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
If you liked this post, share it with your colleagues via email or on LinkedIn.
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.
Working on getting in beach shape for your vacation at the shore? Going on a cruise? Catching up on your reading? Whatever you plan to do this summer outside of work, here are 9 business development ideas for bankers:
1. Do something nice for your best customers. I’m not talking about sending them tickets to a baseball game or a concert, although that’s not a bad thing to do. Let them know you’re thinking about their business. If you have something specific in mind—maybe something that would improve the way they manage their cash—visit them. If you don’t, visit them anyway.
2. Bone up on the competition. Mystery shopping is not just for branches. Use your network of customers and prospects and COIs to find out what your top competitors are doing with their business customers. Share your insights with your colleagues.
3. Take a product partner to lunch. Get to know your Cash Management rep better. See if he knows anybody on your prospect list. Pick your Wealth Management contact’s brain about what she’s seeing in the market. Remember it’s not just about them giving you introductions--ask how you can help them meet their business development goals.
4. Do some industry research. Not just the First Research, IBISWorld or VerticalIQ kind—that’s a given to stay current. Visit some trade association websites to see whether you can learn things that will make you more knowledgeable about the issues facing your customers and prospects. Attend a trade association meeting.
5. Meet some friendly accountants. Review all the financial statements you have received over the last 18 months and see whether you know all the CPAs who prepared them. If you don’t, ask your customers to set up a lunch so you can meet them. For more insights here are answers to 10 Questions on Getting Referrals from CPAs.
6. Write an article for a local business publication on a topic that would be of interest to your prospects. Milk it for all it’s worth. Before mailing it to the editor, send it to your customers and prospects for comments. After it’s published, get a PDF of the file and share it with everybody you know who might be interested.
7. Review your relationship plans with your Sales Manager. What, no relationship plans? Click here to download a Relationship Planning Template.
8. Keep improving your skills. Be honest with yourself about what you need to work on. If you’re a credit wiz who struggles with selling, sign up for a webinar or buy a book on prospecting. If your product knowledge is sub-par, get some tutoring from one of your colleagues. Lousy at negotiating? Take a course. (See below for some upcoming webinar ideas.)
9. Show your prospect list to your satisfied customers. You might be surprised how inclined they are to help you with your business development efforts. If you’re interested in pointers on how to do that, check out this article on How to Ask Customers for Quality Referrals.
Summer is a time to recharge your batteries. But it’s also a time to refocus your energies on how to retain your customers and acquire new ones.
Looking for a suggestion on how to jumpstart your prospecting efforts? Check out our live and recorded webinars at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com or call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772. Here are the next two live webinars:
1. LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week Session 2--June 10, 2013
* How to take advantage of LinkedIn's research capabilities
* Using LinkedIn to identify prospects
* Tips on scheduling appointments with prospects
* How to use LinkedIn groups to expand your network
* Leveraging LinkedIn as a communication tool
2. Building Referral Relationships with CPAs--July 15, 2013
In our workshops, most Business Banking and Commercial Banking Relationship Managers express interest in expanding their network of accountants. If building relationships and generating referrals to improve your prospecting results are important goals for you, how should you go about preparing for your first meeting with a CPA? Does it make sense to have your initial meeting at lunch? What are realistic objectives for the meeting?
In this short video you'll hear answers to these frequently asked questions. To watch the video, click on the link below:
Looking for more tips on getting referrals from CPAs? Download a recent article at http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/getting-referrals-from-cpas-10-thought-provoking-questions
Did you watch Spike and Luke rain three pointers in the NCAA Championship game this week? Amazing stuff for hoops fans.
If you’re a commercial lender, business banker or branch manager looking for some more three pointers to score with business clients, here are 10 possible game-changers. (Click on the links to get additional insights on each.)
