Questions to consider when contemplating a branch partnership opportunity

Questions to consider when contemplating a branch partnership opportunity

June 11, 2007

Speaking your clients' languageKellene Bishopcommunication skills, commercial or residential lending, marketing
How important to your business are your communication skills?
Communication is not only key in business it is big business. Have
you perused a bookstore lately? In any main category, you will find
"communication" as a subcategory. Not just because it sells, but
also because it is key to success in any type of relationship,
including that of the broker to the lender and the broker to the
client. Whether you are in commercial or residential lending, or
specializing in multi-family dwellings, large entertainment venues
or in hard-money loans and factoring, all specialties in the world
of lending have one major thing in common, they all have a client!
I can hear your brain working now ... "Yeah, communication is
important, but I communicate fine." But do you? Have you surveyed
your past clients? Have you lost business in the past due to a
misunderstanding? Does anyone ever tell you that you are confusing?
Most of us have lost business due to one or all of the above
reasons! Losing business does not create success, but learning from
it does!
Excellence in any area does not come from saying, "Yeah, yeah,"
and sloughing off the idea of improvement in the area of
communication, so please don't take it personally. Even if, as a
professional broker with a proven track record, you feel you know
what you're doing all the time and you're one of the rare ones who
is quick as a bunny to hop on the phone and get back with your
clients, that does not mean they all understand you! What happens
when you don't speak the same language as your client? I'm not
talking about your client being Hispanic and you being German. I'm
talking about the language of the lending world. Let's put it
another way. If I shook your hand and said to you, "The composite
particles with even numbers of fermion constituents are also now
called bosons. Can you please let me have a copy of the antiquark
and boson equation paperwork?" What would you say? Most people
reading this would say, "Pardon me?" or a loud, "Huh?" because that
is not their language. That is the language of ... love. (No, just
joking.) That is the language of quantum physics. So, if you are an
avid reader of a trade magazine for physicists, then you had no
problem understanding my statement. But if you are a broker, a
lender or a banker, you are probably wondering what in the world a
boson is! Get my point?
Whose job is it to make sure your client understands your
language? Let's make you the customer in a very simplified
situation at a drive-thru. Have you ever found yourself in one of
those aggravating situations sitting and waiting to hear, "May I
take your order please?" Here you are, waiting to make your
delicious purchase of a combo meal when the following happens:
silence. So you say, "Hello?" and what you hear back sounds
something akin to the sound a cow would make if you asked it to
sing a chorus from La Boheme. Does that sound familiar? You can't
get your message across because the speaker is broken and you have
no idea if the person at the other end is receiving your order or
understanding just what you want. And just as importantly, you have
no idea what that cow at the other end is truly offering you
because it all sounds like La Boheme mixed with some unknown mumbo
jumbo language you have never heard before! Where, oh, where is
your combo meal? That's all you really wanted, right? But what
inevitably happens as you pull around to the window is you realize
that somehow, in all that miscommunication going on, you didn't
actually order the tasty cheeseburger and shake, instead you
ordered a plain chicken sandwich with no bun, water and a side
salad. That, my friends, is communication horror at the
drive-thru.
Are you running your office like a drive-thru? And more
importantly, are you communicating with your clients like you're a
cow singing through a bad speaker? Okay, crazy as that analogy may
seem, you now get my point. What's most important is that we figure
out how to fix the problem and/or prevent it from happening in our
very own business deals with our current and future clients.
Communicating at your client's level in his language is key to each
business, and here are several ways to begin doing so:
-First off, what does your marketing communicate? That's right
marketing! Your first means of communication to most of your
current or future clients will come directly from your marketing.
Do your marketing efforts pose an image of your business as one
that prefers to work with a particular client? Does it get across
the fact that you might specialize? Specializing in a particular
niche can quickly assist you in being able to effectively
communicate properly. For example, if you specialize in hard money
loans, but you lean all your marketing efforts toward residential
lending, then you are naturally going to get clients who are
expecting residential lingo when they enter the door. But, if you
communicate well through your marketing that you are specializing
in hard money loans, then more of your business will come from
those expecting hard money language.
-Learn your personal strengths and weaknesses as a communicator.
What does your demeanor on the phone or in person say to a
customer? What does your phone staff, your phone message, business
card and callback policy communicate to your clients? Are you too
busy to make callbacks? Then make it a clearly understood policy
that a client needs to set a phone appointment. Don't leave them
wondering about communication from you. Are you cold and aloof over
the phone? Then deal in person as much as possible. Be clear and
concise when it comes to your phone and personal etiquette when
dealing with people. Even if your language isn't quite the same as
theirs, if you have their respect, then you will indeed have a
greater chance of obtaining their business even if it is harder to
understand you.
-Break it down! What does that mean? No, I'm not starting a rap
song here ... I'm talking about your language - the lingo of the
lending world. If you have a professional business client in your
office that is in the business of establishing beauty salons across
the Midwest, do not assume that they automatically know the lending
jargon. Just because someone is in a business suit with a briefcase
does not mean he will speak your language. Intelligent and
professional does not automatically mean he will be able to
translate your language into beauty shop business lingo. Breaking
down some of your basic terminology for a client can be key to
making sure you're both on the same page throughout the deal. Do
not assume that he already knows what PFS (Personal Financial
Services), DTI (debt-to-income ratio) and LTV (loan-to-value ratio)
are. To the average person, they sound like a secret bureau of the
federal government! Break down all the acronyms, definitions and
lending jargon for your client knowing that not everyone has the
background to understand or even remember every bit of commercial
lending knowledge that is thrown at them.
-Pay attention to your client. Watch his body language, eye
contact and tone of voice when communicating, because his response
to you can give away whether or not he understands what you are
saying. Some clients might be put off by your lack of willingness
or ability to break things down for them. It can be intimidating
having someone throw names and terminology at you as if you should
automatically understand it, so pay attention.
-Lastly, I encourage you to be responsive! How? If you see that
communication is becoming a problem with your clients, then
frequently ask simplified follow up questions that will assist them
or that will help you to conclude whether or not they indeed are
understanding you, such as: "Mr. Smith, is there any part of the
agreement that seems fuzzy to you?" or "Mrs. Jones, do you need
clarification on any part of the paperwork we just went over?" It's
easy to ask leading questions without being offensive. If need be,
add a touch of humor to your questioning. Lead with, "Well, since I
haven't met my quota on papercuts for the day, let's just double
check the paperwork and see if there is anything else we can go
over that will make the process easier for us all."
Too often in the midst of a deal, we can set our eyes on the
prize and forget the steps in getting there. As we rush, we may
spoil the desired end result. Take the time to ready yourself for
adequate and proper communication with a client by attempting to
speak their language and translate yours! Doing so will make your
client a satisfied one!
Kellene Bishop serves as president of Beehive Commercial
Lending as well as the director of training for Commercial
Career which specializes in training residential loan officers in
all aspects of commercial lending, with an additional emphasis on
successful marketing tactics. She may be reached at guru@commercialcareer.com.

Originations

Subscribe to the NMP Daily

Subscribe to the NMP Daily