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Collectors: The Magic Is in the Practice

Updated: May 20, 2021

gymnast practicing bars. collections agency practice material.

When Simone Biles, U.S. gymnast and Olympian, was training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, she discussed her daily training routine in an interview with Women’s Health Magazine. She revealed that she usually spent over 6 hours a day in the gym practicing her skills.

Each day, she put her leotard on first thing in the morning, ready to practice her craft until that evening. When she finally competed in Rio months later, she won multiple gold medals. Today, she’s known as one of the best American gymnasts of all time.

Sure, Biles is probably naturally talented. If she hadn’t gone to the gym consistently in the months leading up to the 2016 Olympics though, she likely wouldn’t have won any gold medals. Ultimately, Biles knew that power was in the practice. And look where that practice got her.

While collectors aren’t competing for the gold when they get to the office each day, they still must be prepared for each phone call. Like training for the Olympics, the best way to become a master collector is to practice, practice, practice.

In the Women’s Health Magazine interview with Biles, she discusses her intense stretching routine and how essential it is to her performance. Well, like an athlete, collectors also have tools that are essential for their performance.

If you're reading this, you’re probably familiar with my three-step Communication Code.

I wholeheartedly believe my Code is a key tool to becoming a master collector.

If you aren’t familiar with the Code, what it really comes down to is using words that trigger our parasympathetic nervous systems so we can stop creating stress chemicals and start creating happy chemicals. The three steps of the Communication Code are validating, planting seeds of happiness, and providing an action statement. More information on the Code can be found here.

At first, using the Code can feel awkward, difficult, and flat out uncomfortable. I’ve seen collectors struggle to use the 3 steps on every call, sometimes skipping certain steps because they feel unnatural.

I’ll be the first to tell you: Those feelings are completely normal.

Biles probably wasn’t born knowing how to do impressive flips and balance beam tricks. Did she have some natural-born talent? Probably. No one’s body feels comfortable the first time they try to do a flip though. It takes practice before they can do the flip without thinking twice about the physics involved.

While it’s obvious what Biles needed to practice every day at the gym, it may be less obvious what collectors should be doing to train for their successes.

What do collectors even need to practice in the first place?

Well, a collector’s main job is to make sure a consumer feels heard and understood.

That’s what my Code is all about: Making the consumer — not their debts — feel like a priority.

So how do collectors begin to practice effective communication? How do they become expert communicators who can facilitate meaningful connections with consumers that will ultimately result in payments?

Let’s get started. Follow these key tips step by step to understand how collectors can practice communication:

1) Choose your tools

Something to keep in mind for this step is that words are powerful.

If you’re using my Communication Code, choose one phrase from each step that you’re comfortable with.

Of course, using the Code at first can feel awkward, especially if you’re used to communicating with consumers in the traditional ways you were trained.

Think about the first time a gymnast steps foot into a gymnastics class as a child. She is probably nervous and feeling awkward as she tries to do a simple cartwheel for the first time. After all, the movements a gymnast uses aren’t typically used in everyday life.

As a gymnast learns, though, she may begin to understand what tools work best for her. Maybe it’s a specific stretching routine. Maybe it’s a dedicated training schedule. It probably looks different for every successful gymnast. The same can be said about successful collectors.

When you choose one phrase from each step of the Code that works for you, you’re going to start feeling more at ease when you get to the next steps of this practicing process. If you try to force words that don’t feel natural and comfortable for you, it will make the process that much harder.

Even if you don’t like some of the phrases I’ve created for the Code, you can still create your own. Ultimately, you want to make sure you have something ready to use so you can put the Code into application. And if you’re comfortable with your choices, you’re one step closer to being an expert communicator.

2) Role-play

So you’ve chosen your 3 phrases. What’s next?

The best next step is to role-play these phrases with a co-worker or trainer.

On the surface, spending company time role-playing a call outside of normal new hire training may seem like a waste of company resources. Think about it, though: The best way to get better at something is to try to do it. It seems more logical to try it with a member of your team than trying — and potentially failing — on a call with a consumer. After all, the risk is much higher if you say the wrong thing on an actual call.

In other words, think of role-playing as a company investment.

When a gymnast goes to train every day, she usually has a coach or personal trainer with her. That person’s job is to provide adequate feedback to the gymnast. The gymnast does a flip. The coach tells her what she is doing well and what she could do to improve. And the cycle continues until that gymnast is at the Olympics competing for the gold.

It’s the same process for a collector. Take time to work with a trainer or co-worker at your agency to role-play phone calls. Figure out what consumer scenarios you struggle with the most, and practice using the phrases from the Code you chose in the last step to work through these scenarios.

If you’re the trainer or co-worker who’s helping a colleague role-play, offer honest and constructive feedback to help the other person grow.

Just wait until you see the results; Role-playing exercises will foster highly effective growth among your team.

3) Put it into action

You’ve chosen a list of phrases you’re comfortable with that align with the Code. You’ve role-played phone calls and used those phrases to discern how to apply them on a call. Now what?

Of course, by this stage, you should start implementing those phrases on calls with consumers.

I know what you’re thinking though: It still feels awkward.

I’m here to tell you that it should feel awkward.

You’ve spent your entire life communicating in a completely different way. Now you’re going against years of subconscious practice to apply this new, more effective way to talk to consumers.

You’re not alone in this feeling, and there’s a fantastic way to remedy it.

Practice it in everyday life.

That’s right; go out into the world and put these new phrases to use in your conversations with others.

Are you struggling to speak with the customer service associate at your local grocery store? Use the Code.

Do you have a close friend who seems impossible to talk to when he or she is in a bad mood? Use the Code.

I promise you’ll be stunned by the results. Not only will your communication improve in general; you’ll be well-equipped to speak to consumers using the Code. After a while, it will just be second nature.

A professional gymnast has put gymnastics into her everyday life to the point of making it in her career. You can do the same thing with communication. You’ll use it each day at work, home, and out in public. And before you know it, you’ll notice incredible improvements in your everyday life. Final Thoughts

Without a plan in mind, practice may seem tedious and unattainable.

I hope you can use the steps outlined above to become the expert communicator you have the potential to be.

Communication is the one area in business I know we can create incredibly happy consumers and incredibly happy team members. Once you see the benefits, you won’t want to look back.

I encourage you to start to practice, practice, practice. Summon your inner Olympian and go for the gold.

Want next steps? Book a call with me today to find out how the Collection Advantage online training program can help your collectors master their communication, critical thinking and negotiation skills so your revenue increases immediately.

Additionally, if this content resonates with you, join me on Thursday, October 15th at 1 p.m Eastern for a free webinar exploring how to find the "Goldilocks zone of connection." The webinar is hosted by PDCflow, and you can register on PDCflow's website here.

Make sure you stay through the end of the webinar. The last 15 minutes will be a rapid-fire question-and-answer segment where I'll help you implement techniques to solve your biggest communication challenges.

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