April 6, 2020 In which we are reminded that the most important form of attention we can give our clients now is listening after we ask “How are you getting on?”
These are extraordinary times – bars and restaurants closed, construction projects frozen, millions of people unemployed, most of us now hyper-vigilant about the Corona Covid-19 virus, orders to “shelter in place,” and on it goes. Very difficult, scary, lots of uncertainty. As we’re working through the next few weeks, the absolute best thing we can do is to stay in touch with our clients, to be close, to listen, to offer encouragement, to share resources, connections, and ideas where we have them, and, mostly, just to show up.
Every business will be different but, in general, there are several questions that business owners are asking now…
- How do I keep my team and my family healthy?
- How long will this shutdown last?
- How much cash do I have and how long can I pay my employees and bills?
- Where can I cut expenses or delay payments without significant damage to the business?
- Where can I get more cash if I need it?
- What else could I be doing or selling that would generate revenue at this point?
… and their tolerance for the current challenges and uncertainty will based on their past history, their cash reserves, and their agility in terms of what they sell.
At this point, the most important form of attention we can give our clients is listening… true listening…checking in, asking, “How are you doing? What does it look like for you?” and then responding empathetically to their replies.
Like, if they say, ‘I’m closing, I’ve laid off my employees, and I’m headed to the unemployment office,” your response at that point is, “I’m so sorry, that’s really rough, I’m sorry that’s the situation.”
Or, if they say, “I’m really not sure what to do”, your response might be, “Maybe I can help” and you direct them to state or Federal small business relief programs, as they become available, or to the local SCORE chapter, or to whatever strategies your bank is offering, or to more experienced bankers, or to other resources in the community.
So, that said, here’s one possible approach to a conversation between a banker and a business owner … and I recommend that you call, first, rather than emailing… It’s a little more personal.
Mary, good morning, Pat Nichols from Clarity Bank. Glad I caught you.
I called to ask how you are getting on. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
- How are you and your family and how is your business at this point?
- How do you see the next few weeks? What are your thoughts or plans at this point?
- If the virus restrictions are released in May, how will your situation look?
- What if the virus restrictions continue into the summer?
- Have you done a cash forecast at this point so you know how it looks?
- Do you have a template for that? I can send you one and I’d be happy to talk through it with you.
- Here’s what I know about Clarity Bank‘s plans at this point…Payment deferrals, fee cancellations, etc. … and about the Federal and State programs – Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Payroll Protection Program, other programs. I can let you know as I learn more. And, we’re keeping an eye on emerging Federal and State programs. I can let you know as I learn more about those, too.
You’re welcome, glad I caught you. Let’s stay in touch. You’re on my mind and I’ll give you a shout again in a week or so. If there’s something you think I can do to help either through the bank or my network, I’d be happy to do whatever I can.
All the best, Mary. Goodbye for now.
So, it’s something like that. Just staying in touch. Focusing on the questions that the business owners are asking themselves. Offering resources, if you have them, through Clarity Bank or through State or Federal programs. And, now that you’ve made contact voice to voice, dropping the occasional text or an email just checking in, “good morning, thinking about you. How are you getting on?” These will help you generate responses from your clients.
All of us hope that our families and our neighbors and the businesses that we serve will come through this. As we’re working through it together, the absolute best thing we can do is to extend ourselves, to listen, to offer encouragement, to share resources, connections, and ideas where we have them.
So… take the time, make the time, to reach out to the people in your business community and stay in touch, share resources, put in a good word, do what you can. Call your clients, call your referral sources, call your network in the business community.
Nick Miller trains banks and bankers to attract and expand relationships with business clients. More profitable relationships, faster. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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