“Selling” Today’s Customer
Today’s commercial real estate customer knows more about real estate than ever before. First time commercial buyers and investors go online for their education. For tenants the internet provides information about market conditions and available space. This requires us as agents and brokers to re-examine our role in the “selling” process.
Unfortunately, some agents look at the sale process as consisting of first approaching and qualifying the consumer with a strong accent on “show me the money”. Then various properties are presented with the agent using all their skills to convince the customer which property is best for them. Then almost half of their “presentation” time is spent doing the hard sell, to overcoming objections in an effort to close. This pressure selling has created an image of some agents being “just one step above a used car dealer”.
Customers today are exposed to inaccuracies, incomplete data and unfortunately some agents who are not properly trained in commercial brokerage and relationship building. In today’s selling process the consumer first seeks to build a trusting relationship with an agent.
They like the confidentiality of shopping on the internet; being able to gather facts without being pressed for a decision by a salesperson. Only when they find something of interest, will they e-mail, text or call the agent. Here is where the relationship begins or ends. Internet consumers expect a quick response to their inquiries. CRT Communication Response Time is the “first impression” that is critical to building a relationship. Responding promptly with accurate information starts to build trust and confidence in the agent. Truthful answers, “the good, the bad and the ugly” are essential. It may take several communications to build a rapport and get to the next step.
The agent’s next job in the selling process is to guide the customer in determining their requirements. A trip to their existing location and a candid discussion of their need for space, personnel placement, location, desired building features or amenities is necessary. The agent needs to educate the customer about current market conditions and costs, and in this process financially qualify the customer.
In many cases we need to avoid “real estate talk”. “Space in this area goes for $19 per square foot.” Can the customer relate that figure to their budget? Based on the agent’s market knowledge a better approach may be, “To rent another store about this size will cost approximately $2,500 per month. With security deposits and initial rent payments you will need about $10,000 to proceed. Are you prepared for this expense?” Guidance and qualification demonstrates the agent’s market knowledge and builds customer confidence.
When guiding the customer be sure to ask, “Other than price, what is most important to you about the space you will be moving to?” This large part of the “selling” process clearly defines the need of the customer.
The previous two steps, building relationships and guidance account for the majority of time in the new model of selling. Armed with a clear definition of need and financial capabilities the agent may now search out appropriate properties to present to the customer.
If these steps are followed a “soft” close should be all that is now required. “Is this what you had in mind?” “Can you visualize your company working here?” Our final step is then to negotiate the best deal we can for our customer.
Guiding today’s customer to understand their requirements and capabilities largely eliminates the old “hard sell” approaches of convincing them this is the right space and then overcoming objections.
There is another change we need to be aware of, today’s buyer or tenant is also concerned with trusting the seller or landlord; they want to be comfortable with who they are doing business with. In the old model of selling we tried to keep the parties apart, today many of the principals want to talk, get to know each other. If we block that they may feel we are hiding something and not trust us.
These are the communication, guidance and negotiation skills that today’s consumer expects from us.