How to Demonstrate Your Expertise by Blogging on These 4 Categories

At the end of this post is an exercise you can download to brainstorm a year’s worth of weekly blog posts in 10 minutes.

I remember the first day after I was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps.  It was the day I started working with my dad in the commercial real estate industry.  I knew nothing beyond what I picked up from growing up with two parents in real estate.  I didn’t have a license.  I didn’t have business cards.  I was as green as they come.  All I wanted to do was hide in my office.

Photo from istockphoto.com

Photo from istockphoto.com

I remember having the nagging thought:  ”Who would want to work with you when they could work with your dad?”  It took me two years to get over that self-doubt.

It is one thing to gain self-confidence, and that takes time.  Your industry also needs to gain confidence in you.  You need to become known as an expert in your field.  I like to talk about this as dominant market presence.  Are you, your company, or your product the first thing that pops into potential clients’ or customers’ minds?

Additionally, if you still haven’t bought the idea that you should be blogging or need help setting up and launching your blog, read this post on the subject.

I believe a blog is the quickest way to gain this dominant market presence.  You can become known as an expert, gain dominant market presence, and cultivate the next generation of clients and customers by blogging in these 4 categories.

Blog on These 4 Categories

  1. Deal Stories – Stories are an incredible way to engage with your audience.  They often allow you to connect with your readers on an emotional level.  This invites your readers into your post and keeps them there.  Stories of real situations are also valuable to your potential future clients.  Plus, stories allow you to demonstrate your expertise without tooting your own horn.  Your deal stories should include these 3 sections:
    1. Situation – Give the context of what was going on.  Why were you hired?  What challenges was your client facing?  Giving the context allows your readers to relate.
    2. Steps – What did you do to solve your clients problems?  What did you do to help maximize your client’s best interests?  Share what happened, but be careful not to sound like a commercial.
    3. Solution – Here is where you describe the results.  This is the culmination of the story.  If done well, the reader will have a better understanding of the service or product you provide and how that product or service can benefit them.
  2. News – Blogging about the news demonstrates that you are in-the-know about what is happening in your industry.  However, the news can be boring.  You do not want to just regurgitate what your readers are hearing from other sources.  If a certain news topic is becoming a topic of conversation at the water cooler, you should blog about it.  Demonstrate your expertise and experience by giving your take.  A word of caution:  only blog about a news topic if it is applicable to your industry.
  3. Market trends – This topic can also be boring so be careful.  I would not blog about market trends more than once a quarter.  However, demonstrating that you are aware of market trends is important.  For some of your readers, this information will be valuable.  It puts you in the position to become a trusted resource for timely information.
  4. 101 Topics – In Commercial Real Estate, every successful investor did their first deal at some point.  Donald Trump did not come out of the womb as an expert.  He had to learn.  By blogging about the basics of your industry, you have the opportunity to educate the next generation of players in your industry.  In the next 20 years, we are about to see the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.  By educating the next generation of your future clients, who do you think will be top-of-mind when the next generation has a need for your product or service for the first time?  You will!

A huge hurdle for many beginning bloggers is the anxiety of knowing what to blog about.  As a bonus to this post, I have included a simple exercise I use with my coaching clients.  In 10 minutes, you can brainstorm these 4 categories and produce a year’s worth of blog topics.

Knowing what you will blog about for the entire next year is like a warm blanket.  This single exercise could lead to your success in building a powerful blog that increases your presence, solidifies you as an expert, and cultivates the next generation of your future clients.

Question: What are you doing to ensure the success of your presence campaign in 2014? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Download Your Free Exercise

How to Find Your Specialty by Answering 3 Questions

At the end of this post, I will share with you how to download a free worksheet of the exercise I describe in this post. It will allow you to visually see where your sweet spot lies.

I am continually surprised by Commercial Real Estate brokers who lack a specialty.  All top performers in CRE have a specialty.  Yet, those mired in mediocrity refuse to hone in on what they can be awesome at doing.  In fact, business owners of all kinds often have this problem.

