NEW YORK CITY-Commercial brokerage is headed toward emphasizing comprehensive client solutions rather than focusing solely on transactions, said Jim Dieter, executive managing director of CB Richard Ellis’ industrial service group. Dieter’s observation–near the conclusion of Wednesday’s webinar, “Brokers: How Can We Make Money?”–summed up the advice he and his fellow panelists offered during the previous hour. The question posed in the webinar’s title could be answered as follows: by increasing the broker’s ability to provide value. Danielle Douglas, managing editor of Real Estate Forum, sister publication to, moderated the discussion.

“Brokers can make themselves indispensable by broadening their skill sets” and tapping into all that their firms can do for clients, said Vik Bangia, VP of national accounts at CresaPartners. The more that brokers can do to build an integrated services platform, the better their chances of survival, he said. Both Bangia and Greg Maloney, CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, urged brokers to “think outside the box.”

Richard Kimball, GVA Worldwide’s president and CEO, said this is a great time to expand existing client relationships and build new ones. However, he added, this networking won’t necessarily be accomplished on the back of deal flow.

Panelists advised brokers to explore the current market in depth. As Dieter put it, “This is a time to step back from the day-to-day business and ask, ‘where are the opportunities?’”

Some specific opportunities came up in the panel discussion. For example, Howard Ecker + Co.’s Howard Ecker noted that clients related to green activity expect to benefit from the Obama administration’s $787-billion stimulus package. Kimball pointed out another sector that’s likely to see heavy demand: infrastructure.

More generally, however, the panelists recommended strategies that cut across specific tenant sectors and focus on the how and why of client needs. That means helping clients with long-term planning in aspects of their business that go beyond rents or square footage.

Cross-selling is key, even when it means looking beyond the capabilities of the broker’s own firm and reaching out to third parties. “Think of what our customers are hurting for, and provide it,” Kimball said.

Above all, panelists urged brokers not to view these strategies as short-term fixes to address current market conditions, but instead as a long-term approach to conducting business. They predicted that commercial brokerage will evolve into a smarter–and leaner–industry.

But in the spirit of Yogi Berra’s famous maxim that “90% of the game is half mental,” panelists counseled a positive attitude amid the current challenges. “Frame of mind in this kind of market is of the utmost importance,” Dieter said. Too many brokers are running at half-speed as they’re barraged by negative headlines, he added. “You will persevere if you rise above it.”

Listen to a replay of the Feb. 18 event, available through May 18, here.

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