- Get their vision
- Join trade associations
- Network with forethought
- Rediscover your mojo
- Write that letter
- Don't get complacent
- Cultivate local CPAs
- Use board members
- Don’t strategize alone
- Demonstrate business acumen
If you're a bank sales manager and liked this post, share it with other members of your team and encourage them to sign up for our blog at http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/bank-sales-corner-blog/
New and noteworthy: Download Buck Bierly’s presentation on “Building B2B Client Loyalty and Increasing Wallet Share” from the Western Independent Bankers Conference at http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/wib-conference-building-client-loyalty/
Contact Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 if you'd like to discuss how we might help you with content for your next sales conference or offsite meeting.
Many bankers defend to the death yesterday's prospecting "best practices” that are not always productive. See if any of your team members are holding on to any of the most common.
1. “I believe in getting involved in the community.” I do too. Bankers should be encouraged to join non-profit boards. It’s a way for younger bankers to develop leadership skills that can pay dividends later in their careers. Bankers of all ages should also attend events that support the worthy causes of local organizations.
But let’s not confuse being active in the community with developing new business. Yes, it’s possible to parlay your contacts into leads, but it’s not a given. And, for most bankers, going to events shouldn’t replace sales calls.
If you believe in the mission of an organization, do something to support it. If you can leverage your involvement in some way to help you find new business, great. But that’s almost always going to be secondary.
Coaching Takeaway: At least once a year talk to all your team members about their community activities. Make sure that bankers don’t confuse Chamber lunches with business development calls.
2. “I like to make joint calls on prospects with my Cash Management (or Merchant Services) rep.” I’ll buy that, but only after you have made at least one call on the prospect by yourself. If you haven’t spent time learning about your prospect’s business yet, don’t trot out any of your business partners.
While you could make the case that every business needs some level of cash management support, your job as a banker is to find out what your prospect’s specific needs are and then decide which of your specialists should appear at your side. Remember, it’s about priorities—theirs, not yours.
If you bring a Cash Management rep in too soon, you may miss a better opportunity to assist a prospect with a more pressing need.
Coaching Takeaway: Don’t let your bankers squander the valuable time of product specialists. Make sure that every joint call is part of a sensible relationship strategy.
3. “I take a CPA out to lunch every week.” And what do you have to show for it? According to most estimates, only about 25% of CPAs are in a position to make referrals to bankers. So, if you’re buying lots of lunches, make sure that you’re dealing with the minority who can and do refer business.
You need to assess the quantity and quality of referrals you have received. If you haven’t seen many—or perhaps more importantly, closed any—you may be hanging out with the wrong accountants.
Coaching Takeaway: Every banker should have a list of current and prospective COIs. Review the list at least every 6 months. Pay particular attention to whether your team members are seeing referrals, and if so, whether they are able to close any business.
4. “Since all business owners are credit-driven, I use credit as a lead product in my prospecting efforts.” Many commercial and business bankers lead with loans. High-performers differentiate their message by focusing on the prospect’s or client’s next need, not on what they’re comfortable selling.
A mature business uses more than 10 different financial services, not just loans. Look for the “best way in the door,” the need that will begin a relationship (which is not necessarily a loan).
Coaching Takeaway: Make sure that your sales team is “conversationally competent” in a broad range of products. Begin with a simple account planning process that discusses more than just credit products. Change the questions you ask in pre-call/post-call discussions. Ask about long-term needs as well as immediate needs. Talk about more than just credit needs.
5. “These are my customers.” Many RMs build walls around their clients, effectively insulating them from product partners, branch managers and, in some cases, senior management.
Coaching Takeaway: To institutionalize relationships your bankers need to introduce the right people to their clients. That starts with you, but would include any others who could add value.
6. “I don’t need LinkedIn.” Maybe not, but more and more bankers are using it to identify, research and educate prospects and COIs.
Coaching Takeaway: Make sure your team knows what LinkedIn can do. Show them that it has the potential to assist in their networking efforts, prospecting research and personal marketing. If you’re looking for some insights, check out our recorded webinars on “Leveraging LinkedIn for Business Development” and “Getting More Out of LinkedIn” at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com. (You can also call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 to learn more).