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

I had a call last week with one of our advisors on the East Coast.  He was traditionally a specialist in hospitality.  Because of some changes in his life, he needed to shift his specialty to something he could practice locally.  His question was what should he specialize in.  What would you tell him?

Many of my coaching clients face this question as well.  It doesn’t matter if you are new to the business or you are mid-career.  Making this decision correctly will have a profound impact on your career.  Not only can it determine the amount of income you can make, but it can determine if you will like going to work every morning.

A CRE broker, or any business owner or salesperson, can find his/her sweet spot by answering 3 questions.

Three Questions to Find Your Specialty/Sweet Spot

1.  What do you like?

You should always start here.  What product type do you like?  What would you own if you could?  For me, I love multi-family.  I love to broker these deals.  I own this property type.  I understand it.  I don’t like industrial properties.  They don’t fit my eye.  I don’t enjoy being in industrial parks.  It just isn’t my thing.

You need to answer for yourself – what are my favorite 3 product types?  Write them down.

2.  What are you good at?

This is completely different than what you like.  Consider what you are good at.  Do you enjoy intense underwriting and analysis?  If so, multi-family might be your thing?  Do you enjoy fast paced prospecting and deal making?  If so, then maybe Single Tenant Net Lease (STNL) is your thing?  Maybe you love evaluating how the business aspect of hospitality properties and convenient stores impact value?

Again, list what product types fit your skill set.  Write them down.

3.  Where is the market velocity?

I did this exercise in 2009.  The market had dried up everywhere.  My business was suffering.  I looked around and saw that Dollar Stores were still trading at a rapid rate.  That was the only market velocity I saw anywhere in Kentucky.

Now I already told you that I love multi-family and it fits my skill set.  But no apartments were selling.  If I would have chosen apartments as the object of my prospecting campaign, I would have failed.  Instead, I began focusing on Dollar Stores.  It was a great move, and I learned to love that product type.

Look around your market.  Where is the transactional velocity?  Write those down as well.

Now look at your lists.  Where the answers to the three questions overlap is where you should specialize.  This is your sweet spot.

Now I want you to do two things:

  1. Regardless of what industry you are in, what benefits would you realize by finding your sweet spot and being known as the expert in your specialty? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  2. You have a friend that needs to find their sweet spot. I challenge you to email this post to them so they can do this simple exercise. It could change the trajectory of their career.

To download a free worksheet that will allow you to work this exercise and visually find your sweet spot, click the button below.

Download Your Free Worksheet

 

How to Overcome the 4 Fears of Blogging – and Launch!

I previously wrote a post on the 8 Reasons Why You Should Blog. This post is the follow-up.
You may have heard the question, “When is the best time to plant a tree?”  The answer is 100 years ago.  The second best time?  Today!

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

This is the mindset I encourage you to have when considering whether or not you will start your blog. I don’t know if you’ve noticed in your life, but fear will hold you back. I remember the fear I felt when I enlisted in the Marine Corps.  I told my dad before I left that I wanted to go to Parris Island and be the best Marine in my company.  After 10 days on the island, I wrote him a letter.  It told him that I just wanted to survive. Fear holds you back.  It causes you to pause – to hesitate.  Fear can prevent you from doing something great.  Fear is not your friend. You can launch your blog by overcoming these 4 fears.

Overcoming the 4 Fears of Blogging

1.  Who is my audience?

Good question.  Who is your audience?  It isn’t going to be the same as mine – or anyone else’s.  Ask yourself who your ideal client or prospect is.  That is the who you are writing to.  Frankly, I need to remind myself more about this. I was listening to an interview a couple of weeks ago.  The topic was profiling your ideal client or customer.  Do you know how they think?  Do you know their buying habits?  What they like?  How much money they make?  Single or married? Go through an exercise of  answering all of these questions.  Once you are done, name your ideal client.  I call mine Bob.  Now write to Bob. Clarity on this question will allow you to push through the fear.

