If you have read through the “From the Fields” articles over the last year, you will find a common theme: Ag Lenders are more than bankers. Ask an Ag Lender what they do daily, and the response will be across the board from risk manager, counselor, friend, coach… the list goes on. Ultimately, what we do should add value to our customers. We can do that in several ways:
- Be a resource. Whether it is having answers or knowing where to point your customers when they ask about programs like PPP, DRP, MPP, and CFAP, have those resources and links available so that you can email or text the updates to your customers. Be proactive and send out updates before you are asked.
- Have a list ready of core trusted advisors - CPAs, Attorneys, Estate Planners, and Crop Insurance Agents. Listen for key words in your conversations and suggest a name and number for them to contact. Send a follow-up message to see if they were able to connect.
- Be a good listener. Sometimes, our customers just need a sounding board. Listen effectively by asking questions and understanding what their responses are.
- Be aware of what is happening in the industry. Take a few minutes every day to review headlines and articles. Get on mailing lists and read up on the things important to your customers.
- Assist with planning and goal setting. Jeff Wilke of Denmark State Bank has his customers focus on what they can control (see Jan. 8 From the Fields article). This is great advice for all of us. Use tools from spreading software programs to help with peer trends and financial scorecards. Share this information at your annual meetings. Let them know what your expectations are so they can plan and avoid any surprises.
You are worth a lot when you have your customer’s best interests at heart. It will show by your actions and you will build trust. Do not forget the influence you have in your relationships with your customers. They value your opinion and appreciate the efforts to understand their operations. Keep finding ways to add value and be impactful in your connections. The relationships with your customers, and your worth, will grow with the effort you put in.
Lisa Higgins is VP, ag/commercial banker, ag team lead with State Bank of Cross Plains and currently serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board.