When the “most curious person in multifamily” meets a rental housing leader who is passionate about strengthening connections to move the industry forward, you might guess what happens next: a fascinating podcast conversation that lasts just 14-minutes but could easily have gone on for twice as long.
Moshe Crane is the Director of Marketing and Leasing for Sage Ventures, LLC in Baltimore, MD. He’s also the self-proclaimed most curious person in multifamily. Crane is an avid LinkedIn enthusiast who posts thought-provoking polls questioning why the industry operates the way it does. He is never satisfied with the philosophy of “That’s how we’ve always done it.” Instead, Crane challenges rental housing professionals to think about why we do it that way—and consider alternatives.
Crane recently launched a podcast called The Curious Wire Podcast with Moshe Crane. He describes the podcast as, “A curious journey for folks in the multifamily industry wanting to elevate their careers and challenge the status quo.”
Our own Devin Wirt, Livly’s VP of Business Development, was honored to join Moshe on Episode #13 of The Curious Wire. Crane invited Wirt to speak about his approach and experience with sales, marketing, team building, and business development on the supplier side of the apartment industry. Here are some highlights from their discussion:
Wirt began the conversation by expressing appreciation for Crane’s identification of him as an industry supplier, rather than a salesperson. “I love that you call us suppliers, not vendors.” He elaborated, “Vendors we all think of as hot dog stands rolling around on the boardwalk of the beach. I do agree with the word suppliers because we’re supplying something to the industry.” He went on to share his philosophy on selling in multifamily. “My personal thesis on sales is that you don’t need a massive team. But you need a real strategy. I think a lot of individuals in the industry are not developing strategies. (Instead) they’re trying to hire tenured people, which is great, but your book of business only goes so far.”
The two discussed the differences between top-down and bottom-up sales approaches. Wirt observed that companies in multifamily without a clearly defined strategy may find themselves approaching sales from the wrong direction. For example, some organizations approach sales from the bottom up, that is, with a fleet of sales representatives with “boots on the ground,” working relationships in a hyper-local way. Wirt says that may be a winning strategy for products and services that are decided upon by the property manager, such as landscaping, window washing, or alarm systems. But for products and services that are vetted and selected in the c-suite and implemented portfolio-wide, such as software, Wirt insists a top-down approach to sales is far more effective.
Crane observed, “You could hire a big sales team and you have a bunch of people out there, let’s just say, ‘spray and pray.’ They’re just out there throwing emails and phone calls, trying to get people to book meetings…but why take a spray and pray model when you know who (the decision-makers) are?” Wirt agrees that “spray and pray” approach to business development is ill-conceived and unlikely to lead to sales success. “The biggest thing that sales teams are not doing right now is they’re not building a brand. There’s no brand recognition.”
Crane challenged that assertion. “Well, it would be the company that should build the brand, the marketing, not the sales team.” Wirt agreed but insists that sales professionals play a significant role in an organization’s branding. “How is the sales team projecting that brand? (While we’re at a conference,) we should be developing content. Tagging people. There should be a strategy behind how we’re also creating the brand for the company, which is going to lower our customer acquisition costs as we go forward.” Crane agreed that sales professionals viewing themselves as brand ambassadors makes good sense.
When asked what multifamily suppliers should be thinking about when developing their sales teams, Wirt had a clear view of what is most likely to lead to success. “My biggest advice for people who are developing teams is to understand where your ROI is. What is your outreach of your sales teams? How big does it really need to be, and what is your approach as you go forward? What can you outsource to bring in-house…to capture more market share? One of the strategies we always take a look at is could we outsource some of our outreach. What do drip campaigns look like? How are we targeting? Who are we targeting? And then from there, I actually believe in a little bit of a smaller sales team.”
Continued Wirt, “I think that… the biggest problem we have in the industry is the status quo. We’ve got to change the status quo…and technology is doing that in real estate. I think that leaders on the supplier side should be changing the status quo on how we’re outreaching, how we’re creating brand to have a more efficient sales model.”
Crane responded enthusiastically: “My brain goes to, ‘when everybody’s over here, go the other way.’” The pair exchanged ideas about how innovative suppliers might zig while others zagged, including a memorable example from the 2022 AIM Conference involving White Castle hamburgers.
Crane asked Wirt how he felt about investing in costly booth setups and networking events or parties at industry conferences such as NAA’s Apartmentalize. Responded Wirt, “Multifamily is a trust industry. (To succeed in sales) you’ve got to have the rapport; you’ve got to have trust. For me, I’d rather spend the money for my team traveling to clients having one-on-one time with them than spending $100,000 hosting something at an event.”
Observed Crane, “Some people will hire big sales teams and then they have their sales teams doing all this outreach, which is not very efficient and is expensive. While you might outsource the actual outreach and then your sales team will come in so they’re spending all their time selling instead of doing other activities.” Confirmed Wirt, “Absolutely. And they’re being efficient with their time. Typically, what you’ll see is about a 50% reduction in payroll.” Said Crane, “I love that.”
To listen to the full episode and others, find and subscribe to The Curious Wire by Moshe Crane on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app. Also, connect with both Crane and Wirt on LinkedIn for ongoing, insightful conversations on how to move the rental housing industry forward through curiosity, relationship building, adoption of technology, and challenging the status quo.