Why There's No Longer an "I" in CRE Brokerage

March 2, 2023


Image by Mohamed Hassan via pixabay

The modern brokerage looks far different today than it used to. Social media and research have largely replaced cold calling. Obtaining an introduction comes through prospecting commonalities as opposed to reaching for the phone book. But, most important, the fundamental elements of a strong brokerage team have changed.

“Old school brokerage has evolved,” said Marcus & Millichap CEO Hessam Nadji said during a panel at the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Annual 2023 meeting.

To be the most successful it can be, he explained, a brokerage team now needs a toolbox of different roles that previously didn’t exist in the old brokerage, like project manager, workplace strategist, technologist, demographer, market researcher and economic analyst.

“We have now introduced the age of specialization,” Michael Cohen, Tri-State President at Colliers, told Commercial Property Executive.

At one time, brokerage teams delivered value based on how hard individual brokers could pitch and negotiate. Today, Cohen explained, the firms that offer the best solutions are those that can harness all their internal capabilities to devise innovative answers to complex questions.

Better together

Commercial real estate used to be famous for the superstar effect: brokers who built successful businesses of their own within the larger firm. But modern brokage companies prefer strong teams—a wolf pack vs. a pack of lone wolves. Strength comes from integrating these superstars and having their teams work together to create an unbeatable platform, noted David Bitner, executive managing director, global research, Newmark.

When all the brokerage teams work together, as opposed to working in silos, Bitner said, a firm can systematically create collective data rather than each team doing their own research for every client. That data empowers the whole firm. “This is real business intelligence,” he told Commercial Property Executive.

READ ALSO: Building an Effective Property Management Team

Success comes when each person is contributing towards the team, explained Dan Spiegel, senior vice president and managing director of Coldwell Banker Commercial. “No one role is most crucial,” said Spiegel. “It’s about complementary roles. One person may be an exceptional prospector, another a detailed analyst, one a seasoned salesperson and another the administrator who keeps business going for the team and the team’s clients.”

Recruiting the right talent

Operating an evolved brokerage means taking business units and individuals and turning them into cohesive teams that can handle any opportunity or situation a client may bring to the table. This requires a diverse team with different backgrounds, ages and experiences, and abilities, Spiegel told CPE.

“One should approach building a brokerage team in the same way that a company leader uses SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to evaluate a business,” Spiegel told CPE. “A successful brokerage team will have complementary skill sets (sales, analysis, administration), personalities and task abilities (cold caller, marketer).”

A team with different strengths and work styles is also important, which can mean recruiting not just through a brokerage’s social network and word of mouth but across industries.

“There’s really no easy way to locate recruit and retain the right talent,” said Cohen, who noted that finding an analyst is a different exercise from finding an entry level broker in terms of the tasks, temperament, skills, and the pools through which you can find potential employees.

“The first thing is that you have to understand what set of skills comprises the essential criteria for the job,” explained Cohen. Second, he said, is that a firm needs to know what the experience level necessary is. “Lastly, the trickiest part, is distinguishing between the people that look good on paper and talk a good game and those that can actually deliver,” Cohen said.

Working alongside a well-built HR team can help alleviate many of these stresses, he said, and it is important to think broadly since the right talent can come from unexpected areas.

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