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Are Your Prospects Checking You Out on LinkedIn?

  
  
  
detective photos

 

Do you think your customers and prospects are going online to research you? Would a potential COI look at your LinkedIn profile before returning your call?

If the thought of somebody googling you makes you shudder, you can do something up about it. First, type your name and your employer into a search engine and see whether you’re pleased with the result.

Second, get some objective feedback on your LinkedIn profile.  If it looks like you put it together in 20 minutes, fix it. It shouldn’t read like a resume—unless of course you’re looking for a job. Update your summary with some insights into how you actually deliver value to your customers. You could also add some information that might be of interest to people you’d like to impress—articles, presentations, etc.

More and more commercial and Business Banking Relationship Managers and Branch Managers are taking advantage of social media tools to help them establish their expertise in the marketplace. If that's a priority for you personally or for your team, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. If you’re not sure whether you're getting enough benefit from LinkedIn, get some coaching. You can sound out people whose opinion you value (which could include current clients and contacts in the legal and accounting world, as well as some of your most successful younger colleagues.)

2. Don’t let bank policy stop you if you think LinkedIn will be useful to you. (Translation: You have a home email address, right?)

3. LinkedIn doesn’t replace traditional networking strategies. You still have to press the flesh.

4. Don’t expect miracles. It requires work. Your ROI will depend upon how well you invest your time. (And don’t get sucked into spending hours and hours on this and ignore #3.)

5. Use it to research customers, prospects and COIs—and your competitors. You might be surprised what you learn.

6. Join the right LinkedIn groups—local, state, and national. There are lots out there that could be valuable (e.g. business groups, alumni organizations, trade associations, etc.)

7. LinkedIn does give you a platform for staying connected with others in your network and sharing information with them. (And if you can’t immediately come up with how, sign up for the webinar we’re having on “How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting.”)

LinkedIn will keep evolving in ways that may make it more valuable to you. Whatever your LinkedIn strategy is today, be prepared to revisit it in 3 to 6 months.

If you’d like to get more tips on how to incorporate LinkedIn into your prospecting efforts, sign up for our upcoming live webinar on “How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting.” You can register for the webinar three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com or (3) go to the live webinar section of our Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com and pay by credit card. If you can't make the live session the recorded version will be available within 24 hours.

Free Bonus Item: Download our article on How to Build a Business Network.

 

Q&A: What to Do If Your Prospect Goes Dark

  
  
  
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Question: I put together a great proposal. The prospect seemed ready to move. He told me that he was unhappy with the way his current bank had handled certain things over the last year. And then, silence. I left several voicemail messages. What do I do now?

Answer: If you have ever found yourself in that uncomfortable situation, you know how hard it is to admit to yourself that your prospect has probably decided to stay put. But in most situations, the incumbent bank has the upper hand. And if your prospect values personal relationships—which many do—it’s easy to see how he may be uncomfortable telling you to your face that he has, well, rejected your proposal.  It’s easier to ignore your voicemails, hoping that you’ll get the message.

OK, so what do you do? Buck Bierly suggests that you leave another voicemail message to let him off the hook but make clear that you’re still very interested in continuing to call on him.  Here’s how:

  • Let him know that you left several messages in the last few weeks.

  • Position your comments: “I know this is a busy time.”

  • Let him know that you understand why he many have opted to stay with his current bank: “I assume you ended up working with your bank on this opportunity.  You stated from the beginning that you felt a degree of loyalty to your relationship with Bill Swanson.”

  • Restate your interest in working together: “I’m sorry we weren’t able to help you with this opportunity but the more I’ve learned about you and your business the more I’m convinced that we would be a good resource for you in the future.”

  •  Ask for permission to follow up: “I’d like to continue calling on you. I’ve got some ideas on how we might be able to help you down the road. Please let me know if that’s a possibility.” 

    More often than not you’ll receive a return call. If you don’t and this is clearly somebody you’d like to do more business with, you can’t afford to drop this prospect from your long term plans. You may have lost the initial battle, but not the war.

    Make sure that the prospect is on your mailing list. Think about how to keep your campaign alive. Follow-up by phone in a month or two. Invite your prospect to an upcoming event. If you got this far, you have to assume that the incumbent bank is going to give you another opening in the not too distant future.

