Author: Pat True, RTrue@profitstars.com
If you ask financial institutions from across the country how loan demand is going, the answers will vary greatly based on the location and the industries that support the region. Some institutions have seen significant growth in both real estate and commercial lending, while others are still struggling to expand their portfolios. While average portfolio balances have grown across the country this year, your financial institution reflects the local market rather than the national market. In order for your institution to be successful, your lenders must retain existing relationships and win new ones, regardless of local conditions. There is a great quote from the British historian, Edward Gibbon, which expresses this well.
“The wind and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.”
The question for you is – how can your lending officers become the ablest navigators? How can they succeed in spite of local market circumstances? How can they protect relationships and grow portfolios even when others struggle? Here are six action steps your lending officers can take today to engineer success in the coming year.
- Protect your turf. Reach out to all business clients in the portfolio during the next 60 days, even if it is just to say hello and see how things are going. If your lenders are not calling on current customers on a regular basis, you can rest assured that someone else is. You might be surprised to see how many cross selling opportunities come from these goodwill visits.
- Develop a Center of Influence (COI) network. This would include networking with local market CPA’s, attorneys, business consultants, CFO’s for hire, SCORE representatives, and many more. A strong, sales oriented lending officer sees the COI market as the feeder pipeline for new relationships.
- Ask for referrals at EVERY VISIT. Numbers 1 and 2 above are critical, but during all of the conversations that take place during those calls, your lenders absolutely must ask for referrals. If someone is not willing to give a referral it means that either, a: they do not know anyone (which is highly unlikely) or, b: they are unhappy with the service they have received. If it is b, your lender needs to get to the root of that issue. Don’t be afraid to ask for more business.
- Become a student of the game. Your lending officers should know which industries are dominant, and which areas you would like to grow your portfolio. Help them create an environment where they can look like experts in those areas. Sources such as First Research provide excellent sales call questions and industry insight. Find an information source you like and arm your lenders with this tool for success.
- Know the rules of engagement. In order to be successful, your lending officers must have a clear line of communication to management. More importantly, they must have a clear vision of corporate goals and objectives. Take the current rate environment as an example. Your lenders need to know the institutions strategy for winning rate sensitive deals. If they do not, then they will be at a disadvantage. You would not send a soldier into the field without proper ammunition and guidance – so don’t send your lenders. Make sure they know they are critical members of your team, and arm them with all necessary information.
- Consider a joint calling strategy between two product lines in your institution or between your lenders and third party vendor relationships. Very often, lending officers who are reluctant to make cold calls can do much better when sharing the effort with another sales professional. Some product vendors, such as the ProfitStars Lending Solutions team, make joint calls with their clients to build new relationships. Within larger financial institution, this is also a great way to network two or more sales teams through in-house referrals.
Not every lending officer is a great salesperson – but if managed and trained properly, they can become proficient at growing your portfolio. With guidance from your management team, your lenders can work to become the “able navigators” they need to be in order to succeed in 2015.