Victorian Partner of the Year 2023, Clare Sainsbury, advises brokers to "engage clients in soft conversation first"

Clare Sainsbury is an exceptional commercial equipment finance broker at Finlease in the Victorian suburb of Blackburn, which has led to her being named Banjo’s Victorian Partner of the Year for 2023.
We sat down with Clare to get to know a little more about her, and to pick her brain on what she believes makes a successful broker.

What are some of the biggest changes you've seen in the industry since you started in equipment financing in 2010?

Clare Sainsbury: “The expansion of low-doc [loans] and the amount that you can borrow on low-doc loans. When I first started, it was around $50,000 and then it went to $75,000. Also, the ability to finance software, tooling for machines and things like well-water treatment pumps.”

Our Banjo Partner of the Year Award recognises your excellent work, but what do you think sets you apart from other brokers?

“I'm very good at getting out into industry, making connections, being proactive about establishing relationships and ensuring the pipeline for future deals is there."

"I started off in broker support in 2010, and then, when I went into broking, one thing that I would do is turn up to industry events—even on my own—to try and find connections in industry. It was quite a hard thing to do, to turn up to these events with no one with you.”

What are some of the other key strategies or tactics that have helped you achieve success as a broker?

“The ability to build ongoing relationships by providing a level of assurance, and then following up with results. When I was in broker support, I had the opportunity to build really good relationships with customers, even at that level.”

“Visibility is also important. I don't do a lot of DocuSign because I like to get back out and see my customers. I like to be on the phone to them a lot too. I've got a team now who help me write and process the deals so I can keep seeing people."

What approaches do you have for building and maintaining strong relationships?

“I do a lot of direct marketing via email, and, as I mentioned, I spend a lot of time on the phone. I have my client list in paper form, and I’m constantly getting that out and calling customers that I might not have spoken to for a couple months. I’ll call them and ask how they’re going, how their business is going... you know, things like ‘We did a deal for you two years ago – how did that piece of equipment turn out?’ And once I settle a deal, I'll follow up again six months later to see how everything’s going.”

What are your biggest tips for other brokers for preparing a successful application?

“For every application I do, I go in with a positive mindset that there is a deal for this customer – I've just got to find the best home for it. I think when we’re working with some bankers, sometimes they go in looking for why this isn't a deal."

"I also suggest building relationships with the accountants and the other support people in their office to get as much information as you can.”

What do you believe are the most important questions brokers should be asking their SME clients?

“Firstly, ask them how they’re going in general. How's your business going? How's the industry, and how are you going in the industry? If the industry's booming and they're struggling, is that anything to do with their equipment? Do they need to automate more? What's this piece of equipment going to do? And then, that will lead on to the financial questions."

"I'd never start off with ‘Do you own a house? How much money did you make?’ Engage them in soft conversation first and get an understanding of how confident they are.”

What are some of the common challenges you face as a broker?

“Dealing with your customers' ups and downs. You’ve got long-term relationships with them that span many, many years, and it can be tough riding the ups and downs of the market and their industry with them. Continuously finding access to more competitive funding and competing with the banks is also a big challenge.”

How do you stay informed about trends and changes in the market?

“Staying in contact with your clients and talking to a vast majority of people in industry is really important. I work in a few different markets and industries, and I've created strong relationships with a lot of the guys who sell equipment in those markets. If you make really good connections with people who are selling the equipment, they've got a firsthand grasp of what's going on.”

What are some of the big opportunities for brokers in Victoria moving forward?

“Anything to do with recycling! Environmental pressures are becoming big, so ‘green’ or anything to do with recycling are going to be big opportunities.”

How do you keep a meaningful work-life balance?

““It's hard because brokering is of those jobs where you need to be on top of things all the time. I've got two small children, and you can never really be off. I'll take my kids on holiday, and I'll be like, 'Right, let me do two hours of work before we go out... Oh sorry guys, we've got to head back to the apartment, or the holiday house, for two hours.' You can't just step away for two days and come back."

What advice have you got for aspiring brokers?

“Make as many industry contacts as you can! Get out to as many industry events, even if it means fronting up alone.”

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