Behind the Counter: Qualifying Customers


When it comes to running a successful pawn business, one of the most important skills for a broker to have is the ability to qualify their customers. Qualifying your customers is like vetting a new hire; you need to see if it’s going to be a good fit.

We’ve all had those instances where we’ve spent half an hour working someone only to have them pick up their item and walk out when they don’t get their way. These steps on qualifying customers can help you not only bring more loan business to your shop, but increase return business from your satisfied client base.

It All Starts with Loan Counter Positioning

Make sure that you can see the client as they walk in your front door.  Watch their body language as they approach and how they’re handling their items.  This will give you an early indication of how the transaction should proceed.  Use your instincts, they’re usually not wrong.

Ask the Right Questions

  1. “Do you want to make a loan on this?” Be cautious of using the word pawn. A lot customers don’t realize that what they’re actually doing is making a loan with you. To them, when they hear “pawn,” they’re thinking sell or “hock” when they hear it. The follow up question to this always should be…
  2. “Would you like to sell the item?”  Watch for their reaction. Is there emotional attachment shown?  Do they seem to care? Are they hesitating in answering? All these are clues for the broker. If they say “sure, let’s sell it,” buy it from them at a fair price. Asking this in the beginning of the transaction can save you from extra legwork later on.
  3. “How much do you need today?” Once you have established the type of transaction you’re going to be processing, it’s time to talk about money. If they ask for some crazy amount, be cautious. They may be testing you to see how far they can go. Most people have an idea of what their items are worth and will ask for a reasonable amount. 
  4. “Tell me a little bit more about this.” Is there any emotional attachment with the item? Do they need it for work? School? Is it a gift from spouse, deceased relative, etc? Dig a little deep but use proper candor…be soft. If it’s something they have an attachment to, they’re much more likely to return and pick it up.
  5. Use the tools at you disposal. You can dig deeper on to see how likely they are to pick up by look at their customer history in PawnMaster. Do they pick everything up?  Only big ticket items like jewelry? You can use this information to see if a loan is really in their best interest over just buying it outright.
  6. If it is a loan – “How long do you need the money for?” Be on the lookout for “not normal” answers.  If they say “until Friday”, “about 45 days”, etc., these are signs that this money has been thought about and will more than likely be paid on/picked up. They have a plan in place and want their item back. If they recite your local laws or give you the old “about 30 days” line, they still may be telling the truth, but you need tobe a little more wary.  Look for the odd answer here to feel out the way this transaction may head.
  7. “Let’s sign you up for text reminders.” Tell them that you send reminders to let customers know that their payments are coming up. If you approach it as part of your process, you’re much more likely to get someone to sign up over asking them if they’d like to receive text messages. You won’t know until a text goes out, but once it does and there’s no bounceback, that’s a good sign they want their item. Customers change their numbers, it’s inevitable. If someone has a habit of changing their number and not picking up their items, you can put notes in PawnMaster so that in the future that you should loan low or buy the items.
  8. “Do you have any questions on the contract?” Ask them if they understand the contract after you’ve gone over it with them. If they ask questions here, that’s another good sign that they’ll be picking their item up. If they blow off the contract and don’t seem interested in what happens when they forfeit their item, there’s a good chance it will end up in your inventory.

The process of qualifying your customers will help streamline business at your counter while increasing the likelihood of return business. It’s little things like this that can help your business standout as a destination for people to return to again and again.