Our eBook 7 Game Changing Ideas contains links to blog posts, mp3 files and videos from MZ Bierly Consulting. Each of the 7 ideas includes practical tips for bankers on how to improve their results calling on business customers and prospects. Among the topics covered are:
* How to get business owners to share their vision for the future
* The value of joining training associations
* How to leverage the connections of bank board members
* Why it's critical to demonstrate business acumen
To download the eBook, click on 7 Game Changing Ideas.
Looking for ways to energize your team? If you’re planning a sales meeting or a refresher workshop, contact Ned Miller at 610-296-4771 to discuss how we might help. Check out our popular prospecting workshop on “Building Prospect Momentum” by clicking here.
Bonus: Download our article “Coaching Prospecting: 7 Tips for Sales Managers” by going to Bank Sales Corner Blog.
You received a call last week from a CPA buddy of yours. One of his long-time clients is looking for a new banking relationship because his banker has just retired.
The company has banked at the same small bank since it started 14 years ago and has grown to be its largest account. They know they need to move their relationship to a more sophisticated bank.
The company has annual revenues of $20MM and borrowing needs of $2.5MM. The CPA has recommended 3 banks: your bank, one smaller and one much bigger. All 3 banks have been given last year’s year end financials and a 40 minute time slot to come in and make a presentation. The client knows that you will need to dive into their financials further to give them a commitment but they would like you to provide a “range” of financing options as part of your presentation.
Here are some questions to answer:
- Would you be excited and look forward to this meeting or feel like you were being commoditized with an RFP and a 40 minute window?
- What would be your top 2 goals for the meeting?
- What would you do to prepare for this meeting?
- What information would you bring along?
- How deep would you go into “the range of financing”?
- Would you go alone? If not, whom would you bring? Why?
- If you could choose, would you rather have the 9, 10 or 11 AM time slot? Why?
- What would your call plan be (in light of the 40 minute time limit)?
Any intrepid bankers who respond to these questions will be eligible for a complimentary webinar from MZ Bierly Consulting on “Getting in the Door with Prospects.” You can send your answers to email@example.com.
Bonus: If you’d like to get some ideas on how to proceed, check out this recent article by Janet Spirer:Bridge the Aspiration Gap: Win the Sales Presentation.
Special thanks to Mark Augustyn, SVP Mercantile Bank, Grand Rapids, MI, who suggested this scenario.
For more tips on prospecting, check out the following:
Keys to an Effective First Call on a Prospect
Looking for a way to jumpstart your team’s business development efforts in 2014? Call Ned Miller on 610-296-4771 to find out more about workshops and webinars on cross-selling and
prospecting for business banking teams, branch managers, and their partners in treasury management, wealth management and mortgage lending.
Would your prospects be willing to pay you for your next sales call? Neil Rackham, the legendary architect of SPIN selling, used to pose that question to prompt salespeople to think about what value they are providing in their face-to-face meetings. It’s a pretty powerful question, one that probably makes all of us squirm a little bit.
Bankers make way too many “Howdy doody calls”, “Just wanted to touch base calls” and “I was in the area calls.” 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? The list isn’t going to surprise you.
- Ideas that would help them improve their sales
- New products that might benefit them
- Information about what other similar companies are doing
- Ways to save money on banking services
Most business owners realize that in order for you to talk about something that would help them you need to know something about their business model and strategy. On a first call on a prospect most are willing to share that information with you—if you ask in an intelligent way.
That requires preparation. At a minimum bankers need to do the following five things:
- Build a client folder.
- Research trends in the industry.
- Analyze the firm’s website.
- Anticipate the needs of the individual you are calling on.
- Develop a plan for the next two meetings with the client or prospect.
Let’s take a look at the client folder. Some bankers erroneously think they have to pull all the information themselves. Not true. If you have an Administrative Assistant, a credit analyst with some spare time on her hands or a savvy teller with access to the Internet, you may be able to delegate this task. The critical pieces are:
- Industry information from IBISWorld, First Research, RMA, Vertical IQ, or a trade association.
