As you may know, I spent a couple of decades in the debt collection industry. I've written about the experience a few times and shared them recently on LinkedIn and Twitter. I learned a few things from debtors that I applied to sales and have shared them with my clients over the years.
I intended to share debt collection lessons with salespeople, but when I read this article, I realized that consultants occasionally get 'stuck with' a bad client and that often, the consultant has to find their own clients. So, it might help if I also shared the lessons with consultants.
Debtors are not necessarily deadbeats, crooks or liars, but some of them are. Prospects don't tell half-truths, outright lie or try to steal your stuff, but some of them do. Both may stall, delay, or throw other obstacles and objections at you, but some have a problem that you may be able to solve and if you use the right approach, they will share.
Who's who? How do you tell the difference? Simple. Ask! When I was collecting money for a client, I'd ask the debtor how we got here? I needed to determine
- If the salesperson, oversold their solution, misstated terms, or omitted pertinent details.
- If the company under-delivered or otherwise messed up.
- If the debtor lost their job or had a catastrophic event that affected their income.
- If the debtor never intended to pay even though they agreed.
This is similar to the silo questions that I suggest for salespeople.
Believe it or not, Success Secret #3 is relevant. I did have debtors pay when I sent the notification that their debt had been placed with me for collection and that they had the right to dispute the validity of the debt. As soon as I determined that a debtor was in the 4th category, my client sued or wrote it off. Very black & white. The rest of the debtors got a conversation that started with me trying to understand what was going on in their lives. I did not tell them to pay their bill. Rather, I needed to understand what problem they had that prevented them from paying.
- Did they receive what they bought?
- Did it work?
- Were they still using it?
- Why did they choose it?
- Did they ask for help?
- Did my client help?
- How was the sales person? Customer service? Manager?
- Was anybody else involved?
These were some of the hundreds of questions that I would ask to determine which category of debtor they were and whether or not I could learn under what circumstances they would pay?
It takes practice and 'other-centeredness'.
If you don't get it or you'd like to role play with me, ask me anything.