    Webinar Alert: Sign up for our upcoming live webinar on April 14 on “How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting” by going to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com. Can’t make the live event? All webinars are recorded and will be available in our archive within 24 hours of the event.

    For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series or discounts for multiple lines, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com.

Q&A on Getting in the Door: How Long Do I Keep Calling?

  
  
  
Prospecting for bankers

Question: How long do you keep calling a prospect to set up an appointment before throwing in the towel?

Answer: It depends on how important the prospect is to you. Start with the assumption that you’re going to have to work to get in the door. Once you and your sales manager have come up with the best approach—which will often focus on a referral from a party the prospect knows and trusts—you’re ready to launch your campaign.

Use different approaches: phone calls can be alternated with emails or letters. Be sure to practice what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone. Make every contact you have valuable, adding something that underscores the benefit of meeting with you.  Try to talk to a real person in the prospect’s organization and enlist that person’s help before going in to voicemail.

If after a number of unsuccessful phone attempts—we would generally say 4 or 5-- you may want to vary your routine. If you don’t have a referral, try to get one. If it’s appropriate, you might consider dropping by to set up an appointment. See if there’s somebody else in the company you can talk to.

Keep after your prospect for at least 8 weeks. If you’re still unsuccessful, drop this prospect into your follow-up file for 3 to 6 months down the road. Don’t give up after putting so much energy into the hunt. Things can and do change!

Here are other recent articles on prospecting that might be of interest:

In Search of the Magic Prospect List

How to Build a Bigger and Better Prospect List

Sales Managers: Do Your Bankers Have Good Prospect Lists?

Webinar Alert: Leveraging Your Network to Get in the Door with Prospects on March 24 at 11 AM Eastern. Topics that will be covered in this 45 minute webinar include:

  • When is cold calling your best option?

  • Referrals from satisfied clients, your business network and COIs…where to start

  • Reasons why bankers avoid asking for referrals

  • Anticipating referral reluctance

  • When to ask and how to ask your network for referrals

  • Value statements, value propositions and value drivers

  • Frequent objections bankers face—and how to address them

  • How some bankers are using LinkedIn to schedule initial meetings

For more information call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or go to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com

 

 

Is your CEO really leading the sales effort?

  
  
  

Barry Ward, Senior Vice President

According to a recent survey 85% of Community Bank CEOs view C&I lending as their #1 growth opportunity in the near term. So here’s a question worth considering: How effectively is your CEO leading the commercial sales effort?

Here are some things CEOs do to drive results. (These comments also could be used to evaluate the sales leadership performance of local market Presidents as well.)

  • They consistently talk about the importance of the bank’s sales process.
  • They assess and address the skill set of front line sales leaders.       
  • They occasionally attend or listen in on Monday morning sales meetings.
  • They review sales reports and comment on both good and bad performance.
  • They recognize successes and share stories of victories.
  • They are always on the lookout for tools to improve the performance of RMs.
  • They offer to help advance sales with customers and prospects.
  • They make joint calls with RMs to visit existing customers and prospects.
  • They make appearances at sale training workshops for the C&I team.
  • They attend monthly / quarterly Division meetings. 

What else can CEOs do to help commercial and business bankers succeed? Add your comments below or email me at janet.raymond@mzbierlyconsulting.com.

If one of your goals this year is to bring in new business clients, check out these recent blog posts on prospecting. 

6 Secrets of Star Prospectors: Tips for Bankers

25 Questions to Assess Your Prospecting Performance

 

Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series: Next Live webinar March 24 on “Leveraging Your Network to Get in the Door.” To register go to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com.

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Prospecting Q&A: What's the Best Way to Follow Up?

  
  
  
prospecting for bankers

Question: What’s the best way to follow-up with a prospect after an initial meeting? I usually send a quick note and any information that I think would be relevant. Then I follow-up by phone and often end up leaving a voicemail message. Any suggestions?

Answer:  Obviously the best approach is often to get your prospect to agree to a follow-up meeting before leaving the first call but if that doesn’t happen, you need to have a plan. The most important thing is to know what your objective is—usually it involves getting another appointment or getting the prospect to send you information.

