You cannot help everyone you come into contact with, but you should always try.
Focus on solutions for the client, not solutions for yourself. At first you may find fewer paycheques for yourself with this approach, but there is also less stress. There is less stress working with a solutions-focused agenda because your days are spent putting square pegs in square holes and round pegs into round holes. There is no forcing things (just be getting paid).
If you have not yet scared your prospect away with the aforementioned tough questions and deep dive into their lives, then you have one last chance to do so. The final test is to filter out an uncommitted client is the ever-growing list of required documents. The worst mistake is to go easy on a client with a “documents-lite” version of the master list. Inevitably this leads to a mad rush for “just one more document” in the final days leading up to completion.
In this deadline-driven business, we must rely on our client to supply significant documents well in advance of deadlines. You know what’s needed; the clients do not. They are depending on you to manage them accordingly. Ask early, ask regularly, and ask for it all—until the list is complete.
Put all communications in writing on this topic for maximum clarity and a documented history. Use email, not texts. Maintain clarity about what is required, clarity about when it was first asked for. Always work from a master template that includes tips and tricks on accessing and forwarding documents. Go the extra mile and strive to make what is an often cumbersome and unfamiliar part of the process feel as smooth, secure, and efficient as possible.
Request an introduction to the client’s bookkeeper or accountant to help expedite the process and remove some of the stress from the client’s shoulders. Always CC the client on any polite reminders, and on your repeated thank-yous to keep communications clear and open. Keep in mind that every single person you interact with is a potential client and/or referral source. They are not meant to do your bidding; you are meant to do theirs.
There are two sorts of people in your orbit from here forward:
those who are doing business with you, and those who will soon realize that they should be doing business with you. Stay focused on this mindset.
When it comes to effective document collection, the number-one client that we all fail miserably with is a friend or a family member. Somehow we think that getting their ID, their void cheque, the innocuous bits and pieces is OK to delay, delay, and delay some more. We tease individual documents from them one by one, like slowly peeling off a bandage it’s painful for all involved.
The slow peeling of a Band-Aid is the worst method. Perhaps you recall, as I do, how Mom was so very sensitive and would ever so slowly and tenderly peel a bandage from your knee, empathetically wincing along with you the entire time, all in an effort to cause what she thought would be less pain. Then Dad would appear out of nowhere like a ninja assassin, poke you in the ribs with his left fingers, draw your attention to the ceiling with his right, and then while you are wincing and gawking upward he would yank the bandage from your knee in a split-searing-stinging second. At least that’s how I recall it being done.
My experience, and more importantly the science*, backs up the claims that a swift, painful jolt is actually less stressful than a long, slow, sympathetic process.
Just stop. Stop treating friends and family differently than regular clients, or stop working with them. Refer them out if you cannot put on your game face.
Buckle down, be forthright with all that is required, lay the big list on any and every client up front and get it over with. If they run screaming from your demands, at least they ran screaming up front, and not partway through the process as you “one-more-documented” them to death.
The days of quoting a rate during the first phone call are long gone anyway, as are the days of gauging the odds of an approval for 90% of clients on that same opening call. What of the remaining 10% of first-time callers that we might actually be accurate with? Even based on our experience and skills profiling applicants, the reality remains that in this brave new regulatory environment we don’t really know a single thing with any certainty until we have the required documents in hand.
Which leads to the crux of this chapter, a phrase I heard firstfrom one of the brightest people in our industry, Bernadette Laxamana: “No Docs No Talk.”
*Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions (New York: Harper Perennial, 2010).