The New Closers: How CBRE's Evan Fiddle Is Forging His Own Path
During Evan Fiddle’s early days in commercial real estate, he would walk around the 22nd floor of CBRE’s New York City office looking at all the other brand-new brokers in his midst, wondering how anyone could ever stand out.
“I was a probably a year in the business. And I just [remember] thinking, there’s so much competition, there’s so much competition even at my company,” said Fiddle, 28, an office leasing broker at CBRE who was recently named the Real Estate Board of New York’s Most Promising Commercial Salesperson of the Year for 2017.
“All these other young brokers, doing exactly what I’m doing, calling the same people with similar information.”
New York commercial brokerage is well-known as a brutal game, one that can be notoriously hard to crack and navigate, even for the most enterprising of personalities. The office leasing world, particularly, is intensely competitive, dominated by major landlords like Brookfield and SL Green and awash with brokers trying to make it by closing deals in some of the most coveted office spaces in the world.
Fiddle's father, Howard, is an industry stalwart and a CBRE vice chairman, but the son believed the right connections and a knack for hard work wouldn’t be enough. He needed “differentiator,” he said, something that would set him apart from the hungry pack.
So, on top of two solid hours of cold calls a day, he started writing.
In the beginning, he would post to LinkedIn. Now he writes regularly for his own blog, producing pieces about the industry. It got him noticed by the right people, although he admits there have only been a few times his writing directly led to business.
Last year, he got just one direct lead that resulted in a deal from his writing, when someone who shared his alma mater, Amherst College, reached out for help finding space.
“You become a voice,” he told Bisnow from CBRE's offices at the MetLife Building in Midtown Manhattan. “It’s hard to talk about the exact value of money in your pocket for your efforts. But it’s just overall who you are and your brand … I think that it helped in terms of [giving me a chance] to stand out, at least internally.”
Fiddle joined CBRE’s Wheel program in 2012, a 14-month program that gives recent graduates the chance to rotate through departments and work with different teams. After he finished in 2013, he started working with brokers Ben Friedland and Michael Movshovich, working for a draw.
Now, he is a vice president and working with Movshovich alone, and working actively to grow their team. He is working with Forest City Ratner to lease the space at its Cornell Tech development on Roosevelt Island, as well as Boston Properties’ 399 Park Ave. and 599 Lexington Ave.
Recently, he brokered the deal for American Industrial Partners to take 21K SF at RXR Realty's 450 Lexington Ave. He declined to comment on the asking rents on that deal.
“[Fiddle] loves our business, and when you work with him, it’s as though you fall in love again with the work we are doing,” said CBRE Tri-State CEO Mary Ann Tighe, who works with Fiddle at the Cornell Tech leasing agency. “You see it all anew with his eyes."
Fiddle is a “natural relationship builder," a likable person with a natural and easy sense of humor, Tighe said. Though smart and diligent, she said, his likability is what really gives him an edge.
“He writes beautifully and talks intelligently," she said. "Everyone likes him.”
Being around people excites him, Fiddle said, as does the chance to work with interesting clients. He likes to be a team player, and attributes his success so far down to his ability to think strategically.
When he’s making a cold call, or forming a relationship, he thinks about how he can offer valuable information, rather than become a nuisance.
“[I just say] ‘here’s this pieces of info, I’m not asking you to meet, I just think you should know about it,'” he said. “Some people think it’s just about volume … I saw a bunch of people making calls and banging down the doors and trying to get meetings that way. I was more strategic.”
Newmark Knight Frank Tri-State President David Falk, who was on the judging committee for the promising broker award, said Fiddle has an impressive level of composure and shows great commitment to the industry.
“He stands on his own two feet,” he said, adding that having a parent who is established in the business gives him an advantage; he grew up knowing about the challenges the industry can present.
"The sales process of commercial real estate is a very long process … You may meet someone today and 12 to 15 months later you may conclude the transaction,” Falk said, adding that some people, particularly those who have worked in other jobs, do not adjust to the unsettling nature of waiting out deals. “You can never get comfortable, you always have to be 100% committed, 24/7."
The industry is becoming increasingly collaborative and is far less about working alone, hoarding information and deals than it once was. Fiddle said brokerage is a team sport, and said the best way to get ahead is stick at it.
“It is a very hard job … there is no denying that it’s challenging, and you just have to keep doing it and you become more successful,” he said. “It’s rare a deal falls on your lap and they say ‘we need space tomorrow’ … [but] it gets better over time and as you get better, there’s less rejection."