How to talk to a banker: 6 ways to win points with your financier

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Offline Sultan Mahmud Sujon

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You are ready to take your business plan to a bank. But you have never actually had a conversation with a business banker before. What do you say? What do you bring? What can you expect? Here are some planning tips.


1. Dress professionally. You don’t necessarily need to wear a business suit, but no jeans or ball caps. Think "clinic attire" but not scrubs.

2. Bring the right stuff. Here is what you will need:
• Your business plan, printed out and contained in a nice binder, ready to hand to your banker.
• Your personal financial statement and your tax returns for the past three years. If you have the personal financial statement in SBA format that’s even better. The bank will also want to see personal tax returns to verify your income.
• A copy of your credit report and your FICO score. If you can provide a printed credit report from at least one credit reporting agency, the banker will not need to run your credit report. If you need to talk to several banks, this can save you several "hits" on your credit.
• Financial information from a cosigner. If you know you will need a cosigner, you can provide this information, which will be required for that person’s guarantee.
• Copies of office or equipment leases. If you are in the process of leasing an office, provide the lease agreement; do the same for equipment leases that are in process.

3. Know your numbers. You will need to be able to talk intelligently with the banker about your business plan. Know how your startup loan and working capital estimates were determined. Know what depreciation is and how it is estimated. Be able to explain how you came up with your sales projections. Be certain your numbers are consistent throughout your plan.

4. Be able to explain your proposal in a few sentences. One of the first things the banker may ask is, "Why are you here? What specifically are you looking for?"

You should prepare a short answer to those questions. In a few sentences, explain that you are starting a chiropractic practice, where you intend to locate, and the types of patients you will be serving. Explain where you are in the process; that is, do you already have a location or are you still looking? Don’t provide details at this point about chiropractic, but be prepared to do so briefly, if you are asked.

5. Finally, plan to talk to banks early in the process. In other words, talk to the bank before the need for funds becomes a crisis. Bankers, like other business professionals, do not like to be put on the spot. Your crisis is not theirs, and they may balk at your demands for instant answers. It may take several months for loan processing, particularly if the SBA is involved, so start talking to banks at least three months before you need funding.

6. Above all, maintain a positive, professional image. Look the banker in the eye. Answer his or her questions. If you don’t know, write down the question and say, "I will get back to you." Don’t whine or complain or beg. If the banker says no to your loan request, you have a right to know why, but then say, "Thanks for your time," and move on to the next bank.

The more prepared you are for your first bank visit, the better your chances of getting that loan sooner rather than later.