You’ve seen their names in real estate journals, local industry publications, and amongst the winner’s of CoStar’s annual Power Broker award.
Year after year, the same people seem to be ranked as the top commercial real estate brokers in the nation.
Call them lucky, call them overachievers, call them what you will…
The bottom line is that they’re doing something right.
Even for agents that have a large percentage of their business coming from long-standing relationships with large investment teams—they still had to win and groom those relationships at some point in time.
In fact, all of their success had to start somewhere, and it surely didn’t happen overnight.
So then, what are these brokers doing that sets them apart?
Reonomy’s client base includes many different brokerage teams, including sales and investment brokers, mortgage brokers, leasing brokers, and insurance brokers.
We understand what it takes for these professionals to discover and win new business at an industry-leading pace.
Here, we’ve compiled some advice—seven steps, to be exact—that you can take, to not only succeed in CRE, but to rise to the very top of the ranks.
Your Path to Being a Top Commercial Real Estate Broker
Those that aren’t involved in commercial real estate might not realize how much hard work goes in behind the scenes before a deal actually comes to fruition.
Some might think that brokering a deal is as simple a showing a property to prospective buyers.
That, of course, is not at all the case.
Commercial brokers often have to work 50, even upwards of 100 leads to end up with just 5-10 solid opportunities.
Of those opportunities, they’d be lucky to have even one or two deals pull through successfully.
Prime brokers are those that can ring the most value out of that original set of leads and consistently close. After all, increasing your overall conversion rate even 1% could massively increase your yearly earnings.
How are they doing this, you ask? Let’s look at the 7 steps you can take to set yourself up to be a prime broker in the commercial space.
1. Have a constant pulse on the market.
Any CRE broker who wants to become a leader in the industry must have a constant pulse on their local market, as well as the general landscape of the country.
This means tracking all of the latest transactions, knowing who the potential buyers of CRE are, which properties may be due for refinancing, which owners may be ready to consolidate or grow their portfolios, etc.
2. Sell with a purpose.
Successful CRE brokers know that you have to sell with a purpose. That purpose should serve as your personal and professional beacon.
For example, if your purpose is to render preeminent client service to every prospect you speak to, then you must set goals to realize that purpose.
In this case, one of the goals might be always being available to your clients (see the section “Always be on” below).
It might mean sitting down and taking a meeting with a client to offer advice, even if you know that meeting is not going to lead to a direct transaction.
Let’s use an example:
Your purpose is to provide the best client service in your market.
You have a former customer who explains they’re having a hard time finding an equity investor that wants to co-invest in a 200-unit apartment building.
Now, you’re a broker who specializes in office sales, so this isn’t exactly your wheelhouse.
Since you know the customer well, you can still offer any advice you can.
Offer to take the client out to dinner and/or drinks one night and spitball some different financing alternatives they have.
Through that process, you could end up helping the customer uncover an opportunity to actually do the deal himself – without having to give up any equity in the deal.
While there’s no direct transaction here for you to be involved in, the client is certainly going to cherish this advice.
Next time he goes to sell an office building (or has a friend looking to do so), you can count on him giving you a call.
We typically find that the best agents in the industry don’t set income as one of their goals, but rather focus on goals related to relationships, knowledge, technology, and refining their skills.
These goals, if and when they’re met, will always lead to income in the long-run.
3. Commit to top-notch communication.
Because brokers are essentially in the sales industry, it’s important to prioritize communication–both internally with your team and with clients.
Cream of the crop agents are the expert on every deal opportunity they’re working on, but also effectively communicate that information to the rest of their team.
This helps brokers train the people around them, where they can then better support the broker as they become more successful.
There are a few ways to track and communicate deal information with your team members.
Brokerage teams on Reonomy can maintain and share notes on properties and owners during the deal discovery and analysis stages, so different members know what’s been researched and if the owner has been reached.
There’s nothing worse than a broker calling on a property owner, only to have that broker say that another broker from the same agency dialed them up the week prior.
That doesn’t help anyone in involved.
Instead, use Reonomy or a CRM to track property notes and manage all of your internal communication.
