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Consultative Selling in Small Business Finance

October 16, 2019
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This story appeared in deBanked’s Sept/Oct 2019 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

consultative sellingIt’s nearly impossible to teach fiscal responsibility to most consumers, according to researchers at universities and nonprofit agencies. But alternative small-business funders and brokers often manage to steer clients toward financial prudence, and imparting pecuniary knowledge can become part of a consultative approach to selling.

Still, nobody says it’s easy to convince the public or merchants to handle cash, credit and debt wisely and responsibly. Consider the consumer research cited by Mariel Beasley, principal at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University and co-director of the Common Cents Lab, which works to improve the financial behavior of low- and moderate-income households.

“For the last 30 years in the U.S. there has been a huge emphasis on increasing financial education, financial literacy,” Beasley says. But it hasn’t really worked. “Content-based financial education classes only accounted for .1 percent variation in financial behavior,” she continues. “We like to joke that it’s not zero but it’s very, very close.” And that’s the average. Online and classroom financial education influences lower-income people even less.

The problem stems from trying to teach financial responsibility too late in life, says Noah Grayson, president and founder of Norwalk, Conn.-based South End Capital. He advocates introducing young people to finance at the same time they’re learning history, algebra and other standard subjects in school.

Yet Grayson and others contend that it’s never too late for motivated entrepreneurs to pick up the basics. Even novice small-business owners tend to possess a little more financial acumen than the average person, they say. That makes entrepreneurs easier to teach than the general public but still in need of coaching in the basics of handling money.

Take the example of a shopkeeper who grabs an offer of $50,000 with no idea how he’ll use the funds to grow the business or how he’ll pay the money back, suggests Cheryl Tibbs, general manager of One Stop Commercial Capital, Douglasville, Ga. “The easy access to credit blinds a lot of merchants,” she notes.

entrepreneur multitaskingEntrepreneurs often make bad decisions simply because they don’t have a background in business, according to Jared Weitz, CEO of New York based United Capital Source. “Many of the people who come to us are trying their hardest,” he observes.

Weitz offers the example of his own close relative who’s a veterinarian. That profession attracts some of the brainiest high-school valedictorians but doesn’t mean they know business. “He’s the best doctor ever and he’s not a great businessman because he doesn’t think about those things first. What he thinks about is helping people. That’s why he got into his profession.”

Entrepreneurs often devote themselves to a vision that isn’t businesses-oriented. “They start a business because they have a great idea or a great product, and that’s what excites them,” Grayson says. “They jump in with both feet and don’t think much about the business side.” The business side isn’t as much fun.

Merchants also attend to so many aspects of an enterprise—everything from sales, production and distribution to hiring, payroll and training—that they can’t afford to devote too much time to any single facet, notes Joe Fiorella, principal at Kansas City, Mo.-based Central Funding. Business owners respond to what’s most urgent, not necessarily what’s most important.

For whatever reason, some business owners spiral downward into financial ruin, bouncing checks, stacking merchant cash advances and continually seeking yet another merchant cash advance to bail them out of a precarious situation, says Jeremy Brown, chairman of Bethesda, Md.-based Rapid Advance.

consultation

Weitz advises sitting down with those clients and coming to an understanding of the situation. In some cases, enough cash might be coming in but the incoming autopayments aren’t timed to cover the outgoing autopayments, he says by way of example.

Informing clients of such problems makes a demonstrable difference. “We can see that it works because we have clients renewing with us,” says Weitz. “We’re able to swim them upstream to different products” as their finances gradually improve, he says.

The products in that stream begin with relatively higher-cost vehicles like merchant cash advances and proceed to other less-expensive instruments with better terms, says Brown. Those include term loans, Small Business Administration loans, equipment leasing, receivables factoring and, ultimately the goal for any well-capitalized small business—a relationship with the local bank.

Failing to consider those options and instead simply abetting stackers to make a quick buck can give the industry a “black eye,” and it benefits none of the parties involved, Tibbs observes. But merchants deserve as much blame as funders and brokers, she maintains.

Prospective clients who stack MCAs, don’t care about their credit rating and simply want to staunch their financial bleeding probably account for 35 percent to 40 percent of the applicants Tibbs encounters, she says.

Just the same, alt-funders continue to urge clients to hire accountants, consult attorneys, employ helpful software, shore up credit ratings, keep tabs on cash flow, calculate margins, improve distribution chains and outline plans for growth. It’s what helps the industry rise above the “get-money quick” image that it’s outgrowing, Weitz, says. Many funders and brokers consider providing financial advice an essential aspect of consultative selling. It’s an approach that begins with making sure applicants understand the debt they’re taking on, the terms of the payback and how their businesses will benefit from the influx of capital. It continues with a commitment to helping clients not just with funding but also with other types of business consultation.

“IT’S NOT SO MUCH SELLING AS BUILDING A RAPPORT WITH CLIENTS”

“It’s not so much selling as building a rapport with clients—serving as a strategic advisor or financial resource for them, identifying their needs and directing them to the right loan product to meet those needs,” says Grayson. “They should feel they can call you about anything specific to their business, not just their loan requests.” He also cautions against providing information the client will not absorb or will find offensive.

Justin Bakes, CEO of Boston-based Forward Financing also advocates consultative selling. “It’s all about questions and getting information on what’s driving the business owner,” he says. “It’s a process.”

Consultative sales hinges on knowing the customer, agrees Jason Solomon, Forward Financing vice president of sales. “Businesses are never similar in the mind of the business owner,” he notes. “To effectively structure a program best-suited to the merchant’s long-time business needs and set a proper path forward to better and better financial products, you need to know who the business owner is and what his long term goals are.”

“I LIKE TO TEACH NEW REPS TO THINK OF IT AS IF YOU WERE A DOCTOR”

“It’s taking an approach of actually being a consultant as opposed to a $7 an hour order taker,” Tibbs says of consultative selling. “I like to teach new reps to think of it as if you were a doctor. Doctors ask questions to arrive at a final diagnosis. So if you’re asking your prospective customer questions about their business, about their cash flow, about their intentions of how they’re planning to get back on track.”

Learning about the clients’ business helps brokers recommend the least-expensive funding instrument, Tibbs says. “I really hate to see someone with a 700 credit score come in to get a merchant cash advance,” she maintains. The consultative approach requires knowing the funding products, knowing how to listen to the customer and combining those two elements to make an informed decision on which product to recommend, she notes.

coachingConsultative sales can greatly benefit clients, Weitz maintains. If a pizzeria proprietor asks for an expensive $50,000 cash advance to buy a new oven, a responsible broker may find the applicant qualifies for an equipment loan with single-digit interest and monthly payments over a five-year period that puts less pressure on daily cash flow.

It’s also about pointing out errors. Brokers and funders see common mistakes when they look at tax returns and financial records, says Brown. “The biggest issue is that small-business owners—because they work so hard— make a profit of X amount of money and then take that out of the business,” he notes. Instead, he advises reinvesting a portion of those funds so that they can build equity in the business and avoid the need to seek outside capital at high rates.

Another common error occurs when entrepreneurs take a short-term approach to their businesses instead of making longer-term plans, Brown says. That longer-term vision includes learning what it takes to improve their businesses enough to qualify for lower-cost financing.

Sometimes, small merchants also make the mistake of blending their personal finances and their business dealings. Some do it out of necessity because they’re launching an enterprise on their personal credit cards, and others act of ignorance. “They don’t necessarily know they’re doing something wrong,” Grayson observes. “There are tax ramifications.”

Some just don’t look at their businesses objectively. Take the example of a company that approached Central Funding for capital to buy inventory in Asia. Fiorella studied the numbers and then informed the merchant that it wasn’t a money problem—it was a margins problem. “You could sell three times what you’re wanting to buy, and you still won’t get to where you want to be,” he reports telling the potential customer.

Consultative selling also means establishing a long-term relationship. Forward Financing uses technology to keep in contact with clients regularly, not just when clients need capital, Bakes notes. That cultivates long-lasting relationships and shows the company cares. As the relationship matures it becomes easier to maintain because the customers want to talk to the company. “They’re running to pick up the phone.”

The conversations that don’t hinge on funding usually center on Forward Financing learning more about the customer’s business, says Solomon. That include the client’s needs and how they’ve used the capital they’ve received.

“We have our own internal cadence and guidelines for when we reach out and how often and what happens,” says Solomon. Customer relationship management technology provides triggers when it’s time for the sales team or the account-servicing team to contact clients by phone or email.

Do small-business owners take advice on their finances? Some need a steady infusion of capital at increasingly higher cost and simply won’t heed the best tips, says Solomon. “It’s certainly a mix,” he says. “Not everybody is going to listen.”

Paradoxically, the business owners most open to advice already have the best-run companies, says Fiorella. Those who are closed to counseling often need it the most, he declares.

“NEW BROKERS ARE SO EXCITED TO GET A COMMISSION CHECK THEY THROW THE CONSULTATIVE APPROACH OUT THE WINDOW”

Moreover, not everybody is taking the consultative approach. “New brokers are so excited to get a commission check they throw the consultative approach out the window,” Tibbs says.

Yet many alt-funders bring consultative experience from other professions into their work with providing funds to small business. Tibbs, for example, previously helped home buyers find the best mortgage.

Consultative selling came naturally to Central Funding because the company started as a business and analytics consultancy called Blue Sea Services and then transformed itself into an alternative funding firm, says Fiorella. Central Funding reviews clients’ financial statements and operations between rounds of funding, he notes.

Consultations with borrowers reach an especially deep level at PledgeCap, a Long Island-based asset-based lender, because clients who default have to forfeit the valuables they put up as collateral—anything from a yacht to a bulldozer—says Gene Ayzenberg, PledgeCap’s chief operating officer. Conversations cover the value of the assets and the risk of losing them as well as the reasons for seeking capital, he notes.

No matter how salespeople arrive at their belief in the consultative approach, they last much longer in the business than their competitors who are merely seeking a quick payoff, Tibbs says. Others contend that it’s clearly the best way to operate these days.

“TODAY, EVERYTHING IS ABOUT THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE”

“The consultative approach is the only one that works,” says Weitz. “Today, everything is about the customer experience. People are making more-educated, better informed decisions.” What’s more, with the consultative approach clients just keep getting smarter, he adds.

The days of the hard sell have ended, Grayson agrees. Customers have access to information on the internet, and brokers and funders can prosper by helping customers, he says. “Our compensation doesn’t vary much depending upon which product we put a client in so we can dig deeper into what will fit the client without thinking about what the economic benefit will be to us.”

Even though the public has become familiar with alternative financing in general, most haven’t learned the nuances. That’s where consultative selling can help by outlining the differing products now available for businesses with nearly any type of credit-worthiness. “It’s for everybody,” Weitz says of today’s alternative small business funding, “not just a bank turn-down.”

Do You Need a Mentor?

June 11, 2019
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mentorship“You don’t need a f-ing mentor,” is the opening line of a short online video delivered to camera by Gary Vaynerchuk, the celebrated high energy marketing and sales guru. In the video, he concludes by saying: “Enough with the mentor horseshit. Go f-ing execute. There’s unlimited free mentors on f-ing YouTube. Go f-ing work.”

A discussion with industry insiders suggests that Vaynerchuk’s sentiment is somewhat controversial.

“Without mentorships, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am now,” said Josh Feinberg, co-founder of New Hampshire-based Everlasting Capital, a brokerage that has twice made it onto the Inc. 500/5000 list of the fastest growing U.S. companies, ranked #323 in 2017.

“Mentorship doesn’t just mean asking people for advice,” Feinberg said. “It means being able to build relationships with people who are on a greater level.”

For instance, Feinberg said that he and co-founder of BFS Capital, Cathy Bass, would speak about how she and others grew BFS, how they go to market and what is most important to them.

“And I was able to implement some of that into my own company,” Feinberg said.

Joe Cohen, who runs Business Finance Advance, a brokerage in Brooklyn, said he has mentored dozens of people, mostly his employees, throughout his career.

“You have to instill a solid work ethic,” Cohen said. “And you have to lead by example. Not by dictating, ‘You do this.’”

As for Vaynerchuk’s assertion that there are “unlimited free mentors on YouTube,” David Korchak, Managing Member of Primary Capital, a funder in Brooklyn, makes a clear distinction between a social media celebrity and a mentor.

mentorship concept“I don’t understand how anyone can say they have a mentor in someone with two million followers on Instagram,” Korchak said. “What did this person do for you? Maybe he helped you get to the gym in the morning…but that’s inspiration, that’s not mentorship. That’s the difference between someone posting a video on Instagram and someone sitting down with you at a desk and showing you ‘This is where you made a mistake. This is how you can make sure you don’t do that again, and this is how you can make it better for the future.’ That’s not inspiration, that’s guidance. And a mentor is a guide for you.”

But Chad Otar, a veteran MCA broker in New York, said that he agrees with what Vaynerchuk was trying to communicate in his video

“You can have a mentor,” Otar said. “But at the end of the day, you have to put your blood, sweat and grit into it. A mentor can only do so much.”

When asked if Otar has a mentor, he said it’s his brother, who introduced him to the MCA industry. This leads to the question of who can or ought to be one’s mentor?

“A mentor can be anyone in the industry who’s been there before,” Cohen said. “Someone who can tell you what’s going to happen if you do this and what’s going to happen if you do that.”

Cohen said that when he started out in sales years ago, his mentors were older colleagues of his on the sales floor.

