Stick or Automatic?

I prefer manual transmissions…even when it comes to communication.

 

Ah it brings me back to the good old days. Fast cars, throaty exhaust systems, American racing wheels with tires that seduced the driver as much as they did the road itself. When I was in high school, stick shifts were more popular. The reason for all of this reminiscing and banter is an overall theme: Controlled transmission. When driving a manual transmission, I feel like I am in more control. I can negotiate twists, turns and obstacles with more precision and savvy. I can also ramp up to a blow this long hair back in the wind carefree speed without waiting for a sluggish overdrive to finally decide what it wants to be when it grows up.

“Okay”, you say, “What in the world does that have to do with Commercial Real Estate???” Well, my good man/woman…the correlation is this: Total Automation of Your Social Media and Communications = Epic Fail. I know that every piece of new CRE bling whether it be software for your pc or an app for your ipad is pushing you to “automate” your online voice. To some extent, it does make sense. Efficiency, time-saver…your assistant can do it for you – these pros all sound great, but…

Communication: the exchange of information between people, e.g. by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior (Courtesy of Encarta).

Social Media is a technology based extension of your voice to an online global community. Let me play devil’s advocate for uno momento por favor. How many of you love spambots? Most of you block them, right? Why? Because they spam you with all kinds of duplication and junk you aren’t interested in.

Please keep that in mind when it comes to your online communication, even as it relates to CRE.  If variety is the spice of life, your Twitter account should be more a reflection of than iStock_000008822742Large

Say this in the mirror ten times, “I am a REAL person.” Then please convince me…online. No, don’t get me wrong. I do not want to see all of your personal photos, I do not want a close-up into your personal existence, but engage me. Let me know who you are. Yea, I know you eat, breath and even sleep Commercial Real Estate (for those of you who take time to sleep that is), but still…Networking is about connection, content, corroboration, collaboration, rapport and relationship.

I will probably never become your BFF, but you will be “top of mind” when I have a CRE want or have that I think is really spectacular. I will contact you for your thoughts on an issue with a property. I might even share what things are like in my neck of the woods (CRE market area).  I will RT your TWEETS, because you’ve made yourself relevant in my eyes. I might even + your post. I become part of your community. Get the idea??? If you are utilizing Social Media to increase your online presence minus the engagement, you are missing the key piece of the pie. Without it, you are one ingredient short of the “Pièce de résistance”.

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It’s That Right Place, Right Time Concept

keys-264596_1280Still think that social media is a waste of time for your CRE business? Newsflash – Social selling is a great way to build rapport, engaging with potential clientele or resources to get you to those people, developing clout and credibility by sharing your market expertise and is a great platform to showcase opportunities within your market area.

When you can catch them during the “still conceptualizing my vision” phase, but they’ve already at least developed their business plan, you are golden. You the commercial real estate professional can guide them through the process now that they have a definitive plan on paper1280px-Social-media-for-public-relations1.

Another advantage of social media is that it is non-evasive. By now the one billion Facebook users and 645,750,000 Twitter users are accustomed to minor blurbs of communication injected into their workday. It is S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) at this point. Your interjections, if executed well, are seen as both a pleasant diversion and a necessary function to keep one’s awareness of local markets and business current. You have become a local resource and knowledge-base. It’s not “in-your-face” as some marketing that you’ve experienced that makes you want to hang up, block or take your name off the list, but it does truly have “in-your-face” visibility and notability. If you are congenially interacting and not always “on the sell”, you will build community and hold followers better.

These days everyone with a wi-fi connection seems to prefer “kicking the tires” online and doing as much research on the interweb before making purchases, making decisions, even the ones you are required to make in person. social-media-419944_1280

Pulse your posts – timeliness is crucial. Be relevant and current and professional with a touch of humanness. You are a person, right? You have a life beyond commercial real estate….at least I hope you do. Be personable without getting personal. Develop your own Social Community and allow it to work for you as you do your part. Track your results and you may find the ROI is surprising.

They always say you have to go where the opportunities are…it’s that right place, right time concept.

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No Lead Left Behind

As many of you know, working in a commercial real estate office can be a hectic environment at times. The tedious research, the list of phone calls handwritten on this morning’s Starbucks napkin, the ever-changing deadlines for the contingencies and due diligence items for that deal you’re working on…it never ends. You can be a great commercial realtor and one fatal flaw will potentially break you…the followup.

I know how it goes. You are involved in 6 transactions right now. Two are large sales which entail a lot of detail, multiple corporate entities, not to mention the fun spin of the 1031 exchange thrown into the mix and potential bo-ku bucks in your bank account. The third transaction is a 10-year lease in your own business center, but there are a lot of fit-out negotiations to work-out at the table. The remaining three are small, local retail leases. If only the dollar amounts on the commission were equivalent to the hours you spend trying to get these little deals done, right?

In the meantime, you have received 3 phone calls with wants and wishes that you will need to vett further, 2 email inquiries regarding your own property listings, and you’ve been asked to take on a new retail development project which is a couple years out, but you need to start marketing it to be sure to land that ideal anchor tenant.

Science has proven that no human being, super-human or otherwise, can truly do two things at once. Your brain works in sequence, not in a simultaneous state.

