Want to Break into Commercial Real Estate?

Posted: July 5, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director with contributions from Eli Randel


WANT TO BREAK INTO COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE?

HERE’S SOME ADVICE

It must be that time of year. We’ve had three calls from acquaintances asking what’s the best way for their child, who just obtained their degree in Greek Mythology (or some other similar study), to get into Commercial Real Estate (“CRE”). Perhaps it’s a sign of “market heat” and CRE’s continued visibility as an industry, but there is no shortage of interested applicants for commercial real estate opportunities. It’s a competitive landscape, so what can applicants do to more effectively break in?

My first suggestion to future graduates who think they want a career in CRE is: “Don’t get a degree in Greek Mythology,” but hindsight is 20-20 and interestingly, when you go through the BIOs of successful CRE professionals, you’ll find a diverse list of backgrounds which is one of the many things we like about the industry (9 Reasons We Love CRE). Anyway, who am I to judge? I got a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I used to tell clients it was the perfect major for selling warehouses by the airport.

Here is some more advice for “young Sammy” who wants to break into the world of CRE:

Nothing is easy. If you want to become a part of the CRE industry because you think it’s an easy way to get rich or because you think you’ll impress people with your fancy business card – don’t waste your time. In CRE you will work hard. You will face rejection. You will not get rich in your 20s (most likely) and if in a sales role, you may go extended periods of time without income. If you aren’t tough, find another field. Throw out your get rich quick books. Most of the authors got rich selling their books to you, not in the field they profess to be masters in.

It’s all relative. Most CRE brokers don’t get hired from a wanted ad. It’s generally a function of who you know and often that person is a relative or is a friend with a relative willing to help. If your approach is only to submit resumes online, you will have fewer options. Maybe you don’t know the person personally but, if you can get an introduction to a top professional at a national firm; it will open doors. LinkedIn is a good way to figure out who you know and who knows who. If you’re not connected to anyone in CRE then start with me: Paul Cohen.

Clean up your act. Your resume should be clear and concise and visually appealing. I personally believe in keeping a resume to one page – even for seasoned professionals. If longer, it should be for good reason. CLEAN UP your resume. It should look like it was created after 1997 not just in content, but in visual quality (I’m talking to you Times New Roman users). Take more than one copy to an interview. Customize your resume for different opportunities. Your resume is often your first impression. Make a good one.

Prepare for the interview. Research the company you are meeting with and write down some thoughtful questions. We recently had an applicant who confessed he knew nothing about CREXi and asked if there was somewhere he could get more information: “Have you looked online?” was our response. Sadly the answer was “no.” You will also be asked to introduce yourself. If you just read your resume as your introduction, you will lose your audience who will read along with you and will finish while you’re still talking. Prepare a customized “elevator” pitch that will tell your story: Where are you from? What drives you? WHY SHOULD THEY HIRE YOU? (hint: it’s probably not because of one course you took, your 3.1 GPA, or an internship you did at your uncle’s company). If you are doing significantly more talking than the other person, you might lose them. Ask questions. And last: READ BOOKS. I often hear applicants get asked: “what was the last book you read?” If you have a good answer or it’s a book they also read, you just connected. Don’t have any answer? That loud noise is dead air. Read these two recent posts for book suggestions:  Book Suggestions 1 and Book Suggestions 2.

Start with the best. The best firms usually have the best employee development. Research the best firms and brokers in your market. This will help you assess the variety of firms and will also be helpful in finding the best personal fit. One firm might be more entrepreneurial than others for the person who seeks a “jack-of-all-trades” role. Some are more specialized and structured. Fit is crucial. If you are an introverted analytical type who gets an offer for an extroverted cold-calling position it could be a waste of your time and theirs. Some people are talented enough to learn and master skill sets, but if it goes against your basic wiring, it is less likely to be sustainable.

Give good phone. Here’s the reality, to get in the door and to land that first job (or to get started in any sales career) you must be able to make calls – even if it’s only for a probationary period. There are several books and recordings: Cold Calling Techniques by Shiffman is a good start. There is a generation of people who grew up without widespread use of the telephone. Get comfortable using one or the generation that did grow up with phones, will have a hard time connecting with you.

Get skills. If you want to join an investment sales team then proficiency in Argus will give you a head start. The more you know, the more value you’ll be to the team. Excel masters – like pivot tables and macros – are valuable (Pryor). Being a social media guru can open doors. If you can help your broker trend on LinkedIn they might make you a partner. This is a unique skill set a young professional can bring to the table. Did you get a sales associate license before needing one? Are you LEED certified? Have you taken a CCIM 101? Show that you want the opportunity and are committed to a career in CRE.

