IS THE “TERRITORY EXPERT” MODEL
OF CRE BROKERAGE DEAD?
By Rob Martensen, SIOR, CCIM
Ibegan my real estate career in the research department at Colliers Iliff Thorn, now known as Colliers International, 17 years ago. I worked in research until one of the existing
industrial brokers pulled me out like a fish out of a lake. He
took me to the manager with a sort of “I’ll take this one”
approach. Then the training began. My manager assigned me
an area of town or a “territory.” I was instructed to catalog
every building in the territory and report back to the manager
with all the specifics about each building, tenant, owner, lease
I had to prove to the manager that I knew every building and
could answer any question. Part of the research was to look up
sales comps. Every day a company would fax over the comps
from a few days prior. We would then put them into a three
ring binder in the research department for future reference.
That meant a lot of trips to the research department.
If we wanted to find buildings that were available for sale or
lease, we would have to drive our territory and look for signs.
Maybe, if we were lucky, we could get the other brokerage
houses to mail us their current listings and flyers. In essence,
the only way to be successful was to be the master of your
territory and know everything there was to know about it
and everybody who had a stake in it. Information took so
much longer to obtain, that there wasn’t enough time to look
outside of your territory. If you had a requirement or a listing
opportunity in a different territory, you went to the expert in
Then along came the internet. Panic rose as everyone thought
that all of our information that we worked so hard to get was
now available to everyone. Our careers were over. No one
would need brokers ever again.
Obviously that’s not what happened, but it did change the way
we do business. Being a territory expert nowadays does not
hold as much value as it did in the past because a large part
of the information is now readily available on the internet.
Property listings and sales comps are updated daily. Public
records, property taxes, ownership, etc. are all available if you
know where to look.
So how do we adapt as real estate brokers? What differentiates
us from our competitors if we all have the same information?
Of course there will always be value in knowing a territory and
specializing in a product type. However, instead of spending
our time researching listings, comps, and ownerships, we need
to make connections. I’m not talking about inviting everyone in
the industry to be your LinkedIn connection. I’m talking about
investing in long term relationships. Meet new people, branch
out, travel to other markets, and go to conferences. Every
person you meet knows hundreds more people. If you meet
five new people, you have met hundreds of new people. This is
where SIOR is so important and why attending the conferences
is critical to your success. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes
time to cultivate and grow.
The world is a much smaller place than it used to be. As such,
the connections we make are that much more impactful. We no
longer are doing business with just the people in our territories
or even our markets. The days of knowing the local manager,
and taking him out to play golf to win the business, are
disappearing. Someone else knows the owner of the business,
or the director of real estate and they are already two steps
ahead of you. The relationships at the top of the food chain
are so much more impactful. Use the internet as your friend.
Find out who the decision makers are. If they are already being
represented by a competitor, don’t let that stop you. Use that to
your advantage. Call their broker and present your property to
them. Work with others to accomplish your goals. You are not
the only one that has the information they need.
Connections are made everywhere. I race trophy trucks in
desert endurance races such as the Baja 1000. Desert racing is
a passion of mine. However, I used to think it took away from
my business when I had to go to Baja Mexico for days on end
to prepare for the races. I soon realized that all of the people
that are there racing with me are all future clients. I began to
open my circle, talk to them and learn what they do. Do they
have a real estate requirement? How can we help? As a result,
I have closed multiple deals with people that share the same
passion as me. How fun is that?