2.  How do I set it up?

This is really what help me back from starting.  How do I do it?  There are so many blogging platforms.  How will you choose?  I’m going to make this super easier for you, and I’m going to tell you what to do.

    1. Use the wordpress.org platform – Many platforms exist, but this is the one the pro’s use.  It is what I use.  It is the absolute bomb.  It is free.  The absolute best resource to learn how to use WordPress is - http://www.wp101.com/.  It will have you rolling in no-time.
    2. Pick a web host – This is not free, but it is cheap.  There are even more of these to choose from.  Use Bluehost (affiliate link), and here is why.
      • Their support is awesome!  My site got hacked, and they helped me get it back up in no time.  And I don’t have a clue how to do this website stuff.  They have helped me at 2 in the morning.  And they speak great English.
      • In my one year with them, I’ve never had an outage.
      • They don’t allow porn.  This may not be a big deal to you, but it is to me.  And as they generally use shared serves, I love the idea that my site doesn’t “live” next to that stuff.  I love that.
    3. Pick a premium theme – If you are going to do this, then make it look excellent.  A premium them will look like a million bucks.  These can cost anywhere from $50 – $200, but it is a one time fee.  The look of your site augments your brand, so don’t go cheap on me here.  Here are some choices for you to cut through the clutter.
      • Woo Themes - I’ve never used these, but I’ve heard many recommend them.  They have many to choose from, and it will cost you about $100.
      • Standard Theme – I have used this theme and was a big fan.  It will run you $39.  And brokers are cheap, so I might suggest you start here.
      • Elegant Themes – You can get access to all 86 of their themes for just $39, and they are beautiful.  I do think they are on the feminine side, but that’s just me.
      • Get Noticed Theme - This is the one I use.  It is on the expensive side for themes ($197), but I love it.  If you are starting, you may wait until you know you will do this for the long haul before you spend this kind of jack.
    4. Watch this screencast – This is the best tutorial I’ve seen on how to put all of this together.  You can be up and writing your first post in 20 minutes – literally.  Just watch this video and follow along.  This is exactly how I did it.

3.  What do I write about?

This is a post all unto itself, and I will write it soon.  But take it from me, this is so much easier than I thought.  Once you have an outlet for your thoughts, it is like you start thinking differently.  I see potential blog posts in just about everything.  I even have friends that feed me ideas now (thanks David!). I do have a brainstorming exercise that I use to generate post ideas.  I will share this in a subsequent post.  But for now, don’t let this stop you from starting.

4.  How do I find the time?

You have the time.  In fact, you have the same 168 hours a week that everyone else does.  You will spend those hours exactly how you choose to. Personally, I watch less TV.  It may be something different for you that has to go.  I encourage you to consider what you are doing during your non-productive hours.  Those hours when you aren’t producing. When I struggle with this area, I reconnect with my why.  I remind myself about the many benefits of blogging – how this site can go before me and grease the wheels of the sales process.  Connect with your why, and it will drive away the fear.  

Question: So what is holding you back from launching your blog? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Download the PDF of this post

Why You – Yes You – Should Blog: These 8 Reasons

I’ve had this conversation with many of the groups that I’ve spoken to.  I have encouraged those I coach to blog.  If you have ever wondered if you should blog, this post is for you.  Note:  A free PDF version of this post is available to download at the end of this post.

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto

Some of you have probably heard of Jeffrey Gitomer.  He’s an author and speaker regarding sales.  Almost all of you have heard of Roger Staubach.  He is a Heisman Trophy winner for the Naval Academy. He was a Super Bowl MVP for the Dallas Cowboys.  He also started a multi-billion dollar commercial real estate company – the Staubach Company – which sold to Jones Lang LaSalle for $612 million in 2011.

One day, Jeffrey Gitomer walked into Roger Staubach’s office in Dallas without an appointment.  He just walked in and asked to see Roger.  As you might expect, the gatekeeper was not giving him access.

