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Treasure hunt

Pat Patera

Tough times call for extra measures to bring in the business. A litany of suggestions to speed the search for new business bubbled up during a networking luncheon of Commercial Real Estate Women led by sales trainer Alice Heiman.

Network.

Meeting new people topped the list of best ways to find new leads.

Work the community’s alphabet soup of organizations: EDAWN, WNDA, WIN, NNDA. Attend meetings of local chapters of groups, such as CREW. Attend your own company’s gatherings, such as district meetings and conferences.

“People go to those things and always talk to the same people,” says Kim Coulter-Davis, business development manager at United Construction Company.

“But it’s hard to walk up to totally strange people – it’s hard because those you already know grab you and stick you in a corner.”

However, she adds, “While at Directions 2008 I made a point of going up to people I’ve never seen before and said hi – and got a business lead. Someone said, ‘I’ve got a client who needs a building to be built.'”

And Andy Tourin, director of commercial and builder services at First Centennial Title Co. of Nevada, says, “I met three developers I’d not known before during the structured networking exercise at the CREW lunch.”

Black book it.

Keep up with past contacts. Contact past customers to ask for referrals with planning and consistency.

“Customer service is everything. If you take care of them in the good times, they’ll take care of you in the hard times,” says Brendan Egan, partner at 6 development LLC. “It’s a tough economy. Good relationships are important. That means paying on time. Doing what we say we’ll do. It’s very important.”

Specialize.

Create a niche in which to become the expert. Do what no one else is doing.

Or do what your competitors won’t do.

Explore.

Use new resources, be it contacting economic agencies or joining new organizations.

Reading industry publications can alert one to a changing marketplace.

Locally, says Tourin, leasehold tenants in retail centers never asked for a title search. But that’s changing as retailers move in from other parts of the country.

Some brokers now offer a policy of title insurance as a signing incentive.

Educate.

Now that business isn’t churning 24/7, use that free time to pursue further education and certifications.

Diversify.

Kathy McHenry, projects coordinator in the development department at DP Partners, said her company once specialized in big box industrial but is diversifying into smaller commercial, flex and infill facilities, including office and retail.

Title companies in general are reaching out to new markets, says Tourin, seeking business in the path of wind farms and geothermal plants. And the company keeps an eye on highway corridors, which often involve condemned property.

State and local government entities may need title searches as well. “NDOT needs searches on properties that lie in the path of projects,” says Tourin.

Go the extra mile.

First Centennial’s Web site allows people to track the progress of their file, much like people can track the journey of a UPS package.

International Council of Shopping Centers is a major networking event in the building industry. To network with potential tenants, 6 development holds a dinner the Saturday before the convention’s official kick off.

“We’ve invited 50 people this year for the May event,” says Egan. At past dinners he’s hosted guests from major retail chains, brokers, architects and economic development agency staffers.