Which of these 5 CRE deal makers are you?

For CRE industry outsiders, here is how to evaluate your CRE professional. For CRE deal makers, this explains the “skills that pay the bills”. We unpack what competencies you need to master in order to win in this very competitive space.
Commercial property dealmakers

What do tier 1 deal makers look like?

Some commercial real estate (CRE) deal makers just seem to have all the luck. It feels like these professionals consistently do the major leasing deals or sales deals in the industry. Deals come to them, they play with larger transactions or larger numbers, move faster than everyone else, are tapped into market intel, and have a hand in most transactions.

Tier 1 deal-makers have all four skills under their belt, and fire them – for the benefit of clients. These CRE deal makers have:

  • Access to high quality data (“data is the oil that the commercial real estate industry runs on”)
  • Deep experience and high levels of skill in commercial real estate
  • Strong relationships – with both tenants and property owners (“property is a relationships game”)
  • High levels of efficiency – they have and use the tools that allow them to do steps in button clicks, instead of the hours that it takes their competition

Obviously a non-negotiable for any success is hard work and discipline. This post assumes all deal makers have this basic in place. Because if they don’t, they’re not even on the dance floor.

What does tier 2 look like?

What about those industry’s professionals who put in 100% hours on a daily basis? But, somehow, frustratingly, they are not breaking in to the elite level. These guys are good, and are nearly there – but they boast only three of the four skills required.

The image above unpacks the 4 skills required for deal-making success in CRE (data, experience, relationships and efficiency). As explained above, tier 1 deal makers live in the center – that is, they have all four skills in their toolbox. Further, they know how to use them.

For the sake of clarity, in this article we ignore tier 3 or tier 4 deal-makers – i.e. those who only have two or one of the skill sets detailed above.

CRE brainiac

“Good farmers, no land”

CRE braniac

A. The Braniacs

Commonly made up of previously support personnel / back office workers. You know the industry and have been part of other’s successes. But you haven’t had direct access to customers. You are ambitious and looking to access the bucks that come with working in the front office.

The good: These professionals have the warchest to be devastating. Many exceptional deal makers today followed this journey to where they are now. They are good learners, hard-working, disciplined and determined, and highly equipped to upskill.

The bad: But they don’t yet have relationships or networks. So they can’t access the major deals.

The solution
  • Short term: team up with those who are strong with relationships or who are good hunters. Meanwhile, proactively engage with customers (by doing on-risk work for free, educating them what the bar of excellent service feels like). Relationships will grow. Clients need you because you have skills they don’t have. Your reputation will come with time and positive customer interactions.
  • Long term: grow your deal-making reputation, slowly get referral business.
The missing skill – relationships

Relationships can be defined as the state of being connected. The cornerstone of relationships is two parties being able to exchange value – whether it is a meaning or emotional support or meaningful friendship or help. Relationships in CRE are built (over time) on the ability to deliver value, do what you say will do, exceed expectations, and do this pleasantly and with the best interests of the other party at heart. Consequently this deepens the relationship foundations of trust, respect and affection.

Commercial property plodders

“Valuable, with flags”

CRE plodder

B. The Plodders

You are an experienced, well-known and respected industry player. Boasting a long history of deal-making and client service. You’ve probably been burnt by tech before – and are slightly mistrustful to or fearful of change. As a result: low use of efficiency tools.

The good: These professionals do deals. They do good deals for their clients. They are trusted and regarded as honest and dependable.

The bad: However turnarounds are slow. Customers may feel frustration with slow timing in the CRE industry.

The ugly: Slow pace and slower deal cycles may shift time-pressure on to customers. With hard deadlines, time analysis time customer side is unintentionally compressed. Therefore forcing customers into sometimes rash decisions.

The solution
  • Embrace and learn to use commercial property efficiency tools.
  • Alternatively, team up with other deal-makers on commission splits, or hire in, train and manage the efficiency competencies you are missing.
The missing skill – efficiency

Efficiency can be defined as doing less, but achieving more. For instance, it’s measured by speed of task completion, timings of turnaround. Consequently, the higher the ratio of results out to inputs (cost or time in), the higher your efficiency. Technology combined with great processes is the ultimate unlocker of efficiency.

Relevant example of tech-fueled efficiency: if you go back that far, think about how painful bank queues were before internet banking!

“Dangerous deal makers”

CRE cowboy

C. The Cowboys

You have been in the game for a long time, and are well known and begrudgingly respected by your competitors. As a hyper-efficient deal-maker, boasting impressive deal tombstones, you are trusted by clients. Customers are loyal to you. Until they are not.

The good: These CRE deal makers are a pleasure for customers to work with. To customers they are fast, responsive, seemingly on the ball. And they do deals.

