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Dan Drotos Contributes to SIOR's "The Perfect Pitch"

“The main key in my experience is preparation and being able to identify up front the key issues the client is facing..."

The Perfect Pitch

by Steve Lewis, sponsored by SIOR Foundation

While it may be popular in the
titles of Hollywood movies, you
will probably not find a “perfect
pitch” in commercial real estate. But
SIORs, who certainly excel at them, may
come as close as a human being can get,
and it’s clear they do a lot of homework
to balance the scales in favor of success.

“The most important key is to rehearse
the pitch multiple times,” says
Reed Christianson, SIOR, principal,
Transwestern, in Minneapolis, and
current president of the SIOR Minnesota
Chapter. “Use social media to thoroughly
research every person in the room. Talk
less, listen more. Be prepared to pivot if
[you’re] not going in the right direction.”

Dan Drotos, SIOR, senior director,
Colliers International, in Gainesville, Fla
agrees. “The main key in my experience
is preparation; being able to identify up
front the key issues the client is facing
and being prepared to offer solutions are
of the utmost importance,” he shares.
In every pitch, he adds, one must have
a grasp of who the key stakeholders
and shareholders are, and what their
individual motivations and desires are.
“Tailoring your presentation around that intel increases the odds of success,” he

“In addition,” notes Drotos, “structuring
the pitch where the client is the main
focus is also important. Any broker can
come to a pitch with a fancy presentation
and marketing materials and rattle off
why they are the best, but the ones who
build the presentation specific to the
client’s needs and offer real solutions
will be received the best.” 

“Ask a lot of questions along the way,”
Christianson advises. “Make sure every
person on the pitch team has a role and

Having worked with notable clients like
J.B. Hunt, Hershey Entertainment &
Resorts, PNC Bank, and OSS Health (a
regional player), he observes that “They
each have their own criteria as to how
they can be ‘won over.’ I have had to
read the ‘tea leaves’ for many years and
was able to make it happen for me in a
number of instances—unfortunately, not
all of them.”

“Make sure your material is content rich
and accurate,” advises Gladstone.
He also suggests you watch how you
dress; he dresses “one level up.” If the
clients are in ties, he also wears a jacket.
If they have opened collared shirts, he
wears a tie, and so on. This way, he says,
“I appear credible.”

Focus on the Client

As Drotos shared above, it is
important to know as much
as you can about the client
and customize your pitch with them
in mind. “Upfront research and inperson questions help determine which
approach to use,” he shares. “I also
like to have diversity on my pitch team.
Depending on the assignment, I may
bring my junior broker who is young
and can relate to a younger crowd, or
my senior partner who has decades
of experience and a long track record.
They both can be utilized strategically for
different pitches.”

Cheney agrees. “Yes, for sure, everyone
is different,” he says. “Just ask the clients
what they prefer.”

“It’s all about doing a lot of research
on who is being pitched—background,
education, experience, etc.” adds
Christianson. “Tailor the pitch that
way. Determine what the three most
important goals of the client are by
simply asking the client what’s important
and focus on those.”

Setting Yourself Apart

That knowledge of your client, says
Drotos, is also key to making your
presentation unique, creative,
and, ultimately, successful. “Again,
it’s knowing your audience and the
shareholders/stakeholders involved,” he
says. “Many times, there are significant
influencers that won’t be at the pitch.
Either knowing who they are or asking
the correct questions to find out that intel
helps improve the win probability.”

Drotos says he likes to ask questions
during his pitches, because that often
makes the pitch less formal and more
conversational. “It seems to reduce any
tension in the room and also allows
you to build rapport,” he shares. The
questions themselves, he adds, also
allow him to understand the situation
better or tailor his presentation on the
fly to better suit the needs of the clients.

“I do like to have nice visuals that show
similar projects we have worked on
and the successes behind them,” he
continues. “By doing this I like to highlight
a challenge or problem the client had
and what solution we came up with to
resolve the issue.”

“Read your audience,” says Gladstone.
“Decide if they are a PowerPoint group,
would be more intrigued by video, or if
they need to see it in a bound package.
“I also draw a small diagram of the
people as they are seated at the table,”
he continues. “As introductions are made,
I write their first name at the position
where they are seated at the table. That
way when they ask questions, I can refer
to them by name (often complimenting
them on asking a ‘good question.’)”

“Each presentation we put together is
targeted at the particular assignment,”
says Christianson. “The worst thing
someone can do—and many do—is to
take an older pitch and modify it for
the next pitch.” Such a tactic, he notes,
hinders creativity and open thinking.
In addition, says Christianson, you
should always ask to go last in the order
of pitches. “The first few pitches get
forgotten,” he cautions.

Again, adds Drotos, success can hinge
on preparation. “I like to research and
seek out any commonalities myself (my
team) and the client have. If you can find
something in common and bring it up in the pitch, that builds rapport much more
rapidly,” he notes. “This could be hobbies,
sports teams, colleges/universities,
travel destinations, where someone is
from, and countless amounts of other
unique items.”

What sets you most apart, according to, is how you approach the presentation.

What you say and how you say it, saysthe site, “will have a major impact on the

outcomes with prospects and clients.” 

Tools of The Trade

Almost as important as the pitch
itself are the materials you
use for the presentation. “The
most effective pitch is a PowerPoint
on a large screen,” says Christianson.
“A leave behind handout is also good,
but only hand it out near the end
of the presentation so people don’t
start reading the book and not paying

A whiteboard and markers also work
well, he adds, with some pre-rehearsed
questions on board. You should also have
multiple types of materials available.
“Also, a very important item to include
is food and beverage—something special
and unique,” Christianson recommends
Cheney prefers the use of interactive
PDFs and PowerPoints, supported by
table banners and maps. “It must be
customized,” he insists. “And it must
convey that you’ve thought about the
property AND the owner.” Finally, he
says, the presentation should engage
the audience and play to your strengths.

