How To Engage SME Clients And Make It Profitable

Alex Molloy

Monday, 20 August 2018

At Valiant, we love working with brokers.

We're fortunate to work with brokers that are passionate about getting their client a great deal, and supporting them along the way. Lots of the brokers we work with understand the power of a word-of-mouth referral and are looking for ways to offer exceptional customer service.

If you're a broker who has mastered working with customers and delivering an exceptional customer experience every time, that's a phenomenal achievement. But what's the next step?

It's time to diversify your customer base, keep your clients engaged, and ensure your practice is profitable.

If you're just getting started with offering small business advisory to your clients, you might want to check out How To Boost Your Business As A Small Business Broker.

Know your niche

As a broker, you understand the power of great customer service. You're always working overtime to ensure your clients are getting the support they need to make smart financing decisions.

However, many brokers get caught up trying to do everything across many areas, even if it's not their area of specialisation.

On the one hand, this seems logical. You want to go out of your way to show the client that you can get the best outcome for them. On the other hand, it can be really problematic. By trying to service a client in an area that you don't specialise in, you could be exposing yourself to reputational risk.

Understanding your niche goes hand-in-hand with having the right resources to service your customers. If you know the extent to which you can comfortably service customers with your existing expertise, you'll be able to identify service providers from other parts of the industry that can help you deliver a great experience across the board.

For example, we work with many brokers who are experts in the residential mortgage space. They have lots of clients who intrinsically trust them with their property-related financial matters. But many of these clients also have businesses or commercial arrangements that require them to seek business finance from time to time.

If the broker was to recommend another broker in the industry, they risk losing the customer. However, if the broker surrounded themselves with the right resources to service their business customers, they can cement their position as the go-to for every financial need their clients might have.

We help brokers deliver exceptional customer service to their small business customers, even when it's not their area of expertise.

Focus on relationships, not sales

Just like the small business owners you work with, you've got your own marketing budget to contend with. Finding new clients can be difficult and expensive, whether you're using traditional marketing or investing in digital channels.

It is much cheaper to retain existing clients by offering exceptional customer service than it is to be chasing new clients all the time. Further, happy clients are more likely to speak positively about you when their family, friends, and colleagues need a recommendation. Word-of-mouth referrals are absolute gold for brokers, as financial matters are deeply personal and a recommendation means the customer was satisfied with your financial acumen, ability to navigate their dilemma and sensitivity when the time came to make a decision.

What does this mean for you?

It means that building strong professional relationships and putting energy into strategic networking will pay dividends in the long run, compared to ad-hoc transaction-based sales interactions.

Be kind to the competition

Customers are savvier than ever, and there's a strong chance they're doing their research and shopping around. There's an extremely high likelihood that your potential customers are consulting your competitors, so be gracious when you're talking about other brokers and aggregators in the industry.

Successful broking comes down to strong relationship management; not just with your customers, but with your fellow brokers too.

Customers value fair and honest information about the industry, and they want to hear about how you can add value to their personal or commercial finances. Steer clear of defamatory statements or speaking negatively of other brokers the customer might be shortlisting.

Take a positive approach, and outline how you're different from the competition and therefore the best person to source the best outcome for the client. You'll earn the customer's trust and respect in the process.

Get comfortable with uncertainty

Finding finance for a small business owner can be challenging. It's a complex space and nothing is certain, and as a result, your client will be feeling anxious as they await an outcome.

The process could range from a same-day unsecured arrangement, through to a twelve-month business acquisition process. The client might be negotiating with one party while sourcing finance for when the negotiations are finalised. This adds a layer of complexity and uncertainty that can be unsettling for both the client and the broker.

This doesn't have to be the undoing of your professional relationship with your client. You can add a great deal of value by supporting them along the journey. You already know that while you help your client with their financial matters, they may also be experiencing an emotional rollercoaster.

Be prepared to ask the client how they're feeling about the transaction and open up clear communication channels. You'll benefit from getting direct feedback from the client, and you'll be able to gauge whether they feel positive about your service.

Price isn't everything

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that price is king. While competitive interest rates are very important, there is so much more at play when it comes to providing exceptional customer experiences.

The average small business owner is managing a range of accounts and financial arrangements and as a result, their financial matters can be very complex. Be sure to ask the client a range of questions about the outcome they're seeking, rather than assuming you need to get them the lowest price.

For example, a client might have severe cash flow issues and will be unable to pay their debts if the loan isn't settled in the next fortnight. You have a look at their financial records and determine that while they are cash flow poor, a loan would plug a gap for the business rather than put the business owner into an unbreakable cycle of debt. You have this conversation with the business owner and explain everything to them.

At this point, you need to act quickly and find the optimum product at short notice. You will need to get the lowest rate you can in a short time frame, in order to keep this business on-the-road.

If you delayed the process in order to source the loan from the lender with the lowest interest rate, the business could be in hot water.

It's a balancing act; get the best outcome you possibly can, for this particular client, at short notice. For that reason, we say that price is important but it isn't always king.

Make sure you ask the right questions upfront so you know what a great outcome looks like for this particular client; it might be price, or it might be ease of repayments, or it might be a quick turnaround time. Asking the question upfront saves unnecessary confusion down the track.

Valiant can improve your service offering, opening up a new source of commission and helping you strengthen your reputation. Best of all, Valiant is free to use and is complementary to your existing products and services.

Give us a call on 1300 780 568 to request a product demo and find out how we can help.

Alex is the co-founder and CEO of Valiant Finance. He brings a wealth of experience from his time as a banking consultant at McKinsey, and has a background in Business and Law.

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