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.

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