Sooner or later, you’ll encounter one: a nightmare client.
That person or team that apparently has no respect for you or your work, and as a result, will cost you a ton of time and money.
Often, it’s not that these clients are out to get you, it’s that they are under prepared or under educated on the world of commercial real estate. Of course, as the broker, it’s up to you to manage these relationships so that both you and your client can prosper. That’s why the tone of any broker/client relationship needs to be set early — with expectations and timelines agreed upon by both sides.
But what if your efforts to manage the relationship and help your client succeed in their search are not successful?
Inevitably, you will encounter a client you need to avoid altogether. We focus on potential tenants to avoid, but I bet any broker, whatever your specialty, will recognize these personalities.
1. The dabbler
The dabbler loves the idea of finding a great space for their team, but whether they admit it to you or not, they are not ready to commit to the process. We don’t have to tell you — the office search cannot be taken lightly. It takes a solid 3-9 months to find space, and in some cases, over a year to close the deal. The dabbler is probably casually perusing options in their downtime, not diving in or dedicating a team member to the search.
You might recognize a dabbler when they decline your invite to a kickoff meeting or coffee. They might welcome some office options sent via email, but won’t want to discuss them when you follow up.
You might be able to salvage the relationship by setting realistic expectations and providing dates that they must stick to in order to continue working with you. If they fail to commit to your very reasonable requests, however, you should suggest they come back to you when they are ready or, opt for a coworking space that will allow them more flexibility.
2. The no-show
The no-show needs office space. They know it and so do you.
Yet for some reason, they refuse to commit the time and effort required to close the deal. They cancel meeting after meeting and are slow to provide feedback on options you offer. Maybe they are over committed at work or maybe they simply aren’t interested.
As a broker, you know that delaying the process only puts them in a weaker negotiating position with landlords. This jeopardizes their chances of finding space within budget and diminishes your commision.
Again, the key is here to set expectations and timeline early. Lay out a series of milestones. If they aren’t able to meet these deadlines, make it clear that you will have to walk. Feel free to provide other options such as coworking or executive suites. If you still think there’s hope, you may want to suggest the client appoint a dedicated team member to the search — someone with a vested interest in succeeding.
3. The player
Your mom warned you not to date players and the same advice holds true for this type of client.
The player will pit multiple brokers against one another to see who can find them the best space for the best price. What they are probably failing to realize, is that all brokers have access to the same listings, and what they should be focusing on is building a trusted partnership. As the broker, your job is to forge a relationship that allows the client to open up and convey their true needs so you can help them be successful.
Try to make this clear and ask your client to sign a 24 hour opt-out to prevent the embarrassment of contacting a landlord on their behalf who might have already gotten an inquiry from another one of their brokers. If they refuse, it may be time to reconsider working with them.
4. The waffler
No, I’m not talking about brunch connoisseurs. I’m talking about those clients that just can’t make a decision.
We all know those people who will spend weeks picking out a pair of shoes or comparing Yelp reviews when picking a restaurant — in these situations, indecision can be obnoxious. But when indecision slows down a commercial real estate deal, it’s not just obnoxious, it’s costly.
The undecided client will make himself or herself known when, upon seeing multiple spaces that vary drastically, they are unable to narrow down their choices. Or, they might want to continue seeing spaces when they should be narrowing in on a list of top spaces.
The chronic undecider can be managed, but it’s up to you to ask the tough questions early on and draw out not just what they want, but what they need in their office space.
5. The financially insecure
The financially insecure client may not reveal themselves to you until weeks or even months into the search for space. And it might not be their fault either.
As commercial real estate professionals, we can forget how complicated and overwhelming the process of finding office space can be. Many entrepreneurs have never signed anything more complex than an apartment lease and aren’t fully aware of the full cost of finding space, build outs, moving etc.
As the broker, you should be transparent about the full cost of moving offices up front. You don’t want to shield your client from the reality of their investment only to have them pull the plug after you’ve already committed months to helping them.