You can’t complete a deal without a good, usable lead. But if you’re not generating your own, are you really closing the transaction you want to? In an effort to bring together a vendor and lessor in a more beneficial way, brokers need to take responsibility for lead generation. This, of course, can lead to closing deals that are better for all parties while also saving some sweat, blood and tears.
Let’s talk about leads. Last time, in this space, I wrote about a single change in your business that could take it from frantic to fun and from punishing to productive. The change is to modify the way you view your business. Stop seeing your business as finding funding for the transactions you’ve got and learn to see it as finding transactions for the funding you’ve got.
Not only is it key to maximizing your investment of both time and money in your business by focusing your efforts on closeable, more standardized transactions, but it’s also the most effective way to deal with economic downturns because it allows you to focus your efforts with precision on business that is still being done. To make it happen you only have to do one thing and that one thing is completely within your control. All you have to do is take responsibility for generating your own leads.
As a practical matter, for most brokers, this means no longer relying on vendors to determine which transactions they work on. Now, please note that I didn’t say you shouldn’t work with vendors anymore. Frequently, when I tell folks how my business took off — when I quit letting vendors tell me what I should be working on — they take it to mean I don’t work with vendors, but that’s not the case; there’s a vendor involved in every transaction I do. My business took off, however, when I quit trying to get whatever leases my vendor called in approved for them and instead started to point my vendor partners in advance towards leases I already knew I had funding in place for. It was ridiculously easy, too.
You see, as an industry, to a large extent, we’ve pigeon-holed ourselves into seeing ourselves as one of two types of businesses strategically. We tend to define ourselves as being either vendor-driven or lessee/end-user-driven. But those are arbitrary, artificial definitions. The truth is, on every transaction, we work with vendors and lessees, don’t we? We have to have a vendor with leasable equipment and a lessee with approvable credit, and we have to have them in agreement with each other at the same time and in accordance with the policies of one of our funding sources. The problem is, when we see ourselves as driven by one or the other — as vendor-driven or lessee-driven — we fail to focus on the real goal, which should be to bring them together.
Since, if they’re not in accordance with the policies of one of my funding sources, such that I can get them approved and booked, the efforts to connect with either the vendor or the lessee are for nothing, that’s where I start. I look to a funding source for a type of lease that I know I can get done, (that way there’s no shopping for funding after the fact), then I define both a lessee and vendor that meet that criteria and I go out and bring them together.
I learned the hard way that the two mantras of vendor-oriented sales, “leasing-as-a-closing-tool” and “good-vendor-service” not only didn’t guarantee me an approvable transaction, they frequently guaranteed me lots of extra work searching for funding sources for difficult, or one-off transactions. Here’s why.
When I called on vendors telling them I wanted to be their leasing source, I was basically promising them then I would work on whatever transactions they called me with. That may be good service to the vendor but it isn’t necessarily a good use of my time. As to the closing tool, by the time the transaction is to the closing stage, the specifics and constraints of the transaction are already pretty well set; before I even get involved. I’m reacting to someone else’s sales strategy at that point, not controlling my own.
Honestly now, if you are what would normally be described as vendor-driven, what percentage of the leads you worked on in recent months would you have chosen to work on yourself if you were completely in control? In other words, what percentage were your ideal, easily approved kinds of leads? Based on the comments I get from brokers around the country, I’m guessing it’s not the majority of them. And the approval rates I hear from funding sources are simply shocking. They’re shocking in the amount of wasted time and effort they represent on the parts of the funding sources, the brokers, the vendors and the lessees.
Well, you are in control of that, or you should and could be, anyway. When you are, you’ll find, like I did, that your business can be both much easier and much more productive than you may have ever imagined it. But you must take responsibility for generating your own leads and before you do that you must first acknowledge to yourself that calling on vendors to become their leasing source is asking to work on their leads and not taking responsibility for generating your own. So let’s talk about generating your own.
The problem with asking vendors for leasing leads is that they’re not qualified to identify leasing leads; and they shouldn’t be expected to be. In fact, while there are exceptions, the typical vendor’s definition of a leasing lead is a prospect that can’t afford to buy or doesn’t qualify for bank financing. Is that your definition of a good leasing lead? It’s not mine. My definition of a good leasing lead is a prospect that could easily afford to buy or could easily get bank financing but chooses not to.