Then something remarkable happened.  Roger heard Gitomer’s name from his office.  He came racing down the hall and escorted Gitomer back to his office.  Why on earth was Roger Staubach that interested in meeting with Jeffrey Gitomer?  How could Gitomer succeed in just walking in and getting a meeting?

Jeffrey Gitomer wrote (maybe he still does) a syndicated column on sales that appeared in many newspapers at the time.  Staubach was a fan.  When Rodger the Dodger heard Gitomer’s name – he had to meet him.

Blogging can produce the same results for you.  Specifically, you should blog for the following 8 reasons.

8 Reasons Why You Should Blog

  1. Visibility

7 Steps to Unleashing Crowdsourcing by Utilizing Testimonials

My wife drives a Toyota Sienna.  Do you know why?  It is because a couple of her friends do.  My family is going on vacation next month.  Do you know how we came up with Disney World?  We asked our friends on Facebook what they recommended.  This is what crowdsourcing is.  By definition, it is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people.

Courtesy of iStock Photo

Courtesy of iStock Photo

Crowdsourcing is not a new phenomenon, but it has never had more power.  Social media has brought the world to you laptop screen.  You can access more content and opinions – and quicker – than you ever could before.  People are making decisions this way.  You probably did today.

Did you know that over 80% of all due diligence starts with a Google search?  Do you know how many people trust a recommendation from a “friend”?  90%!  Do you know how many people are positively influenced by a Facebook ‘Like’ button from someone they don’t even know?  70%!  That number astounds me.

By contrast, only 19% of people now trust traditional advertising.  I’m talking about print, TV, or radio.  Do you know why?  Because the game has changed.  No one wants to hear you toot your own horn anymore.  They want to know about real people who have actually used your product or service.  They want a testimonial.

I plan on writing more in the coming months about the power of crowdsourcing and how you can maximize its advantages.  But today, I want to give you 7 steps to harvest testimonials.  There are a dozen ways to repurpose them once you have them.  First, though, you have to get them.

7 Steps to Getting Testimonials

  1. Make a list of your top client relationships – This is obvious, but you first need to list those clients from whom you would like a testimonial.  Consider who was in love with the service or product your provided.  Consider who has the most clout.  Who are those people who you have done business with who can sway the most people in your direction?  Write them down.
  2. It doesn’t matter how dated the client relationships are – Don’t be concerned if these clients go back years in the past.  It doesn’t matter as much when you provided value, but that you did.
  3. Write the testimonial for them – Typically, you are going to send an email request.  For the first one or two, write the testimonial for them.  It should read, “I’m writing to respectfully request that you write a couple of sentences as a testimonial for the service I provided.  I’m looking for something like this…”  Spoon feed it to them.  Then let them know that if what you wrote is accurate, you are happy to use it as their words – with their blessing.  This is the quickest path to obtaining a testimonial.
  4. Use peer pressure – Once you have your first one or two, introduce peer pressure.  You can accomplish this by including the testimonials you have already received as examples of what you are looking for.  This demonstrates that others are providing these testimonials.  Peer pressure can then kick-in encouraging them to follow suit.
  5. Engage their competitive nature – By providing testimonials you have already received as examples in your email request, you will engage their competitive nature.  Your client is likely to want to give you a testimonial that out-does the ones you have already received.  Over time, this can really work in your favor.
  6. Make it easy – I have a coaching client who has collected recommendation letters for years.  He has a book of them.  It is very impressive.  It also took a ton of work to accomplish.  I’m not saying this is a bad idea because it is not.  I am saying that you will have more success more quickly if you keep it simple.  Use email.  Ask for a couple of sentences.  Provide examples.  Make it as easy for them as possible.  You are interrupting them with your request.  The simpler it is, the more you will get.
  7. Systematize – To this point, I’m suggesting you look to the past for your testimonials.  Once you’ve accomplished that, then systematize the process.  Make it a part of your business to seek a testimonial from every new client you do business with.  Over time, you will develop a stable of clients that scream from the mountain tops how awesome you are.  Remember that 70% of people trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know!

