Tag Archives: danielle feroleto


Business Development: No Instruction Book

Many commercial real estate firms are changing the way they do business, as the last five years have forced them to examine how they attract and retain clients. One of the greatest take-aways of the Great Recession is business development—the approach commercial real estate-related firms are taking to expand their client base and engage their staff as a whole to bring in work and attract more customers to fill the pipeline.

The difficult aspect to the “everyone does business development” mentality is that most employees really do not know what that means, what’s required and what success looks like when trying to participate.

As I reflected on this, it came to me that there is no degree you can get in Business Development and, actually, few courses you can take to formally learn this career. This leaves people with no choice but to “just get the hang of it” or recognize that they do or do not have “a knack for it.” Business development is not a particularly complicated process but it does require some essential qualities to succeed. Let’s review a few of the most critical:

  • Knowing What Differentiates Your Firm—When staff members are asked to participate in “selling” and they are not normally in the front line of this process, it can be a quite intimidating and frustrating request. A good place to start is agreeing on what makes your firm unique. Why are clients loyal to you? What does your firm do best? Why are you different from the rest? Once this is clear, make sure everyone who is charged with business development understands the message and how to deliver it.
  • Clarity—What do you mean when you ask a team member to participate in bringing in work? Are they only required to engage in acquiring repeat work with an existing client or are they charged with finding new client prospects? Also, should they represent the firm by attending associations and networking events in the evening, or are they focused on one-on-one activities? These are the details that hang up technical and non-business development staff and limit their success. Develop a specific plan for the team members and give them some measurable goals to achieve and then meet with them monthly to assist them in measuring their success.
  • Listening—What separates an ineffective business developer from an excellent one? Listening. Active listening means you are taking the time to get to know the client or prospect, applying that information to better understand them and how to meet their needs. It means establishing trust and a building a rapport. What are a few things that go a long way to prove this? Remember names of new prospects and master the art of conversation. Most people I speak with who are hesitant about their role in business development are unsure of what to talk about, so take them with you to model some tips you might take for granted when it comes to conversing with a stranger.
  • Timing—Successful business development is 40 percent strategy and 60 percent timing and persistence. You need to be targeted with whom to meet and establish opportunities with, but your list can be perfect and yet be unsuccessful if your timing is not right. Maintain a list of notes from every interaction and follow up appropriately. If they do not call you back, that does not mean the deal is dead; it most likely means they are busy. Conversely, you do not want them to regret meeting you because you are contacting them far too much. There is a pace to every deal and it is beneficial to get a feel for that quickly to succeed.
  • Documenting—All leads/deals should go through an opportunity filter on your firm’s end and likely require several steps to close the deal. If you are managing business development in an organized fashion as a firm, you have a formal Client Relationship Management (CRM) system and every individual responsible for business development is using it. They are tracking opportunities, connecting the dots of other companies who are influencing the deal and tracking personal information and preferences of their contacts.
  • Be Personal—People do business with people they like—it’s simple. They need to know more then that your firm is capable. They need to trust you, value your input and enjoy the process of doing business with you and your firm. Take the time to really get to know them on a personal level and as well as their buying preferences and management style.
  • Follow Up—So as you follow all of the advice above, you are establishing connections, documenting your meetings and gaining valuable information about the prospects and opportunities. Every contact and meeting needs to have a follow up item. It is the business development professional’s responsibility to create a reason for follow up and to understand the business well enough to know the natural timing of follow ups. As an example, if someone tells you that the project is starting the re-zoning process, you would not call them back at the end of the week to see if that is complete, it’s a process and you want to set your follow ups appropriately. But what can you be doing in the meantime to stay in front of them? Constantly think of the next step to follow up.

Business development can be the most rewarding part of your position, even if you are not a trained professional. As professionals grow in their firm and their career, business development is a natural progression of requirements and following these simple steps can assist you in succeeding and actually enjoying the process.


If you have any questions about this article or any of the topics Danielle has covered in previous AZREmagazine.com articles, contact her at danielle@smallgiantsonline.com


Differentiation: What Kind Of Ketchup Are You?


If you are ever looking for a great way to contemplate differentiating your firm, just stroll through the grocery store aisles. I don’t know about you, but I had no idea there were jalapeno ketchup, ketchup in a bag and green ketchup, when all they are really selling is a substance created of tomatoes. These variations give the consumer choices, and choices illicit preferences. They are positioning their marketing to prove their product is the best.

But products have it easy compared to services. The real test of a product is tangible —you can touch it and taste it — whereas a service is intangible, typically highly intangible. So how do you stand out from the very large crowd? Consider a few of these to arrive at your firm’s differentiator:

What makes your service CRAZY different?

When you consider all the services, experience and knowledgeable staff your firm has to offer a client, what is really different? Ask your team and then really evaluate what is being offered as a differentiator. Often, I hear companies say “what makes us different is our people!” or “We have passion!” These are admirable qualities to be but are they differentiators? Stated this way, probably not. But let’s not push it aside yet. Sometimes these are good ideas that need more definition, for example:

>> What is the feeling you are receiving as a client?

>> What does the proposed differentiator solve for the client?

