Now You’re the Bank

Momma always wanted a banker, a doctor, and a priest in the family. Well…maybe she’ll finally get one out of three.

Before I tell ya why, here are a couple of things you may not know:
• There’s more money on the side in cash than there is in the stock market right now – first time ever
• Non-financial companies have some of the strongest balance sheets since the 1960’s
• The U.S. Government is pushing cash into the banking system at a record rate

This means that there’s money out there, it’s just not moving. Companies aren’t moving their money into purchases, banks aren’t moving their money into loans and households aren’t moving their money into retailers. Everyone is hording for a simple reason: they’re scared. However, companies and people have an appetite for growth and returnsm and to do that they have to purchase equipment, land, materials and so on in order to generate that growth and create those returns. Investors are not patient, even when they’re scared. They want to put this very real money that is locked up in cash and balance sheets to work for them to generate returns. But they want to do it on terms that give them a sense of risk control.

The economy may look like it’s short of buyers but that’s only a small part of the story. What it’s really short on is bankers.

If you want to sell big in this marketplace, you may have to play banker-
Terms vs. discounts – When there is no financing available, discounts do not resolve the true issue in the same ways that terms will. Get creative on terms to win deals.
Master agreements with purchase-orders vs. fixed volume contracts – Companies can’t carry long-term contractual liability in the same ways that they did 6 –12 months ago. They need flexibility and incremental control.
Shared risk – There are opportunities in professional services agreements for much bigger rewards for shared risk. This has always been true- however, at this point in time, economic conditions create a multiplier on upside that may not have been available during more a more economically stable period.

Make no mistake, in these strategies you are loaning money, which means that your CFO is going to get a workout in helping you to understand and manage risk. Sure, you can take old, hard-line approaches like “We’re not a bank,” or “Cash-only during tough economic times” and so on. But that is short-sighted and possibly keeps you out of real opportunity. Smart companies flex their own financial muscle and calmly look at each customer like a banker would, evaluate their risk and structure their terms and deals on a case by case basis. This puts you in the position of asking for the same type of financial transparency that has been requested of you–almost unheard of in the past–but now a very reasonable requirement.

I’m not saying that this can be an across the board strategy. Again, case by case has to be the approach. I am saying that right now, if you bring the ability to play banker and analyze risk, there is market share to be had that would have been unattainable only a short time ago.

What other strategies are you employing to move prospects to purchase in the current banking crunch?