By Brian Scruton, Director, Cushman & Wakefield Leasing Services Group
There is little need to persuade any commercial real estate broker who’s been around for the last ten or fifteen years that proptech has revolutionized our world. It’s generated radical improvements in contact management, new business development, deal execution, back-office relations, and other aspects of our job. On the landlord side, to list a few examples, new technology has helped us market our listings and get the word out. It’s much easier to increase the exposure of your asset as an owner. Databases like LoopNet and CoStar have emerged as robust platforms for reaping vital market knowledge, and to better serve owners and their brokers.
For tenant representation brokerage, products like ZoomInfo and various simple websites help obtain information on companies and their deciders, while outlets such as Salesforce have dramatically boosted our capacity to input and track information.
Some expected that broker demographics might have predisposed younger personnel to adapt more easily to tech advances. Yet that hasn’t been an issue at our company. We have found that brokers as a whole, regardless of age, have succeeded in maximizing advantage from proptech advances. All it takes is a willingness to learn.
"We have found that brokers as a whole, regardless of age, have succeeded in maximizing advantage from proptech advances."
One irony of proptech’s rise has revolved around widespread expectations that IT’s injection and expansion into commercial real estate would diminish the need for the services of live, human brokers.
In some regards, that may be so. Before proptech, brokers physically wore through a lot more shoe leather than we do today. We had to physically pound the pavement much more in the past. Today, tech data and imagery have obviated the need for many of those once-mandatory site visits.
But, on the other side of the coin, proptech’s new role in our industry over the past decade or two has often increased the need for a broker’s expertise.
It feels somewhat counterintuitive, but real-life brokers remain indispensable. Only we can deliver earthbound reality checks on all sorts of rent figures and other property-related statistics generated by even the most sophisticated software. Our clients need help navigating through the huge mass of data flooding their computers and devices. I’m constantly getting calls from colleagues seeking help in simply shuffling through it all, and in making sense of all the data in ways no tech platform could truly do.
Looking forward, one way the software development community can continue to support the broker world is to focus on technology that enhances relationship development and relationship management.
So much of a broker’s success depends upon our ability to nurture and capitalize on business relationships. Software developers should examine the way that LinkedIn, for instance, succeeded in evolving and sculpting itself as a stronger tool for relationship building.
The IT world has demonstrated its capacity to enhance the professional lives of commercial real estate brokers. It’s meant a lot to us, and we’re waiting to take advantage of the next big innovations coming down the pike
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