Managing client relationships is key to long-term success as a commercial real estate broker.
Real estate brokers face a more complicated sales process than most businesses. Their sales cycle is long, the stakes are high, and after putting in the time helping a client, the likelihood of that client needing more new office space is low. (And if they are looking that quickly, it could be a bad sign.)
Many business owners know how much easier it is to retain a client than to acquire a new one. A loyal consumer base can help keep a business afloat, even if new customers are a long time coming. But given how rarely a commercial real estate Ann Arbor client is looking for new office space, it’s harder for brokers to benefit from repeat customers.
That said, a large pool of happy clients can lead to unexpected opportunities. Some clients may stay in the same space for decades, while others can grow exponentially in that time. And by keeping in touch with former clients, brokers increase the likelihood of being top-of-mind should that client hear of referral opportunities.
If you’re a broker looking for ways to maintain client relationships between deals, here’s how to provide the best satisfaction for your clients and raise the chances of future business.
1. Listen carefully to their needs and help them find the right space.
Starting with the obvious, very few clients will come back for more business if they didn’t like their first location. While some problems can be safely laid at the feet of a bad landlord, others may be attributed—rightly or wrongly—to a broker not doing their job properly.
That said, taking careful notes at the beginning of a project will help you later. It can help you create successful communication strategies in the future by giving you clues about what kind of information the client would be interested in. Sending targeted mailings or articles will help your client feel like you’re communicating with them on a more personal level, and it will prevent them from feeling as though you’re wasting their time with irrelevant information.
2. Help them understand the contract details.
A bad contract can also damage a client relationship and potentially cost a broker future business. If you know the owners of a property have a bad reputation, steering your clients clear of that property can save them, and you, a lot of trouble. Similarly, working with trusted property owners and managers can help your client make a decision that’s good for their business—and yours.
With that in mind, make sure your client understands that you’re a broker, not a lawyer. While you may be familiar with the terms of the contract, your client will need to discuss them carefully with their lawyer to understand the full ramifications of what they’re signing. If your client doesn’t already have a lawyer, connecting them to an attorney with expertise in this field can help win your client over.
3. Connect them with contractors for their remodel.
Most business owners have plans for their office space beyond moving in and calling it a day. They may also have plans to remodel the space, tear down walls, add a reception desk, expand a conference room, etc. By helping them find the right contractors for the job, you can help with a turn-over they’re not likely to forget.
Furthermore, contractors, like brokers, often rely upon word-of-mouth for new business. By helping connect qualified contractors with your clients, you establish goodwill that can work in your favor the next time your contractor contact has a client looking for a broker.
4. Follow up to see how their new office space is working out.
Your client may have settled into their new space, but that doesn’t mean your job is over. They may have a honeymoon period where everything seems to be going grand, only to discover a few months down the road that their new office doesn’t fit their expectations as well as they would have liked.
A check-in can let them know that you are interested in their long-term satisfaction. If they’re beginning to have regrets, you may be able to find ways to help alleviate them. And if the situation starts to go south, they’ll know you didn’t abandon them.
5. Keep in touch with newsletters, social media, and blog posts.
Some clients may be happy to talk to you any day of the week, but most probably only want to hear from you if you have something relevant to say. They may not need your services again for years, and in the interim, receiving a barrage of emails and check-ins might put them off.
Instead, segment your contact list according to their needs and interests, and then make sure your regular communications provide some value for your clients. A blog can be a great way to cover a broad range of topics, and a monthly or quarterly round-up of post selections that match your client’s interests can make for interesting—and easily shareable—content.
Even if your client doesn’t need you right away, they may see an article you wrote about finding the right office space and decide to forward it to an associate. And if you share your content on social media as well, you can stay top-of-mind without your clients feeling pestered.
Happy clients lead to future deals and more referrals.
As we said at the beginning, a happy client opens more doors down the road, and nurturing that client relationship can pay off in the long run, even if it takes a few years for your efforts to pay off. The key to maintaining your client relationships for that long is to focus your energy on low-pressure communication and to be patient enough to remember that your clients aren’t going to move any sooner than they’re ready.