I’d be so grateful if you would add to my list by using the comments section below.  What have I left off?  How have you put the power of testimonials to work in your business?

CRE All-Stars: An Interview with Chad Grout, CCIM

I tried something new!  Thanks to my new friend Dan Hayes, I can now record a Skype call (if you want to know how, just leave a comment below, and I will hook you up).  This is the first in a series of interviews of CRE All-Stars.  I will be interviewing CRE All-Stars throughout the United States and bringing you their best practices.  So…meet Chad Grout!

Chad Grout, CCIM is a true specialist in the market of Nashville, TN.  I have known him for about 18 months as a client and a friend.  I asked the following four questions to Chad.

  1. How did you get into CRE?
  2. How did you decide on your specialty?
  3. How have you gone about establishing your presence and becoming the top-of-mind broker in your specialty?
  4. Explain what having a coach for your business has allowed you to accomplish?

To find out more about Chad and his business, visit http://urbangrout.com.

I will be interviewing CRE All-Stars a couple of times a month.  If you have any suggestions on who I might interview next, please let me know in the comment section below!

A New Year and a New Look!

iStockPhoto

iStockPhoto

2013 is here and I couldn’t be more excited.  One of the most exciting things is the redesign of my blog.  I will tell you up front that it is a work in progress.  However, let me take you through some of the differences:

  • WordPress.org – If you don’t blog, you may have no idea what the difference is between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.  Wordpress.com is the free version where WordPress hosts your blog for you on their servers.  Wordpress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress.  The big difference is that on a self-hosted site, I have much more control over the look and capability of my blog.  I’ve been putting off the switch for a while.  The new year was the time to jump in!
  • New Theme – I have left my first theme behind – Standard.  I am now using the Genesis framework with the Focus theme.  I’d love to hear what you think about it!
  • New Products – This is a soft announcement for some products that will be available in the coming months.  I am working on 3 ebooks.  One will be offered free of charge in exchange for you signing up for the email list (all those who have already signed up will receive this ebook as well!).  The other two will be sold at a great value.  The topics of the ebooks are achieving a virtual office, how to increase your income with a killer prospecting system, and how to becoming top of mind by developing your presence.

So this is simply a short post to give you an idea of what is to come.  Please give me your feedback on the look and feel of the site.  I want to hear the good and the bad.  This information will be very valuable as we continue to tweak the site.  I would also love to hear your thoughts on the ebook topics?  Would you be interested?  Would you like different topics instead?  Comment below!

My Next Week at CRE B.O.S.S

I need to confess.  I am a huge University of Kentucky basketball fan.  Huge.  I have managed to successfully brainwash my children as well.  My parents met while attending UK.  I have been going to games my entire life.  If you don’t know already, after Louisville, Duke is the most hated rival that we have.  Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley….makes me feel icky.

My son and I with National Champion John Calipari and the John Calipari Father-Son Camp

So at this point you are wondering why am I talking college basketball?  Because I am excited about going to Duke University next week.  I never thought I would say that.

Next week is the Commercial Real Estate Broker Owner Success Summit (CRE BOSS) put on by the Massimo-Group at Duke University.  I will be there facilitating the Summit in my capacity as a coach for the Massimo-Group.

I’m excited because CRE BOSS is something new – fresh – different.  This isn’t the same old conference with the same speakers.  BOSS is something else.  This summit is an exclusive first-class event for Broker/Owners and has two goals:

  1. Maximize the Production of Your Individual Brokers – How do you give your brokers and advisors every competitive advantage to be successful?  How can you train and mentor them into becoming top producers?  How do you create self-motivated high achievers?
  2. Maximize the Value of Your Brokerage Firm – How do you control costs while enhancing the client experience?  How can you grow your firm?  Mergers and Acquisitions?  What kind of exit strategy or succession plan do you have?  Is your firm being built to be sold?

