Have you ever looked at a list of your approved deals and hoped that at least one of them would fund in the next couple weeks? It seems like some lessees play a game called “String Out The Leasing Company”. They avoid calls from both you and the vendor and use every stall tactic imaginable.

As a leasing sales rep, your job is to close deals. Most sales people are lousy at this. They fail to ask for a commitment. The vendor is afraid to ask the tough questions and is thrilled when a prospect fills out a credit application. The leasing rep may never even speak to the lessee, but is hell-bent on getting the application approved. In this typical case-scenario there are two sales people involved and neither of them know if the lessee has any intention of signing the documents.

I worked with a vendor who had every prospect with a pulse fill out a credit application. Inevitably, the vendor did not close many deals. Who did he blame? You guessed it, me.

Many sales people resist asking for a commitment because they feel uncomfortable requesting a prospect do something for them. The key is to learn how to ask for the business, position yourself as a sales expert, and then teach your vendors to do the same. By implementing some of the following strategies you will get more commitments and stay out of the “black hole” between approved and booked. You will also become a value added resource to your vendors.

The first step is to, qualify very diligently early on in the sales cycle. Position every qualifying question from the perspective of meeting the lessee’s need. Find out how much money is in their budget. This is easier said then done. Some lessee’s may talk money up front and this will save you time and open up the lines of communication. Others will never reveal their budget for fear that you will eat up every last penny. The only way to find out is to ask . How much is your monthly budget? - Has it been allocated? How is the budget determined? Would a master lease be more appropriate?

The next step is to learn the time frame - What are the timelines to install the equipment? Is there a compelling event? "Must do" dates are a blessing and the absence of one can signal a long sales cycle.

Then ask about the decision-making process - Who will be involved in the decision - technical, users, and other influencers? Finally, clarify the lease process and steps.

Too many leasing sales people assume that the vendor qualified the lessee. You can’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions. Communicate with lessees as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings and drama. By not making assumptions you can completely transform your sales career.

Here is action that you can take right now. Gather up your backlog reports and call each approved lessee. Tell them that you forgot to ask what their timeline was, or ask what is most important to them in this transaction and are their needs being met? If you want the right answers, you have to know what questions to ask.

Understanding the BUSINESS need that your vendor’s equipment will address is paramount in making the leap from approved to booked. How will the equipment and your leasing options help your customer achieve his/her business objectives? If you know that the equipment will help them generate more income then reinforce that fact on your follow-up calls.

Remember your goal during this process is to create urgency and give the lessee a reason to take action. Developing a compelling value proposition to show ROI (ideally year two or sooner) is a good way to do this. What is a compelling value proposition? It’s positioning your leasing services from a 'so what' to a 'must have.' A value proposition needs to meet the following six criteria:
Speak to a pressing concern
Focus on a single benefit
Be specific rather than general
Be clear and concise
Create a sense of urgency
Mitigate the buyer's risk

The way to close deals is to address a pressing problem. What are your lessee’s worried about? What are their most pressing concerns? Is it growing their business or not getting gauged with fees? For example your value proposition might state that you are an expert in helping small businesses grow while keeping their expenses low. Also, focus on outcomes rather than process. What is the end result that the lessee will have from using your leasing company? For instance, leasing with you guarantees that they will have a specific lease termination date with no hidden “evergreen” clauses.

Be aware of milestones in the sales cycle. Most approvals only last ninety days before cancellation. Send some type of marketing piece with an incentive for the prospect to take action. For example you can send a post card that states if they sign the documents by a certain date they can have “Lunch on the leasing company.” When the signed documents come in you send them a $20.00 Applebee’s gift card.

Getting applications approved in 2010 is an art. Three months of bank statements and credit reports on all the principals of a firm are everyday requirements. Lessors have tightened their credit policies and if a lessee doesn't exactly match their policy, forget about it, the deal is dead. Certain funding sources won’t approve a proprietorship with an owner over sixty years of age without a written succession plan. It would be a big waste of time to go through all these hurdles with a lessee that’s not sold on acquiring equipment..

The booked transaction is not only vital to your bottom line, it’s also critical to the lessor. Dun & Bradstreet and credit bureau reports are expensive to obtain. The funding source doesn't want to incur the expense of approving a deal and then not closing it. If this happens multiple times they will cut off the broker, guaranteed.

Continually check for change. Use different mediums to check-in with the approved lessee, email and text messages are a way to maintain contact without causing work interruption.

If communication lags, ask the hard qualifying questions again, but start with the driving need - is it still a priority? Tactfully ask questions to multiple people at the lessee’s location.

Getting an approval is just the first step. Getting total commitment from the lessee is what your job is all about. When transactions don’t close, determine where mistakes were made and correct them . Take the time to analyze your selling skills and they will improve dramatically.

The bottom line: The more sensitive you become to your lessee’s needs the faster your approvals will turn into repeat customers.

Author's Bio: 

Linda has twenty years of experience in leasing sales and marketing management. She is nationally recognized as an outstanding sales trainer and professional speaker. In 1996 she founded the Institute for Personal Development to help leasing sales reps increase volume. She has had a tremendous positive impact on sales for all types of companies – from startup firms to corporate giants. Linda's work has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Monitor, Leasing News and Selling Power Magazine. She has also produced several training CD’s. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and has presented over 279 times to more than 57,000 attendees. Her book 366 Marketing Tips for Equipment Leasing is a top seller for Leasing Power Tools Press. The CD program Prospecting Tips for Equipment Leasing Sales Professionals is a staple training tool for many leasing companies. Linda can be reached at Linda@lindakester.com or visit her website at http://www.lindakester.com.