3 Steps to Removing the Surprising Skeletons in Your Customer’s Closet

Imagine you’re a mortgage lender, and you’re looking into the financial background and stability of a potential customer. That customer has told you that they have only $200,000 left in their $1M loan from 15 years ago, and are ready to sell, and buy another property. Sounds good so far.

After speaking with the customer for a few minutes, asking them to provide documentation, and digging a little deeper, you decide you may not want to work with the customer.

In addition to the fact that their remaining mortgage is actually more than $200K, they recently bought a property for another family member, have a line of credit open (and in the red) for $25,000 for their small business, and a few debts remaining for their kids’ college education.

All of a sudden, that family’s financial stability is rocky at best.

Why is it that customers don’t disclose this information? Are they trying to hide it?

Probably not. In fact, most of the time, customers don’t really know what you’re looking for, or they’ve pushed some decisions under the couch for so long, they forget it even applies to their present-day life.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure you don’t find those skeletons in their closets too late:

  1. Make sure you have some sort of intake document: get as much information as you can about your customer up front and as soon as you can. Before working with any client, I ask them to fill out a pretty lengthy intake questionnaire that asks some difficult questions and makes them think about their business or personal life in more depth than they might have before. The intake uncovers items for both you and your customer and builds trust from the onset of the relationship.
  2.  Ask the random questions during your initial discussions. You’re the mortgage lender in the example above. Having experienced digging deeper and finding the skeletons, use those as examples to provide to future customers – “did you buy a property in the last few months?” “Do you have any other debt, no matter how small?”
  3. Ask them why they want to work with you specifically: this might get back to your own marketing campaigns, but what specifically makes this customer want to work with you, amongst all other mortgage lenders or large banks? Is it because they expect you to work some magic that may not be possible? These are the types of red flags you can watch out for in those first discussions, that they might not state outright.
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