Bob Knakal, The Broker Who Closed More Than 2,300 Deals, To Share Career Advice At Bisnow’s Elevate Retreat

Bob Knakal, The Broker Who Closed More Than 2,300 Deals, To Share Career Advice At Bisnow’s Elevate Retreat

On April 29-May 1, a curated group of up-and-coming commercial real estate professionals will gather for Bisnow’s annual Elevate retreat at the W Hotel in Nashville. Attendees will build the foundation for a successful CRE career by engaging in deal-making opportunities with their peers and learning best practices from leaders who have made their mark on the industry.

Among these leaders is Bob Knakal, chairman and CEO of the newly formed BK Real Estate Advisors and one of New York City’s most noteworthy brokers. Over his four decades in CRE, Knakal was involved in the sales of more than 2,300 buildings totaling $22B.

Before founding BKREA, Knakal spent approximately six years as a top broker at JLL. Among his unique accomplishments was the creation of the Knakal Map Room, a space in an undisclosed Manhattan location that houses a 10-by 24-foot map containing information about the sale or development status of the 27,649 buildings in the borough.

Knakal will lead the panel on How An Investor Can Become The Preferred Call For Brokers In Their Market at the Elevate retreat. He will draw upon his decades of experience to discuss how investors can build a strong reputation with the brokerage community.

Speaking recently with Bisnow, Knakal shed light on his success, offered advice for the next generation of CRE and provided a peek into what he will be discussing at Elevate.

Bisnow: What is one key thing you learned when first starting out that helped you close 2,300 deals worth $22B?

Knakal: From the start, I learned that CRE is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to do things that will be beneficial in the long term, especially when it comes to relationship-building. The way to get to 2,300 sales is by doing one deal at a time with great focus, doing the right thing throughout and hoping that the client comes back to do business with you again.

It can be time-consuming to sell a building for somebody: You’ve probably been talking to them for a long time, you found out they wanted to sell, you looked at the building, you put a contract together, met with them many times, and then they hired you. After all this, you have an unbelievable opportunity to take that relationship to the next level by doing a great job on that particular transaction. All that work not only leads to a commission but also a stronger relationship so that you can continue to do business with that person for years into the future.

You want to work with somebody for decades, not months. The way to do that is to always give them the right advice, even if that means delaying doing the transaction today.

Some brokers have the perspective that it’s always a great time to sell, but there could be a variety of reasons why that’s not the case. While some clients may have to sell due to death, divorce or partnership disputes, others may be selling on a discretionary basis and it may not be the right time for them to sell.

Over the years, there have been many times I’ve told people not to sell, and almost always the client has come back to me because they appreciated that I was giving them advice that was in their best interest and was not just trying to make a quick sale.

Bisnow: How do you provide value to clients and work to cultivate lasting relationships? 

Knakal: The best way to provide value to a client is to give them insight and equip them with as many options as possible. A lot of people may not know exactly what they want to do.

We advise our clients by giving them as much insight into the market dynamics at the time as possible. I’m excited to start integrating artificial intelligence in a very robust way, which is going to increase the insight that market statistics provide in a more predictive way. We’re applying AI models to our data sets that go back 40 years. I want my clients to benefit from that predictive information.

A lot of times, we can’t control what the ultimate price of a property would be, but we can control the effort that we put into that assignment and the communication that we have with the client. If you do all the fundamental things to increase the probability of maximizing the price and the results the client is going to get, they will appreciate that.

Bisnow: You have said you will attend 261 events this year, and you also contact property owners via phone and email. Why is it important to utilize multiple avenues of prospecting?

Knakal: Prospecting comes down to the implementation of a market presence campaign. Market presence is about becoming known to people who are active in real estate and reminding them of what you do. Some of these things include making calls; sending out email blasts, text messages or hard mail; attending networking sessions; being on social media; speaking in public and talking to reporters.

If I’m talking to people and having meetings every day, in the press or being on TV, I am greatly increasing the probability that I’m going to meet the perfect buyer for the property that I’m selling.

As a broker who only represents sellers, the best thing I can do is sell a property at a price that amazes everybody. I will substantially increase the probability that I’m going to find a buyer if my market presence campaigns are solid. It’s all about putting myself in a position to have a better chance to do a great job for my client.

Bisnow: Without giving too much away, can you give me a brief overview of what you will speak about at your Elevate workshop?

Knakal: We’re going to be talking about the way investors can position themselves best to be the go-to call for brokers. I’m going to share some things that stood out to me, both positive and negative, that have occurred during my interactions with investors over the decades. We’ll go over what works well, what brokers appreciate and what investors can do to enhance their reputation with the brokerage community.

Bisnow: How can rising brokers and investors put themselves out there to make the right industry connections? 

Knakal: The most meaningful way to interact with somebody is to be prepared to offer them something of value. You can do that by offering them information about a deal that just happened, a perspective or a market report — anything that brings forth a nugget of information that they didn’t have before. You want a client to walk away from your conversation and say, “I learned something interesting here and I wonder how that impacts my property or my portfolio.”

Ideally, you want to show that you’re a great resource. That will make people want to talk to you and hopefully do business with you.

Elevate will take place April 29-30 in Nashville. Apply here to attend and connect with the industry’s most influential leaders to advance your career.

Entry and associate level employees will represent their company and take advantage of the event’s deal-making opportunities and educational experiences. Executives, nominate someone for Elevate here.

There are limited spots available, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to get involved.

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Caroline Vega combines over a decade of digital strategy expertise with a deep passion for journalism, originating from her academic roots at Louisiana State University. As an editor based in New Orleans, she directs the editorial narrative at Commercial Lending News, where she crafts compelling content on commercial lending. Her unique approach weaves her background in finance and digital marketing into stories that not only inform but also drive industry conversations forward.