How did I become a successful debt collector? When people ask me what I do for a living, and reveal to them I am a debt collector, The general response I get is either “How can you do that kind of work!” or “You must hate your job!” Its true that many decades ago the industry had many rude and notorious debt collector that use to employ unethical tactics to get people to pay their debt. But many laws and regulation have passed over the years, and those type of practices no longer exist. But adhering to these new laws and guidelines do not automatically guide you to become a successful debt collector. Not only was I fortunate to have met my manager Carol who gave me the opportunity for her in the debt collection industry. But in fact quite lucky to have learned from a great teacher who taught me how to be a great listener, an effective negotiator and exceptional closer, And also help me develop and fine-tune all these fundamentals skills to develop into an accomplished debt collector today.
I recall the first time I met my manager Carol, I was so nervous the morning leading up to the moment of my interview. I remember once we go the formalities out of the way, and we commenced our hour long interview. I relive the moment she bluntly and asked me “Why should I hire you?, What separate’s you from the other fifty people applying for this job?” At that moment I knew I had to respond with something smart and memorable to separate me from the rest. And then it hit me and I responded smoothly, ” The other 50 people are applying for a job, I am applying for a career.” I remember the long awkward pause after my response, She wrote something on her black notebook and proceeded to ask me a another round of series of questions. And like a lawyer presenting the facts in front of a judge, I presented my case to her why I was the best candidate for the position. And each time I responded she kept on bombarding me with more additional questions. The intensity of the interview made the hour long interview feel like a 15min meeting, And then it was over. Unfortunately I did not end up being hired after the interview. However a couple of months after I received a unexpected call from the human resource manager informing me that their was a open position and if I would like to accept which I immediately said yes. The second time I met my manager Carol was during orientation, she explained to me that I ended being candidate number 2 out of 50 and the only reason that impeded her from hiring me on the spot was due to my lack of experience on paper. But when her new hire quit on her 3 weeks into the job. She decided to take a big risk and proceeded with hiring me. She explained to me she would give me the opportunity to work for her under the condition that I learned from her the 3 major skills need to be a successful debt collector which is to a good listener, be an effective negotiator, and be a excellent closer. All skills which I either lacked or did not have much know-how. But Carol assured me under her guidance she would teach me those fundamental skills and help me develop them to perfection.
During the course of the day we conversate with different people everyday, some conversation are short and some are long, some are important and some are not. Yet we have so many conversation during the course of the day that sometimes we habitually go on auto pilot and just hear other people when we are interacting with each other. However we forget to listen to each other during the important discussions. In the In the beginning when I started working as a debt collector my natural instinct when interacting with a customer over the phone was to hear people situation and go straight to asking them how would like to pay for this today. This strategy resulted me experiencing a lot of dissatisfied customer hanging up on me. At the time I did not understand why people would hang up on me, at first I though, maybe they did not hear me clearly? maybe I should say it louder!. But that resulted to more hang ups and more angrier customer. And then my Manager Carol gave me a clue on what I was doing wrong. She said to me “Kid, they are hanging up on you because are hearing them out, but your are not listening to their situation”, And I though what’s the difference?, Aren’t they the same thing? So she instructed me how approach the conversation on my next call. She said “When you speak with someone that is going through a tough financial situation they are seeking someone to listen to their problems, Listen to what they tell you, empathize and reconfirm what you just listen to in your own wording” I said lets try and see what happens. So I my next call I tested her advice and the end result was like night and day. I no longer was getting the constant hang-ups like before, I was actually started getting people thanking me for listening to their unique situation. After that I never went back to my old ways and kept applying her advice, and each time I continued to developed the skills that I continually use today.
When we think about negotiating, the first thing that comes to mind is negotiating buying a car or a home. Unless your profession requires you to know the know how’s on how to negotiate, for a example like a car salesman, most of us have little to no exposure in the art of negotiating. In the beginning when I would negotiate some type of arrangement with customer. I would let customer tell me what was the minimum amount they could pay or what amount they would like to pay. This produced poor results on the metrics I was being graded on. My manager took notice and assured me at the time it was not uncommon for newbies like myself to make this sort of mistake. I remember she said “negotiating is an art, and you must focus on getting better each time to succeed” She gave a few pointer for example never allow people to dictate the terms, people will tend to pay the least amount thinking it’s to their benefit, but months later realize their stuck paying back something they don’t see a end result. Which lead to the other lesson which is to ask for more and sell them the benefits why they should pay more. As soon as I applied her pointers, my metrics went through the roof. Those few pointers really made a difference on my negotiation skills and made me become a better collector overall.
Lastly I had to learn how to be an effective closer. But you may say what does a closer do? Based on oxford dictionary by definition a closer is “A person who is skilled at bringing a business transaction to a satisfactory conclusion” At first I though, if I tactfully got past the negotiating aspect of a conversation with a customer, then that would be enough for me to be successful in my career. Sometimes during the course of negotiation an arrangement, Customer would either feel overwhelmed or unsure if they really wanted to proceed in accepting the arrangement. I learned quick from my manager that if I were be a complete all around debt collector. Then I would need to learn how to master how to close a call perfectly. The main advice my manager Carol instructed me to do was to make sure right after negotiating the deal, to recap the dates and amounts agreed upon so there are no confusion from either me or the customer. Also to reassure the customer they are doing this arrangement and it would benefiting them in the long run. Incredibly as soon as I started applying this strategy onto customer. I began noticing a decrease of arraignments increasing my productivity.
In conclusion, working as a debt collector can be a difficult. It involves and requires a lot of concentration and focus to get the job done. There is a lot of trial and error along the way in order to become a more efficient debt collector in the industry. But the progress of becoming a valuable debt collector becomes a lot more easier if you have a great teacher like my manager Carol to train and develop the core fundamental skills needed to succeed. Learning how to listen
instead of hearing really helped me improved substantially. It allowed me to understands customers unique situation and try to reassure them I was listening to their financial obstacles. Additionally learning the art and craft of negotiating has really aided me in meeting or exceeding every metric used by the industry to grade my performance. Refining my negotiating has also has produced real life solutions to people financials problems. And finally mastering the technique of closing an agreed upon arrangement has resulted in me becoming a consistent achiever in the debt collection business. All thanks my manager Carol, who not only gave me the opportunity to become more than I was, But also believed in me enough to take it upon herself to assist through the journey and ultimately developed my skills enough to be able to compete with other top collectors in the business.