With progress in technology and data accelerating, the commercial real estate industry is changing quickly.

But smart commercial real estate professionals aren’t looking for new jobs...they’re adapting.

In order to stay relevant, CRE professionals need to think beyond the “this is the way we do things” mindset and get creative in their approach to marketing, leasing and managing assets.

For inspiration, they need look no further than the SaaS industry.

Although still a relatively new industry, SaaS or, Software as a Service, has revolutionized the way we think about online marketing and selling. These cloud-based businesses have mastered the art of building awareness around their services, squashing inefficiencies and driving revenue through highly optimized funnels, all while putting their customers first.

Here, we’ll take you through some of the hallmark SaaS strategies that CRE professionals can apply to their own businesses to drive revenue, increase efficiency and better manage their tenant relationships.

1. Focus on data, not just relationships

We are living in the age of big data and it is no longer enough to rely on the strength of your relationships alone. SaaS companies know this. Rather than focus solely on fostering individual partnerships, these companies scale at meteoritic rates with the use of data and optimization.

Tools such as leasing and asset management platforms allow commercial real estate professionals to leverage data with the same expertise and efficiency that Saas companies do. This technology allows users to quickly filter through their building, tenant and deal data to gain insights that drive very real business upside. Few CRE firms are truly leveraging real-time data to their advantage, leaving a massive opportunity for those willing to grab hold of the trend.

2. Invest in inbound marketing

The more traditional form of marketing, outbound marketing, which involves blasting out an email or cold calling a list of disinterested recipients, isn’t the way SaaS companies scale quickly. Instead, these companies are focusing much of their efforts and budget on inbound marketing.Rather than interrupt someone’s day with your marketing efforts, inbound marketing allows people who are already interested in your product or service to find you, often through online search. One of the most popular examples of this is business blogging and guest blogging. By creating content, such as an article on local development trends, or a video series on top office spaces then posting on your blog or guest posting on a CRE influencer’s blog, CRE professionals can attract and capture a higher quality of lead. The best part? No phones slammed and no angry complaints. You’re simply adding value in the form of content that people actually want to consume and, instead, gain qualified customers.

3. Put a system behind your sales process

Creating a repeatable sales process is essential to the success of any business — whether you’re leasing commercial properties or selling knives. That’s why you’ll notice that when signing up for a free trial for just about any online service, you receive a systematic follow up email series, often involving both automated and personalized engagement. SaaS companies know that by putting optimized systems in place, they can focus their time on the customers that matter most to them.

CRE professionals who manually customize their outreach can still leverage their human finesse, but should consider systemizing their approach at each step of the sales funnel. From there, it’s best to sift out inefficiencies and use technology to automate repeatable steps. To start, consider asking yourself — what are the manual, repeatable tasks that are taking me away from the activities that require my direct presence, such as dinners with prospects or tours with clients?

4. Up your customer service game

SaaS companies are masters at customer service. While some may be doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, they’re also doing it because it’s good for business.

CRE is no different, except in this case, your customers are your tenants. Each lease you sign should be the start of a never-ending cycle, not an end goal. Once you have a new tenant in one of your buildings, it becomes about managing the relationship. By going the extra mile to ensure your past and current tenants are happy, you’re paving the way for upcoming deals and partnerships.

5. Squash inefficiencies

If you visit any SaaS company, you’ll be hardpressed to find the printer. That’s because analogue processes slow you down and take up time that could otherwise be spent on more strategic thinking.

SaaS companies leverage technology tools to streamline workflows and automate repeatable processes. CRE is no different. Leasing and asset management platforms, for example, help CRE businesses manage their end to end leasing process and measure performance, significantly reducing time wasted on manual activities such as reporting, while boosting revenue.

The commercial real estate industry is changing quickly, meaning forward-thinking professionals have an unprecedented opportunity to adapt and accelerate past their more backward-thinking peers. The SaaS industry is pointing the way forward towards innovation and success — which direction will you choose?


Andrew Flint is the SVP of Strategic Sales at vts.com, the fastest growing software company in the history of commercial real estate. VTS’ leasing and asset management platform manages over 5.5B square feet globally, with clients including Blackstone, Boston Properties, Tishman Speyer, JLL, CBRE and Cushman and Wakefield. Prior to VTS, Andrew spent nearly 10 years as a landlord and tenant-rep broker in midtown Manhattan, the last 7 of which were with JLL.