Finding new borrowers is a challenge in the day-to-day combat to work through loan applications and get deals funded. With everyone deluged with too many emails and snail mail being too expensive, finding more reliable and cost effective ways to develop a steady list of prospects is difficult.
“Business Lender Sales” is my occasional column to offer ideas, strategies and best practices to find new clients to keep your business pipeline full.
When the opportunity or necessity to network presents itself, do you handle it well, or is it a big, fat failure? In-person networking – chamber gatherings, public events, trade associations, etc. — are a great way to meet and mingle with potential clients, peers and mentors. If you’ve been in banking for at least 2-3 years, this drill should be familiar, but if you aren’t achieving any results, here are five mistakes to avoid that may be spoiling your efforts.
Being overly aggressive. Trying to initiate a relationship with the mannerisms of a used car salesman will immediately turn off everyone around you. You want to wind up known, but not for being pushy or annoying. Rather try asking questions about what other people do rather than talking only about yourself. Listen to their answers instead of waiting for your turn to talk. And don’t worry, they’ll get around to asking about you soon enough.
Focusing only on best contacts. There are often people in the room that everyone wants to talk to – the event speaker, CEO of a large company or a well-known, successful entrepreneur. But there’s likely others worth talking with as well. Don’t follow the crowd already rushing to the big names but rather circulate and find other people who also have useful information and are worth meeting.
Trying too hard to impress. Some people overcompensate for their discomfort meeting strangers by representing themselves to be more important than they really are. It’s tempting to inflate your verbal resume but chances are people will find out the truth eventually, making you look foolish. Be yourself. You’ll gain more respect and make genuine connections.
Staying quiet. It can be overwhelming to be surrounded by a room full of people you don’t know. But don’t let that keep you from talking to people. Start slowly by walking up to someone else standing alone and make an innocuous remark like, “it’s a good crowd here tonight,” or something similar to break the ice. The goal is to start a conversation.
You’ll know soon whether the person you approached is interested in talking or not. If not, wrap-up in a friendly tone and move on. Chances are that there are others in the room as uncomfortable as you and will appreciate your approach.
Not being prepared. Eventually, someone will ask you what your business is about. This is your chance to talk about you and reveal why you’re there. Be ready with a brief explanation, have a business card ready to share and be prepared to answer any questions that might come your way.
Show some enthusiasm and go into more detail if the response from your conversation partner is positive and be sure to reciprocate and ask about their business. The best kind of networking is an exchange of information, ideas and resources.
As you get out into more networking activities, your comfort level will increase and these conversations will become natural and easy. Your efforts will be rewarded with more business leads and deal flow.