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How to Win at Losing

Win at Losing

Rebounding from and Reducing Conflicts with Clients

In today’s highly competitive market, brokers must work hard to sign on new clients. They must work even harder to secure repeat business. But they can improve their chances of success by following a few straightforward guidelines.


At the outset of any assignment, Christopher Masino, SIOR, president of Masino Commercial Real Estate Services in Temecula, Calif., tells clients what they can expect from the firm and what the firm, in turn, expects from the clients. He cautions them that when a transaction is in progress, there are many moving parts, occasional delays, and market conditions that may affect outcomes. “We can’t always pull a rabbit out of our hat,” he says. “It doesn’t mean we’re not doing our job.”

Street Jones, SIOR, principal and vice president of Rich Commercial Realty (RCR) in Raleigh, N.C., emphasizes transparency. He notes: “We are transparent about how we operate, our fees, and how we are compensated, what is fruitful for us as a firm versus what is not, and our expectations of the client in our relationship with them.” RCR also educates clients on market conditions, the product type that they’re seeking or occupying, and how the commercial brokerage world works.

Educating clients offers an additional benefit—it enables brokers to demonstrate their expertise. Walter Robinson, SIOR, president of Robinson Commercial Real Estate in Miami, learned the ins and outs of transaction mechanics early in his career, and he continues to learn as technology and markets evolve. “The return on investment has been immeasurable,” he says. “When I am representing a tenant and I take them through the process, they recognize the value I provide in all the areas.” This confirms to clients that “they have selected an expert in the business.”


The setting of expectations should persist throughout the course of an assignment, and that means regular check-ins and updates. “You definitely need to have regular contact with your clients—the ones who are signing on the dotted line—and give them that accountability so they have that confidence in you,” says Masino, who recommends phone calls rather than emails. The calls might only be 10 to 15 minutes on a weekly basis, but they give a team the opportunity to discuss the leads, activity, feedback, and offers. As Masino explains, the calls give clients confidence that their property is top-of-mind. He adds: “If we’re not getting results, then we need to be prepared to make recommendations about what we need to change so those outcomes change.”

Responsiveness is critical, according to Saffa Sleet, executive relationship partner at Ultimate Kronos Group (UKG), a leading cloud provider of human capital management and workforce solutions. She has specialized in client relationships throughout her career and makes sure that she’s always available to answer questions or address concerns. “Most clients text me if they need anything and I text right back,” she says. “I’ll take calls on the weekends.”


Communication should include solicitation of client feedback. Robinson suggests asking clients: “How am I doing and is there anything you would like to see different?” Their answers, he points out, “are valuable for your direction and their satisfaction.” Sleet fully endorses this approach. If a client ever expresses dissatisfaction, she relays the feedback to the relevant UKG team so that the team can learn from it.

When a transaction is completed, RCR asks how the client felt about the process and RCR’s performance. According to Jones, the feedback enables RCR to continue to improve its internal processes to deliver the best client experience, which is critical to the firm’s reputation, and which can strongly influence whether clients will become advocates in helping RCR win other assignments.


RCR also vets prospective clients to determine if the client is a good fit. Michelle Shipman, founder and CEO of SearchLight Properties in Orcutt, Calif., has learned the importance of these efforts: “We’ve had clients that have been overbearing and impossible to please no matter how hard we tried and how much we’d done for them,” she says. “We’ve had clients that want to repeatedly make low, unreasonable offers. We’ve had clients with unrealistic expectations who want us to drop everything to show them a property and aren’t appreciative of our time when we do.”

To avoid these scenarios, SearchLight now strives to weed out the “sour apples” early on. Shipman explains: “One of our core values is to ‘Start the day with a grateful heart.’ If we speak to a prospective new client with a very negative and demanding spirit, we know that we’re not going to be a good fit for them.”


Sometimes the client is the problem. Sometimes an assignment fails for other reasons. Whatever the reason, learn from the failure. “There’s always a teachable moment with absolute and complete failure,” says Masino. He points out that most of the successful people he’s met have had “excellent experience with failure,” which he stresses is a foundational component of success. It also helps brokers anticipate scenarios where problems might occur in the future and head them off.

“There’s always a teachable moment with absolute and complete failure.”


“Many studies have proven that keeping a client is much less expensive than earning a new one,” notes Robinson. That’s why it’s essential for brokers to set expectations, communicate regularly with clients, and ask for feedback. These steps help to propel long-term, fruitful client relationships. They don’t guarantee success, of course; chances are that even the most talented and esteemed brokers will experience a bad client relationship at some point in their careers. If and when that happens, try to see the silver linings. You’ll more easily recognize the characteristics of a bad client and potential problems that might arise in a transaction. And you’ll be able to devote your valuable time and energy to clients that appreciate your commitment and expertise. In short, you’ll be able to turn ordeals into deals.

Sponsored By SIOR Foundation
This article was sponsored by the SIOR Foundation - Promoting and sponsoring initiatives that educate, enhance, and expand the commercial real estate community. 
The SIOR Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-forprofit organization. All contributions are tax deductible to the extent of the law.


Street Jones, SIOR

Chris Masino, SIOR

Walter Robinson, SIOR


Media Contact
Alexis Fermanis SIOR Director of Communications