In a previous blog (HERE), we discussed the benefits of sales scripting for commercial lenders. A sales script is a way for the commercial lender to explain the bank’s sales proposition, and anticipate the borrower’s responses. It also helps the lender direct the flow of the conversation and most importantly it allows the lender to better listen to the borrower - because your conversation is so well rehearsed you can concentrate on what the borrower is saying. Commercial lenders that practice scripting are on average 50% more likely to close loans and the loans that they do close tend to be more profitable for the bank. Sales scripting is divided into four basic steps: 1) opening and introduction, 2) sales conversation, 3) proposal discussion, and 4) closing. In our last blog, we covered the basic scripting techniques for the opening and introduction.
Basic steps for Opening and Introduction
In the opening and introduction, the lender provides a reason for the prospect to meet. Often the prospect is bound by inertia and will provide reasons why a meeting is not in his best interest. The lender must be able to anticipate those hurdles and be ready to explain why a meeting will benefit the prospect. The lender must be prepared and rehearsed for multiple reasons to reject a meeting. Scripting for opening and introduction can be summarized in the diagram below.
We covered a few specific opening lines for a commercial lender’s sales script. One opening is “Hello, my name is Joan Smith, and I am calling from XYZ bank. The reason for my call today specifically is to share the success we had with another borrower in your industry. I would like to explain to you how we saved that borrower XX dollars in debt service costs per month. I looked at your specific business, and we may be able to do the same for you. Could we meet next Tuesday to discuss how our bank can help you obtain a similar result?”
The purpose of the opening and introduction step is to get a face-to-face, quality meeting with the prospect and that quality meeting is called the sales conversation step. Commercial lenders are always progressing to a close. However, in the sales conversation step, the lender is not proposing any products or services. Instead, the lender is asking questions to get the following information: 1) what is the prospect doing for their entire business and their immediate financing needs, and 2) how and why they do what they do. The lender must understand the prospect’s business and personal needs to create a proposal and a tailored solution that even the prospect has yet to consider.
The first line in the sales conversation could be this: "Before we get started would it help if I tell you something about me and my bank?” This will get a 99% yes response. This part of the script must be no more than 2 minutes because our prime goal is to learn about the prospect.
After giving the prospect your background your aim is then to ask questions starting at the “easy information” (information that most prospects will readily divulge) and move to the hard information over time. This progression often takes more than one meeting. Categorize your questions from easy to hard as follows:
- Industry information
- Competitor’s information
- Market conditions
- Prospect history
- Personal ambition and goals
- Family situation
- Business financials
- Personal financials
We like to get the above information through multiple rounds of questions over a number of meetings. We think of this as a loop and each time through we dig deeper into the harder information. We emphasize open-ended questions and we divide our script into three sections: 1) behavior in the past, 2) current behavior, and 3) future anticipated needs. Each pass through we attempt to obtain the harder information, always being sensitive to the prospect’s receptivity. If the prospect is not willing to provide the harder information just yet, we revert to questions focusing on the easier information. The sales conversation loop is shown in the graph below.
The objective of the sales conversation is to gather information, and the lender must be diligent not to offer any solution or provide a proposal. At this step, the lender is listening to the prospect’s needs and on each loop verifying the needs through questions that elicit a deeper level of information.
A lender must also rehearse a script for the proposal discussion. Here we are not delivering a formal letter of interest (LOI) or term sheet but instead are providing some possible solutions and trying to gauge the prospects level of interest which will then determine our LOI content. We provide one aspect of our proposal at a time and listen closely to the borrower’s response. Consider that when you as a lender provide a written LOI, you are typically not witnessing the prospect’s response. You are either not present, or the LOI takes a few minutes to read, and the prospect will take time to digest and consider the information provided. The proposal discussion step allows you to assess the borrower’s receptivity to your proposals one at a time.
At this stage, the lender already has a good idea about the content of the final LOI. But using live interaction with the prospect validates the proposal. One simple example of such a verbal proposal is as follows: “Have you considered dividing your financing needs between real estate and working capital so that your average amortization term is longer to help you reduce your monthly principal payments?” The intent here is obviously to understand the borrower’s sensitivity to principal carrying costs.
Another example of a verbal proposal is as follows: “What do you think about an assignable loan that you can transfer from one property to another? With today’s low rates, this could be an appealing feature for your future business needs.” The lender has already decided that this would be a good feature for the borrower and will try to include it in the LOI. Having an opportunity to witness the prospect’s response will validate that assumption.
Lenders will present only one (or at most a few) LOIs to the prospect, but the proposal discussion script allows the lender to propose and receive feedback on multiple scenarios and conditions.
Even the most seasoned commercial lenders with years of experience can benefit from drafting and practicing a sales script. Scripting and practicing allow lenders to concentrate on what the client is saying instead of the next question to ask or how to overcome the next objection. Scripting also keeps your ideas fresh – what worked for you ten years ago may not work today because of the difference in competition, different levels of interest rates or changes the industry. A well-honed and practiced script can be an asset to any commercial lender.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on August 09, 2016