When courting a new client, it can be tempting to jump right in. You want to wow them with your expertise and solidify your relationship.
But it shouldn’t just be your qualifications on display.
You need to vet your prospective client by taking a hard look at their motives and commitment level. The last thing you want is to be five months into a search only to realize the client is never going to move, and you’ve sunk countless hours into a relationship that is going nowhere.
The key to avoiding this dilemma is communication...and lots of it.
It’s up to you to set the stage for a productive and honest working relationship, starting with your first meeting and the questions you ask early on.
Here are five questions you must ask a prospective client:
1. What are your “must haves” vs. your “nice to haves”?
Rather than making assumptions and starting out by showing your client a bunch of spaces, consider first asking them to list their “must haves” vs. their “nice to haves.”
Their list of “must haves” should contain the features they are not willing to miss out on. Budget and location might top the list. “Nice to haves” are features that sweeten the deal but aren’t make-or-break.
Often, a client’s desired features misalign with their needs or budgetary restrictions. For example, someone might love the idea of working in a LEED-certified building, but their budget restricts them to older office buildings in the area. By separating these desires early on, you can clarify your approach and ensure you don’t travel too far down the wrong path.
2. Are you willing and able to meet these deadlines?As a broker, your job is to help your client find the best possible solution for their business. But that doesn’t mean you deserve to get dragged through the mud on the way to that solution.
By asking your client or prospective client early on if they are willing to work with you to meet certain deadlines — for example, first tour, a meeting to discuss feedback on tours et. — you are conveying that searching for space is a two-way street, and you won’t be successful without their cooperation. If you lock in their commitment early, and ideally, in writing, you can hold the client to their word later.
What you are really asking is, are you ready to take on this process? If they aren’t willing to commit, then it might not be a good fit for you.
3. How do you like to communicate?
Communication is a major factor in any commercial real estate transaction. From meeting for tours to relaying last-minute details from the landlord — you need to be able to reach your client at a moment’s notice.
Yet busy entrepreneurs and business operators can be notoriously difficult to reach. So, why not meet them on their terms? Simply ask your client up front how they like to communicate. Maybe they prefer a good old fashioned phone call, or perhaps email is their prefered mode. Just be sure to nail down the method that gives you the highest chance of getting their attention.
4. Do you understand the costs associated with moving and signing a lease?
Much like balancing a checkbook or paying your taxes, how to sign a commercial lease is not something most of us learn in school. As a result, many of your clients will enter the process unprepared, failing to realize how cumbersome and expensive the process truly is.
As a broker, you should ensure your client understands the costs associated with moving before you get started. Make sure they are prepared for things like buildout fees, moving costs, IT set-up, etc.
5. What are your company’s growth plans?
It’s no secret, commercial real estate leases are notoriously unfriendly to growing businesses. Most entrepreneurs find it difficult to nail down their projected growth for the next year, let alone the 5-10 years required of a lease.
Yet assessing your client’s growth plans early on can help you make sound decisions on their behalf. For example, if they are small now but expect to double their team size within a year, a lease or sublease might not be a safe bet. Instead, you might advise they work from a coworking space or executive suite until their hiring trajectory has leveled off. If they are a larger team, you may want to look into spaces that have extra room for them to acquire later on. Just be sure your client understands why this information is so vital to helping them succeed.
What questions are we missing? Let us know your favorite questions to ask clients in the comment section below.