>> What is the behavior the client receives consistently from this?

>> Test it!

Now that you have your short list of ideas, see which ones rise to the top by running each through a filter in these categories:

>> Can it be easily replicated? If yes, it is only a matter of time before a competitor is doing the same thing.

>> Is it interpersonal? If it is a behavior, such as “we respond to all issues within 24 hours or less” is everyone doing it every time?

>> Is it true? Would your clients agree that this is a quality your organization possesses and one that your competitors do not do?

>> Is it worth it? This is where you ask yourself if the differentiator is going to bring true value to your client and if that value translates to client loyalty.

>> Package it!

Once a differentiator is identified and the organization is in sync with it, the time has come to package it to make it come to life for the client. A few steps need to be taken here. First, you need to articulate the differentiator in a way that is memorable and meaningful. Consider this:

>> Create a “billboard” — If your differentiator were going to exist on a billboard, what would the simple, brief and attention-grabbing message be?

>> Write your company obituary — If what makes your firm different is truly something special and something that stands out, it should hold value, have an emotional reaction to what is received when working with your firm, and should be consistent/long-lasting. If you were writing the final words of your loved one, you would focus on qualities that stood out, that people valued and what made them so loved. So do the same; write not only the differentiator, but also the unique approach the client receives and the commitment the employees have to it.

>> Think of it as a gift — Now that you are armed with the clear idea of what makes you different, how do you physically represent it? The possibilities are limitless…push yourself to go beyond the typical brochure or writing a paragraph about it on your website. What can they physically touch and feel that reinforces this difference?

Let’s go back to the ketchup aisle and see what stands out … as service-based organizations we have so much to choose from. Are we the unique option? Are we the all-natural option? Are we the most choices option? Or are we content doing business in the general brand aisle and be available as the low cost, commodity option?

If you have any questions about this article or any of the topics I have covered in previous AZRE magazine articles, please feel free to contact me at Danielle@smallgiantsonline.com



Making Your Marketing Stand Out: Are You Wearing Your Favorite Snow Boots In The Summer?


So, we collected all of our stuff to head out the door and realized that my 4-year-old was not in tow. I called out to her and she said, “I’m coming. I just needed to get ready!”

That was interesting, as I had already gotten her dressed, hair brushed, shoes on … Out she comes — entirely different outfit than planned — a sun dress with a skirt underneath it, snow boots (it’s 108 degrees), a “handmade” necklace and a pink tiara on her head, carrying a snow globe and a bar of soap to show her friends.

As we were driving I was so mesmerized by the confidence and excitement she had with her outfit and saddened to think about the day that she might trade in a style that is all her own for what everybody else does.

And don’t we often do this with marketing? Our marketing activities replicate one another so much that it really takes very little to stand out from the crowd. If your marketing style is less than memorable, consider a few ways to step out:

>> Know Your Audience

If you do nothing else to energize your marketing, take the time to really consider what your audience will respond to. Take account of who they are, their age, background, lifestyle and personality. Depending on the marketing activity, you might be sending out to 100s, even 1000s, of people who differ in these qualities. One of the best investments of your marketing dollars would be to take the time to segment those people so they only see marketing that matters to them.

>> Don’t Give In To What’s Expected

I sit in on marketing brainstorming sessions that entails reviewing what competitors are doing and discussing what can be done “like that.” Challenge your team to think of messages, mediums and material that is unique to your firm. Build your brand in every marketing interaction you do. The test should be to ask yourself, ‘am I just sending this out to get our firm’s name out there or am I sending out a little piece of our firm?’

It is easy to send an Eblast with a vanilla message, but it is not memorable. An Eblast sent to the right audience, done differently to where it surprises the recipient by standing out, can have a powerful response rate.

>> Medium Matters

While we do business in an ever-electronic environment, something about touching and feeling marketing materials ignite the senses in a powerful and lasting way. As you develop the message for the marketing material consider what everyone else does, even what you have done in the past and try throwing that aside. What would make them talk about your firm after that material arrived? What would stay on their desk because throwing it away feels a little wrong?

And speaking of electronics, there is so much more to be done from a marketing perspective outside Eblasts and websites — interactive brochures, virtual tours, video integration, etc. Firms can do both and build their brand even more effectively.

>> Emotions First, Facts Last

We just sent out a newsletter (you are not thinking this is unique or well received at this point, I am sure), with nothing in it that was self-promoting — instead it was tips on marketing, upcoming events, and client profiles. But here’s what was different; we printed it on newsprint (yes, old style news paper) — almost impossible to find now by the way — and people loved it. It was the best marketing piece response we have ever had. Why? Because they liked the touch and feel of it — at first, it was emotional for them and then they read it. There are ideas like this all around us; it just takes a little time to find something that reaffirms your company character and appeals to your audience.

So, when we got out of the car, she said “Here Mommy, you can wear this crown so you don’t just look like everyone else.” … know your audience, don’t give in to what’s expected, medium matters, emotions first, facts last … what do you think I did? Said heck yes, and wished I brought my snow boots!

If you have any questions about this article or any of the topics I have covered in previous azbigmedia.com posts, please feel free to contact me at danielle@smallgiantsonline.com.