That’s a big difference, isn’t it? Given that, I not only do myself a disservice by asking vendors for leasing leads, I’m doing the vendors a disservice by asking them for something they’re not qualified to answer. Instead, then, I want to ask them something they are qualified to answer. I want to ask them a question they’re qualified to answer from which I can then infer whether or not the prospect is a good leasing lead according to my own definition.
What I want to ask them for, then, is a good “using” lead. They are qualified to know who can make productive use out of the equipment they sell. To the degree that I understand my funding sources’ policies and parameters, I should be able to infer which of those using prospects represent good leasing prospects for me. To get using leads from a vendor is easy if you’re able to convey to the vendor three simple but valuable concepts.
The first is that you’re not there asking for anything; you’re not there looking for a handout; you’re not there looking to profit or make your living from the results of their hard work. I want my vendor to know that I’m a professional, I understand my business, I’m willing to take responsibility for selling my own product and I’m willing to carry my own weight in any mutual transactions. What I also confess to my vendor, though, is that my business isn’t of interest to anyone unless they’re first interested in the vendor’s business.
The second concept I want to convey is that my business is, in effect, that of removing money objections to his or her business and, because of that, what I’m able to do well is open doors that may not always or otherwise be easily opened by them. In other words, I can increase the chances of them getting in the door and getting an opportunity for a demonstration or proposal if I can eliminate — in advance — potential money objections their prospects may have. I’ve yet to meet a vendor that doesn’t think that’s a good idea.
Finally, the third concept I want to convey is that I’m going to do this anyway, with that vendor or with another vendor. I don’t do this threateningly, but once they believe and accept the first two concepts it now becomes — in their minds and not just in mine — in their own best interest to have me working with them rather than with someone else.
When you can convincingly convey those three concepts to a vendor several things happen: a.) you’re no longer just another leasing company trying to “tag onto” their sales; b.) you’re truly offering to help them with the most challenging part of their sales, which is opening doors; and c.) you’ve created a mutual and equal attraction for working together. The next step follows easily.
Find out three things from that vendor that if he or she knew about a prospect he or she would know right away whether or not the prospect would benefit from using their equipment. Invariably, those three things are specific problems they can solve for the prospect. You’re going to use questions about those three things to approach prospective customers and find out if they’d like those problems solved if they didn’t have to buy anything and the federal government would subsidize up to a third of the cost. You’ll be amazed at the responses.
Where will you get lists of prospects to call on? That’s the cool part. You’re going to get them from the vendor. Once you’ve effectively conveyed the concepts described above, you’re going to ask the vendor this: If you were me, where would you start? If you believed someone could help you get doors opened wouldn’t you want to point them quickly in the right direction? Sure you would. Your vendor will, too.
Here’s the good news. You’ll only do this for classes of prospects that you already know in advance you have a high probability of approving and/or you like to work with. You’ll kill off transactions you can’t do quickly without alienating your vendor in any way. You’re still working with vendors but you’re now using them to help you take responsibility for generating your own leads. Here’s the best news of all. Leads generated like this are unique and are “owned” by you. You picked them and you get to price them. That’s both productive and profitable.
One final point, some of the best vendor relationships I ever had working this way were with vendors that had in-house leasing programs. I didn’t have to beat their rates or overcome those programs in any way; it was never a problem. Why? Though I used the vendor’s help, (and helped the vendor as I did so), I was taking responsibility for creating my own leads, not waiting until the vendor had a sale and asking to be handed that opportunity. Best of all, I was no longer looking for funding for whatever transactions I happened to get from the vendor; I was looking for transactions for funding I already knew I had. It’s fun, productive and virtually bulletproof. What’s not to love about that?
Gerry Egan has been arranging equipment leases for more than 30 years, starting as a vendor, then working for a direct funder, and for more than 17 years as owner of TecSource, Inc. TecSource® brokers leases, holds its own leases and manages the leasing portfolio of a private, business-only bank. Egan is a past-president of NAELB and a frequent presenter at industry conferences. He recently wrote, presented and produced the first three of NAELB’s online video distance learning programs. Egan can be reached at email@example.com, or through his training site, www.realworldsalestraining.com.
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