Almost 10 years into my collection career I branched out to sell final expense life insurance. I learned a collection call is just like sales in many ways. Some of the techniques I learned in sales working for 100% commission elevated my skills to the next level. A few of the techniques I learned include opening the call with enthusiasm, making a friend by building rapport in an effort to gain the consumer’s trust and, most importantly, assume the sale. Once I implemented those techniques, closing the deal became much more attainable.
Having the ability to effectively listen was crucial to my success. At times it took patience, empathy and the ability to relate with each individual. Both industries require a high level of professionalism and the ability to think fast and overcome objections while remaining respectful. Today I’m going to discuss some of the style I get consumers to make payments over the phone. Everyone has their own way of collecting and no one has an unassailable approach. However, the techniques I’ve used throughout the years have enabled me to close deals at a high percentage.
On every call I sit with good posture and a smile on my face while focused on what’s in front of me. I’ve found that my tone of voice is more prominent when sitting up and it’s almost like consumers can sense when I’m smiling through the phone. I always keep in mind that the consumer was not expecting my call and wasn’t looking forward to discussing their debt so selling myself at the beginning is imperative. I do this by being upbeat and pleasant to speak with. It’s my job to motivate the consumer to repay their debt so being focused on what’s in front of me keeps the consumer engaged while on the phone.
I always ask open-ended questions allowing the consumer to speak because it’s far more important for me to listen. While they are speaking I document all information given as it may help with negotiations later in the conversation. I attempt to gather full and complete information at the beginning of the call, however, if the consumer seems impatient I will wait until the end. Updating full and complete information is important in the event their payment is returned for non-sufficient funds. I start by verifying the address and phone numbers we have on file are correct. Then I ask a few questions that lead them into giving me their employment information. I ask if they are working full time or part time, what’s their occupation and immediately follow by asking for whom they work. The majority of the time they answer without even realizing what they’ve given. In order to properly negotiate arrangements I want to better understand the consumers’ financial situation.
Once I understand where they are financially I’m able to provide repayment options. I follow standard call progression asking for the balance to be paid in full. If they are unable to pay in full I ask how short of the balance they are. In most instances they will say all of it. As the client allows, I will then offer a lump sum settlement. If they still claim to not have it I will offer the settlement in multiple payments. Once those options have been exhausted I offer a payment plan based on time frames. I start with six months and go up from there until I meet the consumer’s financial ability. Once arrangements have been agreed upon I provide the consumer with payment options I want them to accept. I start by saying, “I can set this up via check by phone, go ahead with the routing number as soon as you’re ready.” If the consumer claims to not have their routing number I immediately advise them I can retrieve it and to go ahead with their account number. If the consumer claims to not have their account number I respond by saying, “that’s ok, we can make an exception and set it up using your debit card. Go ahead with your card number.”
While the aforementioned techniques have helped myself and others, I’ve closed deals throughout the years where some deviation may be necessary based on call flow. That’s the beauty of collecting debt; each call has contrasting variables based on client, consumer, hardship, personalities and abilities.
Sam Eidson is the Director of Compliance for Delta Outsource Group, Inc. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Missouri Collectors Association.