Back by popular demand, John Flavin, the Fund Management Director for Grosvenor Americas, was a familiar speaker to many attending the latest Toronto Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) event on June 16. The San Francisco-based speaker, with a reputation for giving informative and industry-relevant talks, had presented to the 2004 CREW Network Convention and Marketplace in Toronto last fall.
Flavin did not disappoint. At a time when institutional investment in real estate is at an all time high, his presentation on “Seven Ways to turn off an Institutional Investor (or anyone)” had the rapt attention of the audience. Adapted from the International Real Estate Incorporated’s Seven Rules, Flavin's “Seven Ways Not to Make a Presentation”, emphasized simplicity, honesty, and paying attention to clients.
Several of Flavin’s points were tied to his assertion that a person has ten minutes to connect with clients before losing them. He emphasized that presentations should get right to the point: “don’t give a slick sales pitch,” “don’t walk through your presentation book,” and “don’t give endless examples”. He also stressed communication over technology (or “info over flash” as he phrased it), and keeping the client top of mind when conducting a presentation. In other words, don’t just talk about all the tall office buildings your firm’s ever worked on, talk about the one tall office building whose before and after scenario are most relevant to your clients’ own problems.
Honesty was also a big point for Flavin. He cautioned against dishonesty in any way shape or form, from fashioning your business strategy to suit the listener, to selling strengths over which you have no control, to outright stretching the truth such as taking credit for the capital appreciation of a property. None of these techniques will get you anywhere, stressed Flavin. “Don’t profess to be what you’re not – they’ll figure it out.” He added, “if you lose credibility with an investor you’ll never get it back”.
Flavin’s seven points were reinforced both by early advice from his father as well as personal experience. He recalled that his father, a career salesman, had emphasized the value of social environments for doing business (his father’s most effective tool was a set of golf clubs), as well as the importance of listening. He recalled from personal experience a presentation, in which he said to the client that he had a twenty slide PowerPoint presentation to show them, or they could skip that and just ask him questions. They opted for the latter and it was a much more productive meeting.
When asked later in the question period for advice on how to prepare for presentations, Flavin suggested thinking about what you want to get out of the meeting, and consider asking your client directly what they want out of it. “If you can find out what your client wants and match it to your strengths, you will succeed”, said Flavin.
One of the most charming aspects of Flavin’s presentation is his down-to-earth manner. Modesty seems natural to someone with such an impressive resume that includes 14 years experience with Grosvenor, and years in senior management with a local District of Columbia developer. Flavin also has a law degree from Duke University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Yet even he is quick to admit that he has violated every one of his own presentation rules (except outright dishonesty). He also revealed that he is an introvert, and emphasized that this trait is not an obstacle to good presentation style. “You don’t have to be good at presentations, you just have to be you.”
About the Toronto Commercial Real Estate Woman (CREW)
CREW Toronto is part of a larger 6000 member CREW Network in 56 major markets across North America that was started in the 1980s. Toronto CREW provides its members with regular educational seminars, lunches, and even golfing opportunities. – torontocrew.org
Toronto CREW was established 9 years ago and has proven to be one of the fastest growing real estate organizations in Canada. CREW de Montreal was established in 2003, and Vancouver CREW was launched in February 2005.