Follow Up. Once you’ve interviewed, be sure to follow up. I have colleagues who won’t even consider hiring the best candidate they ever met if there is no professional follow up. For many of us who are conducting an interview, we are testing your ability to interact with a potential client. If you don’t follow up with the person who would hire you, will you follow up with the client who may someday potentially hire us?

Good luck and happy hunting!


Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, CREXi Convenient TechnologyPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul

New to Commercial Real Estate?

Posted: June 29, 2017 by Paul Cohen, Regional Director


New to Commercial Real Estate?

Read these 10 books and accelerate your career

It started in the 1990’s and is becoming more and more pervasive.  I’m talking about the new wave of brokers and their shocking lack of reading.

I noticed it first when junior brokers in my firm would start using basic phrases that every salesperson from the pre-nineties era, who had studied the likes of Tom Hopkins, Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn, would never say. Like “You wouldn’t want to make an offer on this property, would you?” I’d cringe and then take them aside, thrusting a copy of Tom Hopkins “How to Master the Art of Selling” into their hands. Months later it was clear they hadn’t read it. I once wrote on the second chapter of “See You at the Top” by Zig Ziglar, “When you read this, come and see me and I’ll give you $100.” They never asked for the money but did tell me they enjoyed the book.

I have given this some thought over the years. Why do these gen-Xrs think they can just wing it? I’ve watched these brokers “grow up” in the business and they make money based upon sheer determination, smiles and their ability to instinctively connect with some clients. However, because they don’t know why they do what they do, they sometimes don’t get the business and have no idea why. Generally, they blame the client, the market or a competitor but the fact is, it’s them. I explain that sales in commercial real estate is a skill that needs to be honed and practiced. Just willing something to happen doesn’t make it so. Learning to build rapport, ask questions, growing a business over time are fundamentals that seem to be missing from the “instant gratification” generation. Don’t get me wrong, I love the optimism and over confidence but a little nuance goes a along way.

If you don’t like to read, you can download an audio book as I like to do. Check out our blog debating the reading vs listening to books. Without further ado here are the ten books I recommend every aspiring commercial real estate broker should read:

    1. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. Warren Buffet took the course and said it was the best thing he could have done for himself when he started out.

    1. The Richest Man in Babylon, George Clason. Time tested principals for gaining wealth.

    1. Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill. Time tested wisdom from a man who studied the likes of Andrew Carnegie.

    1. How to Master the Art of Selling and Listing Real Estate, Tom Hopkins. It’s a little dated but you’ll learn some good basic techniques.

    1. The Secrets of Closing the Sale, Zig Ziglar. In my opinion, this is best as an audio book.  Zig’s enthusiasm will get you pumped.

    1. The Psychology of Selling, Brian Tracy. More sales stuff. You’ve got to absorb this stuff as Brian Tracy breaks down the mind game.

    1. Seven Habits of Highly effective People, Steven Covey.  Probably the best overview of how you set yourself up to be successful in life

    1. Influence, Robert Caldini. Important if you want to understand why people decide to buy.

    1. Spin Selling, Neil Rackham. It seems that every major sales organization rebrands the principals of this book for their own purposes. Get the original.

  1. Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, Napoleon Hill & W. Clement Stone. This was quoted in the Ray Kroc movie (Founder). As the words were recited it reminded me of when I started in the business. This stuff stays with you.

“Hey new broker. Yes I am talking to you.”

I know you think that because you are well liked and you work hard, you don’t need to read these books. Trust me, I’ve worked with hundreds of brokers over the years, and they all make money. However, the ones that learned these principals make much more.  Even if you make just 10% more each year, that’s almost a million dollars over a career. (That’s a Brian Tracy thing. You’ll see.) Now this is just the start, there are hundreds of books you should read. Some haven’t even been written yet. I personally recommend biographies – Sam Zell has a new one out now. Enjoy!

What book do you recommend for new brokers? Send me your recommendations.


Paul Cohen

Paul Cohen, CREXi Convenient TechnologyPaul Cohen is a Regional Director with CREXi based in the firm’s Miami office and focused on business development in the southeast. Prior to joining CREXi, Cohen was a Managing Director specializing in investment sales and equity raises at Cohen Financial, a national debt and equity advisor. Prior to Cohen Financial, Paul owned and operated his own independent real estate firm following a 12-year tenure at CBRE where Cohen was a Senior Vice President and led the Private Client Group in Miami-Dade County with a specialty in office and industrial investment sales.  Email Paul