From Wall Street to Commercial Real Estate

Most people use the beginning of every New Year to take stock of their lives. Whether personally or professionally, they use this opportunity to reflect on areas of success, as well as on areas of improvement. Since I am not a licensed therapist, I would like to focus the next few paragraphs on the professional aspect.

For those who may not know, commercial real estate is my second career. My first career was in finance where I spent most of my years in sales and as a trader for Wall Street firms. Once that career fizzled out, I found myself, like many others, looking for another opportunity. I decided on commercial real estate because it allowed me to use much of what I learned from my days on Wall Street, specifically, my sales skills and financial asset knowledge – so far, it has been a good transition.

Since I am relatively new to the industry, it would be foolish of me to write about the technical aspect of CRE (commercial real estate) to more experienced and successful colleagues. I think it is more prudent to discuss sales skills that I believe translate to not only to CRE, but a broad spectrum of sales positions. To build a career as successful salesperson, it is imperative for one to start with a strong foundation. Whether it be stocks, bonds or real estate, it is essential that one “know their product”. A successful salesperson should have a “better than working” knowledge of the product they are selling. This will give both the salesperson and their client the confidence in each other to continue the relationship. Additionally, this does not mean that one has to be “all knowing” about their product but one should be able to say the small phrase, “I’m not sure”. It sounds simple, but it can be the hardest phrase a salesperson can say. It is natural for a salesperson to want to be a client’s point person on all aspects, but nothing angers a client more than bad information. It’s a hard lesson to learn but a client will trust you more if you are able to say, “I’m not sure, but I will find out”. I found that once I was able to say this and have the confidence to rely on colleagues with more experience/knowledge, I was able to develop into a better salesperson.

Another trait that is imperative for a salesperson is simply, persistence. It may sound cliché but it’s a skill that is essential. Persistence comes in many forms – in your coverage of clients, where continual follow-ups and check-ins keep you fresh in their minds. There’s a saying we had on Wall Street – “If you’re not talking to your client, someone else is”. The goal of client persistence is property listings and client offers, which in turn, should generate additional listings and offers – “flow begets flow”. Persistence is also essential for a new salesperson when it comes to building a client base. Rejection is not easy for anyone and being persistent allows one to overcome the fear of rejection and build a book of business. Two of my favorite pieces that encapsulate persistence are the poem “Persistence”, by Calvin Coolidge and Alex Baldwin’s seven-minute cameo in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross” – read and/or watch both if you haven’t.

To become a successful salesperson, one must also embrace change – it sounds simple, but as everyone knows, doing things the same way can be comforting, but not effective. If a salesperson wants to grow, they must embrace new challenges – whether it’s new technology, new products, new clients or new colleagues. I like to say, “be like a shark, always moving”, so the momentum you generate keeps you engaged.

As I stated earlier, use the New Year to reflect on the past and take stock of your strengths and weakness. Continue to build on the areas that you do well, and break down the barriers that prevent you to excel in the areas that are lacking. Rely on colleagues, new technology and new ideas to give you the impetus to grow.