Succeeding Through the Personal Touch
Dealing with customers directly, looking into their eyes, shaking their hands and getting to know them, is something of an outdated concept in a world of electronic devices where family members now often text each other from the next room.
Sterling Associates believes in an old-school approach. Although it is one of the largest marine lenders in the United States, with offices in Massachusetts, California, Florida, Michigan, Maryland and Texas, and more than $4 billion in boat loans since 1991, its veteran sales force still provides high-level concierge service to every customer, regardless of whether the loan is $25,000 or $2 million, thus developing long-lasting personal relationships that set the company apart.
Although Sterling’s primary business is boat loans, it also offers services in purchasing aircraft, such as prop planes and small jets, recreational vehicles and manufactured housing.
Sterling representatives who are experienced marine professionals guide customers through the buying and financing of a boat, and because the application is handled in such a thorough fashion, other items can be bundled into the loan, including electronics, equipment, extended service plans and even life-disability insurance.
The loan process begins with a conversation. During the application process, all the necessary data is gathered, eliminating the hassle of being asked later to provide additional information. “We interact deeply with the customer on the application, the credit side, analysis and underwriting, and thereby take out the sting that can come with doing the financing business with a bank,” says Tom Smith, CEO and president at Sterling. “For the lending institutions, we simplify everything and make the process efficient. It is also a whole lot easier for the customer.”
Sterling represents 16 lenders, both national and local, making it easier to find the lowest rate for each customer. Because of Sterling’s established reputation for quality service, lenders are often willing to offer marine loans for 15- or 20-year terms. By working with Sterling, banks and credit unions know that they are being delivered a customer who have been vetted, analyzed and approved, which results in lower rates and more favorable terms.
Purchasing a boat can be a complex procedure with many steps, but Sterling reduces the stress and anxiety by assisting customers with sea trials, the survey process and Coast Guard documentation, just to name a few examples. Sterling representatives also organize the closing and work with the title company in clearing all leans.
Throughout the loan process, Sterling maintains a hands-on approach with customers. In an age of instant information, Sterling uses modern technology to simplify the loan process for its customers, not to avoid meeting with them. In today’s world, it might be considered a novel approach. At Sterling, it’s part of their mission statement.