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.
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 the workshops I lead on prospecting, the question bankers usually ask is “How do I get through gatekeepers?” not “How can I have more success working with gatekeepers?”
What’s the difference? In my view, the first implies an adversarial relationship and invites a range of potential behaviors that could ultimately scuttle your chances of meeting the
people on your prospect list. You know what I mean—techniques to convince an assistant that it really is an urgent or personal matter when it’s not; or that you should be patched in to Roger because he knows you and what you’re calling about when he doesn’t.
So when referrals guru Bill Cates published a blog post recently entitled 5 Tips for Getting Through the Gatekeeper I was interested in his perspective. Now Cates freely admits that his ideas are not magic, just things that he has used over the years. Here’s a quick summary (my words, not his):
1. If you have a strong introduction (Cates doesn’t say it but read here “a referral”) your prospect will either set up the appointment himself or ask his assistant to do so.
2. Don’t discount the possibility of getting through to some prospects using email and LinkedIn. In those cases where you succeed, you may end up working with an AA to set up a meeting. [Ned’s note: Unsolicited emails—or ones without an introduction from a trusted third party—are usually deleted quickly. LinkedIn is a less cluttered channel than email, but users have to be smart about using it for connecting.]
3. It may be advantageous to send something valuable in advance to pique the prospect’s interest. [Ned’s note: Make sure it’s not product propaganda. Articles, presentations, topical information from third parties are all fine.]
4. If you do mail or email something to your prospects, involve their assistants in advance,
alerting them to what you plan to send and asking for their help in making sure it gets into the hands of Mr. Big.
5. Always be kind and professional. If the gatekeeper finds your behavior offensive in any way, you’re toast. Remember that the gatekeeper is not your enemy and may well be your way in.
How would savvy gatekeepers react to Cates’s suggestions? I polled three women who work with senior bankers. Their responses confirmed much of what Cates said, particularly about the importance of an honest, direct approach. But you will see some disagreements, particularly over the idea of sending material in advance. Here are lightly edited excerpts:
- “Friendly and honest is what I respect and gets my attention. People who suggest that they and the Executive are “best buddies” are offensive. Some truly believe if they are just matter of fact and insistent (i.e. dismissive of me) they will get put right through. We know better.”
- “If you have a pleasant voice and approach, we’ll listen. If you try to pull it off that you’re our boss’s buddy or that you have talked to our boss before and you haven’t, WE KNOW and you’ll never get in.”
- “Regarding #4, have the patience to explain who you are and get to the point of what you want. Most likely you don’t need to speak to our boss, but we can direct you to the right person.”
- “Be prepared…at least know our .com email address.”
- “#3 is the most effective option…If I can get information, whether via email or a packet they send to me, I am happy to share it with my boss for his opinion (assuming it is within his areaof responsibility and they are ‘barking up the right tree’ in the first place).
- “Be careful of ‘over communicating’-- you don’t want to be perceived as pushy or a pain.”
- “In my opinion, if you treat the assistant as a real person and not a stepping stone, that usually works the best. No one likes to be belittled, but everyone likes to feel valued.”
- “Mailing information usually doesn’t work. They are inundated with junk mail on a daily basis and it will probably be thrown out…”
Looking for additional resources on prospecting? Check out these:
Prospecting Pointers eBook
Common Objections Bankers Face in
Q&A on Getting in the Door eBook
“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 email@example.com 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.
Here’s a job description for an experience Commercial Lender lovingly crafted by one of the recruiters in a bank’s Human Resources Department and posted on LinkedIn. I have obviously
changed the bank’s name because it’s still on my prospect list:
Energetic. Friendly. Fun. Not exactly the words that first come to mind when you think about working in the financial industry, right? We get it. At Old First National we pride ourselves on being different. We operate in a team-based environment, made up of diverse associates who are passionate, innovative and focused!