Some bankers immediately follow-up with prospects with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. If you are already connected, a follow-up note via LinkedIn may avoid some of the clutter that finds it way into email in-boxes. Hand-written follow-up notes stand out. But send something.

Review your notes from the meeting. Figure out what specific needs you uncovered. (If you have trouble doing this or if your notes are vague, you may not have had a very successful first meeting.)

Develop the questions you want to ask about the needs you identified. Your goal is to keep the dialogue going. You may want to bring some additional information to the discussion based on further reflection about the prospect’s situation.

Come up with a good reason why the prospect would want to speak to you again. Don’t wing it. Way too often bankers dial the phone before engaging their brains. They end up leaving a message that sounds like “I just wanted to check in with you…” You can do better than that if you think for a minute about what you’re trying to communicate.

Your follow-up message should be short and to the point. It could include any of the following:

    • Something relevant that may apply to the prospect’s business or industry
    • Any analysis you have done based on what you learned about the prospect
    • A story about a similar company that you or your bank has helped
    • Questions you’d like to ask the prospect
    • A next step

 

If you’ve left a good message for the prospect, decide how and when to follow-up. Some people like to vary their approaches between emails and phone contacts.

Bank Relationship Managers often don’t want to appear too pushy. But if your follow-up is thoughtful and informative, it will be appreciated. Persistence coupled with some creativity usually wins out in the end.

 Looking for help on prospecting? Check out the following resources:

 

Live Webinar alert: Getting in the Door with Prospects on March 24 at 11 AM Eastern. For more information call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com. You can also register online by going to https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com

How to Build a Bigger and Better Prospect List: Tips for Bankers

  
  
  
prospecting, bank sales

How do you build a bigger and better prospect list? Most bankers are well advised to start with published sources like D&B and InfoUSA. Bankers moan about them but that’s because they expect perfection. Most lists that have been purchased within the last 12 to 18 months are probably 80% accurate. That’s acceptable as a point of departure.

You need to get the following basic information on any prospect:

  • Sales size

  • Year started

  • Number of employees

  • Industry (or SIC code)

  • At least one contact name, preferably the owner, president or CEO

The best prospect lists use a variety of sources. In addition to D&B or InfoUSA (or their online "do it yourself" entities) these include electronic versions of state and local directories, Chamber of Commerce rosters, business publications, and specialized sites. Some lenders like to review UCC filings to see which banks the prospects have borrowed money from in the past. More adventurous bankers are starting to use LinkedIn to build lists of likely companies based on their connections.

Trade associations provide useful data on their members. If you are going after dentists or architects or veterinarians, use the “Find a Member” feature at the ada.org, or aia.org or avma.org. Guidestar.org and other sites furnish valuable information on 501c3s and other not-for-profits including copies of tax returns that may help you determine whether they are viable prospects. FreeErisa.com will give you information on companies that have retirement plans.

If you are able to assign the task of building and maintaining the prospect database to someone in the bank, do so. It could be something that Marketing can do for you, but most banks we work with have more success using an Administrative Assistant who is good with Excel or Access.

Sales managers are the only ones who should be able to add or drop names from the master database. They should meet with their teams to parcel out the prospect names and arbitrate any petty disputes that may ensue.

Bankers should review their lists regularly with their sales managers and with their line of business partners (e.g. Credit, Cash Management, Trust, Private Banking, Branch Managers, etc.) Often colleagues can provide valuable insights and information. The best business developers know that prospecting is a team sport.

So what’s a good prospect list? It must meet the following criteria:

  • It matches your bank’s target profile

  • It incorporates various sources of leads

  • It has an appropriate number of business names

  • It has been vetted by your sales manager

  • It is a written document that you can share in whole or part with satisfied customers, COIs and others in your network.

    Sign up for our upcoming live webinar on March 3 on “Building a Good Prospect List” by going to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com. Can’t make the live event? All webinars are recorded and will be available in our archive within 24 hours of the event.

    For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series or discounts for multiple lines, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com.

 

 

Sales Managers: Do Your Bankers Have Good Prospect Lists?

  
  
  
prospecting, sales training for bankers 

In a poll that we conducted, 8 out of 10 sales managers indicated that their business bankers did not have good prospect lists. That raises an important question: What exactly is a good prospect list?