Not only is the focus of the Summit to benefit the broker/owner, but the speakers are world-class achievers themselves.  We will get to hear and learn from the likes of:

  • Bob Knakal, Chairman of New York City’s top firm Massey-Knakal
  • Finn Johnson, President and Founder of RunMyBusiness and 25 year veteran at all levels of the Commercial Real Estate Industry
  • Warren Greshes, Hall of Fame speaker, top-selling author and expert in sales, motivation and employee motivation
  • Lee Rust, Florida Corporate Finance, M&A and succession planning expert
  • Rod Santomassimo, CCIM – President and Founder of the Massimo-Group and author of the best-selling CRE book, Brokers Who Dominate

Be on the lookout for some post from CRE BOSS next week!

So answer this question for me.  What are you willing to do in 2013 to ensure that you are investing in yourself by attending events like this one?

The 3 Main Differences Between Prospecting and Building Presence

I learned the Commercial Real Estate business from my dad.  Our family goes back at least 7 generations in this town.  To say that my old man knows everyone is an understatement.

Growing up, my dad’s signs were everywhere – and his face was on them all.  I couldn’t go anywhere without him staring at me.  Those signs probably kept me from making stupid decisions on more than one occasion.  When it came to Commercial Real Estate, he was top of mind – still is, really.  He had created tremendous presence.

He had created so much presence that I don’t remember ever seeing him do much prospecting.  Business just walked in the door – it would just come to us.  Huge blessing.  And that was before 2008.

Most of you don’t have the blessing of being 7th generation in a smaller town where generations of your family have been high-profile.  That is my advantage here.  Most of you are from larger cities.  Most of you have stiff competition.  Top performing CRE practitioners do not take things for granted.  They systematize their businesses.  Two critical systems that must be in place deal with Prospecting and Creating Presence.

These two systems are both similar and very different at the same time.  I have this conversations with my coaching clients on a regular basis.  Some of the activities that you do in your practice will fit into one or the other – or sometimes cross over into both.  So let’s define the 3 main differences between these two essential parts of your business.

3 Differences Between Prospecting and Creating Presence

1.  Purpose – The first and overarching difference is the purpose.  When you are Prospecting, your purpose is ASKING FOR THE BUSINESS!  If you aren’t asking for the business – you aren’t Prospecting.

Creating Presence is completely different.  Here you are trying to become and remain top of mind.  This is all about building relationships and adding value.

2.  Methods – Methods is the reason confusion exists between Prospecting and Creating Presence.  The methods for accomplishing these two systems are extremely similar.  Only because the purpose is different is there much differentiation.  In both systems, you send letters, make calls, have meetings, etc.

An example of Prospecting is when I go after a Dollar General store.  I send a letter.  I follow-up with a call to someone I haven’t met before.  I go for a meeting and then ask for their business.

When I’m Creating Presence, I send letters as well.  But I want VIPs to get something from me of value.  I call to schedule meetings.  I’m not asking for business.  Instead, I’m working on building relationships that can lead to business and referrals in the future.  The methods are similar – the purpose is what makes them different.

3.  Results – The result of Prospecting is getting the listings that you proactively pursue.  You decide what you want to go kill and bring home.  You do the research, find the properties and their owners, and go after them.  This is proactive and gives you more control over what your business looks like.

The result of Creating Presence is like what I described of my dad.  He was top of mind.  When someone had a problem or an opportunity related to Commercial Real Estate, calling him was a no-brainer.  You know that you’ve created presence when business starts coming to you.  You aren’t competing.  Business is being referred to you.  Here you are more beholden to what the market offers up, but it is so much easier.

What other ways are Prospecting and Creating Presence different?  Or the same?  Do you simply rely on your presence to bring you business?  In what ways would your business change if you prospected for the business you actually wanted to do?