Question: Is it harder to get somebody’s attention the old fashioned way by calling them on the phone?
Buck Bierly: Cold calling was a mainstay in this industry for a while. We saw it particularly in certain geographic locations like California. Everyone became fascinated with cold calling. The mantra was “Stick with it.” People knew there would be rejection. Rejection was a part of the process and the goal was to move quickly on to the next call. The thinking was, “If I dial fifteen businesses or twenty-five businesses every day or every other day or every week if I stick with it I will reach my goals. Persevere and you will do fine."
Then the idea of two degrees of separation came on the scene. Most people in smaller markets, where you might not be able to build a niche, know each other in some way and the question became, “How can I get someone to introduce me to a prospect?”
Most people have a hard time with cold calling. That is normal. Recently I met a California banker. He said, “We keep getting stuck with the gatekeeper. How do we get around that?”
My response was, “What do you think LinkedIn is all about? It is about two degrees of separation.”
A veterinarian client of yours calls another veterinarian she knows and introduces you. A beverage distributor client calls their friend in the business and introduces you. Your client gives a testimonial referral and it gets you right past the gatekeeper. What is the result of meeting somebody in this scenario? We have created a favorable opportunity to create a satisfied client relationship in our target market.
Interested in concrete ideas on how to get more appointments? Download our eBook Q&A on Getting in the Door with Prospects. You can also check out our archive of recorded webinars on prospecting at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com.
Next Live Webinar: "Q&A on Prospecting" with Buck Bierly and Ned Miller, September 15 at 11 AM Eastern. If you have questions about discounts for multiple lines, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.
How’s your LinkedIn profile? Yes, I know, you signed up for LinkedIn with good intentions and you haven’t spent much time working on your profile. But are your customers and prospects going to be impressed when they reach out to you online? What would a potential COI think based on a quick view?
If the thought of somebody evaluating your potential as a partner based solely on what appears on LinkedIn makes you queasy, you can do something up about it.
Use our LinkedIn profile checklist to get some objective pointers on your LinkedIn profile. If you put it together in 20 minutes, you can fix it now with the help of the checklist.
For starters, it shouldn’t read like a resume—unless of course you’re looking for a job. You can update your summary with some insights into how you actually deliver value to your customers. You could also add some information that might be of interest to people you’d like to impress—articles, presentations, etc.
To download the checklist go to http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/linkedin-checklist.
If you’d like to get more tips on how to incorporate LinkedIn into your prospecting efforts, sign up for our recorded webinar on “How to Use LinkedIn in Prospecting.” You can register for the webinar three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Do you think your customers and prospects are going online to research you? Would a potential COI look at your LinkedIn profile before returning your call?
If the thought of somebody googling you makes you shudder, you can do something up about it. First, type your name and your employer into a search engine and see whether you’re pleased with the result.
Second, get some objective feedback on your LinkedIn profile. If it looks like you put it together in 20 minutes, fix it. It shouldn’t read like a resume—unless of course you’re looking for a job. Update your summary with some insights into how you actually deliver value to your customers. You could also add some information that might be of interest to people you’d like to impress—articles, presentations, etc.
More and more commercial and Business Banking Relationship Managers and Branch Managers are taking advantage of social media tools to help them establish their expertise in the marketplace. If that's a priority for you personally or for your team, here are some things to keep in mind:
1. If you’re not sure whether you're getting enough benefit from LinkedIn, get some coaching. You can sound out people whose opinion you value (which could include current clients and contacts in the legal and accounting world, as well as some of your most successful younger colleagues.)
2. Don’t let bank policy stop you if you think LinkedIn will be useful to you. (Translation: You have a home email address, right?)
3. LinkedIn doesn’t replace traditional networking strategies. You still have to press the flesh.
4. Don’t expect miracles. It requires work. Your ROI will depend upon how well you invest your time. (And don’t get sucked into spending hours and hours on this and ignore #3.)
5. Use it to research customers, prospects and COIs—and your competitors. You might be surprised what you learn.
6. Join the right LinkedIn groups—local, state, and national. There are lots out there that could be valuable (e.g. business groups, alumni organizations, trade associations, etc.)
7. LinkedIn does give you a platform for staying connected with others in your network and sharing information with them. (And if you can’t immediately come up with how, sign up for the webinar we’re having on “How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting.”)
LinkedIn will keep evolving in ways that may make it more valuable to you. Whatever your LinkedIn strategy is today, be prepared to revisit it in 3 to 6 months.