The ugly: But these professionals only sit with some of the data. Because these professionals don’t have access to complete data, there is the gnawing risk of unintentionally misadvising customers. Certainly not on purpose, and by sheer bad luck optimal deals are not presented to customers, optimal opportunities overlooked, deals can be lost by more data heavy competitors.

Most times these professionals can get customers the perfect deal. But other times there is a risk they can bomb – with customers ending up over-paying and resentful.

The solutions

One or a combination of the following:

  • Outsource and automate data management, or
  • Share revenues and co-venture with specialists who have the data, or
  • Improve your organisation’s existing skills through one or more of hiring, or training, or more hands on management.
The missing skill – data

Data can be defined as facts, forming the basis of reasoning or calculation. For leasing brokers, data represents all possible vacancies (combined with information like properties, property locations, property attributes and images), and the ability to access those fast and flawlessly. For sales brokers, it represents access to all properties (in the general market and private), in a well-structured, analysis-friendly format.

Commercial property rookie

“Weapons of mass destruction”

CRE rookie

D. The Rookies

Generally newer industry entrants. In some parts you are resented by the old guard, other parts you are supported by those who like the entry of new blood and want to see you succeeding. You can talk the talk to customers. But to customers something just doesn’t feel right.

The good: Fast-moving, efficient, generally bright operators. Best-intentioned, popular with customers, they are ambitious, personable and are doing deals.

The bad: On the other hand the guys haven’t paid their school fees – they “don’t know what they don’t know”. And the customers don’t know enough about CRE to know this. As with insufficient data, there is a risk of bad decisions and lack-of-experience errors – which can unintentionally hurt customers and burn reputation.

The solution
  • Short term: Team up with highly respected “greybeards”, sharing deal economics for the comfort of reduced risk to your customers. These “greybeards” have made the mistakes before, so you don’t have to. In return, if you are receptive, you get the enduring benefit of knowledge transmission.
  • Long term: “Time is the healer”
The missing skill – experience

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment” Rita Mae Brown

Experience can be defined as knowledge or skill (intellectual property) that you get from doing. In other words: “time in the saddle”. This intellectual property is acquired in many ways. If you do leasing deals, experience involves the process of building up your canvassed database of lease expiries, and tenants in buildings. If you are a sales broker – the best deals are never in the general market. Therefore you want to be actively growing your database of properties. One controllable way to accelerate your experience, accelerate your data gathering.

Something else that communicates experience: doing the hard work up front by asking tenants the right questions. If you be prepared and provide a landlord with a clear requirements brief, you’re already positioning yourself at a different level.

The good news: every successful deal maker today, when they started their careers, was short on experience.


This point cannot be overstated. We have assumed everyone is working at the same intensity and same level of hours. However, when comparing two professionals with the same toolbox: that person who works 2 hours more a day, every day, will always beat their competitor. In simple terms, all things being equal, those who work hard will always outperform others. And, yes, in age of efficiency tools and data, this sounds “old school”. But it’s a reality.

Further, we have ignored leads as a determinant of success. The best CRE deal makers are not “farmers” of an incoming pipeline of passively-generated leads, but rather highly effective “hunters” of new business. The big deals come from relationships, value demonstration, and successful deals, which in turn drive both referrals and repeat business. Good deal makers are neither passive, nor reactive.

For simplicity’s sake

Likewise, we have:

  • Firstly, assumed the skill level is either mastered level or cold start. To clarify, no in-between grey areas.
  • Secondly, assumed that all professionals are operating with integrity and compliant to a professional code of conduct. If not, as with the basics of hard work and discipline, they should not be operating in an advisory capacity.



Thank you to Stef Contardo and others for their valued contributions to this post. We all hope this both assists and inspires those readers who are CRE deal makers to greater success

About the author

Related posts

5 reasons CRE website projects
CRE Innovation
CRE website project? 5 reasons they fail. And how to win

We have seen more CRE website failures than we should have. These failures are expensive, time consuming and terrible for the reputation of those involved. Here is our stab at laying out the pitfalls. We unpack where things go wrong, but, most importantly provide, in our opinion, the questions to ask and actions to take to avoid failure.

Geospatial CRE
CRE Innovation
Geospatial data: what, how, why

Geospatial is a new age buzzword that may seem either intimidating or irrelevant – possibly both. In reading this, you will realise its approaches and solutions are intuitive to you – the below simply gives you the words. At its heart, geospatial is an accessible tool and perspective for solving previously complex problems.

Opportunity cost CRE
CRE Innovation
What does “opportunity cost” mean for CRE

Here we attempt to apply the timeless, and immensely powerful, economic concept of opportunity cost to CRE. Using a video and story, we attempt to illustrate what a powerful efficiency lever opportunity cost can be. If you can apply the principles, we feel confident you will see the benefits in your business, and in your bank account!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed