Everyone aspires to be a mentor in commercial real estate. Like rush week at Sigma Chi, the industry breeds big brother, little brother relationships.
Typically, the mentor propositions the mentee with a Dale Carnegie book, a meme of Jordan Belfort on a yacht, or a YouTube link to Al Pacino’s Any Given Sunday speech.
I was not so lucky.
One morning, I found a 4-disk CD set on my keyboard titled The Art of Selling. The plastic case barely encapsulated its contents — the packaging company clearly started with 8-track cassette tapes but didn’t have time to change designs before the technological revolution of the CD-ROM. Whenever that was, 1999?
The course became my sales bible, and my naive ears hung on every word. Particularly the strategy for what do when a decision-maker says, “I’m sorry, but we are working with your competitor.”
“When a prospect says, we are already working with Todd over at Company B, simply smile and reply: Todd? I thought he went out of business!”
I would never say that, I thought to myself. “And the funny thing is,” he continued. “this strategy works, but most of you don’t have the balls to do it!”
Upon hearing this, I turned into Marty McFly from Back To The Future: “who you calling… chicken?” I accepted the challenge.
About 200 cold calls later I finally spoke to a prospect who rejected me with, “You seem like a nice kid, but we’ve been working with Jason for years now.”
“Jason?” I stood up from my chair and smiled. “I haven’t seen him on any deals lately?”
“Well, now you’re just being rude…”
I sat down and frowned.
The old influence strategies are dead and gone, but why?
Moving others has changed since the days of CD sales courses. That’s not to say we should never be proactive and ask for things we want, only that the low road, Alec Baldwin’s “always be closing” influence strategy is now thornier than it used to be, survived only by kids like me who listen to such dribble.
Dan Pink, the author of To Sell Is Human, says the sales process has changed because buyers now have unrestricted access to information. Before the internet, buyers relied on salespeople for product information and rode how the salesperson framed that information all the way to a purchase.
The internet and smartphones have leveled the playing field — what was once an asymmetric relationship between buyer and seller is now symmetric.
“The balance has shifted. If you’re a buyer and you’ve got just as much information as the seller, along with the means to talk back, you’re no longer the only one who needs to be on notice. In a world of information parity, the new guiding principle is Caveat Venditor — Seller beware.”
— Dan Pink, To Sell Is Human
When moving others, information hoarding is no longer sufficient. We all must be transparent, direct, and honest in our message.
The Attention Economy:
Unfortunately for us, we live and continue to live in the attention economy. A market where millions of different opinions, products, services, and ideas continually climb on top of each other to gain your eyes and ears for a few seconds.
People no longer have the time to sit down and listen to your life story — not at first anyway. Brevity, while providing an insane amount of value, is the key to influence.
What does it take to influence others in 2020?
Let’s break it down by drawing an example from a cold email I sent that turned into a commercial real estate deal grossing $11,403.
What’s a cold email?
A cold email is the equivalent of a cold call, but in email form.
An email to someone whom you have never met that asks for something specific, usually for the following reasons: networking, dating, selling a product or service, scheduling a meeting, job inquires.
Unlike a full-length pitch, the purpose of a cold email is to introduce yourself, explain the reason for the email, and provide a brief value add.
Then wait for a reply.
Less aggressive than a cold call, but, if done correctly, can be more effective.
Let’s get started.
How to write a clickable email subject
Those who write great headlines on Medium have an advantage here. You’re doing the same thing in both cases, moving others to click with a simple phrase.
Whether someone clicks on an email depends mostly on who sent it. You’re more likely to open an email from your boyfriend or girlfriend than the cable company, but the subject line’s engagement is also critical.
A study conducted by professors at Carnegie Mellon University found people base their decisions to click on emails upon two factors: utility and curiosity.
Utility: The value of the content.
Curiosity: I’m bored, and this email seems different.
Upon further analysis, the professors noticed that subject lines invoking utility and curiously were equally effective but worked better when kept separate.
“Utility worked better when recipients had lots of email, but curiosity drove attention when demand was low.”