We have plenty of tradition too - actually more than 60 years of it! We´re proud of our history, stability, and proven track record of success. Old First National has consistently been recognized as one of the nation´s best financial institutions and we currently need more dedicated and enthusiastic people, just like you!
We are currently hiring a SVP-Commercial Loan Officer for our Corporate Headquarters. This person will have the opportunity to handle an existing portfolio of loan customers which would include working capital loans, term loans and real estate loans. In addition they will call on existing or prospective customers to develop new business, expand existing business, maintain good customer relations and ensure proper servicing of accounts.
At Old First National, we strive to deliver an unparalleled customer experience, and show customers they can count on more from us. The same is true for our associates. You can count on more benefits, more training, more support, and more opportunity!
Probably a lot like other job postings out there, right? Well, at the risk of offending a few HR
types, here’s what I’d suggest the client—the head of the Commercial Banking
team—is really looking for:
At Old First National we pride ourselves on being different. We operate in a team-based environment, made up of diverse associates who are passionate, innovative and focused! We’re looking for experienced Relationship Managers who know how to win new business in today’s
competitive market. Based on our experience, successful candidates can demonstrate how:
1. They always bring something relevant—ideas, industry information, partners—to every client or prospect meeting.
2. They focus their discussion on their customer’sstrategy, not on bank products.
3. They position the bank’s capabilities before there’s an explicit need. And they don’t operate under the illusion that their business customers know everything that the bank can do, particularly in “non-traditional” areas like wealth management, leasing, capital markets,
4. They leverage Senior Management. Our topperforming RMs call upon Old First National’s Executive Management to open doors with company brass; in other situations they use them to solidify their position with a long-term customer.
5. They conduct regular relationship reviews of their top clients with their product partners.
6. They take a longer term view of buildingrelationships. They think about where they want to be with a prospect 2 or 3 years down the road and plan accordingly. If you ask our best RMs what their calling strategy is for the next 3 meetings with a prospect, you’ll be surprised at how specific their objectives are.
7. They win “mind-share” first by sharing insights and expertise. Most know how to engage in banter about sports and other “rapport-building” topics, but they realize that schmoozing doesn’t score lots of points with C-levelexecutives.
Are there many people out there who would meet these criteria? Maybe not, but isn’t it worth raising the bar and explaining what you believe a top quartile performer looks like? Sales Managers can't leave this up to their HR partners. They need to play an active role in identifying the top talent in their market and then develop a plan to stay in touch with those people.
If you like this article, share it with your colleagues and encourage them to sign
up for our newsletters and our blog at http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/bank-sales-corner-blog/.
Are you a high- performing RM? Check out The Progression of Relationship Development Skills Assessment to see what stage you’re in.
Audioconference Alert: Join us for a special complimentary teleconference on Friday August 9th, 2013 at 11 AM Eastern on how to compete in the Middle Market. Lines are limited for
this one hour session with Scott Page, President, Colorado Business Bank, Dave Swoyer, EVP, Sovereign Bank and Dave Durham, SEVP, StellarOne Bank, so sign up today.
Some of the topics they’ll discuss include:
- How has the market changed?
- Are companies less loyal than in the past?
- What are some things that high-performing RMs do to differentiate themselves?
- What can Sales Leaders do to improve the chances of success of their RMs?
- What tactics are most effective in coaching bankers on business development?
To register for this free session, click here: Winning Strategies for Competing in
Middle Market Audioconference
If you have questions, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: I am experiencing some difficulty calibrating our Treasury Management team with the expectations of your calling program. Specifically, our TM team (including their direct management) views its key functions as the following (in order of importance):
1. Service existing relationships
2. Respond to referred business
3. Expand existing relationships
4. Acquire new relationships.
While I agree with these roles, our bank has an expectation that all calling officers conduct preplanned, proactive business development calls. Our TM department doesn’t see eye-to-eye with us on this.
What recommendations do you give to other banks in relation to their TM departments? Do you agree that their role is expanding referred business rather than prospecting their own business? What is an effective way of including them in the activities outlined in your program?
