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Broker insights: How do you start conversations with prospects?

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brokers-suits-coffee-320x240As a broker, you spend your life striking up conversations with potential clients—whether it’s on the phone with a prospect or in line at the coffee shop. And if you’re one of the good ones, you know exactly how to keep the conversation going from that first hello to that first deal.

There’s a lot at stake from the very first words you use, which is why we asked brokers what they like to do to spark a connection and keep things flowing. Here’s what they had to say:

Whatever you do, don’t be boring

Derek Hermsen of Union Street Corporate Real Estate, LLC, says that he’ll start a conversation with anything but statistics or headlines.

“Like coach Chris Peterson of the UW Huskies says, ‘Statistics are for losers.’ So boring,” says Hermsen. “I like to look forward into the future, which means interpreting statistics to find trends worth talking about.”

Hermsen says he likes talking about technology, and follows new developments much more closely than his competitors. “I follow GeekWire religiously, and look for insights on how technology will impact business owners and users of office space. It can be a great ice breaker.”

As a business owner himself, he also likes talking about business operations and efficiencies. “It’s a benefit of starting and owning a company, and has changed my perception of brokerage,” he says. “Having signed a lease that my company is responsible for, I can better empathize with the experience.”

In the end, Hermsen says, he tailors the conversation to each prospect’s interests. “On Twitter I basically only follow Elon Musk, the Pope, and Conan O’Brien—and that prepares me for any conversation.”

Put the ‘why’ before the ‘what’

Javier Del Carpio, a broker at Caliber Realty Group, begins by taking an interest in the person he’s speaking to and exploring the reasons why they’re looking for a new space in the first place.

“In my opinion the why is more important than the actual what,” he says.

“One of my recent clients was looking for space to expand her printing business,” Del Carpio says. “After a series of questions, I realized that a flex space would be a better fit than a traditional office space, since they did not have a lot of foot traffic and would benefit from keeping their equipment inside an air conditioned warehouse. This also meant they’d pay lower rates than for a regular office space in the same area.”

“Most of the time, our clients know what they want,” Del Carpio says. “However, they can benefit from our experience and insight within the industry. By looking at the why, I’m able to understand their vision for growth and expansion, and can look for spaces that will fit their long-term goals.”

Research and relate

Ashley Young, a partner at CommunityVentures|RE, says that her approach changes depending on the client she’s trying to connect with, but that she always focuses on two things: researching each prospect thoroughly and then relating to them personally.

Once she has the information she needs, she leaves the standard sales pitch behind. “When I engage with a prospective client for the first time, I approach the conversation with the feeling that I’ve known them for a while,” she says. “It’s a type of confidence that lacks a sales pitch, and is more like a conversation with a trusted friend. I may say that I saw that they just hired more employees and how wonderful that is, then work into their possible need for a larger space or the benefits of buying over leasing.”

“I find that if you lead a call or meeting by jumping straight into a pitch, it turns most people off,” Young says. “Especially in commercial real estate.”

Make it natural

Mathew Laborde, president of Elifin Realty, says that he starts with a simple question that lets the conversation progress naturally: “Where is your office located?”

When he meets prospects for the first time, often at social events, it’s one of the first things he asks.

“This helps me to place them and collect information,” says Laborde. “It also puts the conversation in my area of expertise, commercial real estate, and will often lead to a conversation about what’s going on in the real estate submarket that their office is located in, specifically new developments, sales, road improvements, or other hot topics.”

“Once a solid rapport is established and since we’re already on the topic of real estate, it’s very natural to move in to specifically talking about their current occupancy situation and whether or not it’s meeting their needs or if they’re interested in making a change in the near future,” he says.