Real estate is a business of relationships. Nowhere is that fact more prevalent than in the commercial real estate industry. Commercial brokers, commercial property managers, investors, and leasing agents all rely on interpersonal connections to thrive in this business. But making those connections is more difficult than ever. CRE professional networking has changed amid COVID-19, making it more challenging to meet new people and connect with our existing networks.
How can commercial real estate professionals connect with colleagues and clients when it’s nearly impossible to get together in person?
The Importance of Connection in Commercial Real Estate
Connections are essential in all real estate fields, but commercial real estate relies heavily on networking and referrals. Brokers, property managers, investors, and even lessees connect via a who-knows-who network built over time.
In their 2020 DNA of CRE report, the CRE marketing pros at Buildout and theBrokerList researched the importance of networking, technology, and other commercial real estate success tools. The study surveyed 730 commercial real estate brokers nationwide, asking them about everything from data analysis to marketing. The study’s respondents said that the majority of their business – more than 75% - comes from referrals from past clients or buyers. In addition, 54.4% of new clients are referrals from other brokers. While other lead generation sources certainly play a role (community involvement, social media, and cold calling, for instance), referrals make up the bulk of new business.
Therefore, building a strong professional and personal network is vital to commercial real estate success. However, amid a pandemic, how can CRE professionals continue to develop and nurture these relationships?
COVID-19 and Its Impact on Networking
The Coronavirus pandemic has disrupted nearly every facet of our lives. Indeed, the commercial real estate sector has experienced significant changes in 2020. As a result, CRE brokers, property managers, and other professionals struggle to find creative networking opportunities. Since public gatherings pose a risk for professionals and clients alike, it’s important to explore safer ways to stay connected.
Connecting with CRE Professionals
As the Buildout study proves, maintaining a network of other commercial real estate professionals is vital to your success. With that in mind, how can you maintain professional connections with brokers, property managers, lenders, and other CRE professionals?
While this is a challenging time, technology has allowed many of us to continue working safely from home. That same technology can help us connect with our co-workers, colleagues, and other real estate professionals around the country – and even around the world.
CRE professionals are testing out new technological waters, joining online groups that are introducing them to new faces and new markets. Searching for new apps, groups, and virtual meetings in your area can help you forge new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
With all the time you’re saving by not attending in-person networking events, you should be focusing on your social media presence. No, social media channels aren’t the same as in-person events, and they probably won’t yield the same results. But in an online-only world, they’re the next best thing.
First, narrow down your ten-second story or you “elevator pitch” and promote it across your social media channels. LinkedIn is a particularly effective platform, giving professionals access to countless other commercial real estate brokers, property managers, business owners, and potential clients worldwide. However, other channels like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can also help get the word out about your services and connect with other like-minded professionals.
Webinars and Online Networking Sessions
If you’re not finding online networking or educational events that meet your needs, why not host one of your own? Webinars and online networking are crucial during this pandemic. Therefore, consider highlighting your expertise by hosting an online experience. Several apps and online services help CRE professionals organize speakers, create timelines, and invite attendees. Think of other industry experts you would like to work with and ask if they would be willing to speak during your webinar. Ask your colleagues and professional contacts to attend a networking session, and invite others to join.
Sure, it’s not going to be as effective as rubbing elbows in person. But you just might connect with other CRE professionals you would never have met in person. Remember, one connection is better than nothing, especially in a time when connections are hard to come by.
Connecting with Clients
While connecting with other industry professionals is crucial to gaining new leads, client connection is equally important. As a sales or leasing broker, finding the right tenants is paramount to a successful operation. In this case, that might mean digging deeper, spending more money on marketing, or revamping your overall marketing strategy.
For property managers and other on-sire professionals, connecting with tenants means being aware of the risks posed by the virus. Additionally, as so many businesses are struggling financially, property managers should be mindful of these challenges and work with tenants to relieve these financial struggles when possible.
Networking in the age of Coronavirus is different. Patience is perhaps the most effective tool during this time. However, maintaining current connections, and working to forge new connections will generate more referrals, keeping your business afloat.
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