“I saw in them commitment to the job and how they worked diligently to make every deal happen,” Cohen said. “They never gave up.”

Some ISO owners even pay to train their managers to be excellent mentors to their salespeople, like Edward Deangelis, founder of the fast-growing Pennsylvania-based brokerage, Amerifi.

Deangelis said that he has used Sandler Training for the last seven years, both for himself and his team. His managers go to Sandler Training’s management boot camps once or twice a month for 3 to 4 hours.

“They learn skill sets on how to be an excellent sales manager,” Deangelis said. “How to cultivate your team rather than just be a boss. And to really ask [their] salespeople what they’re struggling with.”

Deangelis also has a CEO coach that comes to the office once a month for him. He said that the coaching has helped him in many ways, including in his personal life.

Feinberg said that you really have to choose your mentors carefully because a lot of people can talk themselves up into being something they’re not. And he said that one person in the business who said he would guide Feinberg in the right direction ended up stealing his deals by the end of the relationship.    

“Look at media exposure,” Feinberg suggested. “If they seem big but you can’t find them in the news or you haven’t seen proof, it’s probably not someone to take advice from.”

Closers: Drink Up to 25 Cups of Coffee Per Day

June 3, 2019
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coffee is for closersDrink up closers! Research led by Professor Steffen Petersen from Queen Mary’s William Harvey Research Institute suggests that drinking coffee is not that bad for your heart.

The study examined more than 8,000 people across three groups of coffee drinkers, those drinking less than 1 cup per day, those drinking 1-3 cups per day, and those drinking more than 3 cups per day. Those surveyed in the 3rd group drank an average of 5 cups of coffee per day but multiple people reported drinking as much as 25 cups per day (or even more!). Even for them, “no increased stiffening of arteries was associated with those who drank up to this high limit when compared with those who drank less than one cup a day,” the report said.

Wow!

Although the report did not reveal the identities of those surveyed, deBanked suspects the individuals drinking 25 cups of coffee per day are sales closers. For one, these individuals clearly did not put the coffee down.

Dr Kenneth Fung, who led the data analysis for the research at Queen Mary University of London, said “Whilst we can’t prove a causal link in this study, our research indicates coffee isn’t as bad for the arteries as previous studies would suggest.”

The Road Back to Residual Commissions

May 17, 2019
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phil dushey
Phil Dushey, President, Global Financial Services

“We’re still getting resids from a company 14 years later.” That’s what Phil Dushey said about a factoring client he has at Global Financial Services, a New York-based financial brokerage firm he founded.

He was speaking at deBanked’s “Broker Fair” to a room filled mostly with MCA brokers. Years ago, in the early stages of the merchant cash advance industry, brokers would earn residual payments from credit card processing companies when the merchants were converted from one merchant account to another to make the advance possible. Brokers also got residuals from MCA funders that would pay them over time as the merchant paid back.

Now that MCA companies rarely ever rely on credit processors and since they started to offer brokers their entire commission upfront, the concept of residual payments for MCA brokers became history. But for MCA brokers interested in broadening their product offering, residuals can resurface as a revenue stream if they embrace factoring.

Dushey later conceded that residuals from a factoring client lasting 14 years is highly unusual. What is common, though, is to get residuals that last four to five years, he said.

Edward DeAngelis
Ed DeAngelis, CEO, Amerifi

Ed DeAngelis, founder of Amerifi, a brokerage of 12 in Pennsylvania, said that brokers’ residual payments can be anywhere from 8% to 15% of what the factor collects from the merchant. He presented what he said was a realistic example of a merchant factoring a $100,000 invoice. The factor might typically take a 2% factoring fee, or $2,000. And the broker might take 10% of that amount, or $200, for every month that the invoice is outstanding.

“It’s a steady drip that makes a puddle,” DeAngelis said.

Of course, for a larger invoice, like for $500,000, the broker would get $1,000 a month, as long as the client keeps factoring. But DeAngelis said that most factoring companies have a one year agreement and that most clients stay with their factoring company for two to three years. And some, like Dushey’s client, stay for as many as 15 years. Since DeAngelis opened his brokerage two years ago, he said that all of his factoring clients are still in their agreements.

Eyal Lifshitz, CEO of BlueVine, one of the larger factoring companies, said that MCA brokering definitely pays more upfront, whereas factoring is more about building a book of business.

“There are factoring brokers that make quite a lot, but I would say they probably focus on larger deals,” Lifshitz said.

Lifshitz wouldn’t disclose the average size of a BlueVine factoring deal, but his estimation was that the industry average was $250,000 to $500,000.

“What we’re trying to build is a 20 to 30 year sustainable business,” DeAngelis said. “…So we’re trying to build those small residuals because five years from now, who knows? With regulations [in] cash advance, it may not be around. We’re already diversifying our portfolio with all these other traditional products so we’re not cash advance dependent.”

Not all brokers of factoring deals make residuals, according to Frank Capozza, founder of LiquidFSI, which provides factoring services to doctors offices. He said that he works with select brokers and they generally don’t get residual payments from his company. Instead, he pays them an origination fee.

Still, it seems more common for brokers of factoring deals to receive residuals. But it might not be for everyone.

For MCA brokers interested in also offering factoring, Lifshitz said: “They need to understand the product and what merchant could fit the criteria. It is more complex to understand than MCAs in my opinion.”

Learn From Josh Feinberg and Will Murphy in Person at Broker Fair

April 16, 2019
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You’ve seen them on social media. Now you can see them in person. Josh Feinberg and Will Murphy of Everlasting Capital will be doing a joint presentation on how to scale your broker shop at Broker Fair on May 6th at The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

Josh Will Everlasting Capital

Limited tickets are still available. Register now at Brokerfair.org

The Everlasting Capital co-founders will be presenting at 3:15pm on May 6th in the Promenade Suite. To view the full agenda, CLICK HERE.


  • Brokers

    Access to the conference as a broker
  • Full access to the May 6th conference
  • Complimentary access to the post-event cocktails on the rooftop of The Roosevelt Hotel
  • Your conference badge will identify you as a broker
  • Funders/Lenders

    Access to the conference as a capital provider
  • Full access to the May 6th conference
  • Complimentary access to the post-event cocktails on the rooftop of The Roosevelt
  • Your conference badge will identify you as a direct capital provider
  • General Admission

    Access to the conference as a third party
  • Full access to the May 6th conference
  • Complimentary access to the post-event cocktails on the rooftop at The Roosevelt

What Am I?

Broker

  • You are employed by a non-bank business financing Broker/ISO — OR — You are an independent sales agent
  • You are NOT employed by a direct lender or direct funder
  • Broker Fair reserves the right to verify your selection.
  • Your conference badge will identify you as a broker

Funder/Lender

  • You are employed by a direct capital provider whether it’s loans, merchant cash advances, factoring, or other products
  • Your conference badge will identify you as a direct capital provider

General Admission

  • You are not employed by a broker/ISO or direct capital provider
  • Your conference badge will not display a specific business model designation
  • You will have the same conference access as a funder/lender does

LinkedIn Posts Are Turning Into Deals & Dollars

March 14, 2019
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LinkedIn

Villano LinkedInOn average, I sign up one ISO every time I post a message on LinkedIn, says Jennie Villano, VP of Business Development at Kalamata Capital Group. They don’t all end up submitting business, she adds, but overall it works. It costs her nothing more than her time and it produces results.

Villano is among the growing crowd of industry insiders attempting to convert social media posts into measurable business. With more than 600 million users on LinkedIn, there is no question about the potential to reach clients. The prevailing wisdom is that you need to be on social media and sharing, but share what exactly?

New Hampshire-based Everlasting Capital is building a window into the business lives of co-founders Josh Feinberg and Will Murphy. One of their recent social media posts focused on their search for a new office lease, while another was a video stream of Feinberg making a real live cold call. The rewards span the gamut, from merchants seeking funding to offers to speak professionally in front of large audiences. And it’s not just about them. “We have worked with our employees to get confident on camera which is making them a lot more comfortable on the phone,” Feinberg said.

Will Murphy video-photoAnthony Collin, CEO of New York-based Smart Business Funding, also attests to LinkedIn. “We definitely generate sales from posting online,” Collin shared, explaining that it was a mix of ISOs and merchants who reach out. Collin said that he and two others in the company meet weekly to generate ideas for the daily posts. They try to make the posts timely, either related to something going on in the industry or to current events, like national elections.

For Jennie Villano, it’s not always a sales pitch. She has posted about being a single mom and about how to keep an upbeat attitude. “Your co-workers, your friends. Are they positive, or are they always complaining?” Villano asks in the video. “Try to surround yourself with positive people who see the best in everything.” She’ll typically extend the offer to do business in the videos that she makes and shares, but not all of them. She shares 2-3 videos a week and her posts typically receive thousands of views.

SmartBiz LinkedIn postSometimes a video needs a little bit of priming to draw the viewer in. Everlasting Capital, for example, filmed an executive making a sales pitch in their conference room to company CEO Josh Feinberg. But it’s something you must watch, or so the title of the post suggests, because they say the executive drove 10 hours to the office for the opportunity.

Though other social networks are being used in full force by many industry players, LinkedIn is definitely a platform to consider. “We’ve gotten tremendous value from posting to LinkedIn,” Smart Business Funding’s Collin said.

Storytelling Sales Expert Kindra Hall to Keynote Broker Fair 2019

March 7, 2019
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Kindra HallSales expert Kindra Hall will present at Broker Fair 2019 to teach attendees about the irresistible power of strategic storytelling. If you want to learn to sell differently and use the power of storytelling, her keynote is something you won’t want to miss!

According to Hall, the shift from a transactional economy to a connected one has people scrambling; when surveyed, companies admit they believe a substantial portion of their revenue is under threat as a result. Businesses, brands, sales forces, marketing teams and leaders at all levels are desperately trying to capture attention and resonate with consumers who expect more. Is there a secret weapon? A silver bullet to humanize and connect? Yes. The answer is strategic storytelling.

The problem? In its rapid rise in popularity, “storytelling” has been reduced to in-actionable jargon. Every day businesses and individuals miss critical opportunities to connect with their elusive audiences in powerful and profitable ways because they lack a storytelling skill. Until now.


About Kindra Hall

Kindra Hall is President and Chief Storytelling Officer at Steller Collective, a consulting firm focused on the strategic application of storytelling to today’s communication challenges. Kindra is one of the most sought after keynote speakers trusted by global brands to deliver presentations and trainings that inspire teams and individuals to better communicate the value of their company, their products and their individuality through strategic storytelling.

What began as a storytelling assignment in 5th grade, grew into a passion for not only telling stories, but a mastery for teaching others the methods and science of storytelling so they can better tell their own.

REGISTER HERE FOR BROKER FAIR 2019 ON MAY 6 IN NYC

Broker Fair 2019

She was a National Champion storyteller (yes, they have those), member of the Board of Directors of the National Storytelling Network and has her master’s degree in communications where she conducted original research studying the role of storytelling in defining and revealing organizational culture.

Kindra is a former Director of Marketing and VP of Sales. Today, Kindra’s work can be seen at Inc.com, Entrepreneur.com and as a contributing editor for SUCCESS Magazine. Kindra’s message spans all industries and her clients include Facebook, Hilton Hotels, Tyson Foods, Target, Berkshire Hathaway and the Harvard Medical School. Her much anticipated book will be released by Harper Leadership in the fall of 2019.

REGISTER HERE FOR BROKER FAIR 2019 ON MAY 6 IN NYC

Selling a Home, Selling Commercial Financing – What’s the Difference?

November 16, 2018
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Realtor Showing New House To Loving CoupleAlternative funding brokers come from all different backgrounds, but for many them, being a broker is not their first job in sales. Some sold equipment, some sold cars and others sold homes. They were realtors. deBanked found two alternative funding brokers with a background in residential real estate and we asked them to compare the similarities and differences between selling a home and selling money.

Alex Alpert is the owner and CEO of Philadelphia-based Solomon Commercial Lending, which provides clients with a wide variety of funding from SBA loans, equipment leasing, factoring and some MCA. Before starting his company, he had worked as a residential realtor for about five years. When asked about his approach to selling a home versus selling money, he sees them as very different.  

“When I consider non-investment home ownership, it is 100% emotional,” Alpert said. “If you think about it, the most expensive and most intimate and emotional purchase that you’re ever going to make is going to be your home. As people, we pour ourselves into our homes. Our homes speak so much about our personalities – what we like, what we don’t. It’s literally like a biography [of someone.]”

Alpert spoke about the intangibles involved in residential real estate, how a lot of it is about the feel of a home, which is highly subjective.

“Instead of you manipulating what they want, it’s just guiding them to reach that ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Alpert said. “I didn’t walk around the house with them and say ‘This is the bedroom and this is the bathroom.’ I would stay back and just say ‘Take a walk around, see how it fits, jump in the bed if you want to, and see how you feel.’ And when they came back down, one of my common first questions would be, ‘Can you picture yourself living here?’ Because that question makes you visualize yourself waking up there. If you can pick up on what the person is showing at that moment, you can guide them better…I think I’m successful because I’m honest, I’m transparent, and I will tell you things you won’t expect. And at the end of the day, that’s how you build referrals and address the needs of an emotional transaction.”  

On the other hand, Alpert sees non-primary home deals as more transactional.      

“When it comes to business, it’s much less personal,” Alpert said. “People will certainly do their research on who they engage with. Most all of my business comes from referrals. But still, you don’t know me from Adam, and you’re sending me over everything…With [business transactions,] it’s based on need and your ability to serve that need. The emotional part, just from the start, is not that present. It’s a need and solution type of approach.”

