The 8 Steps to a Killer Prospecting System

In last week’s post, the Difference Between Top Producers and the Others, I made the case that top producers prospect.  That is the difference.  They schedule time to do it.  They have a system that they execute.  It works.  It sets them apart.  I have also written a post on the benefits of systematizing your business.  Both of these posts deal with the “why.”   Before you go any further, I encourage you to take a few moments and take a look at those posts.  Knowing “how” without believing in the “why” will lead to burnout and letdown.



I highly recommend coaching.  Regardless of your level of success, a coach and mentor can provide you with great benefit.  At the beginning of 2010, I hired the Massimo-Group to coach me in my commercial real estate business.  Up until that time, I had never systematized my prospecting efforts.  There was no rhyme or reason.  Often, there was no prospecting at all.  My coach helped me change that and revolutionized my business in the process.

I want to clarify what I mean by prospecting.  Prospecting is a form of business development.  Networking and building a presence – or a platform – is another form of business development.  Their activities are similar.  Their purpose is completely different.  (To read about the difference between prospecting and networking, click here.)  Prospecting involves asking for the business.  That is its only purpose.

Since my last post on prospecting, I’ve received a number of questions about how to do it.  My way is not the only way, but any effective prospecting system will have elements of these 8 steps.  This is exactly how I built my core business.  You can do it too!

How to Build a Prospecting System

  1. Define your geography – This is as simple as it sounds.  You have to know what geography you are working in.  I come from a small tertiary market.  To have enough Single Tenant Net Lease (STNL) properties to go after, I built a state-wide database.  I’ve heard different numbers, but you need at least 350 properties in your farm area.  If you are in Los Angeles like one of my clients, you may just have a section of such a large city.  Regardless, you need to be able to articulate it with clarity.
  2. Choose your specialty – If there is one thing true of top produces, other than they prospect, it is that they are specialists.  Use this test.  What are you good at?  What do you like?  And where is the deal velocity?  Your specialty should be where these three answers intersect.  A quick note:  it is OK to be a geographical specialist.  The number one broker from the number one CRE firm in New York City is a geographical specialist.  And he kills it!
  3. Build your database – Once you know your geography and your specialty, it is time to build your database.  It should include all the properties in your farm area.  You need to know who owns what, how long they’ve owned it, what they paid, and their contact information.  I’ve heard brokers talk about how they used to have all that information on notecards.  My assistant built mine using Excel.  We then imported it into my cloud-based CRM solution.  All of that info is now in my iPhone.
  4. Send them something in the mail – This could be a book, a letter, anything of value.  The whole idea here is you want to raise your chances that they will take your call and talk to you.  Letters are cheap.  There is no reason not to send them.  Get creative.  You want them to want to take your call.
  5. Make the dang call – This is the scary part for most brokers and salespeople.  Fear of rejection.  Fear of sounding and feeling stupid.  You must overcome those fears.  You must prepare – but not so much that you never make the call.  The entire goal of the cold call is to get a meeting.  That is it.  If you spend 30 minutes talking, you have missed the point.  Get the face to face meeting.
  6. Have the meeting – Face to face is where the top producers excel.  These meetings can take two forms.  I prefer the first meeting to be a needs-analysis meeting.  I am asking questions of the prospect and it is all about them.  Then the second meeting is where I make my proposal.  That isn’t always possible, but it is certainly ideal.
  7. Make the proposal – Sometimes, step 6 and 7 happen at the same time.  Ideally, you have had the needs-analysis interview and then gone and crafted a custom proposal that addresses the specific needs of that specific prospect.  This beats a canned-presentation every time.
  8. Win the listing/Make the sale – this is what success looks like.  After a while of doing this, you will know that if I make X amount of calls, I will get this many meetings.  If I get X amount of meetings, I will make this many proposals.  If I make X amount of proposals, I will win this many listings.

How do you prospect?  Do you have a system?  What can you add that I have overlooked?  Please don’t hesitate to comment.  We want to hear from you, and it will benefit the entire community.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Still using client look as that “cloud based CRM”?

    • You bet! I will be reviewing ClientLook this month so stay tuned.

  • Great content Bo, thanks for sharing. I happen to open this at a time when I am setting goals for the month and year end so it is timely too.

    • Great to hear from you Alohana – it has been a long time. Are you still doing BNI? Glad the content is valuable to you!

  • Bo – I know your results are going to be better than mine, but I’m trying to fill in the “X’s” on the 8th step. What kind of average numbers do you see?

    • Ted – this depends on all kinds of things. How competitive is your market? What are the fundamentals of your specialization? I encourage you to not compare yourself with anyone else.

      What you need to know is what your ratios are. Once you know that, your goal is growth. What books can you read that will help you improve your cold calling skills? Can you hire a coach that can pour in you and help you improve your ratios?

      Great question.

