If you’re writing a business plan in preparation for applying for a loan, you could learn something from the woman who sold me my car.
As we walked around the vehicle, we chatted and the sales rep outlined some basic information about the car—which got me unconsciously nodding in agreement before she delivered the coup de grÃ¢ce. She opened the front door, gestured like Vanna White, and said, “It has heated seats.” And then she shut up, let me climb in and sell myself.
Let me break down what happened:
- The sales rep laid the groundwork and gave me the essential facts I needed to make a decision.
- She helped me like and trust her by being conversational, and by sharing why she had bought the same car herself and what she loved about it.
- She romanced me by demonstrating that she understood me and my needs. It was a cold, damp day, so heated seats were just the tipping point to convince me that this was the car for me.
- She cut to the chase and then stopped selling. She didn’t pile on a lot of irrelevant information.
- She was articulate and smart, and her plan was to enroll me in the vision of what it would be like to own and drive the vehicle. Mission accomplished.
When you’re looking for money to run or expand your business, you’re in competition against unknown suitors for financing dollars, so you need an edge. A solid business case isn’t enough—that’s just the price of admission.
Some people see bankers as focused entirely on the bottom line, so there’s no point appealing to their human side. But it’s a mistake to think that way, and it’s one that can undermine your chances to win over your banker.
An article in the Journal of Organizational Behavior on a study done in four major British banks on the role of emotion and intuition on financial decision-making revealed that emotion and decision-making are inextricably linked. This study showed that decisions are initially made using gut-level instinct or intuition, with conscious deliberation and analysis following.
Read: I Love My Banker! 3 entrepreneurs on what it’s like to have a fantastic banking relationship
Given that your banker is human, and will make at least his initial decision based on emotion, he’ll be more favourably disposed to see your business case in a positive light if he knows, likes and trusts you and your business.
So you need to make romancing your banker—and enrolling him in the vision of what’s possible for your business, and in your capacity to make it a reality—a top priority when you’re writing your business plan.
Here are some tips to help you become the perfect date for your banker:
Solve your banker’s No. 1 issue
His biggest concern is minimizing the risk from loaning you money. Provide him a sense of security right out of the gate by demonstrating your capacity to repay the loan and specifically explaining your repayment plan in the body of your document. This will help him relax, absorb the rest of what you have to say, and predispose him to help solve your No. 1 problem.
Cut to the chase
The tendency is to pull out every weapon in your arsenal in an effort to sell your banker. Don’t. Your banker doesn’t want to read War and Peace. Instead of droning on about 10 reasons why your business is the greatest thing since sliced bread, refine your pitch to focus on just your two or three most compelling arguments.
Weave romance and fact into a compelling pitch
Help your banker to fall in “know, like and trust” with you and your business. Remember that your banker’s decision will be an amalgam of intuition and conscious deliberation. So by all means romance her with your vision and the possibilities inherent in your business, but don’t forget to satisfy her need to justify her decision by demonstrating that you’ve done your homework and are financially literate.
Read: 8 Steps to Banking Bliss
Never oversell yourself or be evasive
Overselling yourself or being evasive about anything makes people resistant and even suspicious. Take pains to present a balanced and realistic picture of your business. Acknowledging the potential risks, and addressing how you intend to manage and minimize them, will earn your banker’s respect.
Don’t be afraid to show a little chutzpah
You don’t want your plan to be a carbon copy of every other plan your banker sees. Colour outside the lines of what would be expected in a traditional business plan and add your own personality and flavour with less formal language, well-chosen graphics and insightful observations about your business or industry. Just remember to use good judgment about how far outside the lines to go because your banker is likely quite conservative.
Obviously, your banker isn’t simply going to be swept away by an enthusiastic sales pitch. You have to have a solid business plan that covers the bases.
But you also need your business plan to be far more than, well, a plan. It’s also a sales document. Presenting a clear and articulate plan that appeals to your banker’s heart as well as his mind will help you stand out from all the other applicants in the pile and get you the loan you need.
Anne Melnyk is a Delta, B.C.-based business and marketing communications specialist with more than 20 years of experience providing strategic planning and communications services to SMEs in an array of industries. She blogs about business mindset, marketing and communications at annemelnyk.ca/blog.