Coaching Resources: Check out our mp3 tips for sales leaders and team members at http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/mp3-page/.
If you haven’t downloaded our eBook “Prospecting Pointers” go to http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/prospecting-pointers-e-book-download/.
When August Aquila talks, accountants listen. So why should the article in his newsletter Partner Insights on 21 Basic Marketing Activities to Take to the Bank be of interest to bankers? Because, whether you like it or not, you’re in the same boat when it comes to marketing your professional services.
I was recently asked by a youthful looking 27 year old business banker what he could do to impress business owners who were often twice his age. The obvious answer was to do his homework, be well prepared for all client and prospect meetings, and begin establishing himself in the local business community. In the course of our conversation it turned out that he had given a speech at a local chamber event on how to select a banker that went extremely well. A number of people came up afterward and asked for his card and he was able to set up appointments with them.
Aquila would applaud the young lender’s efforts. He encourages accountants to join trade and professional associations and get on the program for events as a speaker. He also recommends teaching adult education courses for start-up businesses and offering seminars to reach business customers. Becoming famous might sound ambitious, but the question Aquila asks is worth considering: “Why should clients look to you to help them improve their business?”
Many of Aquila’s 21 recommendations are applicable to bank Relationship Managers who are trying to grow their client base and expand their business network. Here are several, with my comments:
- Attend at least two business luncheons every month: Yes, assuming that the gatherings draw people you would like to meet, and that should include prospects who match your target profile and potential COIs. Hanging out with other bankers is a waste of time. Go with a plan. If you’re looking for more ideas on how to take advantage of networking events listen to this mp3 on Networking Tips.
- Communicate at least quarterly with your clients: This is in addition to your face-to-face meetings. It’s a lot easier today than ever before to share information with your contacts. Build a good email database that will enable you to forward articles to your network. Use LinkedIn to share relevant information.
- Find yourself a niche: It’s tough to be a generalist. Even if you are—and most commercial lenders, business bankers and branch managers have to be--if you can develop expertise in one or more areas, it can boost your business. Being known within the local dental community as someone who “gets it” has obvious benefits.
- Ask clients and referral sources for help: This is a no brainer, yet many bankers are reluctant to approach their best customers and others in their network for assistance in business development. If you’re not sure how to do it, check out our article on How to Confidently Ask Customers for Referrals. You might also be interested in listening to Buck Bierly’s comments on Building an Effective Referral Network.
Here’s a suggestion from me for a future meeting with CPAs (or any current or potential COI) on your calling list: Send them a copy of August’s article 21 Basic Marketing Activities to Take to the Bank and set up a time to compare notes on marketing professional services. Don’t just grill them about their approach. Talk about how you might be able to support each other. My bet is that it will be a profitable conversation. Let me know how it goes!
“COIs aren’t necessarily just Accountants and Attorneys. In fact, our best COI sources are current clients.” (Business Banking Sales Manager after recent coaching clinic)
Are you overly fixated on CPA referrals? Do you think too much about building referral relationships with accountants? Are you spending too much time taking partners in local accounting firms to lunch?
A confession: I have written lots of articles about getting referrals from CPAs (see 10 Thought-Provoking Questions on Getting Referrals from CPAs). I’ve promoted our recorded webinars on the subject (listen to this Excerpt from webinar on Getting Referrals from CPAs with Buck Bierly and August Aquila). And I do discuss it in our prospecting workshops for commercial and business bankers, although only after reminding people that the best leads often come from satisfied customers.