- Relevant material from the company’s website;
- Articles about the firm or the principals from searches of local business publications or other online sources and
- Any notes, call plans, or product information that you have ccumulated. Often overlooked are 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 companies like yours.”
So if you’re trying to impress your prospects—and get a chance to spend more time with them in the future—think about what value you can bring to that next interaction.
If you liked this post, share it with your colleagues and encourage them to sign up for future blog posts. For more tips on prospecting, check out the following:
Keys to an Effective First Call on a Prospect
A Checklist for Qualifying Prospects Quickly
Looking for a way to jumpstart your team’s business development efforts in 2014? Call Ned Miller on 610-296-4771 to find out more about workshops and webinars on cross-selling and prospecting for business banking teams, branch managers, andtheir partners in treasury management, wealth management and mortgage lending.
Recently one of my clients decided to institute a regular time for all business bankers to schedule prospect appointments for the coming week. The theory was good—it is important to set aside time to do this.
Unfortunately the first few weeks have turned into an exercise in cold calling. The initial results have been about what you’d expect. Cold calling has a very low hit rate—in this case, fewer than 5% of the calls are generating appointments. While the Sales Leaders are still convinced that this is a step in the right direction, at least some business bankers are grumbling about “dialing for dollars.”
I’m not a fan of cold calling but I can endorse this experiment if the following conditions are met:
- The bankers have already attempted to get introductions to the prospects from the people in their network. This includes their partners from other areas of the bank and Senior Management, as well as their customers, business connections and COIs. It might also include endorsements from another party in the prospect’s organization who knows them and their work.
- They have researched the company and the individual on the list. Doing homework before picking up the phone is the only way to avoid sounding like everybody else who is trying to get in front of a prospect.
- For less experienced prospectors, Sales Leaders have reviewed the “script” that is going to be used in the telephone call and in any other communication contemplated (see #4.) The most important part of this script is why the prospect should give you more time. Is it your industry knowledge? Experience with similar companies? Your Sales Manager can help you think through the best value proposition to use to get an initial meeting.
- Letters, emails, and LinkedIn messages are considered as part of the mix of the prospecting communication strategy. You don’t have to do all of them, but you should think about whether any could improve your success rate. Well-crafted, customized emails can show how you might add value for a particular prospect. LinkedIn is a much less cluttered channel than email and has opened doors for some business bankers who understand how to use it. If you’re only relying on your charm on the phone, you could struggle.
- Sales Leaders have approved the overall plan for follow-up. (You don’t think the first call is going to magically result in an appointment, do you?) This means that the banker has thought about other content to send to this prospect (e.g. articles, ideas, case studies, etc.) and other ways to connect either online (through LinkedIn groups) or offline (at trade association gatherings or by dropping by where appropriate).
- At least a portion of each banker’s weekly prospecting effort is devoted to the previous 5 bullet points. Cold calling is rarely the best option and shouldn’t be the default if bankers are having difficulty getting in front of prospects. Leveraging your network, researching prospects, strategizing with Sales Leaders, and getting coaching can often spell the difference between success and failure.
A final note: Tracking what is producing results—and while this starts with initial appointments, it really means what’s surfacing opportunities that lead to closed business—will help my client decide whether to continue the weekly calling regimen or to put more emphasis on ways to generate warm leads.
What do you think? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below...
For more on Ned Miller’s views on cold calling check out Stop Training Bankers on Cold Calling.
Looking for ways to energize your team? If you’re planning a sales meeting or refresher workshop, contact Ned Miller at 610-296-4771 to discuss how we might help. Check out our popular prospecting workshop on “Building Prospect Momentum” by clicking here.
In a recent audioconference on Winning Strategies in Middle Market Banking, Dave Swoyer, EVP and Commercial Banking Executive for Santander Bank, discussed the three things he focuses on to help his team succeed. Here is an excerpt of his comments.
If I do three things well my people will be successful. The first is remove obstacles. That would be anything that keeps Relationship Managers (RMs) in the office.
