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Figuring Out Where To Start

September 1st, 2014

I was asked to provide some coaching and guidance to a young man (we’ll call him Tim) the other day. He had been asked to meetstart line with a prospect (a friend of the broker) to discuss a possible sale or redevelopment of several parcels of land. Tim had spoken to the prospect when he set the appointment but got the basic information about the property and the assignment from the broker.

“I don’t know where to begin. The prospect is going to ask me what I think he should do. What do you think I should tell him?” he said.

I asked Tim what he knew about the property. “It’s over near the stadium. On West Street”. That’s a start. I asked Tim if he had been to the property and he said he had not.

So let’s dissect the answer to Tim’s very first stated dilemma….”I don’t know where to begin…” First we will look at the information we have and what we know.

  1. We know the address of the property;
  2. We know the owner’s name (or at least one of the owner’s names);
  3. We know that the owner is interested in taking some form of action related to the property, i.e. selling it or redeveloping it;
  4. We know that Tim has an appointment with the prospect at 9:00 tomorrow morning.

What can we do with the information we have? The very first thing we want to do is physically visit the property. Take some photos for future reference. Make notes or use your voice recorder to document everything you see. Is the land and/or building in good repair? Where are the access points for ingress and egress? What is the traffic like? What other properties are around it? Gather as much intelligence about the property and its surroundings as possible. Make note of information you need to gather such as what other property is for sale or lease. Note names and phone numbers on For Sale and For Lease signs so that you can call on them when you get back to your office.

Next, Tim has been given the owner’s name, but how do we know that the person he is meeting with is the ultimate decision maker? Simply look up the property in the public records to see exactly how title is held. If title is held by an entity such as a corporation or LLC, research who the officers, directors and managers are of that entity. It is possible that there are other individuals or a spouse that will also need to be included in the decision making process. Depending on where you live, the public record for the property may also tell you when the current owner purchased the property, what they paid for it, what the zoning is, exact size and much more. Being armed with this information will make for a much more substantial meeting with the owner and allow Tim to discuss the property from a knowledgeable perspective.

Finally, knowing that the owner is seeking to evaluate what action he should take with the property, Tim needs to drill down to determine 3 things:

  1. What is the single most important motivating factor that has brought the owner to a decision that it is time to take action?
  2. What is the most favorable outcome the owner could hope to achieve from taking whatever action he decides to take?
  3. Can Tim and his firm be of service in helping the owner to achieve that outcome?

The answers to these three crucial questions will come through a series of conversational questions between Tim and the owner during their initial meeting. We then spent the next 30 minutes role playing these questions. I suggested to Tim that he ask as many open ended questions as possible to allow the owner to provide expansive answers instead of yes or no responses. We came up with about a half dozen simple questions and practiced techniques for listening and drilling deeper. “Why is that?”, “Can you tell me a little bit more about how you arrived at that?”, “Help me to understand…”

One of Steven Covey’s most popular 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states that you should “Begin with the end in mind”. Very good advice and if you are looking for a place to start, it is best to evaluate where you want to end up. Then simply start taking action.

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