Some bankers are looking for the magic list that the Marketing Department has that contains all creditworthy prospects who want to move their accounts tomorrow. “Give me a better list,” they wail. A word to the wise: Rule number 1 in prospecting is that all of the good customers are already taken. While the good news is that some of these good customers are yours, the rest are probably reasonably happy with your competitors. Marketing is not holding out on you. There is no magic list.

Other bankers think they have a good list if they know all the companies on it. While that may be possible in some markets—large corporate comes to mind—it can lead to too narrow a focus for business bankers and branch managers.

While you want your bankers to focus their energies on the “best” prospects in the market, be sure that you are the one defining what “best” means. That entails building a target profile of desirable prospects that incorporates guidance on the industries you want more business from and those that you don’t as well as the characteristics of the businesses themselves.

You need to acquaint all new hires with your target profile early on. New Relationship Managers (RMs) are often asked by their sales managers to compile a list of all their former customers and begin calling on them. This time honored strategy can pay dividends in the short run, but requires sales managers to do two things:

  • Review the names to be sure they match your target profile.

  • Supplement the list with the names of other prospects you want your new colleague to be calling on.

If your new associate built his reputation working a segment you’re not currently wild about—hotels or used car dealers or convenience stores—make sure he doesn’t invest much time pursuing them. If his sweet spot was real estate and your bank is more interested in C&I, get that on the table sooner rather than later.

Let’s assume you like the customers Jim’s been working with at Old Sixth National Bank. What we frequently see is a new commercial lender enjoying early success in bringing over a small percentage of customers—somewhere in the range of 10 to 20% of his borrowers in the first 12 months—and then hitting a wall. While Jim may keep assuring you that more of his former customers are going to be moving their business, that rarely materializes.

Why did your new star business developer’s efforts stall? Sometimes it’s because Jim did a good job selling his former customers a full range of business and personal deposit and cash management products (in addition to loans.) Prying that kind of business away from the incumbent is difficult, if not impossible.

Sometimes the relationships Jim had were more institutional than personal in nature. It may also be that there’s no clear advantage to your new prospect to move if your products merely match what they’ve got at Old Sixth National.

Whatever the reason, your bankers probably need to be working a larger prospect list. Depending on the markets they serve and the credit responsibilities they shoulder, middle market commercial bankers should have about 25 prospects on their lists. Business Bankers and Branch Managers usually need more—in the neighborhood of 50—and BDOs or bankers in de novo markets can have upwards of 75 to 100.

(Our next blog post will discuss other characteristics of a good prospect list.

Looking for more resources on prospecting? Sign up for our upcoming live webinar on March 3 on “Building a Good Prospect List” by going to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com. Can’t make the live event? All webinars are recorded and will be available in our archive within 24 hours of the event.

For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series or discounts for multiple lines, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com.

 

 

6 Secrets of Star Prospectors: Tips for Bankers

  
  
  
bank prospecting checklist

Here are six things that top bank Relationship Managers do consistently in prospecting:

    1. They focus on the right companies. Bankers need to understand what their banks are looking for. But there's more to this than just memorizing the target profile. Bankers have to assess whether they’re a good match for the prospects as well, considering whether they have the requisite skills and experience to deliver a compelling value proposition. If you're unsure, talk through your strategy with your sales manager. (Note: if you're not the best person to lead the charge with the prospect, you can still play a role.)

        2. They prepare appropriately for the initial contact. At a minimum they familiarize themselves with the prospect’s industry using resources like RMA, VerticalIQ, IBISWorld, First Research or LexisNexis. They also spend time reviewing the prospect’s website. By comparing industry trends with what appears to be going on in the company, they're able to frame intelligent questions for the first meeting. Their goal is to understand their prospects better than the competition does.

            3. They build relationships at the right level. In most cases successful prospectors start at the highest point in the organization that they can reach. In small to midsize businesses this is usually the owner or president. In larger companies they may be dealing with a chief financial officer or treasurer. Starting at the top of the organizational totem pole is not always easy, but usually pays dividends in the long run.

                4. They have clearly defined objectives for both the first and second meetings. These objectives are far beyond just getting in the door and getting to know the individuals involved. Often they include such things as learning more about the organization’s specific business model and short to medium term strategy. Every successful prospector knows that the primary goal of the first meeting is getting a second appointment. To do that requires the ability to ask intelligent questions based on the research conducted on the company.

                    5. They use their team members effectively in developing and executing their sales strategy. These team members include their sales manager and partners from different lines of business who may see other ways to add value to the prospect relationship. They are not bashful about enlisting the help of Senior Management. Top prospectors are good quarterbacks and leaders in implementing strategy.

                        6. They find a coach, somebody inside or outside the prospect organization who can give them a window on the inner workings of the company. A coach can help bankers see things in a different light (e.g. who the real influencers are within the company.)

                          Interested in tips on how to prepare for a first call on a prospect? Download our article on  Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect.

                          Webinar AlertGo to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com to sign up now for the first live webinars in the Prospecting Strategies series beginning in March:

                          • March 10: How to Build a Good Prospect List

                          • March 24: Leveraging Your Network to Get in the Door

                          • Previously recorded: The First 3 Calls on Prospects 

                          In Search of the Magic Prospect List

                            
                            
                            
                          prospecting for bankers

                          “I need a better prospect list.” How many times have Marketing Departments heard that one? Don’t get me wrong; bankers do need good prospect lists. But I suspect that some people think that their Marketing Department is holding out on them, that there really is a magic database of creditworthy companies ready to change their banking relationships tomorrow.

                          While there are certainly ways to build a better list—by using multiple data sources, tapping into the knowledge that your colleagues have of the market and doing a better job of researching companies to be sure that they match your bank’s target profile—every list has flaws. Sure, D&B and InfoUSA have some out of date information, but that doesn’t mean that prospectors should avoid using them.  Most lists that have been run in the last 12 to 18 months are plenty good enough as a starting point.

                          The real issue is what you do with the list you have. Your job is to get in front of the prospects that your sales manager thinks are a good match for you and the organization. Until you have a chance to meet with the prospect—or as many say, the “suspect”—you won’t know whether you should spend more time with them or not.  And remember that in 70 to 80% of the cases involving proactive prospecting, your prospects will be at least moderately satisfied with their current banking arrangement. That doesn’t disqualify them; on the contrary, that probably means you’re in front of a viable prospect, albeit one that you’ll have to work hard to win over.

                          So don’t complain about your imperfect list. If you need to add more names to it, huddle with your sales manager. The first challenge is to get first and second appointments, and if you’re having difficulties doing that, seek out some coaching on your strategy.

                          To download our eBook on prospecting, go to Q&A on Getting in the Door: Prospecting Tips for Bankers.

                          You might also be interested in How to Confidently Ask Customers for Referrals.

                          25 Questions to Assess Your Prospecting Process

                            
                            
                            
                          Prospecting Assessment

                          Face it: few bankers are consistently prospecting effectively. Many struggle to get in the door with business prospects. Others can land a first meeting but have difficulty securing a second. Most give up too soon—often after just a few meetings.

                          Based on our work with commercial and small business banking teams, we’re convinced that sales leaders can help bankers develop better prospecting habits. Diagnosing where RMs need assistance starts with an objective diagnosis of their current approach.

                          Here are some of the questions bank sales managers should consider:

                          • Have you reviewed each team member’s prospect list in the last quarter?

                          • Are your bankers blocking out uninterrupted time each week to do research on prospects and schedule appointments with them?

                          • Have your subordinates instituted a referral process to gain access to the decision makers on their prospect lists?

                          For 22 other questions, download our prospecting assessment by clicking here.

                          Looking for more tips on prospecting? Check out:

                          Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect

                          Q&A on Getting in the Door with Prospects

                          Q&A on Calling on Medical Practices (mp3)

                          Special webinar on “The State of Middle Market Banking”:

                          The recorded version of this webinar by Barlow Research is available for a limited time only at the discounted price of $100 (it is normally $325). To register go to https://www.barlowresearch.com/store/viewpodcast-dec2013.php

                          Recent archived webinars from MZ Bierly Consulting:

                          Business Operations Meetings: Building Strong Relationships with Business Owners

                          Delving Into Financial Operations: Selling to Change

                          Negotiating Price: Strategies for Bankers

                          Building Relationships with CPAs

                          LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week: Parts 1 and 2

                          Networking in the Age of Social Media

                          For more information go to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.

                           

                           

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