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What good is data if you don’t use it? Here’s how two brokers are making that easy.

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broker-building-phone-320x213You know that data drives commercial real estate. Contacts, properties, square footage, NOI, comps, listings…the list goes on. Even though relationships are the foundation of your business, data is the at the heart of every new connection, deal, and transaction. If you use it right, you have access to a world of insights and opportunities—and can provide thoughtful guidance to clients at a moments’ notice. If you use it wrong (or not at all) you’re adrift in a sea of numbers.


This month, we asked two top brokers how they make the most of their data. Here’s what we learned:

Present data in a way that’s powerful, not overpowering

When Derek Hermsen of Union Street Corporate Real Estate, LLC thinks about what it takes to make data work for him, the same old adages come to mind: “Garbage in, garbage out” and “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

But ultimately when it comes to data, he says, “I also think of the robot dork from Star Trek: Next Generation. You need to have a Commander Deanna Troi with your data.” In other words, you need the emotional intelligence to give the data meaning. “Clients and brokers enjoy and understand Deanna better than Data, so make sure the data translates to a human scale,” Hermsen says.

He believes that when working with clients and prospects, you can often do more with less data, and that carefully selecting the data that’s most valuable is more important than presenting all the data you’ve got. For example, he says, data visualizations work best with less information. “It’s counterintuitive, but too much data can screw things up.”

“I need to clarify that you can almost never have too much data,” he adds. “What I mean is that when displaying data to clients, too much data can make things seem cluttered and can be hard to use for a data visualization. Based on the parameters and the most relevant points to my clients, my role as a tenant broker is to interpret all the data and to present it in a way that enables my client to make a decision.”

“For example,” Hermsen says, “Data used in a financial analysis can be summed up in a number of ways. Some companies care about market perspective on deal economics, some care about minimizing out-of-pocket costs, some care about flexibility on lease term; all of which can be summed up and displayed differently.”

“If you have a CEO that expects to grow her company, demonstrate the financial consequences of a lease termination, or model a potential sublease exit strategy or ways to minimize length of term commitments,” Hermsen says. “Don’t worry about initially demonstrating the net effective rents, parking costs, headcount metrics, etc. because that isn’t the focus of her decision-making process.”

Don’t just collect datause it

Kevin Vandenboss of Vandenboss Commercial says that when it comes to data, “I’m the problem when it comes to keeping track of contacts and staying on top of leads. I’ve got so many different things going on that it gets to be a real struggle as leads come in and I’m trying to remember, ‘I’ve got to get back to that person, call this person, drop this off,’” he says.

Vandenboss could see that it was a challenge for him to stay on top of his data and, most importantly, act on it. Like him, one of the challenges a lot of brokers face is that they have plenty of information at their fingertips, but don’t use it or act on it as often as they shoulda major missed opportunity.

“I’ve tried it all. I’ve read books that say to keep a calendar or prioritize a to-do list. Everyone’s got their own solution for keeping track of everything, but it never really seemed to work for me,” Vandenboss says. “I’d read these things and think, ‘OK, so I’ve got to put it on my to-do list that I need to make a to-do list, and put it on my calendar that I need to put things on my calendar.’”

“It just wasn’t working. I needed something unbelievably simple,” Vandenboss says. He found himself wishing that he could just have someone follow him around all day to keep him on track.

“And the light bulb went on!” he says. Vandenboss ended up searching out and hiring an assistant who could do just that–she just happened to be virtual. “Now when something comes up, I just pick up my phone right away and do it via voice or text,” he says. “It’s so simple.”

“Everybody else said, ‘Are you kidding?! You need to do that?’” Vandenboss laughs. “But it works for me!”

“There are set times in the day when my assistant will check in with me and say, ‘Hey, Kevin, did you get these things done? Don’t forget you’ve got to do this.’ And in the morning when I wake up, she already has a snapshot of my calendar and list of things I have to do that day. She also accesses the email system that my leads go into and keeps track of them.”

For him, it’s a solution that has more than paid off in peace of mind. “It’s set up so that the assistant checks in and does things for me in 30-minute intervals every few hours; it’s really only a couple of hours a day that I end up paying for, but it helps throughout the day at the times that I need it,” Vandenboss says.

“Everybody’s gotta just do what works for them, and this is what works for me” he says. “You can waste so much time forcing yourself into doing things a certain way because that’s what everyone says you need to do. Instead, you have to figure out what works for you and go with it.”

We love the way Vandenboss identified his challenge and then turned it around with a creative solution. Whether you’re inspired to hire your own online assistant or let your CRM do a lot of the work for you, what’s most important is that you’re taking action and moving forward each day. After all, what good is data if you don’t use it?