It’s a tough world out there, especially for new CRE brokers. You’ve got to build up a business from scratch, hear “no” about a thousand times before you ever get a “yes,” and live without a payday for what feels like forever. It’s why so many brokers don’t make it past that first crucial year.
But the brokers who do are a special bunch: they’ve been there, done that, and have the battle-tested insights to prove it. Recently, we turned to them for the #1 survival tip they’d give to newbie brokers. We asked what they wished someone had told them when they were starting out, and here’s what they had to say:
1. Put yourself out there.
“My number one tip is: put yourself out there. Get involved in one association that really speaks to you (for example, CREW, NAIOP, UDI, etc.) and participate in industry events,” says Jenny-Kate Sgarbi, a broker at Cushman & Wakefield and board member at the Urban Development Institute of Quebec.
“You need to be in front of as many people as you can quickly so that you can establish and maintain an important network. Network with other brokers, with landlords, with lawyers, with lenders; your network will follow you through thick and thin,” she says.
“No one gives a mandate on the first meeting, so connect quickly and build those relationships up.” And remember, she says, "The phone is not going to ring if people don’t know who you are!"
2. Decide who you want as a client, and treat them as if they already were.
“Early on, it is a ‘shotgun’ approach where a young broker contacts a number of prospective clients. A numbers game. I wish that I had taken a different perspective,” says Derek Hermsen, founder and designated broker at Union Street Corporate Real Estate, LLC.
"Now, after 18 years of brokerage, I call the companies that I want to represent,” he says. "I treat them like they are already my client, even if they work with another broker. When the time does come to work on the lease requirement, often they will make the switch and now I’m working with who I want. That makes for a strong client relationship."
3. Don’t be “too big” to help with the “too small."
“Seize every opportunity to build relationships and to learn more about the industry,” says Andrea Miller, managing broker at Miller Chicago. “Don’t look at any task or deal as too small."
"Find a senior broker and ask to assist them to learn as much as you can. Helping someone lease a parking spot, installing a marketing sign, running to city hall, these things will all teach you and give you the tools you will use that will add to your skill set and make you a successful broker,” she says.
“Remember you are building your business from the ground up, so you need to build a solid foundation. The more you know about the industry and how it all fits together will help you be a more valuable and well-rounded resource to clients in the future."
“Some of my most lucrative relationships have blossomed from referrals out of a ‘small’ deal, and some of my biggest commissions were from properties for which the photos may not have been big hits on social media,” she says. “This business is not like the TV shows and every property isn’t a gorgeous ‘million dollar listing.’ Show a positive attitude with everything you do, and your clients will keep calling and will refer you to others."
4. Find new ways to get results.
“Established brokers know very well what they’re doing. They have successful businesses because they use strategies that work,” says Alexis Milas, a broker at Coldwell Banker Commercial SunCoast.
“But what's best for them may not be best for you. A new generation has a very innovative way of thinking—and that innovation plus the established way of doing things is complementary,” she says.
“For example, the proven model of picking up the phone is one of the most powerful ways to build business,” she says. “Many brokers are using software that makes it easy to pull up a CEO or managing member’s phone number, but that’s the challenge. The majority of brokers are calling the very same contacts.”
That’s why Milas looks for other ways to connect, like via LinkedIn. It’s how she recently landed a client who, though based in Oregon, had land just 30 miles from where she was in North Carolina. “I reached out from outside his market, and he found value in my approach, which was more than his current broker was doing,” Milas explains.
"I find LinkedIn to be a powerful resource in addition to making calls to prospect business opportunities," says Milas.