NEW COLUMN: BROKERS BRIDGING THE GAP
A BROKER’S PERSPECTIVE ON BEST PRACTICES
BY SHERI BANCROFT
In Monitor’s inaugural column focused on equipment leasing brokers, Sheri Bancroft, vice president of Bancroft Leasing and current president of the AACFB, takes a back-to-basics approach and examines the best ways brokers can build relationships with clients and funders and, in turn, build a successful business.
Being a broker is a lot like being a juggler in a circus, but instead of juggling rings, we juggle relationships. As brokers, we are the point of contact for everyone involved in the transaction, including the funder, the customer, the bank representative, the insurance agent and the vendor. Not only do we have to keep everyone happy, but we have to keep all of the components of the deal moving along smoothly.
It’s already a tall order to be everything to everyone all at once before throwing in all the different time zones of everyone involved into the mix; it becomes a bit like Lucy and Ethel and the chocolates on the conveyor belt. It can be challenging, but if you can find your own way to juggle everything in a way that works best for you, you will find new opportunities in which to grow your business.
While finding your way as to what works best for you, here’s something to think about at all times: just be good.
Be Good to Your Funder
He who has the gold makes the rules. It’s important to keep funders happy. They provide the funds for our deals. Familiarize yourself with each funder’s program. Know their appetites for credit parameters, transaction sizes and, if they focus on story-based credit or a scoring model.
Know your equipment, and know your funder’s preferences for certain types of equipment. Make your presentation in a format that makes sense to the funder. Once submitted, if you are provided additional information from the customer that could impact the funder’s evaluation of the deal, be sure and share it with them. Cooperate with the funder on making sure everything on their checklist is completed to finalize a transaction. Make sure all the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted.
If you have the opportunity to meet your funders face to face, do it. You’ll be glad you did.
Be Good to Your Customer
You only have one chance to make a good impression. How you handle yourself on that initial call or during that first meeting with the potential customer is important; it’s your only chance to make a good impression. Have a list of questions prepared to learn more about who they are, what industry their business serves and the equipment they are looking to finance along with an explanation for why the equipment is needed.
Once you receive the customer’s application, keep them in the loop with updates as well as any requests for additional information from credit. Let them know where they are in the process.
Value customer service. Keep your customer happy. You don’t want their first deal to be the last deal. Establish rapport. Keep them coming back to you for anything they may need in the future. Make them a life-long customer. Exceed their expectations.
If a customer is about to pay off a piece of equipment, call to check in and see if she needs anything else.
If they know you care, they will refer other businesses in their network or region to you. Word of mouth still works. In a technological world of social media including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, word of mouth is still extremely relevant, and best of all, it’s free. Word of mouth is still the greatest form of advertising.
Be Good to Your Vendor
Be the glue that sticks. Once you complete a transaction with a vendor, the potential is there for them to send you more deals. Cultivate a working business relationship with vendors, so you are the first one they contact when they have a customer in need of financing.
Be a Good Broker
Don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t do things out of the proper order. Many days can be hectic, and the temptation to make short cuts can be strong. Step away for a moment and think about the effect of the short cut you are thinking about making. Don’t be impatient and then do something you may regret later.
One bad apple can ruin the whole barrel. This means that one rotting apple can cause the rest of the apples to rot as well. Don’t be the bad apple. Be ethical.
If one broker does something questionable ethically and/or encourages fraudulent activity and/or is dishonest, it can have a domino effect and give all brokers a bad reputation. As a result, funding sources will seek opportunities elsewhere, not with brokers.
As commercial finance brokers, it is important to be honest, have integrity and maintain a high level of professionalism with everyone involved in a transaction, including funders, vendors, bank representatives, insurance agents and, of course, the customer. Be a good steward of our industry. Be the best you can be.
Be Good to Yourself
Be a life-long learner. Our industry is forever changing and evolving, so it’s up to the commercial finance broker to keep up-to-date on all the new and latest developments in the industry. Keep your eyes open for professional development opportunities. Join a trade association or professional organization that offers learning and networking and classes offered by small business development organizations.
Get involved. Volunteer for an event or serve on a committee in the trade or professional organization that suits you best.
As brokers, we juggle a lot, and over time we get good at it. When all is said and done, mastery of a good work ethic is essential. Work hard and be a builder of relationships. Since you are the one in charge of the transaction from its beginning to end, seize the opportunity to build relationships with everyone involved.
Be the master juggler and lead yourself to success. •