Alpert will work with clients with tens of millions of dollars in revenue. But he acknowledged that for some of his smaller “mom and pop shop” clients, transactions can be emotional, like with a small town dance studio client he is helping to secure a 7(a) SBA loan for.    

James Celifarco, President of Horizon Financial Group in Brooklyn, which offers mostly small business loans and MCA, currently works as a realtor as well. He doesn’t see much of a difference in the way he approaches residential real estate clients versus small business merchants.    

“I think they’re very similar in that if [people] are buying or selling a home, it’s their most coveted possession,” Celifarco said. “It’s what they’ve worked the hardest to obtain. It’s their biggest asset. And it’s the same thing when dealing with a business owner. Business owners are probably more passionate than a homeowner. Either way, if you’re dealing with a business owner or a homeowner, it’s their prized possession.”

While not using the word “emotional,” Celifarco seemed to suggest that non-residential real estate deals are just as emotional.

“[For both homeowners and business owners,] you really have to deal with kid gloves in that they play very close to the vest,” Celifarco said. “You have to have a certain approach where they feel comfortable speaking with you about their home and their finances or their business and their finances. They want to know that their information is protected.”

Celebrity residential real estate agent Ryan Serhant, who spoke at Broker Fair 2018, said that he lives be three rules to successful in real estate: Follow up, Follow through and Follow back. The last refers to following back a client on social media. This part might not always apply, but Celifarco said that the same persistence is required regardless of the sales client.

“It’s all sales,” he said. “You eat what you kill. You close a deal, you make money. You sell a house, you make money. If you don’t, if you’re not reaching out to your clients, you’re not going to make any money. It’s the same in that you get paid for how hard you work.”  

How to Use Your Clothes to Get Deals

September 17, 2018
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Paul Boxer Quicksilver CapitalMost people are always trying to find more business and make more money. But most of us don’t think of our wardrobe as a way to accomplish this. That is, except for Chief Marketing Officer at Quicksilver Capital Paul Boxer, who looks in his closet and sees business opportunity. Boxer is known for going to industry events wearing a suit with a pattern of $100 bills piled on top of each other. Not one for understatement, he pairs it with a similar tie, enveloped in cash.

“I’ve become known as the ‘Money Suit Guy,’” Boxer told deBanked, “and with that, so many people have found me and reached out to work with me. They have all said, ‘if you can wear that and rock it out, I want to work with you.’”

In addition to Boxer’s iconic money suit, he also wears a Quicksilver Capital baseball hat to promote his company and he often wears Quicksilver glasses and cash patterned shoes, which he said he got as a gift from his CEO. Even before his money suit, Boxer wore loud and unusual glasses to start conversations. He says he has over 100 pairs of prescription glasses and he put prescription lenses into his company’s promotional swag glasses.   

“I feel that with the attire and suits that I’m known for, people are more prone to come up to me and strike up a conversation. It’s just that – a great conversation starterAnd I found that I’ve built many business relationships at events with just the clothing I wear,” Boxer said.

Creativity for SaleThe concept of wearing promotional clothing – namely a t-shirt – to promote a company has been around for years. In fact, in 2009, a young man named Jason Sadler started a company called iwearyourshirt.com, in which he filmed himself wearing a different company’s shirt everyday. He generated over $1 million within a few years, even though he started out with a virtually non-existent social media presence. (He moved on to start something new in 2013).

The legendary golfer Greg Norman is never seen without his iconic straw hat which he built an apparel brand around that now includes golf shirts, shorts and pants.

And nonprofits have used apparel for years to spread awareness. Think of pink for breast cancer, the red bow for AIDS and Lance Armstrong’s yellow wristband for cancer awareness. But there is definitely opportunity for for-profits to use clothing to turn strangers into paying clients. Or if you will, into money.

I can fund your businessdeBanked’s San Diego event is also tapping into the creativity. The first 100 salespeople to check in on October 4th will receive a FREE t-shirt that says, “I Can Fund Your Business” and “Ask Me How” on the back. “There is no mention of deBanked anywhere on the shirt,” said deBanked president and event organizer Sean Murray. “We simply want to create opportunities for salespeople to do more business. They can wear it on Main Street, at the gym, or while patronizing small businesses. Someone is bound to ask them how to get funded.”

“If we dress the way we want to be perceived, it will in turn be seen that way,” Boxer said. “Dress to impress, dress to rock it out and you will go in with that feeling that you can conquer everything…And you will! It will help you with your mindset which will lead you to close more deals and in effect generate more business.”

Grooming The Best Sales Reps

August 22, 2018
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This story appeared in deBanked’s Jul/Aug 2018 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

The best sales reps have a lot in common – they’re smart, honest, likable, well-organized, thick-skinned and hungry for success. They navigate the difficult early days of their careers in the alternative small-business funding community by persevering despite long hours, countless outbound telephone calls and meager commissions.

Evan Marmott
Evan Marmott, CEO, CanaCap / CapCall

“Persistency is really, really the key – putting in the time,” says Evan Marmott, CEO of Montreal-based CanaCap and CEO of New York-based CapCall LLC. “It’s not always easy, but you’ve got to stay late, make the phone calls, send the emails and do the follow-ups. It’s a numbers game.”

Being relentless counts not only when pursuing merchants but also when matching merchants with funders, Marmott emphasizes. “If they can’t get an approval one place, they’re going to shop it out until they get approval someplace else so they can monetize everything that comes in,” he says.

“IT’S ALL MINDSET AND WORK ETHIC”


“It’s all mindset and work ethic,” in sales, according to Joe Camberato, president at Bohemia, N.Y.-based National Business Capital. His company works to create a culture that supports the right mindset by working with a firm called “Delivering Happiness.” Together, they forge to a set of core values based on integrity, innovation, teamwork, empathy, and respect for fellow employees, clients and clients’ businesses.

National Business Capital employees learn to live those ideals by working and playing together on the company volleyball team, through work with local and national charities, and at company mixers and staff picnics, Camberato maintains. “We adapt and change, and we’re committed to helping small businesses grow,” he says of the company culture, “and we have fun while doing all that.”

Likeability helps build relationships with customers, says Justin Thompson, vice president of sales for San Diego-based National Funding. “People will do business with people they like and trust,” says Thompson. “It’s really about establishing a relationship first and then establishing quality discovery.” From there, presentation and execution become paramount, he says.

Joe Camberato
Joseph Camberato, President, National Business Capital

Methodology can make the difference between success and failure in sales, observes Justin Bakes, co-founder and CEO of Boston-based Forward Financing LLC. “Have a defined process and stick to it,” he advises. A well-organized approach inspires trust among clients, establishes and maintains a great reputation; and fosters understanding of the customers’ needs, wants and business operations that help the rep choose the right financing option and appropriate funder. Using technology to wrangle multiple leads and high volume counts for a lot, too, he says.

It’s all part of the consultative approach to sales, says Jared Weitz, CEO of Great Neck, N.Y.-based United Capital Source. Long ago, sales reps may have succeeded by mimicking carnival barkers, sideshow pitchman and arm-twisting medicine-show peddlers. Thankfully, those days have ended – if they ever really existed. Most of today’s successful salespeople earn clients’ respect by becoming knowledgeable, trusted business consultants, says Weitz.




THE CONSULTATIVE SALE


“Someone calls, and there are two ways of handling a deal, right?” Weitz asks rhetorically. Using one method, a salesperson can say, “We’ll fund you this much at this rate today – are we good?” he says. The other way calls for understanding the client’s business – how long has it been open, does it make more cash deposits or credit card deposits, would it be best-served by an advance, a loan, an equipment lease or a line of credit, how much can it afford in monthly payments?

Justin Bakes Forward Financing
Justin Bakes, CEO, Forward Financing

Establishing how the merchant intends to use the funding plays a crucial role in the consultative sale, Marmott agrees. Objections can arise when a merchant learns that receiving $100,000 this week will require paying back $150,000 in four or five months, he notes. So it’s essential to demonstrate that using the money productively will more than pay for the deal. A trucking company can realize more income if it deploys two more trucks, or a restaurant can increase revenue by placing another bar outside for the summer, he says by way of example.

“A lot of salespeople ask a business owner what they need the money for,” observes Thompson. “The merchant says, ‘Inventory,’ and the rep stops right there. I train my reps at National Funding to go two or three clicks deeper.” Examples abound. When does the merchant need the inventory? From whom do they order it? How long does it take to ship? How long does it take to turn it over? What are the shipping terms?

The consultative approach can require salespeople to pose a lot of open-ended questions that can’t be answered yes or no, according to Thompson. Ideally, the conversation should adhere to the 80-20 rule, with the client talking 80 percent of the time and the sales rep speaking 20 percent, he asserts, adding that “a lot of times it’s reversed in this industry.”

“A LOT OF TIMES IT’S REVERSED IN THIS INDUSTRY”


Sometimes, however, salespeople should set aside the time-consuming consultative approach and instead find funding for a merchant as soon as possible. That’s true when the business owner can make an opportune purchase of inventory or when it’s time to acquire a competitor quickly. More often, however, it pays to take the time to understand the merchant’s needs and search out the best type of funding for that particular case, top sales people maintain.

Jared Weitz
Jared Weitz, CEO, United Capital Source

Much of the alternative small-business finance industry has caught on to the importance of the consultative approach to sales as the array of available alternative financial products has grown beyond the industry’s initial offerings of merchant cash advances, according to Weitz. The days of scripted pitches and preplanned rebuttals to objections have ended, he says. Today, management trains reps for success.




THE RIGHT TRAINING


Are top salespeople born that way? “Some people hit the ground running, but sales can be taught – that’s for sure,” Weitz says. “The tougher thing to teach is integrity.” Much of the training process focuses on learning the products to enable a rep to make a consultative sale and shoulder financial responsibility, he maintains.

Believing that some people are born to sell provides a crutch to avoid learning what really works, according to Bakes. Training can teach a smart, motivated person how to succeed, he maintains. They don’t have to be born that way.

However, some people do seem born to exert influence, which can translate into sales prowess, says Thompson. Still, those born with a strong work-ethic can overcome other deficiencies, he notes. The work ethic drives them to “come in every day,” he notes. “They’re organized and disciplined. They follow the National Funding philosophy, and they make a ton of money.”

Justin Thompson National Funding
Justin Thompson, VP of Sales, National Funding

National Funding trains salespeople to view their craft as being defined by two broad elements – art and science, Thompson continues. The science proves easier to master and includes asking the right questions to learn about the customer and the deal. The hard part, the art of the sale, consists of getting to know the business owner, building a relationship and demonstrating expertise. In one example, that’s based on learning how many trucks are in the fleet, whether they’re long-haul or short haul and whether they use dumpsters versus box trailers, he says.

Beyond those important basics, training should be ongoing because selling techniques change slightly as new products and systems emerge, according to Weitz. “One of the things I like about being a broker is the ability to pivot and add another arrow to your quiver,” he says.

Salespeople at United Capital Source talk sales among themselves almost nonstop, which amounts to daily sales training, Weitz observes. That can take the form of describing a challenge and explaining how to overcome it, he notes. A particularly good idea merits an email to the group to share the new piece of wisdom. It’s a matter of constantly refining the approach.

Training can help sales reps understand the businesses their clients run, according to Marmott. Knowing the margins in a restaurant, for example, can help the salesperson explain that the increase in revenue from an expansion will quickly pay the cost of capital, he notes.

Training should teach new employees how business works because common elements arise in enterprises ranging from dog grooming to asphalt paving, Thompson notes. There’s inventory, marketing, employee expense, payroll taxes, insurance and 401k’s in almost any business. “We teach all that to the reps,” he says. Then after conversations with thousands of merchants, reps have a solid foundation in the workings of businesses.

classroomNational Business Capital’s formal two-week classroom training usually lasts three hours a day, focusing on systems, guidelines, product, general business principles and the company’s processes, says Camberato. Teachers include the sales management team, company culture leaders and the managers of IT and Tech, Marketing, Processing, and Human Resources.

New hires spend much of their time working with mentors for the first six months and a team leader who works with them indefinitely, Camberto continues. The company sometimes hires in groups and sometimes hires individually, he notes.

National Funding provides three eight-hour days of regimented classroom training on the fundamentals to each of the four groups of 12 to 17 hired each year, says Thompson. The classes cover processes, sales strategy, marketing and the lender matrix. Next comes three months of working with a sales manager dedicated to working with the class. After a total of nine to 12 months, management knows which reps will succeed.

Some shops operate on the opener-closer model, with less experienced salespeople qualifying the merchant by asking questions like how long they’re been in business and how much revenue they bring in monthly, Marmott says. If the merchant qualifies, the newer salesperson who’s working as an opener then hands off the call to an experienced closer to complete the deal. Good openers become closers, but opening isn’t easy because it requires lots of calls, he notes.

National Funding doesn’t use the opener-closer approach because the company believes reps should Participate “from cradle to grave,” Thompson says. “They hunt the business down, build the relationship and handle the transaction from A to Z.” East Coast shops often focus on cold calling and use the opener-closer model, while West Coast shops tend to invest more in marketing and reject the opener-closer method, he noted.

But where do these top salespeople come from?




THE RIGHT BACKGROUND


Prospective sales reps who have just finished college should have a grounding in communications or business, Weitz believes. Experience in sales and a familiarity with dealing with merchants helps prepare reps, he notes. Job history doesn’t have to be in the finance industry. Someone who’s sold business services in a Verizon store or worked for a payroll company, for instance, has been dealing with small-business owners and may succeed more quickly than those without that background.