The same is true with prioritizing communication with clients.
CRE brokers are often working with investors spending millions—if not tens of millions—of hard-earned dollars. This rightly puts some people on edge.
The best way to calm a client is to provide top-not communication through the process, from acquisition all the way through to closing and beyond (once again, see “always be on” below!).
4. Hustle. Hustle. And then hustle some more.
There are big differences between surviving, succeeding, and leading as a commercial agent.
Many will start their careers by taking what’s known as a “draw” from their company.
It’s basically a baseline salary (say, $50,000) that a person can take to survive while working to earn their commissions.
Any commission earned in that year is used to pay back the draw; once the draw has been repaid, any net commissions over the draw go into the broker’s pocket.
So, unless you’re happy with the draw, you’ve gotta hustle.
This means networking. This means knocking on doors. This means cold calling.
This means going to industry events and letting people know that you’re serving their local market. And much, much more.
Have your name and face out there, in person and online.
What does it truly mean to “hustle”?
Sometimes you have to get a little entrepreneurial.
An example: a CRE broker working in the Bay Area notices a local company’s rapid growth. The company was headquartered in Hayward, CA, but now has 8 locations.
“Someday, this company is going to want to consolidate all of these operations,” the broker thinks to himself.
So he calls the company. For two years. Over and over again.
He kept calling the company and never got much response in terms of potential deals—but the interactions were cordial.
Finally, one day he had a few hours to catch before a flight. He decides to call the CEO:
“Hey, I’m five minutes away from you right now, can I come over and say hello? I’d love to introduce myself in person.”
The owner, initially reluctantly, agrees to take the meeting.
When the broker arrives, the CEO says, “You know, you’re the most persistent broker I’ve ever met. You just don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
The broker chuckles and asks, “How are you doing with those 8 locations?”
The owner replies, “You know what, we do need to consolidate. We need 50 acres of land.”
Now, fast forward a bit: Not only did the broker represent the company on the purchase of a new site, but also represented them in the sale of the other 8 properties that were being consolidated into one facility.
In this case, hustle means persistence. Combine that with patience and a true understanding of your client, and you might just strike gold time and again.
5. Wiggle your way into the old boys club.
The average commercial real estate broker is 57 years old.
It’s no wonder CRE is sometimes considered an “old boys” club.
It’s tempting to shrug off these brokers and assume they’ll retire “any day” now, but some of the most successful CRE brokers are so passionate about what they do that they don’t even have plans to retire.
In many cases, the relationships they’ve built over the years are too strong and lucrative to walk away from.
A word of advice: Don’t just sit and wait for a generation to retire. Instead, work your way into the “old boys club.”
Get to know the industry’s heaviest hitters in your market. Learn from them. Network with them. See how they approach business deals.
- Are they still actively doing the legwork, or are they mostly in a business development role at this stage in their careers?
Soak up as much knowledge from these people as you can, and someday you might just find yourself in their position, teaching a whole new generation.
6. Always be on.
Sure, you might be golfing for the day. Or you might be going to a networking event at night.
But whether you’re at a golf outing, sipping cocktails, or you’re at your kid’s little league game, you must always be on.
You never know who you’re going to strike up a conversation with, or who might respond to a voicemail you left, so be prepared at all times.
There’s always talk of this magical work/life balance, but the most successful brokers know that they’re on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Sometimes, it’s the only way deals get done.
7. Leverage property intelligence.
Now, of course, in order to reach the pinnacle of commercial real estate success, you need to be using the best available tech.
There are many tools available to CRE brokers today compared to years past. Brokers once had to scour public records for property owner information.
There’s a much easier way to go about business nowadays, though.
The most successful CRE power brokers utilize Reonomy property intelligence to quickly and easily identify commercial properties that fall within their service parameters, and then connect with owners using contact information made available by Reonomy (including the names and cell phone numbers for the people behind LLCs!).
There are only so many hours in the day, which is why property intelligence is so powerful for brokers looking to succeed.
Instead of having to cold call 50 property owners to learn more about their properties, Reonomy puts that information right at your fingertips.