Dave Smith is doing big commercial deals in America’s heartland, and business is brisk as the economy and consumer confidence rev up after a tough downturn. In addition to being a seasoned Commercial Practitioner, Smith, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Commercial Midwest in Omaha, Neb., also sits on the RE/MAX Commercial Advisory Board.
On the other side of the world in Turkey, Ulvi Kocailik’s name has become synonymous with success in a bustling commercial market that attracts European investors and Turkish business conglomerates alike. The Chairman’s Club member and Lifetime Achievement Award winner with RE/MAX Yildiz in Istanbul consistently ranks among the RE/MAX network’s top commercial producers year after year.
These superstars have two very different sales approaches in two very distinct markets, but both have keen insights on best practices for commercial success. They reveal a few of their insights in this Q&A:
First off, share details about your commercial markets. What sales trends are you seeing?
SMITH: Business is definitely picking up. There’s an increased confidence in the economy, and investors are
more secure about their buying power, so they’re willing to take more risks. We have a lot of lease space available for retail, because big boxes are packing up and leaving town, and being replaced by small-business owners looking for more amenities in smaller spaces. Overall, inventory is generally low throughout our commercial market, and prices are up.
KOCAILIK: We get a lot of business from European investors, particularly businesses and marketing firms that are opening offices, renting depots, and buying or renting factories in Turkey due to our low growth ratios. On the other hand, Turkey’s economy has been growing steadily, which is positive for our developing commercial market.
What’s the most powerful RE/MAX Commercial tool that you use?
SMITH: Without a doubt, remaxcommercial.com is a game-changer. Commercial Practitioners need to remind their clients that it exists, and it should be the first stop they make in their commercial-property search.
KOCAILIK: The education. I have the Accredited Commercial Professional (ACP) certification, and I’m working on the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation. Commercial agents need to pick a sector and geographic area to specialize in, and then pursue training that will help them become the expert in that area.
When you’re up against other big-name commercial brokerages, how do you convince potential clients that you stand out from the crowd?
SMITH: When I get in front of people, I can rely on the backing of more than 90,000 RE/MAX agents around the world; there’s always someone who knows someone else who can help me find buyers for my commercial listings. What sets RE/MAX Commercial apart from other commercial brands is the service-oriented mindset of RE/MAX agents. Clients know that when they work with me they’re getting the power of the brand, plus outstanding service.
KOCAILIK: RE/MAX is very well known in the small to mid-range markets, but we have a great opportunity to work with larger international outfits. We have some work to do, but I believe we’re headed in the right direction. In my business, I focus on developing relationships with potential clients by visiting up to eight firms every day that might have potential listings for me. Most of the decision-makers end up choosing me, because they see I’m committed to the deal. Commercial investors in large markets like mine are typically powerful, wealthy people. They want a commercial broker who is hardworking and dependable; they’ll pay good money to get exactly what they want.
What’s the most effective thing you’ve done to win more business?
SMITH: I sent letters to every RE/MAX residential broker in Nebraska explaining that I have the means (and contacts) to advertise their commercial properties and give them exposure. Several brokers responded and co-marketed their listings with me. Residential brokers are a great source of business, but you have to reach out to them. They don’t know what questions to ask, and they aren’t educated on the complexities of a commercial transaction. Tell them, “You don’t have to mess with this. Let’s make money out of this deal. I’ll handle the marketing and negotiation, and you’ll get your referral fee.” If you’re in an office with a Commercial Division, offer to buy treats for the weekly sales meeting and do a short presentation about residential-commercial lead exchanges.
KOCAILIK: That’s great advice! Here in Turkey, marketing is important in order to be successful. I was the first person to use signboards with photos on them, which is rare in commercial real estate. I also put large signboards in front of my listings. Perhaps the best tool for me has been mailings. It started with 250 in my first year of business about eight years ago. Now, it’s up to 20,000! All of my marketing materials have an aim and a message. They connect my name with specialized commercial expertise to keep my personal brand at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, your skills and your knowledge. Commercial real estate is highly competitive, and you have to be consistent in your marketing to stay top of mind.
What’s the most common challenge or pitfall commercial agents should be aware of?
SMITH: Securing funding and eliminating surprises, particularly when you’re trying to meet contingencies. It’s critical that you get full disclosures and ask the right questions from the beginning of a deal – think environmental studies, boundary/zoning issues, etc. Make a checklist of every piece of the puzzle for a transaction so you exercise full due diligence. When it comes to funding, the question you must ask buyers is who will fund the deal. Unless you’re working with all-cash investors, that part of the equation is a huge challenge in today’s tight lending climate.
KOCAILIK: For me, it’s the pace of things. In commercial real estate, you’re juggling a lot of different tasks and deals at once. You have to put in a lot of work and be consistent at doing the same things year after year until you reach a certain level of success. It’s not overnight; you have to work hard, market everywhere and focus on the relationships if you want to build your business. Above all, you can’t give up.