Goal Line Stands (Issue 683)

In which we are encouraged to engage our clients in thorough discussion of their goals.

Several years ago, I sat in a slightly too warm, sun-filled conference room, several chairs away from a commercial banker, David.  I was there to discuss a loan I was seeking to finance Clarity’s acquisition of another company. After summarizing our company’s  history and focus, I shared some details about the proposed acquisition and the financial support I was seeking.  He shared some thoughts about how such a transaction might be structured.

We sat in silence for several moments… each of us thinking…. and then David said, incredulously:

“But, why would you want to do that? Based on what you’ve told me, it’ll take you six or seven years to pay that money back…. assuming nothing goes off course which, you’ve already told me, is likely to happen as the banking industry changes.  At this stage of your company’s life, and at this stage of your life, are you sure this is what you want to do?  To be beholden to a bank, to this bank, for that much and for that long?”

I was stunned for a moment. I felt like I was strangling.  I must have said something because then, David asked: “What are you really trying to achieve here?  Why is this so important to you that you’d even consider this?” and we discussed my goals for quite some time.

I will long be in his debt….. so to speak…. for that discussion.

For several weeks thereafter, I thought about my goals and the plans I shared, ultimately deciding ‘wrong time, wrong place’ to proceed with the acquisition.

David could easily have said, “Well, alright then, we’ll need this, this, this, this, and this… and then we can put the loan application package together… “ but he didn’t.

Instead, he asked me the best consultative question ever:  “What? Are you nuts?”

Many sales people have a deep understanding of their products. It’s the rare seller who can help clients define their goals and what they stand for.

12 Responses to Goal Line Stands (Issue 683)

  1. Lew Mutty says:

    Liked it!
    Good message quickly done!

  2. Andy says:


    Nice snag. I knew how you were going to end the story but it was compelling enough to greet me to push the button. Did it automatically withdraw funds from my overseas bank account?

  3. John Hoskins says:

    Nick – this helped me solidify my thinking about something I’ve been considering. Alignment with goals keeps us from shimmying down the road of life. Thanks Amigo.

  4. Chris Moreno says:

    Nick, most bankers would have been salivating to get a loan on the books of an obviously large amount, with a reputable, successful client like yourself to back it up.

    But this banker turned out to be a trusted advisor. And brave. I’m sure when other banking needs for you come up, he will be among the top of the list.

    Thanks, Chris

  5. Sue Kowalski says:

    I’ll stop reading – won’t take the two steps to read the article – even though I enjoy them very much

  6. John Burley says:

    And you’ve once again personalized the scenario so powerfully for us.

    The challenge to hear “loan” and not just whip out the forms is always there. But greater success lies beyond the challenge! Maybe the outcome is that the loan/deal never happens – as in this case – or happens in a different way; but the dividends of the relationship are much greater for taking the risk.

  7. Dick Kazan says:

    Nick, As they say in sports, sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make. Nice story, strong message and well presented.

  8. Mike Maginn says:

    Clear example of consultative selling. The value in saying no is much greater than booking a loan. Not only has this banker made a customer for life, he has also become a “true business partner” for you–someone to act as a trusted advisor. Doing the right thing for customers seems to always lead to good outcomes.

  9. Brian H. Cook says:

    Great reminder, the best deal is sometimes the deal we don’t make.

    • Nick Miller says:

      Brian, thanks, yes, and it’s hard to know… I’m not sure whether this banker would have gone forward with deal if I’d have said “yes, let’s go.” My sense is, he would have declined to pursue it because he didn’t believe it was a good idea.

  10. Nick Miller says:

    The key thing is the difference between seeing your role as “selling product” and seeing your role as “providing expertise” or “consulting” as several have said. Consultatively selling product can, many times be helpful. Undertanding a client’s goals, challenging them, and helping them map a path to achieve the goals can also lead to product sales…. and also much more as many have written.

  11. Kevin Pyne says:

    From my point of veiw this is called service and I say this becouse I work in the service end of the oil industry and it seams like there are fewer and fewer people that I do buisness with that understand that with outstanding service you can build a relationship with a customer and to such a point that he will think of no one else but you when they need what ever it is that you specilize in simply becouse you have used your expertise to help them rather than just closed the sale with the biggest margin possible. This is how we get repeat customers.

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