Business Development Plans for Commercial Lenders
We all have goals — personal as well as professional. The personal ones we set for ourselves all the time…I, for example, started feeling guilty recently that I had stopped playing guitar. I used to be pretty good, or at least I used to be a little less bad and it bummed me out so I set myself a goal to practice daily. It has been a nice routine and something that I look forward to every evening after work. I still stink but I’m getting less awful every day!
Professional goals, when you are working in the role as a lender, tend to be a big part of the job if not the biggest part of the job…we all know that. Despite this, I run into so many lenders out there who don’t actually have a defined plan to get where they need to be each year. It’s kind of ironic that in a business where we expect our clients to provide business plans, feasibility studies, financial projections and whole lot of other information to justify our investment in their projects, the lenders themselves so often lack their own defined plan of action. I want to share with you today some tips in putting together a solid lender business plan.
It’s All In Your Head
First off, saying your plan is in your head is not good enough. Just like you might scoff at the guy who tells you his plan for a craft brewery/cat cafe fusion concept is “all up here”, your business plan needs to start in your brain and end up written down so you can review it and revise it over time. The first thing to do is easy, list out your goals.
Fishing Pole or Fishing Net?
Next, you should brainstorm a bit and consider who your target audience is. Your best bet is to market to the people who are trusted by your prospective clients. Your time is best spent developing relationships with those key people versus cold calling all the prospects on your list. Think of it this way — you could spend an hour a day cold calling prospects and if you make those cold calls warm and end up getting a deal from one of those calls, you get that one deal. You might uncover needs for some additional services or if you’re really lucky you might get a referral to a friend they have who also needs a loan.
Or, you could spend that same time developing relationships with people who deal with your ideal clients, and lots of them, on a routine basis. These people are your centers of influence or COI’s. Targeting individual client prospects directly is like fishing with a fishing pole…best you can catch is one at a time. Targeting COI’s is like towing a huge net along the side of the boat…you can pickup loads of fish in the same amount of time it would take you to catch just one with a pole.
My COIs are primarily comprised of commercial real estate brokers and agents, business/real estate attorneys, CPAs, business consultants, commercial insurance agents, and financial advisors. Take some time to brainstorm the COIs that are most appropriate for you.
Now, you can jot down some main headings that cover what you want to accomplish. For example, my main areas of focus in targeting my COIs involved the following three efforts: Marketing, Prospecting, and Networking. Once you have those main focus areas listed, it’s time to add some goals for each.
Make your goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely. My marketing goals included making 2 weekly posts to LinkedIn relevant to the types of deals I finance, one small weekly direct mail or e-mail campaign, and a larger monthly direct mail or e-mail campaign. These goals all had a time frame, a number to aim for (# of posts, # of people contacted, etc.), and were realistic and easy to measure.
Now that you’ve put your plan on paper, share it. Just like when you get on Facebook and tell the world that you are going to start going to the gym daily to keep yourself accountable, do the same with your business plan. Share it with your manager, associate, a trusted colleague, or someone else who can help hold you to doing what you have set out to do. And revisit it often. Plans are fluid documents that can and will change over time. This is a topic for another post, but quickly I will note that one of the great takeaways I had from reading The 12 Week Year is the concept of making your “year” a 12 week period instead of 12 months. This gives you the opportunity to adjust your plan and omit activities that are not working before a full year is behind you and it also helps provide you with a greater sense of urgency as every day really counts in a 12 week year. Plus, it takes away the “wait until next year” excuse to make changes…so forget the excuses, get your plan in place, and start working it today!