If you’d like to get more tips on how to incorporate LinkedIn into your prospecting efforts, sign up for our upcoming live webinar on “How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting.” You can register for the webinar three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at 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. If you can't make the live session the recorded version will be available within 24 hours.
Free Bonus Item: Download our article on How to Build a Business Network.
Question: What’s the best way to follow-up with a prospect after an initial meeting? I usually send a quick note and any information that I think would be relevant. Then I follow-up by phone and often end up leaving a voicemail message. Any suggestions?
Answer: Obviously the best approach is often to get your prospect to agree to a follow-up meeting before leaving the first call but if that doesn’t happen, you need to have a plan. The most important thing is to know what your objective is—usually it involves getting another appointment or getting the prospect to send you information.
Some bankers immediately follow-up with prospects with an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. If you are already connected, a follow-up note via LinkedIn may avoid some of the clutter that finds it way into email in-boxes. Hand-written follow-up notes stand out. But send something.
Review your notes from the meeting. Figure out what specific needs you uncovered. (If you have trouble doing this or if your notes are vague, you may not have had a very successful first meeting.)
Develop the questions you want to ask about the needs you identified. Your goal is to keep the dialogue going. You may want to bring some additional information to the discussion based on further reflection about the prospect’s situation.
Come up with a good reason why the prospect would want to speak to you again. Don’t wing it. Way too often bankers dial the phone before engaging their brains. They end up leaving a message that sounds like “I just wanted to check in with you…” You can do better than that if you think for a minute about what you’re trying to communicate.
Your follow-up message should be short and to the point. It could include any of the following:
- Something relevant that may apply to the prospect’s business or industry
- Any analysis you have done based on what you learned about the prospect
- A story about a similar company that you or your bank has helped
- Questions you’d like to ask the prospect
If you’ve left a good message for the prospect, decide how and when to follow-up. Some people like to vary their approaches between emails and phone contacts.
Bank Relationship Managers often don’t want to appear too pushy. But if your follow-up is thoughtful and informative, it will be appreciated. Persistence coupled with some creativity usually wins out in the end.
Looking for help on prospecting? Check out the following resources:
Live Webinar alert: Getting in the Door with Prospects on March 24 at 11 AM Eastern. For more information call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also register online by going to https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com
How do you build a bigger and better prospect list? Most bankers are well advised to start with published sources like D&B and InfoUSA. Bankers moan about them but that’s because they expect perfection. Most lists that have been purchased within the last 12 to 18 months are probably 80% accurate. That’s acceptable as a point of departure.
You need to get the following basic information on any prospect:
The best prospect lists use a variety of sources. In addition to D&B or InfoUSA (or their online "do it yourself" entities) these include electronic versions of state and local directories, Chamber of Commerce rosters, business publications, and specialized sites. Some lenders like to review UCC filings to see which banks the prospects have borrowed money from in the past. More adventurous bankers are starting to use LinkedIn to build lists of likely companies based on their connections.
Trade associations provide useful data on their members. If you are going after dentists or architects or veterinarians, use the “Find a Member” feature at the ada.org, or aia.org or avma.org. Guidestar.org and other sites furnish valuable information on 501c3s and other not-for-profits including copies of tax returns that may help you determine whether they are viable prospects. FreeErisa.com will give you information on companies that have retirement plans.
If you are able to assign the task of building and maintaining the prospect database to someone in the bank, do so. It could be something that Marketing can do for you, but most banks we work with have more success using an Administrative Assistant who is good with Excel or Access.
Sales managers are the only ones who should be able to add or drop names from the master database. They should meet with their teams to parcel out the prospect names and arbitrate any petty disputes that may ensue.
Bankers should review their lists regularly with theirsales managers and with theirline of business partners (e.g. Credit, Cash Management, Trust, Private Banking, Branch Managers, etc.) Often colleagues can provide valuable insights and information. The best business developers know that prospecting is a team sport.
So what’s a good prospect list? It must meet the following criteria:
It matches your bank’s target profile
It incorporates various sources of leads
It has an appropriate number of business names
It has been vetted by your sales manager
It is a written document that you can share in whole or part with satisfied customers, COIs and others in your network.
Sign up for our upcoming live webinar on March 3 on “Building a Good Prospect List” by going to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com. Can’t make the live event? All webinars are recorded and will be available in our archive within 24 hours of the event.
For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series or discounts for multiple lines, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at email@example.com.
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 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.
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.
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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 email@example.com.
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.