Sales experience in other industries counts, Bakes agrees, especially in businesses that require dealing with a large number of leads. “Organization and process is just as important as being born with the traits of a salesperson,” he opines.

Life experience that breeds a positive attitude can prove vital, says Marmott. That’s especially important in the beginning when a new rep might take home a paltry $300 in the first month. Later, when the rep has a $50,000 month, he or she will see that their optimism wasn’t misplaced, he declares.

“THE BIGGEST THING I LOOK FOR IS
GUYS WHO ARE HUNGRY”


“The biggest thing I look for is guys who are hungry,” Marmott maintains. I don’t need somebody with a doctorate or a master’s degree or even a degree,” he says. “I need somebody who is going to put the work in.” Of a roomful of 25 new reps, two or three will succeed and stay on the job, he calculates. “You get to eat what you kill. If you’re not killing anything, you don’t get to eat.”

“We look for potential candidates who come from backgrounds of rejection,” says Thompson. Their previous sales experience has taught them not to take the answer “no” personally. “It’s part of the business and you continue to move on.”

“IT HAS BLUE COLLAR WRITTEN ALL OVER IT”


Although most regard the financial services industry as a white-collar pursuit, “it has blue collar written all over it,” Thompson says, referring to the work ethic required for success. But it’s not just the volume of work. Sixty good phone calls generate more business than 300 mediocre calls, he emphasizes.




GETTING UP TO SPEED


Succeeding at sales requires taking the time to form relationships, understand guidelines, become familiar with lenders and acquire a working knowledge of how clients’ businesses operate, Camberato says. How long does it take? “It’s a solid year,” he contends while conceding that most who succeed operate at a fairly high level before then.

“I’VE SEEN IT TAKE 30 DAYS”


Others disagree about what constitutes being up to speed and how much time’s necessary to achieve it. “I’ve seen it take 30 days, and I’ve seen it up to 120 days,” says Weitz. “The hope is that it’s within 60.”

A salesperson should start feeling better after 30 days and should start feeling good after 60 days, Marmott says. Management can usually identify the strong and the week reps within two to three weeks, he says. “You get the lazy ones that drop out, the guys who aren’t making any money, the ones who aren’t putting the effort in,” he says. “The first two weeks are the toughest because you’re learning the product and how to sell it.”

“It depends on the person,” Bakes says of the time needed to begin selling successfully. “It takes time. It is not something that will just happen overnight.” About six months should suffice to become confident as a closer, he estimates.

Even when sales reps hit their stride, some outsell others, Marmott notes, citing the 80-20 rule that 80 percent of the business comes from 20 percent of the salesforce. Outbound sales to merchants who may feel beleaguered by offers of funding requires more effort than when a merchant makes an inbound call to seek funding, he adds.

And even the best salespeople need great marketing and tech support from the their companies, sources agree.




INVESTING IN SALES


A shop just starting out might have a marketing budget as low as $2,500 a month, which won’t do much more than pay for direct mail pieces that might prompt a few potential clients to pick up the phone, Weitz says. With a little more money to spend, a shop can begin buying leads, he notes. “Don’t break the bank before you understand what formula works for you,” he advises.

“YOU CAN BE THE BEST SALES GUY BUT IF YOU DON’T HAVE ANYTHING QUALIFIED TO CALL OR FOLLOW UP WITH, IT’S A WASTE OF TIME”


“The key to sales is marketing,” says Marmott. “You can be the best sales guy but if you don’t have anything qualified to call or follow up with, it’s a waste of time.” Social media doesn’t work as well for business-to-business contact as it does for business-to-consumer marketing, he says. Pay per click and key words have become more expensive and isn’t as cost-effective as it once was, especially for smaller shops, he contends. Mailers can work but require heavy volume and repetition, he says, adding that could mean at least 25,000 pieces and at least three mailings.

Besides allocating marketing dollars, companies can invest in sales by paying new sales staffers a salary instead of forcing them to rely on commissions to eke out subsistence during the tough early days. National Business Capital pays a salary at first and later switches reps to commissions and draw, Camberato says. “An energetic person interested in sales can plug into our platform, get trained and do very well,” he continues. “We believe in you, as long as you believe in us.”

National Funding provides recruits with a salary and commissions so that they have enough income to get by and still reap rewards when they help close a deal, Thompson says.

Investment in technology can help salespeople set priorities, eliminate some of the drudge work in the sale process, measure the sales staff member’s success or lack of success, and provide a consistent experience for customers, notes Bakes. “Because of the way our technology is set up we can hold people accountable,” he adds.

Every salesperson and every shop should organize the workflow by using a lead-management system or customer relationship management tool (CRM) – such as Zoho or Salesforce –instead of operating with just a spreadsheet, Weitz says.

Brokers can invest in sales through syndication, which means putting up some of the funds involved in a deal. Forward Financing favors syndication in some cases because it aligns the salesperson and the funder, thus demonstrating the sales rep’s belief in the validity of the deal and ensuring a willingness to continue servicing that customer, Bakes says.

Some shops offer monthly bonuses for outstanding sales results, but Weitz believes awarding incentives weekly makes more sense. With a monthly cycle, some reps tend to slack off for the first week or so because they believe they can make up for lost time later. With weekly rewards, there’s not much room for downtime, he notes.

Whatever form investment takes, it can help build a sterling reputation and a free-flowing “pipeline.”




THE RIGHT REPUTATION


“Reputation is huge,” especially for repeat business and referrals, Marmott says. Once a merchant has received funding, a blizzard of sales call can follow. Treating customers right by maintaining ethical standards and helping them during hard times can guard against defection to a competitor touing low prices, he says.

Reputation requires differentiation, which usually occurs online, by email or over the phone, notes Bakes. Factors that enhance reputation include referrals by satisfied customers and real-world testimonials from actual customers and good ratings on social media sites, he says.

While it’s still uncertain what role social media plays in the industry’s reputation-building efforts, it appears that text messages elicit quick responses if the client has agreed to communicate with the company via that format, Bakes says. He notes that unwanted text messages won’t work. Email messages provide more information than text messages but seem less likely to prompt response, he says.




THE RIGHT GOAL


So, where does the effort to succeed at sales lead? It’s the foundation for building “the pipeline” – the name given to the flow of renewals, referrals and leads that makes every day not just busy, but busy in a productive and profitable way. As a rep’s pipeline takes shape, the cost of acquiring new business also goes down, Marmott says. “It just grows from there,” he says of the successful salesperson’s endeavors at building a pipeline of business. It’s what successful salespeople seek.

9 Real Industry Stories To Get You Fired Up

March 7, 2018
Article by:

determinedWhether you’re working from home as an independent agent or you’re the owner of a young alternative funding startup, here are nine deBanked stories that are guaranteed to inspire. For those of you that haven’t been in the industry very long, you’ll definitely want to read some of the older ones!

Nest Planner: The Story Of A Startup MCA Broker | 3/4/18


Hard Work, Big Success – The True Story of an MCA Broker | 12/15/17


A True Rapid Advance For Mark Cerminaro | 12/16/16


Can an ISO “Excel” in 2016? | 8/26/16


Stairway to Heaven: Can Alternative Finance Keep Making Dreams Come True? | 4/28/16


The Dual Aura of Fora – How Two College Friends Built Fora Financial and Became the “Marketplace” of Marketplace Lending | 2/16/16


The Closer – Meet the Yellowstone Capital Rep That Originated $47 Million in Deals Last Year | 2/10/16


Meet the Source: How Jared Weitz and United Capital Source became one of the industry’s fastest growing shops | 10/23/15


From Lowes to Loans: Meet William Ramos | 4/12/15





Ready to network with your industry peers in person? Register For Broker Fair! coming on May 14 in Brooklyn, NY.

Hard Work, Big Success – The True Story of an MCA Broker

December 15, 2017
Article by:

Sales is a tough field for anyone to break into even if they come from the most ideal of circumstances. At some point, the rubber meets the road for every MCA broker, at which time they must decide whether they’ve got what it takes to make it in this business.

Lerry Dore
Lerry Dore, Cresthill Capital

This is what makes Lerry Dore’s story so remarkable, as it seems that the more he got knocked down in life, the higher he was destined to rise. Today he’s employed as an MCA broker at Cresthill Capital. And while education has been paramount to getting him here, evidenced by the fact that during his entire employment he has been in college and he is still one of the funding company’s most successful brokers, Dore more than anything else was trained at the school of hard knocks.

Coming to America

Dore was born in South Florida, but he wouldn’t stay in the United States for long. After his parents split up, his mom was having a tough time making ends meet and made the impossible decision to send him to Haiti to live with extended family.

“My mom had a very hard time supporting us right out of the gate. Soon after I was born, I was sent to Haiti to live with my aunt and cousins,” he said, adding that this gave his mom a chance to get on her feet. “She needed to get a job so that she could provide for us at a basic level.”

Dore would remain in Haiti for the first three years of his life, where his first language would become Haitian Creole. But you wouldn’t detect a hint of an accent talking to him today at the age of 23.

Dore’s mom eventually found a job. She was only earning minimum wage at a hospital, but it was enough to get the wheels in motion to bring her son home.

“She was in a position to provide food, electricity and shelter for us. That’s why I came back,” said Dore, adding that he doesn’t remember much of Haiti with the exception of the plane ride home. “That’s where my memories start,” he said. Perhaps it was somewhere over the Caribbean that young Dore’s dreams began to form.

When he got back to Florida, Dore was able to meet his mom for what felt like the first time for him. He also met his brothers and sisters for the first time ever. He explained how at this point, his mom was still getting adjusted to life in America as an adult immigrant.

haitian flag“There were a lot of things that I went through as a kid to this point that she couldn’t give me guidance on. She simply didn’t have that experience. That brought a challenge,” he said. Little did he know that these obstacles would help shape him into the resilient person and successful MCA broker he is today.

While getting used to the American culture was a challenge, something that his mother never lost sight of was the importance of education. “She was very big into education,” he said. Dore’s mom discovered Head Start, a government subsidized program that provided a pre-school education for families who couldn’t otherwise afford it. That was where it would all begin for Dore, and come hell or high water his mother was going to enroll him. Without the luxury of an air-conditioned vehicle to drive in the hot Florida heat, the pair set off on foot to sign up. Some 12-15 blocks later they arrived.

“Both of us were sweating bullets. She didn’t know it, but there was a small registration fee. At the time, she didn’t have it,” Dore explained. It was then that fate seems to have stepped in in the form of the woman who was handling registration. She pulled the pair aside and told them that after witnessing the dedication that this mother had toward her son, she was going to waive the fee. In return she only asked that they keep it on the down low.

“That small gesture made a dramatic difference in my life,” Dore said. “If I was not able to attend, I wouldn’t start school until I was seven or 10 years’ old. That was a very important moment in my life.”

Indeed, it was, as it would set in motion a series of events that would lead Dore to where he is today, a successful MCA broker at Cresthill Capital. But before he would join the firm, there were still more hardships waiting for him, not the least of which was the death of a friend in his teenage years. “That could have been me,” Dore exclaimed.

For the average person, life’s setbacks could have held them down forever. For Dore, they seem only to have propelled him further. “The reason why I stayed out of trouble was I was in school and my mother kept us grounded,” he said.

During his teenage years, Dore and his family lived in an apartment complex in a neighborhood of immigrant Haitians where he said the median income was $25,000 to $30,000 per year. He shared a room with his brothers and sisters.

Boca Raton HS
Boca Raton High School where Dore went to school

“I focused on athletics,” he said, adding: “That’s where I got my competitive nature. Also, my thick skin,” both of which, incidentally, are characteristics that would serve him well as a broker later in life.

While he excelled at basketball at his Boca Raton high school, Dore wouldn’t be able to pursue those dreams for long. He and his family would be uprooted from their home time and time again amid landlord trouble. This series of setbacks, which involved him sleeping on his brother’s couch for a time, instilled a sense of maturity in Dore at a very young age.

He had a few Division II and Division III offers to play basketball in other states, but he turned them down. Instead of chasing his own dreams, Dore decided to focus on business and find a way to sustain and support his family “Once I graduated, I was not interested in basketball. I wanted to finish college,” said Dore, and lucky for the MCA industry he had his sights set on the field of finance.

Funding Merchants

After High School, the first thing that Dore did was to go online and look for a job. As it so happens, the first ad he saw was at a stock brokerage in Boca Raton. “That’s where I started, in phone sales. I didn’t have a Series 7 license at the time. I was just calling from the Yellow Pages. Once I got someone on the phone, I would transfer the call to someone who had a license,” he explained.

This went on for a couple of months until he heard about a startup company in nearby Delray Beach. “At the time, they were prospecting merchants. That’s how I got into the industry,” he said.

suit and tieHis first job in the MCA niche was with a very small ISO shop. But it was there that he would make a connection to change the course of his career. He was working on a deal that was hard to place and was only getting rejections. That is until he came across Mike Daniels, Cresthill’s No. 1 producer.

“I couldn’t get the deal done anywhere else. The merchant was getting frustrated with the process. I heard of a company that takes chances on merchants with imperfect credit,” he said. That funder was Cresthill Capital. Little did he know at the time, but they would eventually become his employer.

He sent the merchant file over to Daniels, who then reached out to the merchant and got the deal funded. It was at that point, Dore said, that he started to fall in love with Cresthill “because of how [Daniels] was able to treat the merchant with respect and get the deal done.”

