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No Man Is An Island: Collaboration and Caution in Commercial Real Estate

By Tanner McGraw | April 30, 2017

Commercial real estate is a particularly competitive business, and since brokers make the bulk of their salary via commission, the decision on whether or not to share information is a weighty one. The industry isn’t exactly known for always being ethical or fair—many brokers have felt the sting of a colleague stealing what would have been a lucrative client.

Sometimes, though, sharing data paves the way for collaboration that ultimately generates more revenue for the broker and brokerage team. It can benefit the entire firm by allowing everyone to approach clients systematically, and with more information.

And the truth is, if a broker is doing his or her job right, those relationships should be strong enough to share without fear.

Let’s take a look at when and why it makes sense to share information, and what brokers can hope to gain by being more open with their team.

You’re adding data to a company CRM

Brokers are sometimes hesitant to share information in a CRM because they feel a sense of ownership over their relationships, but the benefits of centralized information almost always outweigh the risks. From the firm’s perspective, it allows management to view pipelines and understand progress on both an individual and a company level. That allows them to forecast more accurately and make better business decisions.

From the broker’s perspective, sharing information gives you a more robust database and understanding of the market to work from. You have more comps, more potential contacts and more property information—all of which allows you to provide more value to your clients.

Not convinced? Most CRM software allows you to set permissions on who can see and edit which section, so it’s possible to reap the benefits of a centralized system while protecting some of your most valuable data. For example, a coworker can see that you have a relationship with someone they are pursuing, but they can’t see your notes on that relationship without reaching out to you first.

You’re collaborating with a team member

When working with a colleague on an assignment, sharing information is a necessity. You’ve decided to team up because you agree it will benefit both of you. Perhaps you have complementary skillsets or appreciate the added security that comes from partnership. Trust your gut. Be transparent and your partner will be more inclined to be straight with you as well.

For added protection, put terms in writing, such as details on splits.

You’re sharing information outside your organization

When working with brokers on the other side of a deal, information sharing is an art form. Focus on strategy updates that drive the deal forward.

What can be trickier is when an industry colleague reaches out with a direct request. Let’s say a broker is pitching a tenant and wants to include information on the last three deals that were done in the building to demonstrate market knowledge. They see that you were the broker on one of those recent deals, so they call you for the comp. What do you do?

The answer, again, comes back to the strength of the relationship. If you can forge strong connections with other trustworthy brokers, you’ll have a network to reach out to for market data like this. It’s about trust and reciprocation. If the person asking for a favor isn’t going to help you down the line, tell them the info is confidential.

Remember, the whole firm benefits when you add new market data to the CRM. This is different than sharing information with a big listing service, which requests comps so it can sell them to other brokers. Many big brokerages explicitly train their teams not to share in this way. You want to be in control of who sees this information, so share strategically.

It’s the strength of the relationship that matters

When brokers are considering sharing information, whether in a company CRM or directly with a colleague, they should remember that information like names, titles, email addresses and phone numbers is generally easily found. That’s different than sharing an insider tip about a company’s intention to double its size.

If you’ve done your job and formed a deep connection with a building owner or company CEO, what does it matter if someone else obtains their email address? And if they don’t get it from the shared CRM, they will just as easily find it with a quick Google search. Spend your time finding ways to provide added value to your clients, not agonizing about how to protect a phone number.

Contact information is contact information—anyone can find it with some digging—but the relationship is yours alone.

Tanner McGraw is the founder and CEO of Apto, the commercial real estate industry’s leading CRM, deal management and back-office software platform

Tanner McGraw is the founder and CEO of Apto, the commercial real estate industry’s leading CRM, deal management and back-office software platform
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