Answer: Your situation is not uncommon. Most community and regional bank TM groups that I have worked with see themselves as providing “support.” They do not usually prospect; they also do not “own” relationships, deferring to the line bankers on strategy and account management. It is not unfair to characterize them as reactive.
As a next step I’d suggest that you have to reach some agreement internally on these and other questions:
- How can the TM reps best be deployed?
- Should they prospect?
- How many TM professionals do you need?
- Do they always go on joint calls with the primary RMs or can they make solo calls?
- What level of preparation for calls is recommended?
Question for Sales Managers out there: Do you agree with the premise that TM reps should prospect? Why? Join the conversation by adding your comments below.
Webinar Alert: Are you getting the most out of LinkedIn’s capabilities? Check out the slides from LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week: Session 1.
To register for either of the sessions on leveraging LinkedIn for business development, go to the recorded sessions section at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.
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
My friends in Denver are still reeling from the performance of Steph Curry in the first round of the NBA playoffs. In the Golden State Warriors' upset of the Nuggets, Curry made over 44 percent of his three point shots, while leading his team in scoring and averaging over 9 assists a game. Not bad for somebody who was once considered too small for big time college hoops!
Here are some coaching three pointers on prospecting for Commercial Relationship Managers, Business Bankers and Branch Managers who want to win new business. Be sure to click on the hyperlinks for more insights:
- Leverage your network
- Ask better questions
- Assess your performance
- Build your network
- Develop industry expertise
- Questions add value
- Tell better stories
- Develop internal COIs
- Use LinkedIn better
- Celebrate small victories
Check out our two new live webinars on taking advantage of LinkedIn:
Buck Bierly will be leading two sales training workshops for Sales Managers and Relationship Managers sponsored by the Western Independent Bankers Association in the coming months. He’ll discuss how to:
- Segment your market – focusing on the “right” relationships.
- Develop a market model – proactively strengthening the business relationships on your retention, expansion and acquisition lists.
- Build a relationship development process– differentiating you and your bank in today’s increasingly competitive banking environment.
- Develop strategies for key relationships – it’s not the value you want add, it’s aligning with the business owner’s “value drivers.” Go to WIB Conference Information or call 415.352.2323 for more details.
In a session I led on “Gaining Momentum with Small Businesses” at a recent state banking conference, one of the participants in the group reminded people that they weren’t the only ones using LinkedIn for research. She said that some business customers are starting to look at the LinkedIn profiles of the bankers calling on them.
If that makes you wince, do something up about it. If your LinkedIn profile looks like you put it together in three minutes, fix it. It shouldn’t look like a resume—unless of course you’re looking for a job. Update it with some insights into how you actually deliver value to your customers.
Savvy Commercial and Business Banking Relationship Managers and Branch Managers know that taking advantage of social media tools can help them establish their expertise in the marketplace. Here are 7 recommendations for your consideration:
1. Don’t ignore LinkedIn; it could help you build your brand.
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. It doesn’t replace traditional networking strategies.
4. Don’t expect miracles. It requires work. Your ROI will depend upon how well you invest your time.
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, national, intergalactic.
7. LinkedIn will keep evolving in ways that will make it more valuable to you. Whatever your LinkedIn strategy is today, be prepared to revisit it in 3 months.
If you’d like to get more tips on how to incorporate LinkedIn into your sales efforts, sign up for our upcoming webinars on “LinkedIn in 60 Minutes a Week.” (If you have fewer than 200 connections, sign up for the first webinar on May 20; if you’re a LinkedIn veteran with more than 200 connections, you should sign up for the second webinar on June 10.)
Here are links to find out more information:
LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week Session 1-- May 20, 2013
LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week Session 2--June 10, 2013
You can register for the webinars three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at email@example.com or (3) go to the live webinar section of our Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com and pay by credit card.
Free Bonus Item: Download our article on How to Build a Business Network.
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!
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.