For the next six months, Dore would proceed to trust all of his business with Cresthill. He was still employed by the small ISO shop, but he began to outgrow his environment and long for a platform that allowed him to explore his talent and excel. But his pursuit only left him frustrated and thinking about leaving the MCA industry, something he confided in Cresthill Capital’s Daniels, who was turning into a mentor, about.

It was at this point in his life and career that instead of being the rock, Dore needed to lean on someone else. Daniels and Cresthill Capital were there for him. He was invited in for an interview, and as they say the rest is history.

“I was shocked at how diverse the workforce is. There were different types of people with different backgrounds. I liked it right off the bat. And then everyone was very friendly to me from the moment I walked in,” he said. He was greeted at the front door by Cresthill Capital’s Mike Marano, who then proceeded to interview him.

silhouette“I’ve actually interviewed and sat with every single person at my company and hired them personally. What I can say about Lerry is that from the moment I looked at his face and saw his eyes, I knew intuitively that he was a good person. And responsible. I had no idea how deep of a person he was, how much humanity he would show. He was a willing student, and we were happy to teach him. And he continues to soak it up like a sponge,” Marano told deBanked.

Dore was convinced Cresthill Capital was the right place for him when Marano insisted that Dore stay in school and continue his education. “They said, ‘we will work around your schedule,’ and that really drew me in,” he said, adding that the dog-friendly environment was a bonus.

Dore has been employed by Cresthill Capital for the past 18 months and is graduating from college this week. He is not only supporting himself, but he’s the highest earner in his family, which has allowed him to help support them.

Paying it Forward

As if on cue from the mystery lady that paid his school tuition when he was just a child, Dore is now interested in paying it forward in life. He said that similar to how Cresthill Capital is involved with philanthropy, he’d like to give back to the community. But his vision goes beyond his neighborhood.

“I want to help kids that are similar to me, who are in programs that try to help them excel in this country. I want at some point to work with immigrants that come in from Haiti and work with them to give them a platform, like the lady who gave us a chance,” said Dore.

Since the Haiti earthquake, his extended family has relocated north to Canada. “But I still feel to some degree a responsibility to try and help out the people in that country and the ones who come here through immigration,” he said.

As for Marano, he said all Dore needs to do is exactly what he’s been doing. “When he leaves me, he won’t have to work again. But knowing this kid, he probably will anyway,” Marano said.

The Road To Training The Best Sales Reps

February 26, 2017
Article by:

This story appeared in deBanked’s Jan/Feb 2017 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

Sales Training

Alternative-finance industry executives tend to agree on at least two basic rules for building a successful sales team: Hire people who know how to sell and never stop training them. Following the second rule requires knowledge and perseverance. The first one takes a leap of faith.

To obey Rule No. 1, companies have to find ways of determining who possesses that elusive quality known as salesmanship, even among inexperienced job candidates. To that end, most firms make an educated guess based on experience, intuition, common sense, high hopes and the good graces of Lady Luck.

“We look at personality traits,” says Zach Ramirez, a World Business Lenders vice president and manager of the company’s Costa Mesa, Calif., branch. “We’re looking for an outstanding person – the highest-caliber person we can find. They should be hard-working and competitive. You can underline ‘competitive.’ They should have a fire inside them.”

“We want someone who’s hungry for money and is going to be a go-getter, says Chad Otar, CEO and executive funding manager at Excel Capital Management Inc. “It’s a feeling that you get when you talk to them. You can tell when a person is going to sit back and not do anything.” In addition, good candidates aren’t intimidated by the challenge of learning how the industry works, he notes.

sales agent“It’s really about how you connect with someone,” according to Amanda Kingsley, who owns Options Capital and also works as a sales training consultant. “Even over the phone, you need to treat people with understanding. You need to inspire the trust that you could provide the advisory help they need.” Small details, like remembering a potential client’s daughter just got married, mean a lot, she says.

“It comes down to drive and personality,” says John Celifarco, sales manager at Sure Funding Solutions. He finds there’s not much room for the thin-skinned and it takes a certain kind of person to succeed. “When you find the right people, it usually clicks pretty quick,” he says. “For the people who don’t work out, it usually falls apart pretty quick.”

“I look for strong personalities,” says Isaac Stern, CEO of Yellowstone Capital. “I don’t believe you can necessarily teach someone to sell,” he asserts. “This isn’t an easy sell, so you have to have a Type A personality. They’re on the phone and they’re confident whether they know the product or not in the beginning.” The interview process can “weed out” candidates who aren’t going to find success, he says.

Don’t expect someone with a background in outside sales to find happiness spending eight hours a day on the phone as an inside salesperson, warns Stephen Halasnik, managing partner at Financing Solutions. As a direct financing company, his firm hires salespeople different from those an ISO or broker employs, he says. His company expects salespeople to act as consultants who are knowledgeable about finance and empathetic to small-business owners.

Nearly every company prefers candidates with selling experience, possibly in telemarketing. Some seek reps with a background in selling financial services, but others prefer prospective employees who are new to the industry. “I don’t want to hire someone else’s problem child,” Stern asserts. “I’d like them to learn the way we do things from start
to finish.”

Sales professional on phone“Different offices have different cultures, so someone who has worked well in one office might not work well in another,” Celifarco says. People hired from other companies may bring bad habits, he says. They may approach the job in a variety of ways they’ve learned elsewhere and thus prevent the company from presenting a consistent face to the public, he says. “Every company has an identity,” he contends.

Applicants without a sales background sometimes rise to the occasion and succeed, says Ramirez. In fact, one of his top sales managers joined the company with no sales experience. Former entrepreneurs, even those without a sales background, often have a lot in common with other small-business owners and that helps them do well, he notes.

Excel Capital Management seeks salespeople with differing backgrounds for two different types of roles in its sales force, says Otar. Openers work on salary and should have phone sales experience so they’re comfortable on the telephone. Closers, who work for commissions, should have experience at selling financial services products or something closely
related, such as stocks or mortgages, he says.

While good hiring practices bring good employees into the company, they also guard against inviting bad ones into the fold. World Business Lenders uses several third-party companies to perform background checks and pre-employment screening, but most often calls upon ADP, says Alex Gemici, the company’s chief revenue officer. ADP performs evaluations that comply with the laws of the states where the employees are located, he says.

“IT’S VERY DIFFICULT TO FIND LOYAL GUYS”


Eliminating unsavory candidates carries special significance in the alternative-finance business, notes Ramirez. “It’s critically important that they have no background issues,” he says. “In this industry there a lot of bad apples out there. It’s important that they don’t infiltrate our organization.”

“It’s very difficult to find loyal guys,” Otar laments. “They come in and utilize all your systems and then you catch them stealing.” In other words, they pass deals along to other companies. Otar has caught three of his closers doing exactly that. “You’ve got to be very careful,” he warns, adding that it’s difficult to spot bad actors because they’re skilled at selling themselves.

Once a company chooses the best candidates, the training can begin. New salespeople always start on Mondays at World Business Lenders, and the company’s corporate headquarters conducts sales training nationwide that day, says Gemici. The full day of instruction originates at headquarters, and new hires at branch locations participate on Skype. Subjects include the industry in general, specific company products and sales tips.

World Business Lenders Ribbon Cutting Jersey City

Ribbon Cutting at WBL’s new Jersey City headquarters in 2016

On Tuesdays, the World Business Lenders branches take over the training for a day or more, Gemici notes. That instruction, which lasts as long as the branches decide, can include having the new employees “shadow” more-experienced workers and having crack salespeople listen in on the phone calls of the new staffers as they make their pitches.

In the World Business Lenders office in California, Ramirez continues the training every day of a new employee’s first two weeks on the job. Tuesday and Wednesday of the first week, he spends the full eight-hour day with them. After that, he sets aside at least two or three hours of instruction each day. “I want to err on the side of over-training,” he explains.

From there, education continues as long as employees work for the company, Ramirez says. That can include spot training that he institutes anytime he sees a problem or an opportunity for improvement. Ongoing training also helps salespeople keep up with changes that occur in the industry, he notes.

The sales staff in the California office of World Business Lenders also assembles in a conference room for regular sales meetings. Ramirez picks a rep who’s outstanding at some aspect of the job to deliver a short lecture on the subject at those meetings. A star at prospecting, for example, could explain tricks of that part of the trade and then field questions on the subject. “That way, everybody can learn what everybody else knows,” he says.

For ongoing training at Financing Solutions, Halasnik calls his staff into a “huddle” for 10 minutes every day. They review what deals are pending so that salespeople know what management is seeking and can use that knowledge when they’re gathering data from customers. “We’re looking for reasons to give someone financing that doesn’t fit the cookie cutter approach a bank would use,” he notes. The team also use the huddle to share information about the industry.

At Sure Funding Solutions the sales staff meets every couple of weeks for ongoing training. They talk about some aspect of the sales process, such as opening, closing, dealing with banks, what’s working and what’s not working, says Celifarco. “I’ve been in this business since ’08, and I’m still learning new things,” he notes, adding that changing one phrase in a pitch could get better results.

Ongoing training at Excel hinges on monitoring phone calls to ensure openers are asking the appropriate questions to qualify leads and that closers are working effectively, Otar emphasizes. “It’s a never-ending process to learn what to say at the right time,” he says of his company’s training policies. Salespeople who have mastered the basics can bring their own personalities into their presentations to avoid sounding as though they’re reading from a script and thus foster an organic conversation, he notes. “That’s perfect – it’s golden,” he exclaims.

Kingsley agrees. “Don’t be too ‘salesy,’” she counsels. “That’s the best sales advice I can give.” Nobody enjoys receiving a telemarketing call, she reminds her trainees. Larger companies probably won’t heed that tip because they’re focused on volume, but smaller companies can avoid the “salesy” trap, she says.

Training should also teach originators to avoid industry jargon on their calls because prospects simply may not know the lingo, Kingsley cautions. Closers should learn from their training that knowledge of the customer’s industry can help build a relationship, she says. And knowing the customer’s industry also helps salespeople convey a deeper understanding of creditworthiness to underwriters, she maintains.

Financing Solutions trains salespeople to reveal information to clients through a string of questions instead of merely throwing out statements about the company’s products, Halasnik says. The questions can include how the customer’s business works and how he’ll use the money. That can allow the client to sell himself, and it can help the salesperson explain the client’s situation to the underwriters, he says.

Salespeople should learn to present themselves as professionals and avoid sounding like used car dealers, Halasnik maintains. “They have to understand business,” he notes, adding that training must convey that sensibility because “they don’t really come in that way.” In fact, he maintains that financing Solutions has to persevere in continuing to help the sales staff understand how small-business owners think.

Even though training never ends, it eventually pays off, Halasnik contends. He looks forward to the time – possibly in six months or so – when the roles reverse because his salespeople are picking up so much information that they’re training him. The fact that sales reps are making contact with customers keeps them in touch with the pulse of the industry, he notes.

“IF YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE $10,000 OFF OF A SALE, PUT IN THE WORK FOR IT”


But problems can arise even with the most persistent training efforts, so it’s also vital to begin the process with employees who are trainable, Kingsley suggests. “Some people listen to you, but then they don’t act on the advice,” she maintains. Others don’t want to expend the effort necessary to research their customers’ industries. “If you’re going to make $10,000 off of a sale, put in the work for it,” she admonishes.

Some companies are hiring lots of salespeople and putting them to work quickly as part an effort to achieve sheer volume, Kingsley says. Instead, she recommends training a smaller number of reps to conduct themselves in a transparent manner that promotes repeat business.

moneyWorld Business Lenders allows for a 90-day period to determine whether a new salesperson and the company are a good fit, says Gemici. Turnover occurs during that period, often because the company is growing so quickly that it’s necessary to take on a few inexperienced employees, he says. For salespeople who complete the 90 days, the success rate is high, he notes.

“We like to say six weeks,” Otar says of his company’s probationary period. By then, a closer should be making four to seven deals a week, he suggests, noting that openers should generate 15 to 25 leads weekly and five to seven should be getting funded.

Salespeople can require four months to really catch onto their jobs, according to Halasnik. He finds that he can gauge their progress by the quality of the questions they ask, not by what they say. As they learn the business, their questions improve, he notes.

The effort required to find and train salespeople can tempt some companies to steal good employees from their competitors, but the problem’s no more severe in the alternative-finance industry than in other businesses, according to Ramirez. “I never intentionally poach someone else’s employees, although people have tried to recruit mine,” he says. “Most of these people are clients. These competitors of ours send deals to us so I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that relationship nor do I think that’s a good business tactic.”

So where are those prospective employees hiding? World Business Lenders employs a full-time in-house recruiter to ferret them out. Excel finds candidates on industry blogs or through general employment websites. Kingsley urges companies to contact colleges to seek out finance majors. Stern says he puts up a post and receives “tons of resumes.”

Wherever the employees come from, one of the keys to their success lies in understanding the customer’s business, Halasnik maintains. “If you only think of your business as money, it could be a little bit boring,” he says. “If you think about who the clients are and how they got there and who their customers are, that’s the fun part of the job.”

This article is from deBanked’s Jan/Feb 2017 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

Motivating Your Sales Force – Tips From the Floor

August 30, 2016
Article by:

This story appeared in deBanked’s Jul/Aug 2016 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

time for sell

Fancy steak dinners, electronic devices and cold hard cash are just some of the ways ISOs and funders these days are motivating sales reps to bring in business.