We could spend an hour listing what they are. It’s what I hear from RMs who don't have a significant pipeline or who aren't moving as fast as I'd like. Invariably they give me a list of the reasons why they are stuck. “Well Dave, I have to do this and don't forget that project we’re working on…”
Because I have more leverage in the organization I have to step in because whoever assigned those things must think they’re important. As an industry we don't do a good job of helping folks navigate through a list of priorities that exceed the time they have to complete them. So that is my job to remove those obstacles.
When you eliminate the excuses and the person says “I’m not doing as well as I want to” then you can start working seriously on the real issues.
The second big thing I do is internal advocacy. It is just tougher now-a-days to guide an opportunity through the pipeline, from the first sales call to when revenue gets booked. It gets in the door and then it loses momentum.
Whether it is because the credit underwriting people are really tied up or it’s a busy time of year and we have renewals or the product people are all in training and they can't get their part of the pitch book complete, I need to be the internal advocate to make sure that our sense of urgency is sufficient to win.
Part of that is consensus building, building bridges, getting deals unstuck. I have to be able to say “Yes, I understand your view point but we also need to think about this.” It’s the sales leader’s job to do that.
Third would be to lead the pipeline management process. I look at my group’s pipeline and try to make sure I understand what the big opportunities are. If I do a good job then I keep folks from wasting their time.
Recently I saw an opportunity in the pipeline and had a short conversation with one of my RMs about it. It just didn't feel like the kind of thing that would work. He said one day that he was planning to talk to the prospect and encouraged me to listen in. After about 45 minutes I realized that I had made a mistake.
I didn't see this for what it was and after a fair amount of work we booked a very large deal: in addition to a big credit facility, we got a large fee, cash management and did an interest rate swap on which we earned a lot of money. So it will be a very profitable relationship and I almost missed it. I’d like to think I would have caught it sooner or later but that’s why pipeline management is so important.
Editor’s note: To listen to Dave Swoyer’s comments and those of the other participants go to MZ Bierly Consulting Middle Market Audioconference.
Interested in more ideas to help your team? Here are some prospecting resources from MZ Bierly Consulting.
1. How to Build a Business Network eBook
2. Prospecting Pointers eBook
3. Recorded and Live Webinars on Prospecting
If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your team’s prospecting efforts in 2014, check out the Building Prospecting Momentum Workshop or call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of the Sales Managers I have worked with struggle with managing remotely. Outside of
weekly sales meetings by phone, what can long distance managers do to provide the level of coaching that their remote staffers need? Here are six things to focus on:
- Schedule your visits to each market well in advance. These trips can involve more than just customer calls. Each time you’re together is a chance to review progress on key customer relationships and top prospects. If you’re going to drive four hours round trip, think about spending the night. That might give you an opportunity to spend some additional 1 on 1 time with your colleague. That can translate into more time to get to know him better, to answer questions, to boost his confidence, etc.
- Do more pre-call, post-call coaching over the phone. If you’re not able to spend as much time making joint calls with a subordinate, set up a time to strategize about his upcoming calls. If it’s a prospect you don’t know, have your colleague send you background material in advance. Be sure to close the loop within 24 to 48 hours to debrief the call. (Note: This is not just for bankers who are struggling; high performers can benefit from this as well for different reasons.)
- Schedule 1 on 1 time. Schedule 60 minutes each for people every other week to review what’s going on. This phone call may not last the full hour, but it gives you a chance to get into more detailed conversations. While this is designed to give your colleagues a chance to talk about what’s on their minds, plan what you’d like to say.
- Use every chance to recognize people. Remote employees need strokes too. Quick emails recognizing performance can pick people up—particularly if you copy the right people up the chain of command.
- Don’t let headquarters products specialists and senior managers forget about your remote staff. Make sure they get in front of your people (and more importantly, their customers and prospects) as needed—which is always more than head office types believe.
- Spend money on team meetings. Don’t let anybody talk you out of eliminating the budget for the quarterly sales meeting. (It’s possible you might cancel the meeting yourself but let that be your decision, not your CFO’s.)
