Early in my career I worked in field sales for an industrial supply company. We had what was called a ‘mini computer’ housed in a room about the size of my current office. I had a monitor on my desk that allowed me to access two or three reports regarding my territory, but that was about it. We weren’t very technical in those days.
I basically managed my territory from the seat of my pants. I used a Rolodex and a calendar along with a series of file folders to keep track of important bids, etc. I didn’t have a smartphone (or even a cell phone in those days). When I look at the tools available today, I was working in the dark ages—and stuff sometimes fell through the cracks—although I wish I could say it didn’t.
That was over thirty years ago.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and CRM software make it much easier to keep track of potential customers, pending orders, deals in progress, and next steps better than ever before. When small business loan officers have access to the right tools, there’s almost no excuse for a potential small business loan to get left behind. With that in mind, here are the core competencies I believe any tool designed to help a small business loan department must have:
- Was it designed for financial institutions or is it a retrofit of something else? Although I don’t think the basic processes a loan officer goes through are significantly different than any other sales-related professional, they are different enough that it makes sense to use something designed to help small business loan officers—from the ground up. For example, what it takes to sell widgets to manufacturers isn’t the same thing as following a small business loan through sales, underwriting, and funding.
- Does it keep track of all loan data in once place? That’s really the problem with the old-school methods I used early in my career. Floating pieces of paper hiding in folders, notepads, and sticky-notes, tend to get lost and misplaced. Have you ever spent 20-30 minutes hunting for a note you couldn’t find? And, it always seems like the more important the note, the harder it is to find it. Technology, and specifically cloud-based technology, allows us to access information on multiple devices almost anywhere in the world. When everything is in one place, loan officers can have all the information they need to close loans at their fingertips.
- Will it foster better customer relationships? I once worked with a realtor who was never forthcoming with progress on the sale of our home. She never returned my phone calls. She always made excuses for what she didn’t do, that she said she would do. When she didn’t sell my home and I wasn’t contractually obligated to her any more, I found a new realtor. I don’t think I’m alone when expressing a lot of frustration about this particular scenario. In my opinion, part of helping loan officers find success is helping them keep track of conversations (both over the phone and online), giving them visibility into loan progress so they can share what’s going on with their loan customers, and automatically prompting them about commitments they’ve made to their customers and what they should do next. When loan officers are able to foster good relationships with their customers it’s good for them, it’s good for their customers, and it’s good for financial institutions.
- Does it force me to completely redesign my sales process? If it does, you shouldn’t buy it. There were reasons I did things the way I did them and I would never have adopted a new system that forced me to completely change the way I did business. The right tool might require a minor adjustment here and there, but it shouldn’t require you to change your entire sales process.
I don’t think there are many lenders who would disagree with me when I suggest access to capital is one of the biggest challenges faced by small business owners today. There will be many we can’t help for one reason or another, but anything we can do to help as many as possible is a good idea.
I like the idea of no small business loan left behind. If you’d like to see what Lendio is doing about it, click HERE.