The commercial real estate market has changed – and is changing. Although many believe the market still hasn’t hit bottom, one thing is certain, commercial real estate brokers need new skills in order to thrive in the face of current market realities. Beyond the tried and true relationship strategy, I believe commercial real estate brokers need to focus primarily on honing their business development skills.
Just because the commercial real estate market is shifting doesn’t mean brokers should shift into panic mode. As Gary has shown us in SHIFT: How Top Real Estate Agents Tackle Tough Times, there are always opportunities in the midst of challenging environments. So, if you maintain a business development mindset and keep your foot on the accelerator, you are more likely to discover and leverage those opportunities to your advantage.
Before you can hone your business development skills you need to understand what business development is – and what it isn’t. Business development is not merely sales role, it combines sales, marketing, strategic analysis and negotiations to accomplish one goal…building new relationships with potential clients.
With an ever-shifting market, you need to begin to think creatively about the opportunities that lie before you and how you might approach them. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Identify local market opportunities: Stop and ask yourself, “What are the opportunities in my local commercial real estate market?” If your local market is like most, things are pretty quiet right now. Capital is sitting on the sidelines waiting for the right timing to invest. Therefore, investment sales are soft and will remain soft into 2010. Few are placing bets until unemployment stops rising because much of commercial real estate velocity relies on job growth. Many distressed property owners are holding on tight. It is imperative for you to know your market! That’s why you should focus on landlord leasing and management, tenant representation and SBA/user transactions, as well as building relationships with key banks.
- Realize new and emerging trends: Foreign investors are entering the U.S. market to play against a weak dollar, and bank foreclosures on commercial properties are setting the stage for fire sales. Real Estate Investment Trusts are going to make their moves at the right time. And with market lease rates so low, tenant representation brokers are staying busy helping negotiate blend and extend deals or upgrades from Class B to Class A properties. Think creatively about the trends you are seeing. Find a new angle and execute your strategy.
- Prepare for 2010: For some, the New Year will mean a shift into tenant representation. For others, it may mean working with banks on REOs or commercial property management. For still others, that may mean aggressively marketing to foreign investors or private equity firms with massive hedge funds of cash waiting for the bottom. As you identify new and emerging market opportunities, SHIFT your business practice to prepare for the coming commercial trends.
You might also want to look at ramping up your training and coaching if you haven’t, and join networking groups or form strategic alliances. Whatever it takes, once you’ve identified a valid business opportunity, begin taking steps toward developing that business. Although cost cutting is wise and relationship-building is a must, business development is a key skill that will pay off in the up and down cycles of commercial real estate. And, right now has never been a better time to hone these business development skills.