For a remote Sales Manager, out of sight does not have to be out of mind. If you apply these
principles in your ongoing communication with your team, everyone will be more effective.
Looking for ways to energize your team? If you’re planning a sales meeting or refresher workshop, contact Ned Miller at 610-296-4771 to discuss how we might help. Check out our popular prospecting workshop on “Building Prospect Momentum” by clicking here.
“In the last six months we’ve increased our calls by 50%. But we’re not seeing significant increases in our pipeline or closed business. I’m concerned about the quality of our calls.”
The bank CEO’s comment came at the end of an executive management meeting that reviewed last quarter’s closed business reports, current pipeline numbers and call activity summaries. Activity levels are higher than ever — his bankers are on the streets. But so are his competitors.
So,how do you win against tough competition? Apparently, making more and more calls isn’t the answer. (Although a certain level of calling is critical. In the best performing sales teams, commercial bankers are making 20 to 25 sales calls per month, branch managers 15 to 20 calls, and small business bankers 25 to 35.)
Winning in a competitive environment goes beyond just being on the streets and picking the “low- hanging fruit.” Competing to win means focusing on the right targets, using the right value proposition, working with the true decision maker, thinking like a business owner, and developing clear and effective strategies based on these factors. So the CEO’s question about whether his people were making quality calls was on target.
Isn’t the Quality of Sales Calls a Sales Training Issue?
Most banks today have built the foundations of a sales leadership process: they have established goals, introduced monetary incentives, and hold regular sales meetings to discuss pipelines and closed business. These extrinsic motivators are a part of all successful sales organizations. In addition, most banks have invested significant sums of money in providing sales training for their teams. But, as many of these same banks have discovered, sales training combined only with extrinsic motivators produces limited results (except with high performers, who probably didn’t need the training in the first place!)
The sales skills that are taught in most sales training programs are based on research that has studied the sales behaviors of high-performing salespeople. These “best practices” are broken down into components that can be taught in a classroom setting — things like account management, sales call communication skills, rapport building, priority management, etc.
But classroom learning does not ensure sales success in the real world. In most instances, salespeople leave sales training programs with a good understanding of the skills required for success. In order to become competent using the new sales techniques, they must practice the skills many times in real-life situations.
Unfortunately, when average-performing salespeople first start using new sales skills with real customers and prospects, their attempts feel awkward and unnatural. They may try the skills a
few times and if they don’t work, they abandon them and revert to their old, more comfortable behaviors.
Properly designed extrinsic motivators can help. For example raising call targets and creating highly visible call reporting can drive practicing the new skills by creating an emphasis on making more calls. Of course the underlying assumption is that practice makes perfect.
But in reality, effective sales calls require so many skill sets to be fine-tuned that accountability alone gets you primarily quantity, not quality. Just practice is not enough. Mastering all the skill sets will take the ongoing support and guidance of a sales manager.
The Impact of Pre-call, Post-call Coaching
The research on highly successful salespeople shows a high correlation between planning a call and effectively developing needs and between developing needs and success in advancing a sale. A better job of planning produces better sales results. So, how do you get your salespeople to see the need and value in call preparation? To see that it’s time well spent?
It takes pre-call, post-call coaching, a key component of on-going guidance. When sales managers make the time to meet with salespeople one-on-one to strategize an upcoming sales call and then to formally debrief the same call, more needs are developed, more sales are advanced. And when a bank CEO or head of commercial banking asks for a call plan and then discusses call strategies the day before a call, call planning becomes “the way we do business.”
When salespeople begin to see a correlation between call planning and improved results, when they see everyone from the top of the bank down is making the time to plan their important calls, call planning increases dramatically. When call planning becomes a part of day-to-day selling, call quality and sales results go up. In the end making more calls is good practice but coaching drives call quality.
Sales managers who make time to coach new skills, who integrate pre- and post-call coaching into their weekly routine, and who spend time coaching sales strategies (not just credit strategies!) consistently see results improve.