Before you guzzle down more of that warm delicious drug and pop another Excedrin, think about this for a moment. What if I developed a “protocol” for how I handle all this communication as it comes in from various sources? What if I established a game plan so that no leads get left behind?

If you have a mack-daddy CRM solution such as GoldMine or SalesForce, you already have these things in place and you may think there is no need to have this conversation. They trigger you automatically to do what you need to do, like a mom only a “CRE Mom”. However, every agent needs a system in place to control and prioritize communications. Most of the time it is a behavioral protocol you develop for yourself to prohibit what I like to call “CRE ADD”. Also, if you are a smaller brokerage without such a resources will need to invent the wheel that will drive them on their current path until they graduate to a faster track.

It can begin with taking simple steps like creating rules for certain types of messages. Yes, as commercial agents we are inundated with junk mail, but some items that aren’t junk mail aren’t good for your prioritizing efforts. To quote the apostle Paul, “all things are lawful but not all things are expedient”. Take all those RSS feeds, REIT and Investment news and have them automatically hit a CRE news and blog folder that you can peruse when your schedule permits. Next, take all of those opportunities coming in from your fellow CRE brokerages and assign a rule that directs them to a specific folder as well. Email alone can bog you down and make you unproductive which equals unprofitable for most. Your social media is another time hustler if you’re not careful. It’s like candy for a sweet-tooth. It draws you in and if you’re not cautious, consumes every bit of focus you might have thought you had.

So is there hope in this instant messaging, instant notification, instant gratification world of commercial real estate? I believe there is. Setting aside certain time slots during the day to perform certain tasks creates a pleasing and freeing sense of order in that chaotic office of yours.

Take charge of your time and guard it as the precious possession it is. At the end of the day, what creates revenue has to be top priority in business. Consider your schedule and priorities just like a company CEO would do. If it makes money, it has a higher value. If it doesn’t, it is overhead and you have to control it. Schedule your social media throughout the day via HootSuite or TweetDeck or the like. Check in periodically to respond to interaction, but don’t get lost in it. If you aren’t using a CRM solution, take the time to create a pipeline tracker in Excel and sort it by priority. Give the leads categories and I’m not just talking property types, wants or haves. My suggestion would be to include columns such as lead source, time frame, value, percentage of probability and final weighted forecast amount. There is an empowerment that takes place inside when you are the “master of your universe”, at least your own CRE niche of it.

The Importance of Clarity

ImageInternal and External Chaos: I find this to be an epidemic in the work-spaces and workplaces of today’s businesspersons. All to often we are so overwhelmed with multiple, simultaneous transactions spinning out of control around us. The cell phone is ringing. The desk phone is ringing. Your colleague just popped his head in with something that requires you to drop everything and act immediately. You still have 296 unaddressed emails in your inbox from this morning and it is now 1:10 PM.

Push away from the desk. Take about eight steps backwards. Now, turn toward the door and make your way thru it and down to the nearest coffee pot/hot tea station. After you have poured your favorite hot beverage (stimulates your senses and soothes tension), walk back into your office, however don’t sit down right away. Look at your workspace. How does it look? How does it make you feel?

Sometimes we get so bogged down that we don’t even realize the piles that have grown around us. (It’s the frog in the pot syndrome). We have been taken captive and have no awareness of it. The chaos that we have allowed due to insane multitasking and unrealistic time frames has officially become our master. You will no longer be productive, because when your workspace is chaotic, your mind is as well. Practically all of us struggle with focus on a daily basis because of the highway speed stimuli you receive thru all of this activity that surrounds you. However, having a unproductive work environment facilitates this 100-fold.

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What can you do? I cease and desist my normal routine on a regular basis and do what I prefer to call “blowtorch my desk”. It simply means everything has a place and it needs to find just that….immediately. If I’m not dealing with it in the next hour, it goes away and gets put on my IPad in my Awesome Note HD app (love it!) and I schedule it with reminders. I do the same thing with my Outlook. Those 329 messages….here are some tips.

  • Create rules to ditch the unwanted emails automatically so you don’t even see them
  • Create rules to color-code or create pop-ups for the 911 stuff
  • Only pull in RSS feeds you are actually going to read
  • Create an alias account for your retail junk-mail and those friends who continuously hit you with forwards you do NOT have time for
  • Create a folder-tree that makes sense and is user-friendly for you – move items into it as soon as you read them.
  • Archive old transaction email folders and get them out of your folder tree

You don’t have to answer the phone just because it rings. I know it is an instinctive response, but don’t do it. If you are in the midst and you cannot afford the interruption, allow them to leave a message. You can deal with it later…really. You are not going to miss out on an opportunity just because you didn’t answer right away. You can afford to lose the deal on your desk either, and you know how quickly and easily things can unravel on your way to the table, my #cre friend. Stay focused. Use an app that assists you in setting your priorities to schedule your workweek to sail as smoothly as possible. Schedule out your tasks as much as possible. (i.e. – Social Media – schedule out your posts during the first 20 minutes of your day). Take “brain breaks” as I call them. If it is just 10 minutes of “free association hour” over coffee with a few colleagues, it’s a good thing. Your brain and your straining eyes will thank you. Get the piles off your desk. No, it doesn’t need to look like Martha Stewart’s prodigy, however it does need to be simplified and organized to allow you to be productive and efficient, in your doing and your thinking.