But you may be making too big a deal out of generating leads from professionals like accountants, particularly if you think for a minute about the numbers. Specifically:
- According to Greenwich Research, if a business owner can’t solve a business or financial problem with the assistance of his colleagues, he is most likely going to reach out first to peers in his network. A veterinarian is probably going to sound out another veterinarian, a home care franchise operator another franchisee, the owner of a plumbing supply company somebody who is in a similar position. The peers are not always in the same industry—many small business owners belong to networking groups comprised of other owners/presidents. (As resources CPAs rank third after industry consultants, but before insurance professionals, bankers, and attorneys in that order.)
- Approximately 65% of business customers are prepared to refer their relationship manager to a friend if asked to do so. The reality is that only about 22% of small business owners and 35% of decision-makers in larger companies (over $10MM in sales) are asked.
- Referrals from customers are three times as likely to convert into closed business as referrals from professionals. Why? It’s a function of the way accountants and other professionals (including bankers) operate: we typically give out at a minimum of three names to clients seeking advice. For some of us it’s a way to protect ourselves from liability issues; for others it represents a deliberate strategy to create a bit of competition for our client’s business; for all of us it’s a calculated attempt to curry favor with our current and potential COIs. It translates into a lower hit rate than the lead from a satisfied client, which rarely comes with built-in competition.
- Established middle market bankers have between 20 and 40 customers; business bankers can have 100 or more relationships. If you ask only your top 10 to 20 customers for introductions to others in their network (including their customers and suppliers), you’ll probably keep adding to your prospect list. And, if you play your cards right (see How to Ask Customers for Quality Referrals) you’ll get many more quality leads than you can often extract from a much smaller circle of CPAs .
So here’s some unsolicited advice: Make it a bigger priority to leverage your network of customers this year. Stay in touch with your professional contacts, but set up more meetings with satisfied clients to ask for information, introductions, referrals and testimonials to boost your prospecting results.
For more tips check out our blog posts on prospecting or download our complimentary eBook Prospecting Pointers.
If you’re trying to expand your network of CPAs, here are 7 rules for the first meeting:
1. Use a written call plan and stay on the plan.
2. Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on the firm and the partner. Check the firm’s Website, Google, LinkedIn and sound out people who may know the individual.
3. Learn as much as possible about the clients of the partner and the firm.
4. Begin developing a personal and professional relationship based on trust.
5. Discuss your value proposition, your internal credit process and your target profile. Be honest about the kinds of businesses you serve well . . . and those that are more complicated for your bank.
6. Ask what you can do for the CPA’s business.
7. Define success as scheduling a follow-up appointment.
In subsequent calls, keep your focus on relationship development:
* Bring your expertise to life for the CPA. Use case studies that resonate with the CPA.
* Use your target profile to help the CPA understand what you do best.
* Teach the CPA how to refer your business — always assume that he doesn’t know how.
* Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Looking for more tips on getting referrals from CPAs? Download a recent article at http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/getting-referrals-from-cpas-10-thought-provoking-questions.
You might also be interested in viewing one of recorded webinars on prospecting at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com
Question: How can you tell if a CPA is a rainmaker in the firm? I’ve read articles that suggest that only a small percentage of accountants actually are in a position to refer business to bankers.
Answer: You’re right. According to August Aquila of Aquila Global Advisors, probably no more than 25% of accountants refer opportunities to bank relationship managers. He suggests asking whether the individual enjoys more serving clients or getting new clients. You might also inquire about how important landing new relationships is for him personally. Do your homework: checking out an accountant's LinkedIn page and asking your colleagues and other COIs can also give you an idea of whether you're wasting time and money courting a particular individual.
To download an article that recently appeared in the ABA’s Commercial Insights Newsletter with 9 more frequently asked questions go to CPA Referrals: 10 FAQs.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to provide quality sales and sales leadership materials to your team, check out our recorded webinars. From refreshers on face-to-face calls to in-depth discussions on prospecting we have topical programs for experienced bankers and new hires alike. Find out how you can use our recorded webinars in sales meetings or training sessions by calling Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find out more about our webinars at http://mzbierlyconsulting.com/webinars.html.