by Nell Gable, Apto
With over 13 years of experience representing multifamily property owners in the greater Chicagoland area, John Meyer, a director at Kiser Group, understands the value of lasting client relationships in closing deals. But because 98% of multifamily properties don’t sell in a given year, the hallmark of John’s work is really in the extended effort and attention to detail he cultivates in each relationship.
Here, he shares his strategies for forging lasting and fruitful partnerships with even the most traditional property owners.
Are there any common challenges you face with winning over new clients?
Because there are a million salespeople out there, you have to find ways to differentiate yourself to ensure you’re remembered. With detailed property data more readily available now than ever before, the broker isn’t the necessary source of information they once were. Some owners even view brokers as expendable. The challenge is to find ways to connect with owners on a personal basis. Once owners perceive that you’re active in the market, they begin to begrudgingly respect your opinions. They start to take your calls and soon you’re on a first name basis with them. The goal is for them to think of you first when they decide to sell.
How do you differentiate yourself from other brokers?
You’ve got to start on the phone — there’s no way around it. To get their ear, you can start by sharing relevant market data, which adds to credibility. Find ways to relate to their needs then work on getting an in-person meeting or coffee scheduled. Once I sit down in person, I always try to make a personal connection. Whether that’s talking about their family or where they’re from, you want to leave them with something to remember you by.
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The goal is to prove your professional competency then solidify the relationship with the personal connection.
In commercial real estate, and in everything really, it’s critical that the owners likes you personally. People want to work with people they like.
How do you maintain relationships with clients and continue to earn that trust over time, specifically when you’re not actively working on deals with them?
For me, my biggest point of contact between deals is quarterly phone calls. Now there’s a fine line between being helpful and being annoying, so you don’t want to call too often. I try to aim for one phone call a quarter where I deliver valuable information and focus on striking up a conversation.
Other than that, I like to send out a monthly email broadcast to get my name in front of everyone one more time. I also use tools like LinkedIn and the local media to keep my name on their radar.
What do you typically talk about on your quarterly calls?
Commercial real estate is majorly affected by current events, so there’s always the macro stuff — topics like interest rates, the new administration, homeownership trends, unemployment, and a plethora of others. I also like to discuss things more relevant to the owner’s specific properties such as comps, new buildings in the area, local political issues, infrastructure projects, or even something as minute as a new restaurant opening up nearby. One thing owners love to talk about is their own successes. Let them talk about themselves all day, and next thing you know, you’re friends.
What are some signs your relationship with a client may be suffering?
The biggest indicator you’re about to lose a client is always lack of communication. When someone suddenly stops answering your calls or returning your texts within a few hours, something’s very wrong. With smart phones nowadays, no one is unreachable for very long anymore.
Often, it’s not that they have decided to use another broker — although that does happen to everyone at times — it’s that for some reason, they’ve decided not to do the deal altogether. Maybe refinancing is a more appealing option, maybe certain family members are opposed to selling. It’s not always your fault.
What’s some advice you give to brokers just starting to build their client list?
Again it’s that combination of demonstrating competency and forging a personal connection. Start by hitting the phones. Love it or hate it, cold calling is still the highest output sales activity we do. Once you get someone on the phone or in a meeting, don’t focus so much on talking about yourself, instead let them do the talking. Everyone likes the sound of their own voice!
How can younger brokers establish themselves in a specialty like multifamily, where the majority of clients are in their parents or even grandparents generation?
It’s not so much age that matters but years and quality of experience. You can technically be a millennial and still have 10 years of experience under your belt.
If you don’t have the experience level, besides knowing your market cold, it’s critical that you are a master of current events. CRE values are basically a reflection of how the state of the world is being perceived. Make it a point to read the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Crain’s every morning, even weekends. This is the sort of general world knowledge that suggests you have a richness to your life to the point where they begin seeking out your advice, no matter how many years of brokerage experience you have.
What’s the secret to solidifying a long-term client relationship?
There are two specific levels of trust that must be achieved with an owner for him or her to really be your client. You gain the first level of trust when someone gives you a listing or an opportunity to sell a building. They like you enough to give you a chance at this point.
This trust doesn’t last though, unless you reach the next level, which is you’ve demonstrated such skill and knowledge throughout the long process of selling or buying a building, that the owner begins to include you in their strategic thinking, even deferring to you occasionally. Then you’re really advising someone on their commercial real estate goals. That’s what it’s all about.