I caught a documentary (from Channel 4’s excellent Dispatches stable)attempting to expose the sharp practices of debt collectors the other night.
95% of the footage suggested that successful people in these roles, driven by the lucrative profit of recouping entire amounts often purchased from primary lenders for as little as a tenth of their true value, used scare tactics that could make even a hard-nosed fear-uncertainty-doubt practitioner recoil.
These typically involved misleading statements allowing the debtor to infer they were about to be declared bankrupt and pretending to be calling from solicitors rather than a debt recovery company.
The undercover reporter that’d got himself a job at such an outfit for six weeks clearly had his own agenda, although this was balanced with several references to the fact that it is only proper for a creditor to expect repayment.
I was pleased that it wasn’t a wasted hour’s viewing though, as three tactics deployed by the top collector are worthy of solution selling attention:
Consult For Authorisation
When negotiating over a new repayment scheme, the collectors would always pause the conversation and say that they had to ask someone else if it was all okay. In reality, they just press ‘hold’ and give the appearance of doing so. This allowed them to think for a moment and let the debtor feel that greater forces were at play. There must be many a similar sales situation that could benefit from taking a breath and going back to ask someone at HQ for guidance.
Make Yourself Different
He remarked that you were unlikely to be the only person calling about a lapsed debt, as when people default it is typically across several simultaneous fronts. So what do you do to ensure you get paid when you’re just one of many squawking beaks demanding food? His route was to be different. Whatever you thought the others may do, you take another tack. As he reckoned that they’d all be scaremongering relentlessly, he’d start off by adopting a determined, yet collaborative demeanour. It is a good tip to work out how your competition would behave and distinguish yourself from them.
Detached Scare Factor
I was intrigued by the language they’d learned to use. Whereas we’d often use forceful tones, such as “I recommend you avoid trouble this way…” and “you will face ruin if you don’t do this…”, they preferred to plant seeds in a more subtle, abstract manner. “Others have found…” and “what may happen is…” might sound at first listen to be too woolly, but their impact certainly seemed to be heightened by their less inflammatory, more advisory wording.