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Did I just witness a major Commercial Real Estate brokerage disruptor at RECON 2017?

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Yesterday I set my alarm for 3:45 am, so I could catch the long flight home from Las Vegas after attending several days of ICSC’s RECon 2017 conference. I had a hard time sleeping as I was revisiting all my meetings, observations, and key lessons from this whirlwind event. I even found myself wondering if I had just seen the end of commercial brokerage as we know it. Although RECon 2017 is focused on retail, there were several key takeaways I saw – that apply to all facets of brokerage:

1. Qualify before confirming. In years past our team agreed to meet with anyone who was willing to meet with us. This year, we changed it up – as I personally met with prospects. Before we confirmed meetings, we asked our prospects to complete a short survey so we could better understand their challenges. 2 of the 16 scheduled meetings did not complete the requested survey, and to no surprise – these were also the 2 that did not show up for our scheduled meetings. If you have been to ICSC, you can appreciate that meeting no shows cost you valuable time and lost opportunities. The remaining meetings went extremely well, as the pre-meeting survey allowed us to focus on our prospects’ personal issues. Here is my point: before you agree to meet with a prospect to discuss a listing, lease, representation – use some form of qualification or assessment so you make the most of your time, and these opportunities.

2. Plan to accidentally meet with key influencers. If you have ever been to ICSC, you know it’s like shopping at the Mall of America during Christmas season. Tens of thousands of people scrambling from one booth to the next over a massive floor plan. What is the likelihood of running into your key prospects? Well, pretty good if you know where they will be. Our team identified where most of the leading CRE brokerage leaders would be, and I made it a point to walk by their booths and have impromptu meetings with several key contacts. In your case, if you don’t have a formal meeting, figure out where your prospects hang out and “accidentally” bump into them. Just no stalking please.

3. Tech firm or Brokerage firm? The conference is segmented by 3 major halls – North, Central and South. The South is the “Leasing Mall”, with a mix of brokerage firms and tenants – the most popular of which is the Aunt Annie’s Pretzel booth at lunch time. The Central Hall is populated with major brokerage firms: CBRE, JLL, Cushman & Wakefield, and other brokers, developers and CCIM. The North Hall is “The Market Place”, with a variety of software providers and miscellaneous building vendors/suppliers. This segmentation had one obvious exception – TenX, an increasingly popular transaction management, brokerage bridge platform. They were noticeably not located in the Market Place, but in the Central Hall with the other major brokerage houses. Perhaps this was simply by accident. However, I found myself wondering – is TenX a software solution for brokers, or a brokerage replacement platform? Or at the very least a new competitor? I need to dig deeper into TenX. It may be the best thing to happen to brokerage, or it may very well be the beginning of a cycle of consolidation in the brokerage community.

4. Best Marketing Play: No doubt LoopNet/ Co-Star provided the biggest splash at the conference with their Tesla giveaway, which came with $50,000 cash. Here was the kicker: to enter, you had to go to their booth, watch a short video, and then enter all your information.  In order to have a chance to win, you had to be present for the 4:30 pm drawing on the last day of the conference. The folks at ICSC must have loved this, as it kept attendees on site till the end of the show. Admittedly, I stopped by and watched in awe as thousands of ICSC attendees swarmed the Co-Star booth as if it were the queen bee, and we were simply there to serve. Ultimately, the highly- desired prize was won by a CBRE agent – which quickly started a rumbling that it was fixed, as disgruntled losers shouted “Of course, it’s one of your biggest customers”. I don’t know if it’s true, but hands off to CoStar – well played. What can you do to draw interest, capture prospect names and exponentially enhance your market presence?

5. No CRMs to be found – Unlike past years, this year I didn’t find a single CRM vendor at the show. It seemed odd at first, but when I reached out to some of my contacts – they universally stated that the RECon event did not provide the ROI to justify their presence. Most attendees attend to make or enhance relationships, not shop for technology. And I agree. When evaluating whether to attend any event, your top criteria should be: how this event will increase your value, and who else is attending that you can develop/retain relationships with.

To help you with this last point, whether you attended RECon 2017 or not, we will be holding our Great CRE CRM Debate on Thursday, June 1 at 1:00 pm EST. During this live webinar, 5 of the industry’s most popular CRM developers will showcase why their platforms are the best for you. I understand the event is reaching its capacity, so if you want to attend (or simply wish to receive the recording) please register by clicking here.

5 Responses

  1. While I am a big fan of Ten-X they will not replace us as brokers. Key to any transaction and ultimately where it starts is the relationship. Technology can’t take the place of handshakes and looking someone in the eye.

  2. Fantastic overview Rod and so to point. As you know, I just mingle and agree that having a booth is very costly. I enjoy the flexibility of NOT being in a booth as I am too hyper and a booth is awful confining. Anyway, it was great to see you and thanks for stopping at our networking event. We all loved seeing you!

  3. I could not attend this year, but I agree that a change is in the works. TenX and a few other things, like the changes at Xceligent, are changing the industry. They are freeing us and also demanding more of us. Products like Buildout which push listings require us to know our Listings and our market in depth. The more they change the more they stay the same.

  4. Disruptor, I don’t think so. It’ll be interesting to watch how this develops and there will of course always be early adopters happy to make the biggest investment decision of their lives online, but like it or not people engage with people and often need the personal assurances that comes with that. I agree with James Milner above

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