Bank Sales Leaders: For more tips check out our recent blog posts on coaching. Feel free to share this information with other sales leaders in your organization.
I am frequently asked by bankers to give them feedback on their Linkedin profiles. It's something I am happy to do. I find myself repeating the same advice to both novices on socaial media and old hands, many of whom have built sizeable networks. My recorded message sounds like this:
1. Your profile reads too much like a resume in my view. Write a summary for clients and prospects, not headhunters.
2. You should seek out some current clients for recommendations-- for Linkedin, but also for other uses (e.g. in proposals, as part of leave behind material, etc.)
3. Think about developing a communication strategy targeting the Linkedin groups your prospects are part of (CRE, manufacturing, law firms, etc.). It doesn't have to be original content but it does have to be relevant and valuable.
When it comes to Linkedin-- and other social media that more and more bankers are using to network-- it may be time for a reality check.
- Are you visible online? If prospects or potential COIs looked for you, what would they find?
- Does your online profile demonstrate any of your expertise?
- Are you taking advantage of tools to help you stay current on what's happening that may impact your customers and prospects?
Wherever you are in your career you need to think about your professional brand, and that includes how you appear in cyberspace.
Recorded Webinar Alert: Sign up for our recorded webinar on Networking in the Age of Social Media. Ned Miller and digital marketing guru Eric Cook from WSI Internet looked at how savvy bankers are leveraging social media in networking.
They started by reviewing the most popular social media sites and then examined their usefulness in a business context. Along the way they showed tools and applications (many free) that will make researching and communicating with prospects and potential COIs easier. To sign up for the recorded webinar click on the link below:
Networking in the Age of Social Media
Call 610-296-4771 for details on discounts for multiple lines.
In a recent audioconference, Scott Page, the President and CEO of Colorado Business Bank in Denver, talked about what he looks for in a Relationship Manager. Here is an edited version of his remarks:
- Bankers need to have great communication and people skills. You’ve got to advocate within the bank and communicate good and bad news to clients. You have to listen for clues and cues.
- Prospecting skills have become every bit as important as credit skills. You have to have bankers who are connected to the market. They need to have very well developed referral networks. If they inherited a client they probably can’t move that client, but if they’ve built that portfolio themselves then there’s a much greater chance that they can move that portfolio when they come over. We vet our prospective bankers very carefully to make sure that we are getting the kind of bankers that can do that.
- Bankers with weak credit skills are really going to struggle, but if they are strictly credit people, they will struggle as well. We want bankers to have a consultative personality. That means that they get a charge out of really understanding their clients or the industry that they are in. We want our bankers to understand their clients and their industry. From that point forward their challenge is to craft solutions to what the needs are today and in the future.
- RMs need to understand the importance of consistently working their COIs, their customer base, and their prospects. RMs who have a full sales funnel don’t try to force their credits. If you have five to ten opportunities going all the time in your sales funnel and you get a no, panic doesn’t immediately set in. Successful bankers usually have a balanced pipeline that includes opportunities from customers, COIs, and prospects. They generally have deals in different stages of the sales process.
- To be successful an RM needs a working knowledge of many areas beyond just credit. We try to augment our bankers’ credit skills with strong credit support because we know that they are challenged in so many different areas.
- We think that there is a real opportunity for specialists. We’ve always been very successful with medical practices and we think that is an area where it’s critical to have a tremendous knowledge level. Physicians and practice managers don’t want to educate bankers about what is going on with Medicare, Medicaid, or Obamacare. We’ve asked our generalists to try and develop some niches. It’s a way to differentiate themselves within their market. It is really important to prospective clients and to our customers that bankers understand the pressures and pain points in their specific area. Specialization also gives them a very focused COI network. They can be viewed as experts and the referral sources are much more comfortable giving a referral to somebody in health care who really understands the industry. They have an advantage when competing against another banker who may one day work on a manufacturer and the next day on a medical practice or something else.
