Building a trustworthy reputation in the commercial industry is key to unlocking access to better deals and better opportunities. Here’s how.

In my home state of Iowa, the person who cuts my hair went through 3,500% more training than the real estate agents who navigate people through one of the largest financial decisions of their lifetime. Sitting for the Iowa real estate exam requires 60 hours of coursework compared to the 2,100 hours necessary for the cosmetology exam.

Although the requirements to become a licensed agent vary by state, the threshold to enter the residential real estate industry is relatively low. There are hundreds of thousands of residential agents in the U.S. Operating in the commercial real estate world is a whole different story. Fewer than 10% of all CRE professionals obtain the coveted CCIM designation (the industry gold standard).

The commercial real estate world is small. Most brokers know every other commercial broker in their market. They regularly do transactions on a national and global scale. If they don’t know you, chances are they know someone who does. There is nowhere to hide. Your reputation is everything.

If you are looking to enter the commercial real estate industry, how do you establish yourself as a credible player? What actions should you take to establish a persuasive and authentic influence? Building a trustworthy reputation in the commercial industry is the key to unlocking access to better deals and better opportunities. In this tight-knit industry, your margin of error is low. You have no option but to put your best foot forward right from the beginning.

Here’s how.

Establish Genuine Connections

The best commercial deals happen off-market, through brokers. Having a reputation that precedes you (in a good way) is a benefit to you and to anyone who works with you. Perhaps most important, the Mark McCormack saying applies: “All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend.”

Your strategy does not need to be based on rocket science. Find the brokers in your target market who list and sell the types of properties you want to acquire by doing a simple Google search of firms in your area. Connect with them via phone or email. Even better? Have a mutual connection make the introduction, if possible.

When you first connect with a broker, be crystal clear about your investment criteria. For example, “I buy multifamily apartments in Tulsa, Oklahoma, between 50 and 100 units with value-add opportunities.” Be prepared to demonstrate a track record of success in real estate or an adjacent field. Build a strong reputation by stating clearly what you are after—and always follow up with an email or phone call after the meeting. Follow up again in the next month or so. Get a sense of what’s going on in their world and whether there’s anything you can do to help. Look for natural communication touchpoints through industry news or information that may be relevant to them.

Establishing meaningful relationships is vital to your success in the industry. In the world of pocket listings, who you know can be more important than what you know. If you want access to deals nobody else sees, you need to create genuine connections with brokers.

Time is money. Don’t waste it.

One way to gain (almost) immediate respect from a broker is to demonstrate an understanding of and respect for their time. Brokers get paid for doing deals. If you can illustrate that you can and will strike when the iron is hot, you become someone a broker will spend their time on.

As mentioned, make a strong first impression by being clear about who you are, what your company does, what your track record is, and what your buy box is. Reinforce that position through consistent follow-up.

Block off dedicated time every couple of months to keep in touch and see if there are any new opportunities for you to work together. This accomplishes two things. First, it ensures you stay top of mind. Second, it signals in a very easy way that you are serious about working together and you aren’t a flake (i.e., a waste of everyone’s time, which is a no-no).

The best way to confirm that spending time with you is a good investment is to close a deal. In the interim, find ways to add value to the broker’s world, even if you don’t have much else to bring to the table. This can be as simple as a connection or a referral. As you build your network and reputation, make it a goal to reinforce to the broker that spending time with you is a wise use of time.

Leverage Social Media

In addition to creating valuable relationships with brokers in your market, social media can be a powerful and free tool to increase your influence and reputation. Simply by talking about, sharing, and interacting with posts that pertain to CRE, you signal to your network that you are engaged and staying current on what’s impacting the commercial industry.

Take a few minutes a day (schedule it on your calendar if you like) to be active on the platforms that commercial brokers and professionals use (e.g., LinkedIn and Twitter). LinkedIn is the most widely used platform in the industry. Share articles, reports, or podcasts you find to be insightful. These items can serve as a great conversation starter with those in your network and allow you to borrow some social capital and credibility. If a broker shares a post or celebrates a closing, engage with the post. Follow up with a personalized email or message congratulating the broker or asking a question about what was posted.

Finally, as with most things, be consistent. If you only keep at this for three months and then stop, everyone will assume you’ve moved on to the next shiny object. Consistently engaging and posting with other thought leaders signals you are not going anywhere. You are in for the long haul.

Create Memorable Content (without a marketing department)

A more advanced strategy for building your reputation is to create content. The good news is there is an easy way to be a thought leader without building out an email list, speaking on stage, or managing a TikTok account.

If you are able to speak with knowledge gained from industry experience, try your hand at being a podcast guest. You’d be surprised how many hosts might be interested in interviewing you as a guest if you simply ask. Being a podcast guest is an efficient strategy for boosting your reputation. Before you go on any podcast, get clear about your intended outcome. Do you want to build your network? Do you want to be known as the expert on a given topic? Do you want to reach the person who could be a passive investor in your deals?

When you are a guest on someone else’s podcast, you have the opportunity to connect with a whole new audience. Anyone can be a guest on a podcast and regurgitate the latest headlines and news. You need to be memorable. People remember stories. As much as possible, tie your insight back to a story or real transaction to make a lasting impression. Once the podcast is published, you have a valuable piece of content you can easily share on social media or via email.

In the competitive landscape of commercial real estate, reputation is king. To become a credible player in the industry, cultivate genuine connections, maximize the value of time, leverage social media, and find ways to create memorable content. By following these strategies, you can unlock access to better deals, off-market opportunities, and the trust of influential brokers. Remember, consistency and authenticity are the pillars of building a reputable presence in the commercial real estate world.

  • Neil Timmins

    Neil J. Timmins is a real estate syndicator, broker, opportunist, and author. He generates passive income opportunities through industrial real estate in Cash Flow Country, the midwest. He has been involved in $300+ million in transactions and hosts the podcast, "Passive Real Estate Investing with Mavericks".

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