By Charles H. Green
We all know there are many crazy situations with people that have to be managed during the process of originating business loans. One of my frequent vexations over the years when so frustrated, was to exclaim “what a great business commercial lending would be, if you just didn’t have to deal with clients.” Obviously, that’s a futile and pointless gripe, but all too true on many days.
Problems–specifically client problems–are part of the deal. Some of the people who approach you are dishonest, insincere, misrepresenting something, devious, forgetful, ignorant, inattentive or otherwise can be just a pain in the @ss. As much as we want to do deals and want to help people, we also want to make the best use of our limited time.
The best way to deal with these kind of folks varies as widely as the many different kinds of problems with the people that you will encounter. But in my experience, I’ve found these six rules are useful at least as a starting point for you to confront the problem (i.e. the client) head on, and let the chips fall where they may.
Lay down the ground rules – One of the best ways to stay on the right path to success is through nice, but specific, communication from you in your first conversation with the clients about the mutual expectations of your engagement. They may want and qualify for a loan, and there may be several competitors within reach, but you are there and ready to go. Your engagement comes with expectations of their sincerity, candor, and responsiveness if you are to be able to succeed. Spell that out to up front.
Get communications in sync – You can’t be glib or abbreviated about what you need, and they need to know that you expect to only ask for something once. If you have to beg for information that helps them get a deal done, you might as well get your four year-old to handle the deal (they’d be on the same maturity level). If the client doesn’t respond in a meaningful way, give them a verbal warning once, and then move on.
Confront the lie (intentional or otherwise) – We’ve all had someone verbally represent something that we easily discovered was false, incomplete or misleading. Don’t let that go unnoticed or addressed. Let them know that you can’t do your job if they don’t provide you with good information that reflects the truth. If it happens again, fire them.
Offer to resign – Maybe you become aware of the impatience the client has with you–sometimes two people just don’t jell, and there’s really no one to blame. Recognize that impasse, if it exists, and visualize how it might affect the success of the deal. If you think it will be hard to win loan approval due to the conflicting personalities, offer to resign and refer them elsewhere.
Challenge the competition – One of the really irritating situations I recall is having someone with a truly weak deal always reminding me every ten minutes that there are plenty of other banks “who would love to do this deal.” Regardless of the strength or weakness of the deal, I didn’t let anyone get away with that kind of pressure or negotiation. Let them know that they are free to take up this conversation with someone else at anytime, and you’ll move on to the next client.
Fire the client – I’ve offered this suggestion before, but to summarize, if you have a combative client that won’t get you the information you need, won’t respond to your calls, criticizes what you do–based on what you know–or tries to obfuscate their information, fire them. They’re not worth your time or risk to your reputation.
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