Lending is a competitive business. While there are many good lenders, there are fewer good lenders that are superior salespeople in banking. We know one of the best that we reported on back in 2014 and thought we would update his production and techniques. We will call him “Jim” to protect his identity as his bank is afraid Jim will be lured away. Jim does between $15 and $20mm consistently per month which is about the total production of your average small community bank. Aside from being highly productive and working 15 hour days, there are a couple of clear items that separates him from the average loan officer.
We spent the day with him and learned the following techniques:
Add value – Aside from being able to structure and underwrite a loan, Jim is constantly adding value to his clients by giving them information on the economy, helping with marketing, providing calculators (like this one on ROI found HERE) and connecting business owners to his vast network of business experts. Intellectual property lawyers, tax accountants, real estate brokers, business valuation experts and others are all on his iPhone and just a v-card away.
Loans Need To Be Sold – Desperate borrowers will take almost any loan. However, the type of profitable borrowers Jim wants have many options, which is why he is constantly selling the bank, selling himself and selling the loan. Loans to good borrowers rarely sell themselves which is why Jim understands his sales technique is essential to his success.
Respect the sales process and understand the borrower – Right from the start, Jim asks a series of qualifying questions to determine who the decision makers are, what are their objectives, what their time frame is and what is important to determining what bank the borrower will ultimately choose. Jim is also careful to understand the potential borrower’s view of interest rates and view of the industry. From this information, Jim creates a literal roadmap to success and not only understands what needs to be done to move the borrower along but understands the borrower’s goals, pain points and views in order to best craft a future solution.
It Takes At Least 5 Times – In looking over Jim’s customer relationship management system, it takes an average of five meetings with a business owner or manager to earn the sale. Jim commented that many banks give up after two meetings and then “forget about the prospect.” If a potential customer is happy with their current bank, Jim plays the long game and knows that it may take years to bring the customer over. However, in these cases, Jim is quick to understand that target’s existing loan /line of credit maturity and renewal dates as well as the sales activity of the customer so he can benchmark it for potential expansion.
Ask for the Loan and then ask again – It is not enough to just show a term sheet, you have to ask for the business. While this is an old sales cliché, Jim swears it’s true – “There gets to the point where the borrower has a term sheet and all the information to make a decision. My job is to ask for the business.” If a potential customer does not have a transaction in front of him, then Jim drives home the message about “wanting to be the first call” when the prospect is ready.
Speed – “Responsiveness and short approval times will get the borrower’s respect every time,” says Jim. I look for ways to save the customer time while making sure his bank is doing everything possible to automate and streamline the loan administration process.
Track Next Steps – Jim links each meeting or phone call with a set of action items or next steps complete with the responsible party. At the end of each encounter, Jim confirms and updates the path. Jim also provides both a checklist for loan closing documents needed and a customized timeline with each transaction.
Be positive and confident – In watching Jim around borrowers, he keeps it light, fun and always positive. Jim usually comes up with a solution for almost any challenge or problem. The borrower wants to put off that refinance decision – no problem as Jim knows he needs to make the borrower feel good about the decision in order to build goodwill. It was also noted that not only did Jim not disparage other banks; he usually talked them up as if to frame it as these banks are good, but his bank is the better choice.
Follow-up in writing – Jim is extremely consciences about follow up particularly changes in terms or timing. While Jim may not produce an updated term sheet, he always follows up in writing so as to build trust.
Odd Hours – Jim gets a sense for if an account works early, late or weekends and then makes sure they know he is able to provide service (run loan docs over, etc.) during those hours. Jim reports that these off times allows him to build a faster working relationship and provide superior service that other banks may not be able to.
Finally, we will note that Jim is one of the most well-organized bankers we know. He works “to do” lists, CRM action items and email automation with the best of them. Jim never stops learning and never stops trying to improve. Such is the methodology of a top producer.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on February 28, 2017