Brokerage best practices

How to succeed as a commercial real estate agent

November 15, 2021

Are you looking to make the switch to becoming a commercial real estate agent? It’s not hard to see why. Being a commercial real estate agent usually means making a lot more money. After all, the price for a commercial property typically dwarfs that of your average home.

However, this isn’t an easy field. Those rewards attract swarms of people, so becoming a commercial real estate agent—a successful one, anyway—requires that you understand what’s required and then waste no time putting in the work.

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While the next six steps will show you how to break into commercial real estate, the majority of your success will rely on one thing: persistence. There is no well-worn path toward becoming a commercial real estate agent, so expect yours to wind back and forth a bit.

That said, if you remain persistent and do your best to implement the following steps, you’ll find success a lot sooner than most.

1. Find another skill

Maybe you’ve already spent a year or two working in residential real estate. Like a lot of commercial real estate agents, you may have also put in your time as an investment banker.

Both of these backgrounds lend themselves well to the world of commercial real estate, but if you want to achieve success faster than your fellow agents, you’ll need to add another talent to your skill set.

Perhaps the easiest way to do this is simply by asking those above you at their brokerage what you could do to become more valuable to the company. Right now, it might be something like learning the ins and outs of commercial real estate tech. It could be something specific to your brokerage. Whatever the case, take some initiative, find out what you can do to improve your value, and start developing that skill immediately.

2. Fill every hour of the week

Just because you’re in the midst of a commercial real estate deal—even a big deal—that doesn’t mean you should kick back and take it easy. Do everything necessary to ensure its completion, but you should still have plenty of time during the rest of your week to look for new opportunities.

Aside from having another skill on your resume, one way to stand out from the crowd will be simply knowing more than any of your fellow agents.

Whatever you do, don’t call it a day before you’ve put in eight hours. You should never work fewer than 40 hours a week. In fact, many commercial real estate brokers would advise against that for your first year or two.

If you find you haven’t reached at least 40 hours by the end of the week, either work on refining your speciality or invest more time in networking, the two priorities we’re going to cover next.

3. Pick a specialty ASAP

Commercial real estate represents a vast industry made up of countless specialties. For example, one agent may specialize in urban offices, another helps their clients purchase entire buildings for their companies, and another specializes in assisting corporations in finding retail spaces.

Most commercial real estate agents start out as generalists or they simply take whatever specialty has an opening at a brokerage.

Over time, though, you need to find a specialty that you’ll commit to and then focus on developing yourself as a specialist in that niche. Until you do that, your prospects of closing deals in a certain market will always suffer compared to someone who focuses on making deals in that market and that market alone.

4. Network. Network. Network.

In many ways, commercial real estate is still a very traditional profession. If you want to get ahead—in terms of knowing where opportunities lie and turning leads into clients—you need to know how to network. Just like with filling your workweek, this is something you’ll always need to do. The moment you decide your network is sufficient, you risk losing it.

Keep in mind, too, networking isn’t just a game of numbers. Connecting with people has become easier than ever thanks to the opportunities provided by LinkedIn and other social media platforms, but sending out requests isn’t enough.

You need to develop your network. Check in with people regularly, even socialize with them at events that have nothing to do with work. The goal is to ensure you stay top-of-mind with them so when a deal presents itself, you’re at the front of the line.

Don’t forget about your fellow commercial real estate agents, either. Just like asking those above you in your brokerage for tips, try to get some free advice from other agents who are doing well. You should even connect with agents from other brokerages over LinkedIn and introduce yourself when the opportunity presents itself.

5. Keep your eye on opportunities at other brokerages

Another reason to remain friendly with other commercial real estate agents is because you may find that the only way up is by moving over to another brokerage.

This can be a very intimidating prospect, especially if you’ve spent a number of years at your current brokerage and have built up a large client list.

Still, while you shouldn’t make this decision without thinking it through, it still may be necessary. Plenty of successful commercial real estate agents have switched brokerages, too. It’s not as though the idea is completely unheard of.

By keeping your head on a swivel and watching the industry around you, this also won’t be a decision you have to make in an instant. At some point, it might become clear that you need to rethink your future prospects at your current brokerage. If you’ve already networked with other agents and know about their brokerages, you’ll have a much easier time thinking about whether or not to make the jump and when to do it.

6. Start your own brokerage

Finally, it may occur to you that your next move should really be opening your own commercial real estate brokerage.

Again, this is clearly not a step you want to take until you have years of experience – and success – under your belt and have thought the decision through numerous times. However, much of the advice we’ve already covered will be essential to helping you succeed with your own brokerage.

If you’ve developed a specialty, you’ll be able to differentiate your company from competitors. If you have the right skills, you’ll need less help with running your brokerage. If you’ve done a good job of networking, it will be easier to attract agents to your brokerage and new clients.

Always keep this opportunity in mind. Once you decide it’s the right move, it will probably take you at least a year to make the transition, so the more you prepare, the better.

Stay persistent and keep your options open

As we mentioned earlier, if there is a secret to success in commercial real estate, it’s being persistent. You need to work on improving your current skill set, work on developing a specialty, work on becoming more valuable to your current brokerage, and work on becoming more valuable to other brokerages, as well. All of these things will make it much easier to start your own brokerage if that’s something you want to do down the road.

Use the above tips as a roadmap and persist, week after week, at implementing them. If you do, it won’t be long before you see greater and greater success as a commercial real estate agent.

Learn how to systematically close more deals

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