“What I find most of the time is that
video works best,” says Gladstone. “I
have done presentations where I was
on the screen (a virtual Bill Gladstone) and I would introduce my partner (the
real Bill Gladstone) standing on the
floor next to the screen, and we would
engage in dialogue about the project.

It is not only content rich (I hope), but
also entertaining.” This requires a lot of
preparation, however, and he says he
reserves that for larger projects.
When using video, he presents to
the audience from a screen while he
sits near the computer projecting the
presentation. “That way I can watch my
audience to see if they are engaged or
sleeping,” he shares. “And I can stop the
video at any time to ad lib, go off topic (if
appropriate), turn the lights on and do a

He also has a “presentation package” for
each person when he meets with them
just before the presentation begins. It is
a colored folder with an inside pocket on
both sides. “On the left side is our eightpage, four-color monthly newsletter
which has an article written by a real
estate professional and rotating pictures/
descriptions of our listings, and my
résumé and a pictured explanation of how
my team of six (including me) works to
achieve the goals of those to whom we are
presenting,” he explains. “On the right side
is the most recent copy of our 40-page,
four-color quarterly magazine, which has
four articles written by professionals in
real estate or related industries and
showcases all our listings. It also has a

Bill Gladstone Group (BGG) pad of paper
(with a moving picture across the bottom
by flipping the pages) and a BGG pen with
a picture of our bobblehead on it.”

Drotos adds that such customization
should also apply to your choice of
materials and presentation mechanisms;
they should vary, depending on who
your audience is. “Are you pitching to
a tech company run by millennials, or are you pitching to a law or financial

firm whose shareholders are Baby
Boomers?” he challenges. “Tailoring the
presentation to your audience is highly
important,” he continues. “The younger
generations will feel more comfortable
with high-tech marketing approaches
and can understand the buzz words
in the industry. It’s likely the older
generations may not relate to the latest
design and digital techniques and will
want to know you have a deep database
of qualified prospects that you will pick
up the phone and call.”

In the end, he adds, as a broker you will
probably utilize many of those different
techniques, but “You should decide in the
pitch how deep you go into each based
on your audience.”

Memories of Success

Implementing the tactics and
strategies enumerated by these SIORs
has led them to some memorable
successes, the details of which they
were kind enough to share. “We met
with the clients before the pitch; we had
a previous relationship and engaged our
entire team,” says Cheney. “We spent a
lot of time and money on it and our client
knew no one else would do a better job.
We left no doubt in their minds.”

Christianson recalls a project where his
team was asked to pitch a 1.2 million
square foot office project that had a
serious leasing problem and needed
a big renovation. “We knew we could
handle the leasing issue, but we also
recognized that we should collaborate
with a top architecture firm to discuss
the style of product that would meet the
market,” he shares. “So, we brought a
team of leasing folks and architects to
the pitch—which no one else did—and
we won the business.”

The major renovation was done, and
the building was leased up to 95% from
45% in 30 months. Christianson says
this experience teaches an important
lesson. “When you’re doing a pitch, it
is important to understand what your
strengths are, but more importantly
what you are lacking, and collaborate
with others that are experts in those
areas,” he advises.

Drotos recently pitched (and won) the
exclusive brokerage representation for
the school board in his county. “I was
able to win the assignment through a
variety of reasons, but I believe the main
reason was my preparation up front,” he

Drotos was able to figure out that the
school board had recently hired a
consultant to determine where their next
middle school should be located. He was
able to obtain the results of that report
and tailor his presentation to the specific
site that came out on top for them.
“I brought a wealth of information to
the table about the history of the site
and the probability of them acquiring
it,” he recalls. “They immediately keyed
in on the site in my presentation and I
outlined how I could help them acquire
it. At the end of the day, they didn’t
care much about my credentials or my
historical track record, although I did try
to highlight all of that. They cared about
the solution I could provide in assisting
them to acquire a specific site.”

Drotos is confident that the competition
came to the table with visually appealing
slide shows (as he did), but with no
knowledge of the specific site they were
seeking out or solutions on how they
could go about acquiring it. “The pitch
ended up being a slam dunk and has
grown into a very deep relationship and
numerous transactions,” he concludes.
“I was invited to do a presentation that
was supposed to be one hour,” Gladstone
relates. “I decided to do a video using a
virtual Bill and the real Bill. As the week
went on, my presentation (and those of
my competitors) was cut to 15 minutes. I
still proceeded with the video, because I
could cut it at predetermined points and
wrap up with a quick verbal summary.”

As it turned out, he says, the material
was accurate (as it should have been),
but the presentation was entertaining,
and they kept him going for close to the
full hour. “Video was the right medium,
and using entertainment was the correct
mechanism,” he says. “I got the listing.” 

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Dan Drotos

Executive Director


As the Executive Director of the Gainesville office for Colliers, Dan leads the firm's presence in Alachua County and the surrounding sub-markets by providing commercial real estate solutions for his clients. His team specializes in commercial and land transactions (sales & leasing) including office, retail, industrial, and multi-family. With well over 100 years of combined local knowledge and service, they strive to continuously raise the bar for their clientele. 

Prior to joining Colliers International, Dan served as Vice President of the Commercial and Land Division at an independent firm in Gainesville where he was a partner in The Drotos Ryals Group. His team has successfully transacted over $1 billion in local (Alachua County) commercial real estate. Dan holds both a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) and Master of Building Construction (MBC) from the University of Florida along with multiple professional designations, including Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) and Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR). He also also serves in several industry, civic, and non-profit organizations such as: The Urban Land Institute, Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida, First Federal Bank of  Florida, United Way, and Leadership Gainesville.

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