Although it’s largely a field for self-starters, many companies find that even small tokens of appreciation do wonders to increase rep productivity. “Waving a carrot in front of your reps can make a massive difference,” says Zachary Ramirez, branch manager of the Costa Mesa, California branch of World Business Lenders, an ISO and a lender.

When it comes to motivating sales reps, every company does things slightly differently. Some have more established incentive programs, while others are more ad hoc, depending on how the day, week or month is shaping up. The common goal of all the programs, however, is to give a little something to get something greater in return.

Ramirez remembers one sales rep who won a trip to Las Vegas and then continued to be the top rep for three months running. “Those types of rewards can keep a sales team motivated, hungry and excited,” he says.

From time to time, Ramirez offers rewards such as a small cash bonus if a rep meets certain metrics like getting three submissions in a day or multiple fundings in a week. In addition, whenever his reps, who are all hourly employees, hit key performance indicators, Ramirez rewards them with a poker chip. After they accumulate enough, they can trade in their chips for various prizes. Twenty-five poker chips might be worth a flat-screen TV and 50 chips could be an expense-paid trip to Las Vegas, for example.

When it comes to motivation, it’s important to incentivize the correct behavior, Ramirez says, noting that in his earlier years running an ISO, he used to reward reps based on the number of calls they made in a day rather than applications, approvals or fundings.

The latter represent a much more serious commitment and are worth motivating for as opposed to simply making a phone call, where the outcome is uncertain. “Even if they make as many as 500 phone calls in a day, it’s irrelevant if they are not moving the transactions forward by getting applications and bank statements,” he says.

It’s also very important to have clear-cut expectations; reps need to know the consequences of not performing, Ramirez says. Most top salespeople won’t need the stick. But it’s still necessary for them to know the policies, he says.

THE POWER OF SELF-ORIGINATION

One major way United Capital Source incentivizes its 15-person sales force is by self-originating leads. It provides its reps—who are all W2 employees—with merchants that are actively expecting phone calls as opposed to handing them a laundry list of names to pitch which may or may not pan out. It costs more for United Capital to do this, but it works well for the company and for its sales force, says Jared Weitz, chief executive of the New York-based alternative-finance brokerage.

“It enables us to put our guys in a position where they are growing with the company and the company is growing as well,” he says.

In addition, United Capital has an aggressive pay structure that allows salespeople to grow with the company. For instance, the pay plans are all based on how the company is doing overall, as opposed to an individual salesperson’s performance. In this way, it encourages the sales force to work together, as opposed to each person being out for himself. Weitz says its sales team understands that if the company hits x, the sales team gets y. United Capital also offers competitive healthcare and 401(k) plans and there’s no vesting period for employees to receive their 401(k) employer match. Additionally, the company does small things like Friday lunches on the company’s dime as a thank you for time spent. It’s another way to keep the sales team happy, Weitz says.

Fundzio, an alternative funder in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, also works very hard to make sure it keeps up its pipeline of fresh leads so that reps don’t have to do that on their own. Indeed, Fundzio provides them with between seven and ten fresh and promising revenue-earning opportunities each day. This helps tie the reps to Fundzio because they have a continuous stream of business and don’t have to find it on their own.

“It guarantees them at bats every day,” says Edward Siegel, founder and chief executive of Fundzio. It also helps tie the reps to Fundzio because they have constant business. “The key thing is having new leads,” he says.

wheel of fortuneAdditionally, anyone who funds a deal gets to spin a wheel in the office at the end of the business day and earn cash or special prizes like concert tickets or a fancy dinner or a $200 gift certificate. Reps really appreciate getting those prizes, which is evident when they come back to work after enjoying their steak dinner at a Fort Lauderdale waterfront restaurant. “I think it creates a fun and relaxed atmosphere feeling. A little bit goes a long way,” Siegel says.

One way Fundzio motivates reps from the get-go is to bring them on initially as independent contractors. If they prove themselves over a 90-day period, they have the opportunity to become an employee. At any given time, the company has about 20 to 25 sales reps, representing a combination of contractors and W2 employees.

Another way Fundzio helps motivate reps is by allowing them to earn residuals from repeat business for the life of the account as long as they are still employed by the funder. Many funders have renewal departments and reps don’t directly benefit when a customer does repeat business, but that’s not the case at Fundzio, Siegel says.

REVVING UP SALES WITH CONTESTS

Certainly, to succeed in the alternative finance industry, sales reps have to be self-starters. It’s a key requirement to do the job well, in part because so many shops are purely commission-based. Nonetheless, many companies find it helps to grease the wheel a bit—regardless of whether reps are independent or W2 employees.

Fast and Easy Funds, for instance, holds weekly contests to encourage its internal sales force of 15 independent contractors. One week the contest may be for the rep with the most dials, another week it’s for the most submissions and another week for the highest number of deals funded. Each contest pays in the vicinity of $150 to $250 cash. “Every week I change it up. They don’t know what the contest is going to be until the last day of the week,” says David Avidon, president of Fast and Easy Funds, a broker and alternative funder in Boca Raton, Florida.

iAdvanceNow, a brokerage firm in Uniondale, New York, runs daily, weekly and monthly bonuses for its 38-person sales force. For instance, if a rep submits two completed deals for approval in a day he or she might get $100 cash; for three completed deals, the cash bonus might be $250, says Eddie Hamid, president of iAdvanceNow.

On a weekly basis, for submitting six complete files, reps get one spin on a big Wheel of Fortune-like apparatus in the office. Everybody is a winner; the prize depends on where the arrow lands. It may be a cash prize of $20, $50, $100 or a physical prize like a 40 inch-Samsung TV, an Apple Watch or iPad, Hamid explains.

On a monthly basis, meanwhile, each team of five to seven sales reps has a goal. If as a team they reach their goal, they get $1,500. Additionally, the top producer of the month—provided he or she has achieved a minimum of three merchants being funded—receives the top producer bonus of $1,500. The runner-up receives a $1,000 bonus and the third place sales rep receives $500. The top team in the office also gets a steak dinner at a local establishment, Hamid says.

The system works because it gives them a drive to obtain a goal while also encouraging friendly competition, says Hamid, noting that he once overheard reps talking about how much they value being named the top producer. “With sales people, they are more concerned with the recognition than the prize or the money they are receiving,” he says.

iAdvance has been in business for about two years. The current motivational system has been in place for about a year-and-a-half and it seems to work very well to motivate the sales force, Hamid says. In addition, if they are having a down sales month, Hamid ups the ante for the daily goals, adding not only cash, but also prizes.

These techniques all help to light a fire under the sales force, he says.

salesSTRATEGIES FOR SLOW DAYS

Sometimes around 3 p.m., if he feels like the room is starting to quiet, Jordan Lindenbaum, director of sales at Excel Capital Management in New York, a business financing ISO, might offer $20 or $30 cash for the next submission. Or he might offer $40 to $50 for two or three submissions by the end
of the day.

“All it takes is one slow day to kill the energy of a sales rep,” he says.

Lindenbaum finds that motivation checkpoints seem to work well. For instance, at the end of the month, the firm commonly gives a $200 bonus to the sales rep with the most submissions. For actual deals funded, Excel Capital is also working to implement a more concrete revenue-based bonus system as well, Lindenbaum says.

Excel Capital works with independent ISOs in addition to its in-house staff to bring in business. To encourage independent ISOs to refer business, the funding company offers higher payouts to those who consistently bring in high quality deals than to ISOs who bring in deals sporadically.

Chad Otar, co-founder and managing partner at Excel Capital, says a key piece of motivating sales reps is to make sure the sales manager feels motivated as well. Accordingly, the firm also makes sure to motivate Lindenbaum with larger payments for doing an outstanding job of motivating the sales force to bring in deals. “We need to motivate the sales manager so the sales manager motivates the people on the phone. It’s a chain effect. You motivate one and it motivates the others,” he says.

Excel Capital also believes in the power of team rewards. Recently, for instance, company executives treated all staffers to a steak dinner at Delmonico’s in New York City. “We’ve done it many times so our team knows they are appreciated and that our goals were met because everyone worked together,” Otar says.

THE SALARY VS COMMISSION CONUNDRUM

Paying reps a base salary in addition to commissions is another strategy some ISOs use to motivate sales reps. A salary is especially meaningful to reps just starting out, notes Ramirez of World Business Lenders.

He says he has worked with a lot of ISOs and many of them don’t want to pay reps a base salary because they feel it’s a mistake to give them a cushion. Because by doing so, reps get comfortable and when they get comfortable, they don’t push deals—or so the thinking goes. But Ramirez believes this is counterproductive to the rep’s career and the ISO’s sales.

He believes reps should be given a big enough base while they are learning the industry—say for 90 days. Giving them $2,500 a month or so, motivates them and it doesn’t choke their possibility for survival. “You have to give every salesperson the opportunity to succeed. Give them some coaching, give them some guidance, give them a little time. But if there’s no possibility of that rep succeeding or being an asset to your team, it’s important to remove them as efficiently as possible,” he says.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but removing dead weight is also motivating for reps who are really working hard to sell, Ramirez says. To keep that person is demoralizing for the other reps—who may feel they don’t have to work as hard either or who feel they have job security even without doing their best. “It fosters complacency,” he says.

You Close The Sale Before The Sales Process Begins

January 22, 2016
Article by:

close a dealYOU WRITE THE END OF THE STORY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PROCESS

As an adolescent, I had a dream of becoming an actor. There was no true purpose, direction or vision behind the dream, the dream was based mainly on the fact that I had seen a lot of A-list celebrities on television and they always seemed to have had the world in the palm of their hands. During my time studying and performing as an actor, I also learned a little bit about the sequence involved in writing a screenplay. It was peculiar to me at the time to note that a lot of the best writers would always write the end of the story at the beginning of the process. At the time, I thought to myself: “How can you establish an ending without first establishing a beginning?”

IT DAWNED ON ME

As I grew older I changed my dream from becoming an actor to becoming a successful B2B sales rep. As I got deeper into my commercial finance B2B sales role, it finally dawned on me as to why those screenwriters wrote the end at the beginning, and it was because the engagement of any process is the journey to the destination, not the destination itself. However, for the journey to be engaging, we must first establish a destination for which the journey is based upon, then fill the journey with a variety of ups, downs, twists, turns and character growth as we arrive at the end.

B2B SALES IS SIMILAR

The profession of B2B sales is similar, especially when it comes to the selling of financing, whereas discussion and debate over how the ending should look, should be done with the merchant upfront (during the pre-qualification stage) as well as discussion on the journey (underwriting process) to the destination.

When it comes to B2B sales, especially the selling of commercial financing, I believe you “close” at the beginning, that is, I believe you write the end of the story at the beginning of the process, not at the end. If I cannot come to an agreement with the merchant on the “ending,” such as the realistic potential terms (even if it’s just a range), then the sales and underwriting process should never begin, and we both walk away.

STOP WASTING RESOURCES

Some brokers choose to keep the potential terms a secret until the end, and hope that the deal doesn’t fall apart when the time comes to finalize everything. Why keep the potential terms a secret and have the merchant fill out apps, fax over statements, have my funder key in the data, spit out approvals, only for the merchant to eventually tell you that the numbers aren’t what they had in mind? That makes absolutely no sense.

I believe that by the time I submit the deal to my funder, it should be already closed with the merchant, and all I have to do at that point is close the funder in approving the deal I proposed to the merchant from the beginning.

Loan Brokers: Fight Back and Defend Your Brand

January 16, 2016
Article by:

I Love HatersLIFE DOESN’T PLAY FAIR AND NEITHER DOES YOUR COMPETITORS

Let’s face it, a big part of our job is customer service. As a direct funder or lender, or as a large or small brokerage, a big part of our job is to service our existing customers, partners, vendors and suppliers with the utmost integrity, efficiency and ethics. But even the best of customer service intentions can become scarred when those who compete against you, choose to compete unfairly through vile fabrications, defamations and falsehoods.

MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS

Not many people (including myself) are too fond of hip hop music as most of the time the lyrics are questionable, but in 1997, everybody agreed with The Notorious B.I.G. when he touched on the concept of making more money and having to subsequently deal with new problems.

The bigger and more exposed you get, the higher the probability that you’ll have a run-in with dissatisfied merchants, partners, vendors and suppliers. This is common knowledge, as many of the largest ISO/MSPs and MCA firms are all over the ripoff reports in one form or fashion, with current and prior customers blasting the companies over sometimes legit issues, and other times issues of a petty nature that could have been resolved in means of a lesser depiction. But continuing on, the bigger you get, the bigger your “haters” will get as well. The rise of the internet has multiplied the presence of haters and trolls to a population standing taller than ever before. These haters love to use online discussion boards, social media, blogs, and review sites to spread their lies, hatred and vile.

JUST BECAUSE YOU SMELL SMOKE, THAT DOESN’T MEAN THERE’S A FIRE BURNING

I’m not sure who the author of this quote is, but it says the following: People will question all the good things they hear about you, but believe the bad without a second thought. Haters know this quote to be true and are quick to spread their venom knowing that if it’s coming from multiple sources, then far too many people will take them at their word using the flawed logic of “where there’s smoke, there must be fire.”

