In the course of your work as an SBA lender, you’ve likely run into every personality type under the sun. Realistically, you’ll like some of them and others, not so much. How much each of them knows about the financial side of running a business will vary considerably. Some may come from business or financial backgrounds. Others may have lived past lives as professional botanists or floutists whose talents lie squarely in the camp of flowers and flutes and not in the camps of capital or cash flow. As many of them lack a preexisting knowledge of business finances and operations, it’s not at all surprising that even fewer of them know the ins and outs of finding and securing an SBA loan.
Manage the Intersection of Embattled Entrepreneurs and Their Cash Flow
Whoever they are and whoever they’ve been in a past life, your clients now run small businesses, and the learning curve is steep. The sheer amount of what they must manage on a routine basis that has nothing to do with the work that inspired them to go into business in the first place is quite staggering. And, even if they have made it so far as to apply and secure the loan, your clients have hardly made it to the Promised Land. Sure, SBA loans are great because they require less of your clients money to be invested on the front-end of the deal, provide capital in situations where it might not otherwise be available, conventionally, and provide an ample window of time in which to pay the loan back at incredibly low rates. But your clients still have to pay it back, and they likely have many miles of road in front of them before they feel that their businesses are established and successful.
For some, the challenges facing new businesses paint a bleak picture. As the SBA lender at the intersection of entrepreneurs, their passions, tough odds, and their game-changing SBA loans, you are in an interesting position. And it’s made all the more interesting by the fact that small businesses can choose their lender for SBA loans. A good choice in lenders can make all the difference for a young, growing business and its owners. Your clients need all the help they can get, and you have a distinct opportunity to maximize your business by being a good steward in your relationships with these borrowers.
Retain and Grow Your SBA Clientele
Be yourself. It may be a business relationship, and it may be a financial institution that is backing the loan, but your clients’ relationship with you, their lender, is with you as much if not more than it is with the bank. You want to remind your client that you are that real human being whom they can call on the phone or meet in person when they have questions. Then you must make sure you are available when they reach out. It may be a good idea to schedule calls with your clients when the relationship is new, just to introduce yourself and let them know that you are there to support them should they need something. You are working with them to not just make a loan, but to be a part of their team. Small gestures like that can go a long way in boosting the relationship and building and strengthening customer loyalty.
Don’t discount how much you can increase your business with current clients by overlooking them to focus solely/largely on securing new clients. Tend carefully to the relationships you have built and developed. By being a rockstar at customer service, not only are you boosting your financial institution’s reputation and image, you are sowing the seeds of lifelong clients and repeat clients as well.
Helping your clients manage their expectations is key to helping them have a more positive relationship with their SBA loan and with you. Knowing what to expect helps them learn, helps them prepare for more complex matters down the road, familiarize them with the proper paperwork, saves them time, and helps them avoid frustration and stress. As you know, getting approved for the loan is only part of the process. Your clients also need to find their way to the closing table. Help them better negotiate the process by sending them regular reminders and a heads-up here and there about unusual or unanticipated requirements regarding the necessary procedures, documents, and deadlines. This is a small but impactful way to be of assistance and reduces the inevitable but unwelcome surprises.
Remember, too, that an SBA loan facilitates critical activity for your clients. Depending on the client and the loan, your client could be using the funds for big moves like acquiring another company or securing a new building for expanded operations, or the client could be using the money for more routine things like buying inventory or supplies. Your clients need this money to do business, and getting caught in the red tape of the loan closing process can be frustrating and makes everything that much more difficult. Don’t discount how powerful your assistance can be in getting them through the loan process smoothly. Access to funding is essential in their effort to survive and grow, and you can connect them to those dollars faster.
Provide guidance and support.
It’s not just about demonstrating to your clients that you are a real human (not a robot) and providing them with little reminders and pointers here and there. You really want to lean in and position yourself as someone upon whom your clients can rely for guidance and support. Making yourself available as an ally who helps your clients navigate the loan experience will inspire trust. And going above and beyond when they need a financial professional to consult will establish you as unparalleled in your field.
When it comes time for your client to take out another SBA loan, or your client gets a call from other business owners in their network about which lender to use for their own loans, you’ll be top of mind as the lender of choice.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Suggesting to you that you crank up your customer-service game may not seem like particularly ground-breaking advice, but think about the opportunity you have to be of enormous help to a group that has already put their trust in you. And the key to taking fundamentals in customer service to the next level starts by putting yourself in their shoes. Because you facilitate the loans, you know the unique challenges small business owners face, the lack of financial experience they often bring to entrepreneurship, and what they may be going through on a typical day. So, in addition to being an empathetic figure, you have the insights required to provide targeted assistance that helps your clients beat the odds, thrive in business, and bring you deals for years to come.