This Edward Smith’s 200th column with the New York Real Estate Journal. The column is offered to help educate agents new to commercial and investment brokerage and serve as a review of basics for existing practitioners.
I was in line at a vitamin store waiting to make a purchase and I overheard the sales clerk speaking to the customer in front of me. “Are you with the military?” he asked. The customer replied that he had been and now worked private security. “I could tell” said the clerk. “Your build and the short hair.” The conversation ensued for a couple of moments and now it was my turn to be waited on.
“What a nice watch!” was the clerks opening remark. “My grandfather had one just like it.” As he rang up my purchase the small talk continued. He had immediately established a rapport with both of us customers and effectively distracted us from the expensive price of his products. I’m not sure if that was his goal, but my overall impression was a pleasurable buying experience – I would go back to that store again.
Turns out he was the manager and he demonstrated exemplary sales skills. He recognized the need in sales to immediately establish a relationship with the customer. Sure, the immediate sale is important but he wants the customer to return to the store again.
This concept is so important to becoming a successful commercial real estate agent. We have the opportunity to service our customers over and over again. Someone leases space, will they ever move again? The investor buys a building; will they buy another one or need help in leasing space in the one they bought?
Are you ready for your next encounter?
How often have you been in a social situation where you meet someone new and they ask what you do for a living? Ever say, “I’m in real estate.” And the next question you hear is “Oh, what are houses around here selling for?” Or, “What are the latest mortgage rates? Do you know where I could finance a second mortgage on my home?” Traditionally, we were taught to pre-determine a response to the question that immediately focuses the person on commercial or investment real estate. Without using the words “real estate?” Apparently if we say, “commercial real estate,” all that is subconsciously heard is “real estate” invoking the same questions as above.
Examples of traditional answers are: “I help businesses find space to lease or buy.” “I find and sell properties for investors.” “I broker commercial buildings and space.” This is fine but these are considered dead-end sentences, the conversation is going nowhere; it ends with this reply.
Better to start a dialog. When asked what you do, reply with a question or two: “Have you, a friend or relative ever bought real estate?” “Yes.” “How was the experience?” “No.” “Why not?” This starts a conversation. You can always close the discussion with, “I help people invest in real estate.” Give them two of your business cards saying, “Here’s two of my business cards one for your records and please pass the other to someone you think I could help.”
Just like the store owner concentrate on building your future business.
Edward Smith, Jr., CREI, ITI, CIC, GREEN, MICP, CNE, is a commercial real estate consultant, instructor and broker at Smith Commercial Real Estate, Sandy Hook, CT.