Well, I say just because you smell smoke, that doesn’t mean there’s a fire burning. Instead, you could more than likely have a group of haters who have perfected the art of blowing smoke, which is to make unfounded or exaggerated claims. As a result, you need to protect your brand against haters. There are those of you who believe that if you just ignore them then they will go away. Well, I disagree with that notion and so does Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister. “I don’t understand people who believe that if you ignore something, it’ll go away,” he was once quoted as saying “That’s completely wrong because if it’s ignored, then it gathers strength. Europe ignored Hitler for twenty years, as a result he slaughtered a quarter of the world!”

LOOK AT DONALD J. TRUMP

If he wins the candidacy or not, Donald Trump will go down as perhaps the most fiery presidential candidate of all time. When Trump believes something, he says it, without filter and without care of political expediency. When Trump is “attacked” by the media or one of his fellow GOP opponents, he fires back. On the O’Reilly Factor after the final GOP debate of 2015, Trump clarified that if the media or one of his GOP opponents makes a valid criticism about him, he’s perfectly fine with that, but what he has a problem with is when they flat out lie about something he’s said, done or believes in.

While I’m an Independent and not sure who I will support for the 2016 Presidential election, I find myself in agreement with Trump on a number of things, including how Trumps responds to “haters.” My stance is that if you have a valid criticism about something I’ve said, done or believe in, then I’m all ears! But when you flat out lie about me, now you are going to tick me off.

GET MAD, GET MAD!

One of the reasons for Trump’s surge in the polls is the fact that a lot of people are angry at leaders in Washington and aren’t going to “take it” anymore. Trump’s fiery persona attracts people to the real estate tycoon, causing him to have a massive lead in the Republican race. Like Trump, you should get mad as well if you have worked to build your brand, resumé and marketplace standing, and then all of a sudden here comes some anonymous troll spitting out all types of defamations across the internet:

  • Don’t work with XYZ Company, they are a scam!
  • XYZ Company stole my money!
  • XYZ Company’s President is a criminal!
  • XYZ Company backdoors deals!

The definition of libel is to write something about an individual or a company that is defamatory, which is a statement that is false but written in a way to convince the public that it’s true. The internet has increased the presence of libel so much, that insurance companies market their personal umbrella policies as a form of insurance in case you are sued for libel. Some people don’t realize that typing something on the internet can get you in trouble if you are lying about the person or the company in question. Now, I’m not advising you to run out and sue everybody who lies about you online, as that would be very costly, however, I am advising you to get mad by fighting back and doing some of the following to protect your brand.

FLOOD THE MARKET WITH TESTIMONIALS

Begin to flood the market with positivity. When a prospective client searches for your company in Google and finds the negative reviews, they can also see the various videos, blogs and review sites where your customers, partners and vendors are praising you. You can always say: Look at the many customer testimonials that we have and look at the size of our customer portfolio, clearly more people are satisfied with us than dissatisfied.

THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU

The BBB will provide you an “A+” or “A” rating as long as you respond to any complaints filed in a timely manner. You can use your “A” rating status in marketing and in response to prospective clients inquiring about negative reviews. You can always say: We have an A+ rating with the BBB, we must be doing something right.

PUBLIC RELATIONS

A lot of direct funders and large brokerages have large sources of operating capital to play with, so why not hire a PR Team? Have a PR Team speak with the media often to generate as much positive press as possible to help balance out the negative press. In addition, have the company CEO and other high ranking officials do various forms of PR when available.

TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE TROLLS

Go to the discussion board, social media post, blog post, vlog post, or website, and directly respond to the person creating the negative press. Debate your points, prove them to be wrong, show them to be a liar, and encourage your employees, vendors and partners to join in on the fight. Silence can be taken in one of two ways, either people will think you are “too big” for this petty non-sense, or they will think that you are silent because you are guilty. I say take the fight to the trolls, debate your points and then move on after you’ve put the verifiable truth on the table.

THE FINAL WORD

Some people will already know something is a lie, but choose to believe it anyway because they want it to be true regardless. Sean Parker’s character from the Social Network said that, “even if you’ve managed to live your life like the Dalai Lama, they’ll still make things up because they don’t want you, they want your idea.” The honest truth is that most of your haters are just jealous of you because, you have something that they want but don’t have. So, don’t allow them to throw you off your game.

As a quote I read the other day from some unknown source said, “you should never hate people who are jealous of you, but instead respect their jealousy as they are the people who think that you’re better than them.” Having haters is a sign that you’re doing something right. Your prospective customers and partners with good judgment should be able to read between the lines to see the truth, and for those that can’t, well, maybe they are too gullible (and stupid) to be doing business with anyway.

Are You Weak, Or Are The Leads Weak?

January 13, 2016
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good leadsA LOOK BACK AT A CULT CLASSIC

The 1992 film, Glengarry Glen Ross, is a cult classic and one of my favorite movies of all time, with excellent writing, storyline and acting work done on behalf of the stars. In my opinion, the best part of the film was the beginning, when Blake (played by Alec Baldwin) was sent in from Mitch & Murray to fire up three of the office’s sales reps who were “low on the board” in terms of their sales performance. Blake’s “always be closing” speech has been glorified and imitated in sales offices across the United States since the movie’s release on Friday, October 2nd, 1992. I can hear the conversation between Blake and the late Jack Lemmon’s character, Shelley “The Machine” Levene, right now:

Blake: You laughing now? You got leads, Mitch & Murray paid good money, so get their names to sell them! You can’t close the leads you’re given?! If you can’t close sh*t, then you are sh*t! Hit the bricks pal and beat it because you are going OUT!

Shelley “The Machine” Levene: The leads…are weak.

Blake: The leads are weak?! F**king leads are weak?! You’re weak!

Blake was sent in to “fire up” The Machine as well as Dave Moss (played by Ed Harris) and George Aaronow (played by Alan Arkin), who were all struggling to meet sales numbers due to what they believed to be mainly their Office Manager’s fault (John Williamson who was played by Kevin Spacey) for supplying them bad, outdated and dead leads. The main character of the film was Ricky Roma (played by Al Pacino) and Roma wasn’t having the same struggles as his three counterparts, as he received the “premium leads” from Williamson for being number one on the board in terms of sales performance.

WAS ROMA’S SUCCESS MORE OF A RESULT OF HIS PERSONALITY OR THE GOOD LEADS?

Could Roma’s sales success have been based on the fact that he was just a “tad bit” more charismatic than The Machine, Moss and Aaronow? Or, could the bulk of Roma’s success be tied to the fact that he wasn’t sent out to sell to dead leads? Were the reps weak, or were the leads weak?

Moss believed it was all about the leads, even suggesting to Aaronow during the film that they start their own agency. Towards the end, Roma himself revealed that he believed it was all about the leads as well, as once someone broke into the office to steal the premium Glengarry leads out of Williamson’s office (which was later revealed to be The Machine and Moss), Roma was offered some of Williamson’s “dead leads” and Roma quickly rejected them, throwing them back into Williamson’s face and stating that he wasn’t going out until he got the Glengarry leads.

As mentioned, this movie is a cult classic, but often art imitates life as this movie displays one of the fundamental problems of the sales profession today as a whole, and it’s the fact that most Sales Managers are completely out of touch. As a result, for this article let’s take a deeper look into this topic to determine if you’re weak, or if the territory, market and leads you are being asked to “sell” or “sell into” are weak.

IT’S TIME TO DO AWAY WITH MOST SALES MANAGERS (THEY ARE USELESS)

As globalization and technology automation in the 21st century surely replaces the jobs of many retail salespeople, customer service agents, and low level brokers, what I’m really hoping for is that someway and somehow, we can get rid of most Sales Managers. They are one of the biggest problems in the sales profession today because:

  • They are completely out of touch
  • They promote sales strategies that don’t work
  • They teach their reps to read off “scripts”
  • They don’t equip their reps with research, trends and ground breaking solutions
  • They don’t train their reps to become component professionals who can critically think
  • They instead train their reps to become a robotic, script reading, mindless drone

On top of all of this, most Sales Managers do not understand the B2B Sales cycle, as they “train” their reps as if they are selling a box of girl scout cookies or a new music album, focusing on over the top personalities, how cute someone is or their level of charisma. Instead, they should be focusing on providing knowledge, research, trends and other information to build a competent critically thinking professional, to implement market solutions that fulfill unmet market demand.

The majority of Sales Managers need to be done away with. These incompetent fools believe that it’s mainly the personality of the sales rep that makes them successful, thus, they will throw their reps out in a bad territory, a bad market, and calling on dead leads because in their mind a “good sales rep” has the “personality” to sell fire to Hell. As a result, their belief is that the quality of the market, the territory, the leads, nor the competitiveness of the products they sell don’t matter!

DO NOT WORK UNDER A SALES MANAGER

I usually recommend that B2B sales professionals work on an independent basis so that they don’t have to be subjected to an out of touch Sales Manager, which does nothing but stop your career progression and limit your earning potential. This is especially true when these out of touch Sales Managers provide you with their “leads”, as a vast majority of the time, their “leads” are inefficient.

THEIR LEADS ARE REALLY JUST DATA RECORDS (BUT THEY DON’T KNOW THAT)

Most of the time the leads aren’t leads, they are data records. You are going to have a much lower conversion rate on data records than you would leads, but the out of touch Sales Manager (who thinks he just gave you “leads”) will think that your conversion should be a lot higher and thus, he might “inform you” that you just aren’t cut out for this business.

THEIR LEADS ARE OLD AS HELL AND THE SALES CYCLE IS OVER (BUT THEY DON’T KNOW THAT)

Or, they might supply leads that are aged, sometimes from 90 days ago or more, thinking that the sales cycle is still active with these leads when the fact is that for the vast majority of them, the sales cycle was over months ago. Aged leads are usually leads where a merchant requested financing, but there’s usually one of three issues with these types of “leads”. Number one, the merchant either received the funding they wanted two months ago, or number two, they were declined by everybody and gave up on speaking with anybody else about the topic. Or number three, it could have been the case where the merchant wasn’t truly serious about getting funded anyway, deciding not to move forward with anybody. The few leads that you do convert, because your Sales Manager believes these were “hot leads”, he will end up scolding you over the low conversion numbers.

THEY USE THE GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS MODEL (WHICH REVEALS HOW INSANE THEY ARE)

This is the biggest pet peeve right here, they might use the Glengarry Glen Ross model, which makes absolutely no sense. So here’s what they would do.

They would spend a lot of money on a marketing budget to produce a good stream of leads of merchants looking for financing assistance from an alternative basis. However, instead of dishing them out to their sales reps in equal number, they will give the majority of them to the reps “already high up on the board” and give hardly any of them to the reps at the lower end of the stick. All this does is causes the “rich to get richer” in that the reps getting the hot leads will just continue to stay up high on the board while those at the bottom can never move up.

What I don’t get is this, if you don’t believe in the reps at the bottom of the board, why not terminate them? Why the hell would you keep them on your staff, if you no longer believe in their abilities to perform and thus, aren’t going to provide them with the resources needed to move up on the board?

ARE THE LEADS WEAK, OR ARE YOU WEAK?

The truth is that in professional sales, it’s all about supply, demand, and solving complex problems with innovative solutions. It takes research, strategic planning and strategic market segmentation in terms of who we target, as the target of our prospecting has to be someone who is currently in a situation to utilize our services. This means that 90% of the job is that of finding the right territory, market and/or leads to sell to. Now, there are a lot of incompetent salespeople in the world, and you could equip them with the resources needed to succeed and they still fail to execute. That would indeed make those reps “weak” rather than the leads being weak. But in my opinion, far too often are competent salespeople at the mercy of a weak Sales Manager that provides them with weak training, weak products, weak markets, a weak territory, and weak leads. It’s based on this that my opinion stands, in that most of the time it’s the leads that are weak, rather than the competency of the sales professional.

Don’t Quit So Early: Sometimes The Merchant Just Needs More Time

December 4, 2015
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To this day, I still have no idea who The National Sales Executive Association is, such as what they do, where they’re located and how long they have been in existence (if they even exist at all). But a couple of years ago, I read a quote that was supposedly from this organization, that went as follows:

Follow Up

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect after the first attempt
  • 25% of sales people make two attempts with a prospect and stop
  • 12% of sales people make three attempts with a prospect and stop
  • 10% of sales people make more than three attempts with a prospect

When Sales Are Made

  • 2% of sales are made on the first call
  • 3% of sales are made on the second call
  • 5% of sales are made on the third call
  • 10% of sales are made on the fourth call
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth – twelfth calls

From these statistics, we could conclude that 10% of sales people pick up 80% of the sales, due largely to the fact that they initiate five or more call attempts to the prospective client in particular.

While I have no idea who The National Sales Executive Association is, over my time in B2B sales, I can surely say that giving the merchant more time to respond to you surely works. Matter of fact, 2% is very generous, I think that less than 1% of my “closes” have been on the first call attempt and over 90% of my “closes” have come from making at least 5 attempts through either telephone or email.

salesmanOUT OF TOUCH SALES MANAGERS

One of the main reasons I have only participated in the profession of Sales on an independent basis, is mainly so that I can contain 100% creative, strategic and operational control, and not be subject to out of touch Sales Managers.

The fact is that far too many Sales Managers are just out of touch, either they will have their team using outdated marketing tactics such as calling UCCs, Aged Leads, or random listings out of the Yellow Pages, or they might have their team selling inefficient products. In terms of inefficient products, they might have their reps trying to push 1.30 factored rated advances on A Paper clients in the age of Lending Club and other A Paper lenders filling up the merchant’s mailbox, email and voicemail with A Paper offers.