- Successful Relationship Managers have a balanced background and a very consistent approach. They maintain a balanced calling effort on their COIs, customers and prospects. They differentiate themselves by specializing and by developing a deep knowledge of their customers. They are always prepared and when they go on joint calls they huddle and develop a plan before they go. Calling isn’t something they do in between things. It’s part of their regular schedule.
- They are often connectors. Sometimes they may introduce a client to another client as a resource. Or they may introduce them to a prospect for their business. That is how you start going from being a purveyor or renter of credit to an advisor.
- The very best RMs have a holistic view of their clients. They want to know what their clients’ objectives are. Do they want the business to pass to their daughter or their son or are they looking to cash out in three years? If they are looking to transition out of the business in three years, now is the time to introduce them to one of our investment bankers. They can talk about what they need to know to prep the business for sale in 2-3 years. Bankers who take more of a strategic view and are vested in their clients’ success are much better bankers.
- Cultural fit is as important as anything else. I try not to be the person to decide whether or not we hire an RM. Sometimes I will say “I don’t think this one is a good cultural fit.” By the time they get to me they’ve demonstrated that they have all the credit and sales skills. I just try to find out if they will work well within our culture. We do take references very seriously. It’s pretty easy for us to figure out who the people are we would like to have on our team. Here you have to be fairly entrepreneurial. What we find is that some bankers coming out of larger institutions struggle because they don’t have the support systems they had in the bigger banks. I try to figure out if they can operate pretty autonomously, maybe even more so than they did the last place they were at.
Editor’s note: This is an edited version of Scott Page’s remarks at a recent audioconference on “Winning Strategies in Middle Market Banking”. To listen to his comments and those of the other participants go to MZ Bierly Consulting Middle Market Audioconference.
New Audioconference Alert:
Join us for a special complimentary audioconference on Friday October 4, 2013 at 2:30 PM Eastern on How to Compete Effectively in Business Banking. To register for this free session, click here: Registration Form for Audioconference. If you have questions, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at email@example.com.
Question: I’m experiencing cold call reluctance. I’m afraid the other person on the line
(decision maker or gatekeeper) will be rude so I expect to be rejected and fear that outcome. I’m afraid I will come across as being incompetent.
Answer: First, it’s a good thing to ask for help if you’re struggling with something. Cold call reluctance is not uncommon—many people have an aversion to cold calling. The question you need to answer is why. Are you skeptical about the benefits of cold calling? Are you saying to yourself that if you redoubled your efforts to find a side door referral, you’d be more successful? If the answer is yes to either, then you would know what you have to do—get a referral from somebody (a satisfied client, a line of business partner, a COI, etc.)
Here are some quick thoughts:
- You can’t control what other people are going to think or do. The only thing you should worry about is what you do.
- You should always believe that your prospects will benefit from dealing with you. Assume that they want to learn about how you might help them. That includes people at all levels from Administrative Assistants to company presidents.
- One of the challenges is figuring out how these prospects will benefit. If you have helped a dental practice with a loan to purchase diagnostic equipment or a way to process checks faster it’s safe to assume that other similar practices might be interested in talking to you. These success stories might be your bank’s stories, not necessarily your stories, but that’s OK. You can say, “We have worked with a number of dentists like you…”
- Talk to your manager about what approach you’re going to take with your top 10 prospects. That will help you script out what you want to say to get first appointments (remember, referrals are your best bet). Your manager might even spend some time with you role-playing the
If you’re looking for more resources on prospecting, you can download the following:
Common Objections Bankers Face in Getting
Q&A on Getting in the Door eBook
Webinar Alert: “Networking in the Age of Social Media”
September 30, 2013 at 11 AM Eastern, 10 AM Central, 9 AM Mountain
You can register for live webinars three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (3) go to the upcoming webinars section of our Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com and pay by credit card. If you can’t make a live webinar, you will be able to view the recorded version within 24 hours of the event. We do provide discounts for organizations that sign up for three or more lines for a live webinar. Call 610-296-4771 for details.
What do you think? How do you deal with cold call reluctance? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below...