For this email, let’s assume we are reaching out to an important person with lots of emails. Let’s focus on a subject line with utility.
- How To Save Money On Your Next Office Lease.
This has utility, but Medium writers would read this and say, “no one would read this article! What exactly I’m I saving? Why should I listen to you?
Next, make your subject line as specific as possible.
- How I Saved A Company $6,000 On Their Office Lease.
Done. Let’s move on.
First line of a cold email: Introduce yourself, but don’t overthink it
Don’t overthink the introductory line. A simple who you are, what you do, and the reason for the email will get the job done.
- My name is Cal Axe, and I’m an office space advisor with Colliers. The reason for the email is to schedule a quick zoom meeting with you next week.
If possible, provide a referral, a quick story of how you got the persons contact information.
I had drinks with Gary the other night, and he mentioned I should introduce myself.
I just read an article about your growth and decided I should reach out.
Lines 2 through 5 of a cold email: Pretend you’re writing a tweet
We’ve introduced ourselves, provided a referral, and a reason for the email. Now we need to add value, a because.
Indeed, popular copywriter and sales guru, Jim Edwards, teaches that people buy because of 10 distinct lenses.
- Make money
- Save money
- Save time
- Avoid effort
- Escape mental or physical pain
- More comfort
- Achieve greater cleanliness or hygiene to attain better health
- Gain praise
- Feel more loved
- Increase popularity or social status
Write in multiple lenses in your email but be as brief and specific as possible. Pretend you’re writing a tweet: in 280 characters, write about the 1% of your argument that amplifies the other 99%.
This exercise will allow you to cut through the clutter in your message and force you to think deeply about your value add.
Here’s the tweet pitch I use for commercial real estate cold emails.
- Here’s the problem you face: your office lease is scheduled to expire in 6 months, and your landlord has the right to automatically renew your lease, which means you could be stuck at the same office for another 5-years and vulnerable to rent hikes.
In 249 characters, I’ve told the reader in no uncertain terms the problem.
The first sentence tells them the problem.
- Your office lease is scheduled to expire in 6 months, and your landlord has the right to automatically renew your lease
But then I step on the gas with the which means.
- which means, you could you could be stuck at the same office for another 5 years or vulnerable to rent hikes.
Try this in your tweet pitch. State the problem then reinforce that problem with a which means.
Line 6 to close: Ask for what you want again, and be specific.
Bring the email home by restating what you want, but this time be even more specific.
For example, if you want to set up a zoom call, give a specific time and date: “This Wednesday at 1 pm.”
Most people leave roundabout times like “Friday afternoon,” let’s avoid this. We want to make it as easy for our contact and not leave them guessing about your schedule. Also, “anytime Friday afternoon” just sounds passive, be confident with your email.
- I thought the best place to start would be to schedule a quick 15-minute zoom call this Friday at 1 pm.
The ultimate example of a cold email
Subject: How I Saved A Company $6,000 On Their Office Lease.
My name is Cal Axe and I’m an office space advisor with Colliers. The reason for my reaching out is to schedule a quick Zoom next week. I just read the article in Columbus Business First about your team’s growth and I think I can help you.
Here’s the problem I noticed: your office lease is scheduled to expire in 6 months and the landlord has the right to automatically renew your lease, which means you could be stuck at the same office for another 5-years and vulnerable to rent hikes.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.
I sent an email to XYZ company last year before their lease expiration and was able to save them $6,000 on their annual rent.
I thought the best place to start is to schedule a short zoom and discuss your options, I know of a few spaces that I think you should at least consider. How about Wednesday afternoon at 1pm?
Get out and be proactive while you’re young!
I never received a call back from Jason’s client. He probably looked me up on LinkedIn afterward and realized Cal Axe was an entitled kid who studied French in college and knew nothing about business. Caveat Venditor!
Sleazy salespeople tactics are dead, but an email template like this is fantastic for connecting to people. It’s quick, packed with value, and to-the-point. Most importantly, it shows respect because there’s no pressure to make a decision today.
Be proactive and go after what you want. Try this template out the next time you DM an influencer, ask for a raise, or need money from your parents. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes.