Tax season is over. It is probably OK to start calling on CPAs again in search of referrals. But before you do, here are 6 reasons why you ought to be asking some of your clients for introductions too:
- If you believe the research from national firms like Barlow and Greenwich, most of your business clients would be delighted to assist you.
- Most CPAs feel obligated to refer at least two other bankers when asked for a recommendation; your satisfied clients don’t.
- Your customers probably won’t be in a position to critique any proposals you make to the people they refer you to. That’s often how accountants “add value.”
- Customers often give glowing testimonials; circumspect accountants are usually reluctant to do so.
- Established CPAs may be asked for referrals by scores of lenders. Many business owners are never asked.
- Your clients usually don’t make a big deal out of “reciprocity.”
For more thoughts on why you ought to be spending more time with your satisfied clients, check out this video.
Looking for specific tips on how to ask for referrals? Check out this article How to Ask Customers for Referrals
You might also be interested in signing up for one of our recorded webinars on the topic at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com
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Editor's note: This blog post is one of our most read. It may be a stretch to compare it to a classic Mustang, but that's a chance we'll take.
With apologies to Stephen Covey, here are my “7 Habits of Highly Unproductive Salespeople (banker version)”:
1. Be reactive. Wait for what walks in the door. Don’t ask your satisfied customers for referrals—they know you provide great service and will send you any leads they have.
2. Put (anything other than customers) first. Problem loan reports. Compliance issues. Operational matters. No experienced banker gets canned for failing to make his sales goals.
3. Don’t worry about preparing for calls. Industry research--who has time for that? Developing specific questions for a first meeting with a prospect? Just ask ‘em to tell you about their business.
4. Strategize alone. Your Sales Manager (a) doesn’t know your customers/ prospects well; (b) doesn’t have time; and/ or (c) probably wouldn’t add much value if you talked about your strategy.
5. Think about what you need to sell first, not what your customers and prospects need. You’ve got goals to make.
6. Don’t make time for professional development. Training is for “junior” people, not veterans like you. Heck, if you’re like most commercial bankers, you believe that you’re in the top 20% of your peer group when it comes to business development skills. This is known in some circles as the Lake Wobegon effect—where all the children are above average. (Special offer: If you’d like to assess which stage your relationship building skills are in, go to The Progression of Relationship Development Skills )
7. Keep reminding yourself that knowing how to do something (like prospecting, say) is the same thing as doing it. And, if anybody questions your current results, you can come up with any number of excuses (“Our credit policy is too restrictive.” “We’re not even close to market pricing today.” “We need to do more advertising/ build more branches/get more creative on structuring deals, etc.”)
To read more articles on sales leadership topics visit our blog at Bank Sales Corner Blog
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A few years ago Greenwich Research reported that almost half of all business customers couldn’t recall any calls in which their bankers had furnished a new idea. When asked what the most memorable topics discussed were in their meetings with bankers, the most common response was “nothing.”
What then would business owners like to talk about? To find out the answers, watch this brief video.
To download a transcription of this video, click on the link below.
Would Your Prospects Pay for your Next Call?
More resources--Check out these mp3s on:
Acquiring New Relationships
Building Your Personal Brand
Question: What’s the best way to get up to speed quickly on a prospect before a call?
Answer: If it’s a first call and you have built a prospect folder (or gotten your AA or a credit analyst or a management trainee to do it for you), the best sources are probably at you fingertips. If not, here’s the list, in order of importance:
• Relevant material from the company’s website;
• Industry information from First Research, RMA, IBISWorld, Vertical IQ, Lexis Nexis or a trade or professional association;
• Articles about the company or the principals from searches of local business publications or other online sources like LinkedIn; and
• Credit write-ups about any bank customers in the same industry or niche, which might give you some talking points about “how we work with other companies like yours.”
If you’re making a second (or third or fourth or fifth) call, you should definitely have a prospect folder and in it your notes from previous meetings along with a written account plan. It still would make sense to skim the entire file before your meeting. And if you’re taking a product specialist or your Sales Manager on the call, you have to make sure that the individual gets copies of everything that’s relevant and that you have time to go over your plan for the call before you hit the elevator button to the second floor.
Check out our archived webinar on “Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect” at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com
Bonus offer for Relationship Managers: To download our complimentary Pre-Call Checklist, click on the image below.
March Madness always gives me a chance to quote the late John Wooden, the college basketball coaching legend. During his tenure at UCLA, the Bruins won ten national championships in twelve years, establishing a record for excellence that will probably never be rivaled in college basketball.
As a skinny sixth grader competing in the CYO leagues of Upstate New York (not exactly the same as New York or Philadelphia basketball to be sure) I played for a grizzled former NBA player named Bobby Wanzer. Mr. Wanzer was also the basketball coach and Athletic Director at a local college, which made me wonder then what he was doing spending Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons with us. I can only guess that Father Maloney must have twisted his arm after Mass and so for a year the Our Lady of Lourdes basketball team benefited from the wisdom of a man who was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. (No, I’m not making that up; you can check it out at http://www.hoophall.com).
I don’t remember much about Mr. Wanzer’s coaching philosophy. It’s probably because we didn’t have that many practices (his paying job often took him on the road during the basketball season) and most of our games were routs. I recall losing one of the first games of the season by the score of 44 to 9 to perennial power Sacred Heart, but the details of that and other defeats have vanished (thankfully) from my memory.
What I do remember was a comment that Mr. Wanzer made to my Dad about all the mistakes we made on the court. He said that he expected us to make bad passes and take bad shots and that it was OK as long as we kept trying. Now, that might have been Dad’s spin, but I don’t ever recall Mr. Wanzer scolding us for a basketball blunder.
Which brings me to Coach Wooden. It was about that time that I read an article about Coach Wooden in Look Magazine. He said that his college coach at Purdue, Ward “Piggy” Lambert (no, I’m not making that up either), constantly reminded players that, “The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win.”
That sounded bizarre to me—we made lots of mistakes and we never won—but Coach Wooden went on to explain that “mistakes come from doing, but so does success.” If you didn’t make mistakes, you probably weren’t trying hard enough.
That bit of coaching wisdom helped me through a long basketball season in 1964-65. And when I read it now in a compilation of Coach Wooden’s thoughts on basketball I have to think that both he and Bobby Wanzer were sending a profound message to all of us on what it takes to succeed.
See whether any of Coach Wooden’s “Eight Suggestions for Succeeding” apply to your team’s current sales efforts:
1. Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.
2. Remember, it’s the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.
3. Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.
4. Be more interested in character than reputation.
5. Be quick, but don’t hurry.
6. Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will have.
7. Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.
8. Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Want more of my recent thoughts on March Madness? Check out:
March Madness 2015: What You Can Learn from Larry Brown
March Madness 1983: More 3 Pointers on Winning at Sales
I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to share it with others. If you would like to read my regular posts on bank sales and sales leadership then please sign up at Bank Sales Corner Blog.
My wife does not like Larry Brown. When he was the coach of the New Jersey Nets and decided to depart for a coaching position at UCLA in 1983, leaving Buck Williams and the rest of the Nets in the lurch, Carol developed a lasting dislike for him.
When he ended up in Philadelphia in 1997, my wife's opinion did not change. Even after his success leading the Sixers to the NBA finals in 2001 he was still in Carol's dog house. And when the sportswriters in Philly began speculating in 2010 that Larry might return to lead the Sixers again Carol rolled her eyes in disgust.
I don’t think she knows that Larry Brown is back in the tourney hunt this year as head coach of the SMU Mustangs. The Mustangs are a number 6 seed in the NCAA South Regional and do battle with UCLA today at 3:15 PM EDT.
Now after being married for 37 years I am smart enough not to pick fights with my long-suffering spouse over stuff like March Madness. But I do really like Larry Brown and believe that he deserves his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach. (For what it’s worth, Allen Iversen—remember him? The “We’re talking about practice, man” NBA great-- agrees with me: he called Brown “the best coach in the world.”)
There are many things that bank sales leaders can learn from him. Here’s my list:
- Get the right players. Brown's last NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, was an unlikely combination of NBA castoffs and aging veterans. In the first year he made trades involving over 20 players. While generally perceived to be a player's coach, Brown wants his kind of players, and isn't reluctant to make changes to get them.
- Start with the basics. One of the first things that Brown realized when he took over the Bobcats in 2009 was that they did not know how to play team defense. Even the pros can learn new things. Coach Brown does not assume that professionals know it all.
- Don't look back. Brown's success with Charlotte—he took the team to the playoffs in 2010-- followed a disastrous stint with the New York Knicks in 2005-2006. If your team isn't performing well, it may not be entirely your fault. Brown was able to move on after his experience with the Knicks.
- Balance perfectionism and realism. Brown is known as a master teacher, capable of taking his players to a higher level. He stresses playing the game the right way, and attaches great significance to developing the right skills and habits in practice. His biggest fear is: “I haven't done enough as a coach where these guys encounter something I haven't prepared them for."
This last point is something all sales managers should consider. What kinds of things do you have to prepare your team for? What's the best way to do that? In our busy schedules when can we run the practices that will make our bankers better?
One last favor: Don’t show this piece to my wife.
Who is your favorite in this year’s NCAA basketball tourney? Root for your favorite in the space below.
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Check out our blog for tips for coaching sales performance in banks.
I recently saw the ESPN 30 by 30 documentary "Survive and Advance" about North Carolina State’s improbable road to the 1983 NCAA mens' basketball championship. I had forgotten how many last minute comebacks the Wolfpack made en route to the title. (Sports Illustrated magazine called the championship game the greatest moment in college basketball history.)
The film has many unforgettable scenes as players, coaches and fans reminisce about their opponents, the games themselves and their late coach, Jim Valvano. Footage from post-game interviews and press conferences provides ample evidence of how engaging Jimmy V was in front of an audience. (If you’ve never seen his ESPY speech, stop reading now and go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuoVM9nm42E).
At the end of the documentary, his wife recalls how he wrote short, motivational messages to himself on 3x5 cards, which he carried around with him. “Win NCAA Championship.” “Never give up.” “Beat cancer.”
With March Madness upon us once again and in memory of Jimmy V, here are some things that you might consider as you tackle this week’s business development challenges. (The fact that they are in fortune cookie 3 word messages—what I’ll call 3 pointers for those who perfected their outside shot before there was such a thing—is of no real importance.)
• Ask for referrals
• Do relationship reviews
• Share prospect lists
• Learn new techniques
• Follow financial press
• Build deeper relationships
• Join trade associations
• Assess your COIs
• Network with purpose
• Introduce your partners
• Leverage senior management
• Get a coach
• Attend training sessions
• Schedule prospecting time
Any you would like to add? Fill them in the space below.
Looking for something to jumpstart your team's business development efforts? Check out our recorded webinars on prospecting, COI development and referrals. You can sign up for sessions three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at email@example.com or (3) go to the Training Center section of our secure Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com.
95% of the bankers I know don't have a clear idea of how to integrate LinkedIn into their overall business development strategy. Here are some people who do.
1.) In the last 6 months since joining my new employer, I positioned my summary to demonstrate my "consultative approach" to helping commercial business owners and why the TowneBank culture and value proposition make for a great combination to deliver financial solutions to my friends and neighbors in my hometown of Richmond. This has led to numerous connection requests from COIs, some business owners, and a wealth of banking talent at other banks obviously looking for an employment opportunity.
Patrick Collins TowneBank Richmond
2.) My LinkedIn strategy to generate opportunities is to build my connections (I have over 1200) so I have a wide ranging network of contacts to tap into for warm introductions to prospects. I also use InMails to contact prospects directly and find they have a higher response rate than regular messages.
Roberta Bastow First Niagara Bank
3.) One way to generate opportunities that I recently discussed with others was to be visible and engaged with prospects when there aren't any apparent near term opportunities. You will always be aware of potential developments on a more timely basis and have a better understanding. The prospect will also think of you as a potential partner since calling efforts were consistent. I think it means a lot to a prospect to have someone genuinely interested in them when there isn't a near term opportunity and takes that into consideration when something becomes available. Show interest at all times and you will set yourself apart from the "fair weather" bankers.
Victor W. Capozzolo First Niagara Bank
4.)Connect to everyone I know and then work 2nd level connections. I use LinkedIn as a virtual Rolodex to easily reach people I want to contact. I find folks are pretty willing to connect with a banker, especially those who lend money and manage a team of lenders. It's also useful to connect with various groups and key people - Jack Welch for example - and read their pearls of wisdom.
Jeffrey Carstens Bank Leumi USA
5.) To share meaningful and "what's it in for me" articles that not only are beneficial for people but generate awareness of who I am. It gives me another tool to keep my name out there for banking opportunites.
Lisa DeCoste Fulton Bank
6.) When I meet someone at an event or am interested in an industry, I simply do a search on LinkedIn to see if I know anyone and I try to connect via that avenue. It isn't rocket science.
Vic Calonder Colorado Business Bank
7.) I saw Jill Rowley speak at the LinkedIn Sales Connect conference in September last year. She has 5 pillars of social selling and I have been using those (nothing original - just copying!).
Bob Newman Chatham Financial
8.) Knowing the industries to call in yields targeted prospects. LinkedIn means you never have to cold call again.
Talley Clower Regions Financial Corporation
9.) My LinkedIn strategy is to post once a week on the newsfeed a business item or some other topic of interest. I post to my tagged groups at least once every other week a specific topic related to the industry or to the bank.
Kelly Condon Colorado Business Bank
10.) I use LinkedIn as a branding tool. Visitors can learn my areas of specialty, read testimonial letters of recommendation written by current clients, and learn which industry groups I’ve been active with and what speaking engagements I've had. The goal is to enhance my professional credibility in the eyes of the viewer.
Doug Holtrop Mercantile Bank of Michigan
11.) The simplest and most effective way of getting in with clients is to compliment them on a work anniversary, remember their birthday or (yes!) a new profile photo. We are all, after all, vain creatures in need of acceptance by our peers.
Susan Eick Right Management (former Head of Retail Banking at community bank)
12.) I use LinkedIn to see who is connected to people I am targeting. I do use it to follow up as connections change positions and prompt meetings, congratulations, etc. I also use it to follow company pages. I am increasingly using it to keep up to date on industry trends.
Jeff Hultman, Illinois Bank& Trust
13.) LinkedIn has helped me with clients, prospects, and COI's. I use it as a tool for my credibility statement. With the banker turnover in our industry and clients getting a new RM every year, it helps build some trust early in the relationship and creates a sense of stability. It also gives them some confidence that they working with a true banking professional.
Ted Mossman Wells Fargo
What's your strategy? Share it in the space below along with any questions you have about getting more out of LinkedIn in prospecting.
Bonus: Here’s a link to more information on our website about LinkedIn.
Barry Trailer, co-founder of CSO Insights: “Our research shows the average B2B sale involves 4.5 buying influences and, more than likely, each of them touches base with at least one other person for buy-in, approval, etc. “
Question for Bank Sales Managers: Do your bankers have major pieces of business today that hinge on 1 or 2 personal relationships?
Joel Klein, former New York City Schools Chancellor: “Once they are hired, teachers in Finland are required to devote two hours a week to professional development throughout their careers.”
Question for Bank Sales Managers: How many hours a week are you devoting to improving the skills of your bankers?
Daniel Birke, David Sprengel, Jochen Ulrich and Michael Viertier:“Top performing sales organizations have the same percentage of sales staff in sales management roles—around 8%--as lower-performing companies. However, they have about 30% more sales staff in support roles. While this may seem counterintuitive, this approach frees up sales reps from more administrative tasks...to devote more of their time to customers. The result is that front line sales reps are three times more productive than their peers.”
Question for Bank Sales Managers: What are you doing to improve the administrative support for your bankers?
Dan Perry, Sales Benchmark International: “87% of Sales Managers tell me they want to spend more time with their ‘A’ players Yet Sales Manager selling time is hovering around 48%. SMs don’t have the time to spend with their ‘A’ reps (or any reps like they should). In comparison, World Class selling time is around 77% for SMs. And part of this time must be spent with those ‘A’ players.”
Question for Bank Sales Managers: Are you spending enough time with your top performers?
Terence Roche, Cornerstone Advisors: “An astounding 97% of recruiters recently surveyed said LinkedIn is the most common in-house recruiting platform. Everybody at our meeting said they use it almost daily.”
Question for Bank Sales Managers: How are you using LinkedIn in recruiting? (Bonus question: How are your bankers using LinkedIn to improve their results in prospecting?)
Looking for more resources on sales management? Check out these blog posts:
4 Weekly Tasks for Sales Managers (video)
6 Questions for Bank Sales Leaders about Process
20 Questions Bank Sales Leaders Should Ask Themselves
The number one issue in the bank peer data on improving banker sales performance is coaching. Most banks today have a reasonable level of accountability (goals, incentives, reporting) but are behind other industries in sales coaching.
The majority of commercial and business bankers still see themselves as "loan officers" and when they make the time to coach they primarily coach the credit process (getting the deal approved and closed). Sustainable growth in sales performance begins with the front end of the sales process (focusing on the right businesses, not wasting time with the wrong opportunities, using effective value propositions rather than price and structure, etc.). These skills take time, energy, and coaching to develop. A higher level of coaching significantly decreases the amount of time it takes a banker to become competent in these key skills.
Many community and regional banks use a Producing Manager sales leadership model. A Producing Manager typically carries a loan portfolio of between $40 and $70 million and manages 2 to 5 sales team members. A promotion from Commercial Lender to Producing Manager is often a clear signal that the bank values the individual’s credit and sales skills and can often lead to greater management opportunities in the organization.
The rationale for having them continue to manage their portfolios (“We have to take excellent care of the customers and you’re the best person to do that”) makes sense to the Producing Managers on another level; while it may be in the best interests of their customers, it’s also often perceived to be in their interest to hold on to their “meal ticket.” Many lenders see their customer relationships as a form of equity so they’re not averse to holding on to their book of business.
This model is common in banks where sales goals are relatively modest and where real estate-related transactions predominate. In banks where the sales performance expectations are higher the Producing Manager model can have a long-term negative effect on the sales performance of sales team members. Here are several of the problems:
- When Producing Managers carry more than a $10 million portfolio, the amount of time they spend coaching the front end of the sales process (lead generation and qualifying) is generally limited.
- They spend most of their time working their own portfolios and coaching credit (not sales) issues with their team members.
- They can compensate for the lack of sales coaching (growing team members’ sales skills) by "feeding" them deals and consequently helping them to make their goals.
- Producing Managers continue to build their own reputations in the community while their team members are less visible and less prepared for building their own network and customer following.
- Since Producing Managers spend less time coaching sales process (specifically the front end of the sales process) they don't fully develop competency in their skills as coaches and sales managers. This is especially true when they only manage 1 or 2 team members.
- The Producing Manager model is tenable in some situations but it significantly affects sales results when the number of sales team members reaches 4 or more. (If, however, the portfolio is reduced to less than $10 million and fewer than 5 relationships there is some increase in sales coaching.)
- Sales team members in Producing Manager teams grow their sales skills more slowly than those team members with "full-time" Sales Managers.
A common use of Producing Managers is in geographically dispersed teams (sales team members are 50 to 100 miles away). Yet there are many banks that have been able to build effective coaching processes with sales team members who are not in the same location. Sales Managers learn to use the phone, make regularly scheduled visits, and provide electronic delivery of reports and data (sales reports, underwriting information, etc.) to provide the coaching that team members need.
How do banks deal with the need for credit coaching in smaller or more remote markets? In some organizations, senior lenders take on a mentoring role for credit only, acting as advisors on deal structuring. The mentor is not the Sales Manager, though, and is not asked to coach on anything but credit. Regional Senior Credit Officers can also provide the needed guidance on complicated credit matters.
The data show that “full-time” Sales Managers with 6 to 12 sales team members (not including support staff) produce better long-term sales performance. (The number is lower [6 to 8] in commercial banking and higher in business banking and branch teams selling to businesses [8-12].)
It takes time and effort to build sustainable sales performance. Coaching is the key and full-time Sales Managers flat out are better coaches.
Do you agree or disagree? Send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in more insights on sales leadership? Check out our Sales Leadership Blog Posts.