can truly be.
According to Deloitte’s 2019 Commercial Real Estate Outlook, more than 80% of respondents said CRE brokers should prioritize the use of predictive analytics and business intelligence – i.e., big data!
Let’s use predictive analytics as an example.
Predictive analytics will aggregate data such as demographic shifts, cost of capital and workforce trends among others, and brokers can use this information to show owners how the purchase of a property would drive value and fit well into their investment model.
Brokers can also determine which assets in an owner’s portfolio have maximized their value and should be sold.
Leasing brokers can also use predictive analytics for the purpose of predicting tenant behavior.
A broker can use this information to guide tenants in a more proactive way regarding how they lease space, where, and how much space.
Rather than making 20 cold calls a day searching for tenants to represent, brokers can focus on companies that are most likely looking to expand or in need of new/different space given industry trends, employee headcount growth, and the behavior of other firms in the industry.
For these leads, your form of outreach is optional. With your list of owners, you can email them, send flyers, or send targeted social media messages to them.
And while, yes, you may elect to call those leads, they’ll be much “warmer” given the amount of information you’re showing up with.
3. Hire a Virtual Assistant
Brokers need to be highly responsive to their customers’ needs.
That’s where virtual assistants can come in handy.
Let’s say you’re just getting started as a solo entrepreneur and can’t justify hiring your own full-time, in-house assistant. That’s OK.
It’s easier than ever to hire a virtual assistant.
Most agents use their cell phone as their primary point of contact. You can set up a system where any call you’re unable to answer is re-routed to your virtual assistant.
This ensures the caller actually gets a person on the line – an incredibly important touch point.
The VA can help to gather more information, as well:
- Who’s calling?
- What is the purpose of this call?
Collect more information about the property in question: how big is it, where is it located, and what is the owner hoping to achieve – a quick sale, a sale for the highest price?
The VA should take detailed notes, which can then be entered into a relationship management software (a CRM system), with an alert that goes directly to you, the broker.
You then have key details and will be prepared to follow up with the prospect in a thoughtful way.
Using a virtual assistant (or some combination of virtual assistants), is a cost-effective way to show prospects that your “team” is reachable, even when YOU technically aren’t.
4. Conduct Virtual Reality Tours
If you want to expand your pool of buyers, consider hosting virtual reality tours of the property.
VR technology is now readily available to the masses. You can use VR technology to walk prospects through a property, even if that prospect is located on the other side of the globe.
Case and point: You’re a broker who has been hired to sell a 2 million square foot industrial facility. A property of this size will likely have a limited pool of buyers.
There may be few local buyers interested, which means you need to expand your reach.
In this case, you should make it known in the offering memorandum (OM) that property tours can be conducted virtually for buyers who cannot attend in person.
Perhaps you pre-schedule VR tours on certain dates/times, the same way you’d schedule a traditional open house for a smaller property.
Then, you can offer follow-on VR tours for buyers interested in taking a second or more detailed look at the property as a precursor to flying out and seeing the property in person.
5. Use 3D Modeling
3D modeling is a great way to give buyers a sense of what’s possible at a property.
Let’s say you’re representing the owner of a 10-acre property where the owner has already secured the permits needed to build a 250-unit apartment building. It may be difficult for the average person to visualize 250 units at that site.
There’s where 3D modeling comes in.
For pretty short dollars, a broker can enlist the help of a local architect to do a rendering of a 250-unit apartment building configured to that specific site. The rendering can then be shopped around to companies that specialize in 3D modeling.
This 3D model will then help potential investors envision the site’s full potential.
Now, this case assumes you already have a listing with the owner and are trying to sell the property. So how does that help you in terms of prospecting?
Using techniques such as 3D modeling showcase your attention to detail, ability to leverage technology, and commitment to deploying the resources needed to effectively sell a property.
As you’re shopping the property around to potential investors, they’ll take note of your thoroughness.
Your use of things like 3D models won’t be lost on these investors. Make sure they take one of your business cards (and vice versa) – you’ll be top of mind when it comes time for these investors to sell their properties, too.
6. Leverage Social Media
Many CRE brokers used to brush off the importance of using social media to generate new business. “Social media is for teeny boppers,” some would say.
But time and time again, we’re seeing how valuable social media can be when prospecting for CRE leads.
Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn remain the three preferred platforms among CRE brokers.
Instagram is an effective way to visually showcase a property.
Twitter is a great way of sharing industry insights and other briefs that position a broker as a thought-leader in the industry.
And LinkedIn is a great tool for connecting with potential buyers, sellers, and lessees of commercial real estate.
How a Broker Avoided Cold Calling for 10 Years with Social Media
Still not convinced of social media?
How about a tale of success:
Coy Davidson isn’t your average commercial real estate broker.
Currently a Senior Vice President at Colliers International’s Houston office, Davidson has spent 27 years building a successful brokerage with a focus on office, medical and healthcare properties.
The secret to his success? A willingness to adapt in a changing digital landscape.
With that, he was able to avoid cold calling for 10 years. That was mostly due to his use of social media.
Davidson admits that his use of social media for business purposes was somewhat happenstance.
“Like everyone else, I had a personal Facebook page,” he says. “One day, I decided to write a blog post describing what I did, day to day, as a commercial real estate broker. People knew I was in CRE, but they had no idea what I actually did.”
After seeing that post, one of Davidson’s old friends from high school reached out to him.
This long-lost friend is a restauranteur who operates dozens of restaurants.
“He had just closed a deal on a corporate headquarters for his company and said he would have used me had he known what I did,” explains Davidson. “I knew right then that social media was a powerful tool.”
Davidson didn’t stop at Facebook, however.
He ramped up his blog, refreshed his website, and engaged on social media to position himself as an industry leader.
And it worked.
Today, the digital platform most essential to the continued growth of his business is his blog, The Tenant Advisor, which he notes has generated numerous leads.
Now, clients come to Davidson from all around the world.
They see something he posts online, which is enough to pique their interest and give him a call.
“Even if somebody recommends you to a potential client,” he explains, “the first thing that client does is Google you. I wanted to control what they saw when they typed in my name. I could just have a website, like everyone else, but by creating content, I suddenly looked like an expert. I saw my business skyrocket after that.”
Although he’s based in Houston, he’s found clients from hundreds – and thousands – of miles away.
Oftentimes, companies looking to relocate or expand to Houston will find Davidson’s name online and give him a call.
An online presence also, Davidson says, pre-qualifies meetings with clients.
“They’ve already seen my credentials,” he says. “I don’t have to waste time selling myself, and can focus on the client’s goals.”
Finding Success as an Introvert
It’s an approach that’s worked really well for Davidson, a self-proclaimed introvert. Technology has empowered him to avoid cold calls — a part of his job he used to dread.
“I have not made many cold calls over the last ten years,” he says with pride. And why would he, with so many clients coming directly to him?
More than that, he explains, CRE technology is transforming the pace of the industry.
“The speed at which business is now conducted, how clients gather information, and how both client and brokers can manipulate information and data toward better business decisions — it’s accelerating the traditional industry model.”
Interested in learning more? Follow Coy Davidson on Twitter.