Traits of Our Industry’s Top Brokers


Several years ago in these pages, I wrote a column outlining the qualities and skills that I see in the most successful brokers in our industry. Almost every week, a young person or new entrant into our business asks me about these traits. So I thought I would provide a recap, which has been updated to take into consideration today’s market conditions. While there are many skills required, below is a summary of 10 characteristics that I have observed in brokers who have made it to the top of the pack. They appear here in no particular order.

1. Passion: I believe that in order to excel in brokerage, or anything for that matter, you need to be passionate about what you are doing. Those who are really excited about what they are doing have the internal fortitude to “hang in there” when faced with the tough times that will inevitably pop up. If you love what you do, you are able to excel, and that passion will lead to a life of happiness and success.

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2. Specialization: There are many people in the industry who try to be all things to all people. They are a jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-none. Specializing in a particular facet of our industry will afford you the ability to differentiate yourself from the competition and create a significant and tangible competitive advantage.

3. Being proactive: Being proactive means decisively making things happen as opposed to reacting to things happening around you. You can spend an entire day just reacting to questions other people have of you and responding to a relentless flow of phone calls and emails. It is very important to focus on what your goals and objectives are and make sure that you set aside time to implement your business plan.

4. Hard work: The real estate brokerage business is not now, nor has it ever been, a 9-to-5 job. It is a job in which you could literally work around the clock and never get everything done that you would like to. And in a counterintuitive way, the more you work, the more work you make for yourself responding to the fruits of your efforts. Luck is also an ingredient in the formula for success, and the harder you work, the luckier you get. Finding a balance, however, between hard work and your personal life is essential.

5. Integrity: Integrity is an often overused euphemism for “doing the right thing.” Integrity can mean a lot of different things, but I am referring to the integrity that you have to the relationship with your client and putting that relationship before the results of any particular transaction. Also, integrity means standing behind what you say and taking complete responsibility for your actions. Repeat business is the best business, and that business comes when your clients know that you put their best interests ahead of your own.

6. Positive thinking: Ours is a business in which we must learn to embrace rejection. When making calls to potential clients, you must believe that every “no” you receive gets you one step closer to a “yes.” The real estate brokerage business is a numbers game, and understanding the realistic percentages of success for each task you undertake will allow you to accept rejection without having it sway you from your goals.

7. Networking: People in our industry work with people they know and like. Meeting someone face to face is significantly more advantageous to relationship building than speaking to someone on the phone numerous times. The more you get out and interact with participants in the marketplace, the more quality relationships you will build and the more successful your career will be.

8. Time management: As a commercial real estate broker, all you have in this business is your knowledge and your time. While you can constantly gain more knowledge, it is critically important that you manage your time well as time past can never be recaptured. Taking a course or reading a book on effective time management skills will allow you to work intelligently, getting the most out of every hour that you put into this business.

9. Setting goals: This trait goes hand in hand with being proactive. Setting goals will serve as constant reminders of things you need to do to achieve your objectives. It is important to write these goals down, put them somewhere you will see them each day and review them often. Create “to-do” lists often as this creates a blueprint for success, helping you achieve your objectives.

10. Self-Improvement: This begins with an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. It can take many forms, and I have seen successful brokers accomplish this in many ways. It could be sharpening interpersonal skills, improving public speaking techniques or improving your general knowledge base, which can be enhanced greatly by reading as much as you possibly can.

Each of these characteristics and traits are clearly evident in top brokers at Massey Knakal and others I know well in our industry. Commercial real estate brokerage is not an easy job. But focusing on component parts that lead to success creates a manageable path to enhancing your skill set and, ultimately, to the success we all strive for.

Robert Knakal is the chairman and co-founding partner of Massey Knakal Realty Services. He has brokered the sale of about 1,500 properties, with a market value in excess of $10 billion.