  • Pingback: Weekly CRE and Retail Article Round Up – December 6, 2012 | Retail Rocks In The Mid South()

  • Anonymous


    You are right on point and I love your straight forward style. No canned corporate buzzword talk. It shows that you have been in the trenches. Well done. I’m curious how your tremendous commitment to the blog/twitter world of marketing has helped you earn income vs. just keep busy? Is/was it worth it? Looking forward to your leadership here at SVN.

    Chuck Ciolino

  • Bo- I appreciate the insight and, as Alohana mentioned, it comes when I am working on my goals for 2013.

  • Pingback: Top 5 CRE Posts of 2012 « theBarronBlog()

  • Mark Rauch

    Hello Bo. Just discovered your Blog. Thank you for the terrific content. As an Office Tenant Rep (24 years) can you translate some of the points you made to relate more towards this specialty. In #1 you state “you need at least 350 properties in your farm area” Does this mean a Tenant Rep should have a minimum of 350 Tenants in their farm area ? My business has always come from cold calling (phone) and canvassing (door knocking). My eNewsletter has garnered several great assignments but I do not rely it as my sole source of business. Just got involved with an executive level networking group. The jury is still out. Linkedin and Twitter give me a good presence but no business so far. Also not very many C-Level execs on Linkedin or Twitter. I have noticed that my clients are getting younger and younger. These business owners are very technology focused . The “Never Cold Call Again” gurus would have you believe this method of lead generation is dead to the current generation of entrepeneurs. Can you discuss this? Cold calling does work but the question I often ask myself is: is calling hundreds of business owners a month worth the payoff? What about burnout which I have experienced many times throughout my career? My career has been a roller coaster ride. The last few years have been great but I now want it to be greater. Voracious cold callers and canvassers and letter writers and gift givers for the most part do well however another question I always ponder is: why do some of these people earn six figures while others earn seven figures? The incomes earned by the individuas in my office are all over the map and we all seem to be doing similar prospecting. It seems as though every time I take my career to the “next level” the results have been not on par with my expectations. I have spent much money with CRE Coaches. They did work somewhat but not to the level hoped. Does one have to belong to the top Country Clubs and be on the “A” list in order to acheive the endless supply of high end referral business and obtain super star status in CRE? Dont get me wrong. I really love my career however being in CRE as long as I have many questions and observations surface.

    • Cara

      Hi Bo, I recently joined Massimo and would love to know your thoughts to Mark’s post above, especially regarding minimum # of tenants in farm area. I’m in a similar market, tech companies are the dominant industry and use email as primary communication channel, very few have landlines.

  • Pingback: The Top 5 CRE Posts of 2012 | theBarronBlog()

  • Pingback: The 3 Benefits of a Well Done Prospecting Letter | theBarronBlog()

  • Pingback: Introducing the Clarity Series: Prospecting | theBarronBlog()

  • Pingback: Introducing the Clarity Series: Prospecting()

  • Pingback: Clarity Series: Prospecting - Geography and Specialty | theBarronBlog()

  • Pingback: Clarity Series: Prospecting - Cold Calling Part 3 | theBarronBlog()

  • Pingback: Clarity Series: Prospecting - Cold Calling Part 2 | theBarronBlog()

  • Pingback: Clarity Series: Prospecting - Cold Calling Part 1 | theBarronBlog()

  • Pingback: CS: Prospecting - The Purpose of a Cold Call | theBarronBlog()

  • Patricia

    well written article and informative. hey Bo by any chance you wouldn’t know of a coach or mentor for commercial real estate that is not expensive. would gladly appreciate it if you can recommend one for a new starter in CA

  • Pingback: How to Find Your Specialty by Answering 3 Questions - Massimo Group()

  • Hi Bo, i’ve been readind a lot of your work and it’s been full of great advice. As a new commercial real estate agent I’m having a problem trying to track down phone numbers for llc owners. I pull the property data card, look the owner up through the Secretary of State site, then try to search the owners name for a phone number. I don’t have much luck that way and it chews up a lot of time. Is there a better way?? Thanks

    • Carmine – it really depends on what state you are in. Each has it’s own laws about access to this kind of information. Short answer – you have to become a detective. This dilemma has spawned many companies like, and others – subscription based online companies who claim to provide this kind of data. I’ve yet to find the one that just flat nails it, but you should check them out. And remember, if it were easy…

  • Pingback: How to Find Your Specialty by Answering 3 Questions | Bo Barron()

  • Pingback: The 4 Needs of Every New to the Business Broker | Bo Barron()

  • Pingback: How You Can Become a Top Producer | Bo Barron()

  • Pingback: [Video] Ask Bo - A Question from Jeno Berta on Prospecting | Bo Barron()

  • Bo, great advice, thanks. Cold calling is not fun but I like to think that if you are sincere in your approach, a cold call can turn somewhat warm sooner than one thinks.

  • Pingback: r¨¦plique love cartier bracelet()

  • Pingback: replique montres tag heuer()