But if these two aspects weren’t bad enough, far too many Sales Managers also have a very impatient disposition when it comes to the B2B sales cycle. Far too often, they will set B2B sales quotas either by the day, the week, or the month, rather than by the quarter or the year, as they should be set.

The bottom line is that sometimes it just takes a merchant longer than usual to move forward, which while it surely delays the sales cycle, it doesn’t mean that the merchant is disinterested or trying to pull your chain, sometimes there’s just legitimate delays in the B2B sales cycle.

THE REALITY OF THE B2B SALES CYCLE

Far too many Sales Managers are just out of touch, as they still believe in the mythical smooth walking, talking and overly charismatic sales guy who can sell fire to Hell. According to these types of Sales Managers, you should be able to get all of your applications within the first call or within the first week of speaking with a merchant, and if you don’t, then apparently you don’t belong in this industry and should seek opportunities elsewhere.

How out of touch could these guys be? Have they ever in their life managed an individual B2B Sales Pipeline? In reality, here’s how the deals go most of the time:

Week One

  • Your first attempt with the merchant is on a Monday. The merchant is interested but is very busy right now as he’s about to enter his afternoon rush. He gives you his email, says to email him over information and follow up on Thursday.
  • You email information that Monday night and then follow up that Thursday. You get his staff member on the telephone saying he had to leave early today, but will be back on Saturday. You send him a follow up email on Thursday night.
  • You call back on Saturday and he answers the telephone, he confirms that he received the email but just hasn’t had time to sit down and take a look over everything. Says to follow up with him this Monday at 2:00 p.m. before his afternoon rush.

Week Two

  • You call back that Monday, he says he has a good 5 minutes to talk and before you can begin speaking, he immediately begins a long discourse. He talks about how he’s looking at setting up this second location and how he has it all lined out, he just needs a good $100k to get the second location up and running. His bank hasn’t been that much of a help for this project and he reviewed your email, he likes the premium estimated price ranges that you have listed with up to 24 month terms. You begin to ask him some questions to properly pre-qualify him, you discover that he’s an A Paper client and you estimate that you can get him approved for the $100k over 24 months that he’s interested in. You go over the documentation needed to get started and the estimated timeframe until funding completion. He says that sounds great and to email everything you need from him by email tonight, and he’ll work on getting that back to you as soon as he gets back to his home office tonight.
  • You email him that Monday night with items needed to move forward. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday go by, you don’t hear anything from him.
  • You follow up with him on Friday and his staff member says he’s not there but he will indeed be back on Monday. You leave a message for him with his staff member as well as send him a follow up email that Friday afternoon.

Week Three

  • You call back on that Monday, his staff member says he is available and goes to bring him on the telephone. He gets on the telephone and says he’s been working on the items this morning and will fax them shortly. He asks for your fax line once again.
  • On Wednesday morning, you get a fax from him with only partial items of the application package, such as only 2 pages of your 3 page application, and only 2 months of bank statements even though you requested 3 months. You call him that Wednesday afternoon to confirm receipt and request the additional items that were missing. He says he will get that right over to you here shortly.
  • Thursday and Friday go by, you receive no additional items. You send him a follow up email on Friday night about the additional items.

Week Four

  • You follow up with him that Monday to touch base for the additional items, he gets that over to you by fax that afternoon, now giving you a completed application package. Now you have a completed application package, or what is referred to as a “close”, but that took four weeks of follow up which included 8 follow up calls and numerous emails.

SOMETIMES IT COULD TAKE 6 MONTHS OR MORE

This was just one example of where it took four weeks to get a completed application package, however, sometimes it could take up to 6 months for me to receive a completed application package from a merchant due to various reasons.

Some of the reasons include: waiting for an existing balance to come down, waiting for a tax lien payment plan to get finalized, waiting for a bankruptcy discharge, waiting for NSFs to come down, the merchant running into a family emergency, or the project for which the merchant needed funding gets put on hold in some way.

SOMETIMES THE MERCHANT JUST NEEDS MORE TIME, DON’T QUIT SO EARLY

This is why any B2B sales quota that’s measured on a daily, weekly or monthly basis is completely and utterly insane. B2B sales cycles can take longer and are usually more complex than B2C sales cycles which involve fewer decision makers, lower dollar exchanges and usually less complex solutions.

This is why Sales Managers and Agents alike should be more patient when it comes to the B2B sales cycle. On a daily basis, the focus should just be on continuing to grow your B2B Sales Pipeline as well as follow up on said B2B Sales Pipeline through telephone calls, email, mail and social media. You would then begin to receive emails, faxes and mailings with various application packages from members of your B2B Sales pipelines at random times of the day and night.

You should judge the effectiveness of your process on more of a quarterly or annual basis, rather than daily, weekly, or monthly, as sometimes the merchant just needs more time.
Don’t quit so early.

Business Lending: Sell The Whole Solution

November 26, 2015
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full box of crayonsThe year of 2015 went by rapidly, as it felt like yesterday that I was sitting back in my office chair, reading an article from the March/April 2015 edition of deBanked Magazine, composed by Ed McKinley, a man with nearly 40 years of journalism experience.

McKinley began a discussion about a “year of the broker,” based on analysis, interviews, and criticism of the mass new entrants of brokers into our space within recent times. I have spent the better part of this year continuing this discussion both here on deBanked and within our industry circle, with discussions that have been both conventional, out of the box, and even at times peculiar. Speaking of peculiar, this brings us to the opening of this discussion, in which I must quote RuPaul.

RuPaul once stated that, “life is about using the whole box of crayons.” In my opinion, if you can figure out the profession of sales, you can pretty much figure out most of everything there is to life. And if RuPaul is right in that life is about using the whole box of crayons, why do so many of the mass new entrants of brokers within our industry, believe they are going to properly sell a merchant without using the whole solution?

It’s common knowledge that every individual crayon provides its own distinctive color, which in and of itself creates its own distinctive value, as value in this case is based upon where the color fits on the page to provide its role in the total coloring scheme. But just like crayons, every part of our alternative financing solution provides a distinctive value that altogether creates the whole solution for the merchants we serve.

(Q) + (S) + (P) = THE WHOLE SOLUTION
The Whole Solution equation is based on three letters. “Q” stands for Quality, “S” stands for Support and “P” stands for “Pricing”. How many brokers within our industry focus only on offering the “Q” and “S” portion of this equation, without the “P” portion? How many brokers within our industry focus on offering the “Q” and “P” portion, without the “S” portion?

QUALITY
Quality is all about bringing to the merchant what they deem to be value, and in our space (alternative financing) that means capital when they need it. Thus, you should have a comprehensive resource network of alternative financing products from merchant cash advances, alternative business loans, equipment leasing products, factoring, purchase order financing, and more, with approval amounts that can solve the working capital needs of the merchant. This creates value.

SUPPORT
This is all about your professional competency, merchant servicing and merchant education.

  • Professional competency is all about you and your team having knowledge of the industry, the various products, the competing products, the market trends, understanding your merchant’s industry, and understanding how the product could help (or hurt) the merchant in achieving their operational objectives.
  • Merchant servicing is all about providing tools for your merchant to manage their account with you, such as online access to statements, balances, transactions, or at least providing such information in a monthly statement. It also includes having easy access to live support agents during business hours to properly handle merchant questions, payment issues, collection issues, as well as there being an option for payment modification if a situation warrants it.
  • Merchant education is all about educating the merchant based on the big data analytic information that you have currently, and how they can use this to help their business in various areas such as how to qualify for more conventional financing, better marketing strategies, etc.

PRICING
In our industry, proper pricing is based on utilizing risk-based pricing, which is to price a merchant based on their paper grade. This can only be done after efficient pre-qualification of the merchant to understand where they stand.

Some merchants have low risk measurement, thus, they are A+ Paper and A Paper. Some merchants have moderate levels of risk, thus, they are B and C Paper. Then some merchants have higher levels of risk, thus, they are D and E Paper.

A+ Paper: Should be priced similar to a P2P lender’s pricing schedule, which includes longer terms up to 60 months. These terms and conditions mirror that of a conventional loan.

A Paper: Should be priced on 6 – 18 month payback cycles. The shorter ranges of 6 – 8 months having 1.09 – 1.20 pricing, 9 – 10 months having 1.22 – 1.24 pricing, 12 – 15 months having 1.25 – 1.32 pricing, and 18 months having 1.28 – 1.35 pricing.

B and C Paper: Should be priced on 6 – 12 month payback cycles. The shorter ranges of 6 – 8 months having 1.22 – 1.26 pricing, 9 – 10 months having 1.28 – 1.30 pricing, and 12 months having 1.35 – 1.45 pricing.

D Paper: Should be priced on 4 – 7 month payback cycles. 4 – 5 months having 1.28 – 1.35 pricing and 6 – 7 months having 1.40 – 1.45 pricing.

E Paper: Too high of risk to usually find a decent approval.

FINAL WORD
I usually debate other sales professionals (within our industry and outside of it) in regards to selling the whole solution.

Some believe that if you put majority of the focus on quality and support, then you can literally price your client however you prefer, including well above their marketplace pricing.

Some believe that if you just focus on providing the lowest price, then you can get away without having the best quality and support functions.

Both of these approaches are selling the partial solution, but the whole solution should always be the best solution as it provides the best in quality and support, while tying in a proper pricing model for the client based on their standing in the marketplace. This leads to client longevity, loyalty and stickiness. That’s why I believe the best approach is to sell the whole solution.

Are Your Sales Methods Wimpy?

August 24, 2015
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popeye faceDo you remember Wimpy? Some of you probably don’t but those who do remember Wimpy, remember him as being a silent scam artist who promised the famous phrase, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger today.” He never adhered to that promise. I never ascribed cartoons to real life but we can learn a few things from Wimpy and how we understand business relationships.

Back in the day, there was something called Trust. It was a little thing that was swapped like currency with the people that you interacted with on a daily basis. Today, trust has been traded for the Internet and now we have nothing to stand on. We must work harder to build relationships in any capacity and at the end of the day, you might still question if a developing level of trust is reciprocal.

Take trust and mix it with a sales position in 2015 and you have disaster. The countless nos you must endure to get to the few yeses and the pressure to close those yeses is exacerbated by the fear that a Wimpy or the Internet will come and take them away.

While reading Personal Touch Makes Big Difference in Small-Business Loans on the WSJ this morning, I immediately got a little upset. This is such a “Duh Article.” A “Duh Article” is one of those articles that are true, but so true in the fact that you end up saying, “Duh, I know that!” and wonder why such basic teachings become important when they are finally backed up by a case study. Did anyone really not think that personal relationships help? Or that Wimpy, the borrower you didn’t know, would not really pay you on Tuesday when you relied on just his word? It goes both ways.

Below are a few ways to avoid the Wimpy traits of sales when building a relationship between you and a business owner:

#1 Rule of Sales Relationships: What are you even selling?
You are selling money so it shouldn’t be that hard right? WRONG. Even though everyone could use an influx of capital, you have two factors that impact your sales in the MCA Industry. PRICE and PROMINENCE.

  • Price: We are already slandered for putting a hefty price tag on advances and even if you say, “We offer factor rates as low as a 1.08!”, How many 1.08 deals do you really close?
  • Prominence: Names, Logos, and Promises. Characterization plays a big part in what you represent. With so many MCA Entities popping up, how do you set yourself apart?

You have to offset the two factors by building the relationship and creating an understanding.

Example: Imagine you are selling a line of ketchup to every hamburger shop in the U.S.

Do they already have ketchup? They will eventually need to reorder. So where do they get it now? Are they content with this outlet or have they never thought to seek out an alternative? This is the same “question scenario” you have to answer when selling. Note: Replace Ketchup with Capital.

  1. Do they need capital now?
  2. Will they need more capital soon?
  3. How do they get capital when they need it?
  4. How can I deliver all of the above and be their new preferred choice?

If the answer to the first question is no, that’s okay, move on to the next question. You are more likely to close double the sales when you answer the second and third one. Either way, one of those will have an answer.

#2 Rule of Sales Relationships: Understand the Market you are Targeting
Who is your target market and do you understand them? This is one of those situations where I feel offering a factor to a manufacturing company that is based on invoices is just plain dumb. There are many alternative financing options that are more mainstream than you think and it all boils down to the top 3 things:

  • Industry: Do you understand the industry you are selling to? You will connect better with your merchant if you understand the inner workings, schedule, and the ways they obtain their receivables. Their Industry is their passion. If you don’t connect with their passion (unless there is a dire need for emergency capital) you will not be taken seriously or remembered. Ask yourself, “how can I demonstrate an understanding of the way the business makes money or works with different vendors to get paid?”
  • Credit: Don’t promise a low rate to a business that you know has a credit score below 600. Research the different tier programs PROVIDED to you by most Direct Funders. Categorize your tier sales structure and request examples of similar past funded industries from the Funders you work with.
  • NEED:If they do need capital now, what is it for? This is a great conversation starter. Whether it’s a seasonal need, equipment-related, or plain ol’ working capital, probe the conversation by finding out their goals so you can better represent the merchant and fit them to a better funding program.

#3 Rule of Sales Relationships: The Follow up
This may go far beyond the basic sales guidelines, but categorize your prospects!

Example: Say you have a book of restaurants that you have connected with before and you know they are going to start gearing up for the holidays. Let them know you UNDERSTAND this time of year and how you can assist! Personalize the need of capital with something they base their business on. This is where direct marketing comes into play. If you remind them of who you are and that you are to assist them to manage the most stressful money making times of the year, they will think of you as their go-to when they NEED it.