While this could be intimidating in an already competitive broker industry, we think it's what makes it an exciting time to be in the market.
Having well-informed customers allows for healthy competition between each player in the ecosystem. Customers are happier because they've got access to plenty of information, putting the power back in their hands. When customers have all the facts in front of them before making a decision, they can get a sense of which offers are competitive and which ones aren't worth exploring.
Smarter, savvier customers also means that brokers are able to spend more time discussing the complex, difficult-to-understand details of a loan product to their client. The more a client understands about the loan they're taking on, the less likely they are to get caught out by hidden fees and charges in the small print. These details can ultimately help your client manage their loan better, and can increase client satisfaction.
Further, be sure to provide your potential clients with the right resources to make a decision about whether you're the right broker for them. Supporting small business owners is a great way to show your existing client base that you can help them with a range of financial needs - not just their home loan - thereby saving them time, money, stress and hours of research.
Know your responsible lending obligations
First things first: do the right thing by the customer.
At Valiant Finance, we talk about 'being customer champions'.
What does that mean?
It means that fees and commissions on particular financial products make absolutely no difference to a customer's ability to comfortably service a loan.
And what's our first priority?
Ensuring that the customer can comfortably service any loan that we recommend to them. If they can't service a loan, it's not the right time and we make sure that we tell them so. We want to see small businesses grow and succeed, rather than let business owners struggle with debt that isn't suited to their circumstances, and that's part of our commitment to our customers.
Think about developing a core value for your practice that defines how you interact with your customers. If you have a simple statement that reminds you of your responsible lending obligations, and you have it posted somewhere prominently in your office, you're more likely to keep the customer's best interests in mind when making a recommendation.
Smarter sales techniques
Taking a 'hard sales' approach to growing your client base isn't the right move for every broker.
Take the time to build personal connections with your clients. Ask questions that encourage the client to share details about their family, friends, strengths, weaknesses, short and long term goals.
At the end of the day, the client's financial matters aren't isolated from the rest of their life. The more you know about the client's personal and professional situation, the more personalised you can be with your advice. At the same time, always be mindful of the client's privacy and don't worry if you don't get everything you need upfront. You can work on building rapport with the client and ask those questions when they feel more comfortable sharing information with you.
If you're ready to offer hyper-personalised, quality service to the client, make sure they leave that first meeting knowing what you can do for them. Have you explained your skill set? Have you developed marketing materials that illustrate your strengths? Does the client understand how you will add value to their business? Conveying these aspects of your practice should always be on the agenda.
Put yourself in your client's position
It can be easy to forget that you're in a unique position. As a broker, you've got the expertise and market know-how to find solutions for your clients every day of the week.
Your client is coming to you because they don't have these skills. In fact, most people don't have the skills that you have!
This might be a huge decision for your client, and it's not just a financial decision; it's an emotional one too. Your client's finances impact the future they're able to build for themselves and the people they care about, and they're asking you to help them make smart financing decisions in order to achieve their goals.
Remember this whenever you meet a client for the first time. If you were in their position, what reassurances would you be looking for? What questions would you ask? What questions might you forget to ask because you're nervous? Perhaps you could pre-empt some of those questions and start to build trust with the client. Think about the small things you can do that will have a tangible impact on the client's experience of working with you.
Network smarter, not harder
Every client is unique. No matter how many years you're practicing as a broker, there's still a chance that a client will walk into your office with a problem that is completely foreign to you. These clients offer a great intellectual challenge, but require strong networks in order to provide a solution.
Deep networks in the industry can be tricky to build, but pay dividends in the long run.
The great thing about having strong professional relationships with people who are working in your space is that they can offer advice and learnings from their practice, which might save you making the same mistakes yourself.
It's also likely that there are learnings you're having with your own clients which you're able to share with your network in return. Fast-track your learning by connecting with people who are experiencing the same challenges as you.
Remember that referrals are powerful
Taking the time to engage a broker is a big deal. Your client is making the decision to open up their finances to you, which can make them feel extremely vulnerable. We share our financial details with very few people in our lives, so the decision to share these details (especially with someone that they don't already know and trust) is a huge step.
In light of this, always remember that empathy and trust and the key ingredients in any broker-client interaction. Financial acumen and industry know-how are important, but without empathy and trust, the client will continue to feel vulnerable.
When you're able to use your interpersonal skills to build a strong, trusting relationship with the client, they will be able to ask questions and be honest about how they're feeling. The greater the client experience, the more likely you are to receive a word-of-mouth referral from the client which can lead to future business and help you develop a strong client base.
In an industry where clients are handing over sensitive information, there's a tendency to stick to brokers who come highly recommended by family, friends and colleagues.
Remember: interpersonal skills are the key to referrals (and referrals are powerful).
Define your communication style
As you already know, communication is integral to success as a broker. On any given day, you have to communicate with a number of parties, which can be inherently stressful! Clear communication at every stage of the process is vital for a seamless customer experience.
Imagine you were one of your clients. What kind of experience do you create for them?
Don't be shy to ask your customer how they prefer to be communicated with. Some customers will want an in-person meeting every time, while others will be happy with a phone call during certain hours. Some customers will want updates via text message, while others might want a comprehensive wrap-up via email at the end of each week. The best way to avoid confusion or disappointment is to ask them about their preferences in the first meeting. Not only does this show that you respect the client, but it also demonstrates that you want to help them succeed with as little stress and discomfort as possible.
Invest in yourself: up-skilling is a game-changer
How often do you take time out for yourself, for the sole purpose of learning more about your craft? In a world of ever-changing interest rates, complex lender policies and varying client demands, it's difficult to keep up. Equally, it's hard to find the time to invest in yourself, especially when your first priority is customer service.
When a client walks into your office, you have to be equipped with the knowledge to deliver great customer service. There might be parts of the advice that you want to think about, research further, or make some enquiries into. However, you still need a solid knowledge base in order to engage the client when you first meet them. That knowledge and understanding is essential for building trust and rapport.
Schedule time to complete an online course, listen to a webinar, read an industry-specific research report, discover a new podcast, attend an industry event or grab a coffee with a mentor.
Taking an hour each week to support your own learning journey will help you position yourself for a strong career in the industry.
Take advantage of market-leading technology solutions
We've discussed forming strong professional relationships and investing in strategic networking, taking time to learn and diversify your knowledge base, sales techniques and defining your communication style.
But how do you find out whether your client is eligible for some of the most competitive small business financial products on the market?
Valiant Finance has built a market-leading platform that assesses the eligibility of your small business clients and finds a solution from our universe of 70+ lenders. Our proprietary algorithm takes note of the customer's preferences - from lowest rate through to fast funding - and recommends a loan option that they can comfortably service.
The best part? The client is always yours; we're just there to help you deliver exceptional customer service every single time.
If you're interested in giving yourself a competitive edge in the industry, give us a call on 1300 780 568.
Andrew is the Head of Third Party Distribution at Valiant Finance. He and has vast experience in finance, working with brokers, accountants and referral partners.