Face it: few bankers are consistently prospecting effectively. Many struggle to get in the door with business prospects. Others can land a first meeting but have difficulty securing a second. Most give up too soon—often after just a few meetings.
Based on our work with commercial and small business banking teams, we’re convinced that sales leaders can help bankers develop better prospecting habits. Diagnosing where RMs need assistance starts with an objective diagnosis of their current approach.
Here are some of the questions bank sales managers should consider:
Have you reviewed each team member’s prospect list in the last quarter?
Are your bankers blocking out uninterrupted time each week to do research on prospects and schedule appointments with them?
Have your subordinates instituted a referral process to gain access to the decision makers on their prospect lists?
For 22 other questions, download our prospecting assessment by clicking here.
Looking for more tips on prospecting? Check out:
Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect
Q&A on Getting in the Door with Prospects
Q&A on Calling on Medical Practices (mp3)
Special webinar on “The State of Middle Market Banking”:
The recorded version of this webinar by Barlow Research is available for a limited time only at the discounted price of $100 (it is normally $325). To register go to https://www.barlowresearch.com/store/viewpodcast-dec2013.php
Recent archived webinars from MZ Bierly Consulting:
Business Operations Meetings: Building Strong Relationships with Business Owners
Delving Into Financial Operations: Selling to Change
Negotiating Price: Strategies for Bankers
Building Relationships with CPAs
LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week: Parts 1 and 2
Networking in the Age of Social Media
For more information go to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.
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.
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.
Remember when you missed class and would ask a friend (or sometimes the brainy nerd who hung on the teacher’s every word) for a copy of his notes? It wasn’t the same thing as being there, but it might have gotten your through the mid-term exam.
If you haven’t been to a sales training refresher recently, here are the notes that a veteran banker shared with his team of relationship managers following a recent workshop on developing strategies for high potential clients and prospects. Feel free to pass them along to others.
* Persistence pays off.
* Networking and connecting with the right people can help you get in the door and speed the process of converting prospects.
* It’s not enough to have a breadth of knowledge of the client’s business. You need to make your knowledge relevant.
* Identify the need and do the work (i.e. projection models, debt capacity, etc.).
* Preparation for any call is worth a ton. Anticipate the call and plan for the challenges. We’re not as good on our feet as we think when winging it.
* Let your prospect know how quickly you’ll be able to turn things around. Communication is critical. They don’t know what we are doing behind the curtain.
* Knowing where you want to end up translates into having a perspective.
* Find the right solution-- which may not be necessarily what the client ordered.
* Bring something relevant to every meeting (another way of saying prepare).
* It’s about the client – solve their problem, don’t sell your product.
* Leverage Senior Management. Prepare them as well—they’re not as good on their feet as they think they are either!
* Schedule relationship reviews for every client. Things change.
* Share insights and expertise, internally and externally. “Ask, don’t tell” is a far better approach when sharing.
* Build a list of prospective businesses to focus on. Too big a list and too small a list are both problematic
* Use client referrals and testimonials to get an appointment.
* Add value. Bring something of value to the prospect in the way of ideas, information, associations, etc.
* Always plan two calls at a time. Set up your next meeting when you’re with the prospect. Establish how you will follow up now that you have better information.
* Use questions that add value – the “Ask, don’t tell” process.
* Recognize it usually takes multiple client needs to build sufficient momentum to overcome inertia.
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, check out the Building Prospecting Momentum Workshop or call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 or email him at email@example.com.
Live Webinar Alert: Building Referral Relationships with CPAs, July 15 at 11 AM Eastern. To register call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or go to Building Referral Relationships with CPAs Webinar
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.
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: I am currently considering joining a network group, this group limits members to one from each industry, however, when I attended the first introductory meeting there were three other bankers who wanted to join. I wonder how the group will approve the applications if we all apply. The group appears to be a well organized one and the leader seems genuine in getting referrals going.
Answer: Here's my take on networking groups. It all depends on the individuals in them. Some business bankers swear that they are great at generating leads for them; others find them a waste of time.
Does it make sense to join one? Sure, to see if you have found a good group. If you get into a dud group, run (fast) before you waste a lot of time.
That said, based on your reaction to the initial meeting you attended, it's certainly worth pursuing membership. The fact that you liked the leader is a plus.
How will they decide which of the bankers to admit? My hunch is there are several possible criteria:
- Does anybody know any of the four? Would they want them in?
- What do they think about the customer bases of the four? (If one of the bankers has a stable of residential homebuilders as clients, that may or may not be very appealing to the group.)
- Does your organization "compete" with any of the non-bank financial services types likely to be part of the group? (Maybe not if you’re from a small community bank but if you’re part of a large organization that has armies of brokers, insurance agents, leasing specialists, etc. you could be viewed as “the enemy” by other members.)
These are only guesses. If you want to find out, why not call the leader up (and maybe anybody else in the group you know) and ask? You could take advantage of the opportunity to share with them some additional information about your background, your customers, your target market, etc. Then pop the question on your mind: "Based on my background, would I be a good fit for your networrking group?"
If you get turned down, go find another group. Or better yet, start your own.
And don't forget Groucho Marx's line about having second thoughts about becoming a member of any club that would have him. Referrals are great, but you have to earn them, and that comes from how well you deliver day in and day out to your customers. (And don't forget to ask them for referrals too!)
Check out our new eBook Prospecting Pointers. It includes chapters on:
- Building a good prospect list
- Getting in the door
- Preparing for the first call
- The first meeting with a prospect
- Getting referrals from CPAs
To download your complimentary copy, go to http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/prospecting-pointers-e-book-download/
Date/Time: July 16 at 11 AM Eastern, 10 AM Central, 9 AM Mountain, 8 AM Pacific
Audience: Commercial and Business Bankers, Branch Managers, specialists in areas like Treasury Management and Wealth Management who are calling on businesses and professionals and their Sales Managers
Overview: Are you looking for help getting in the door with prospects? Join Buck Bierly for a fast-paced tour of the referral strategies that high-performing bankers are using to schedule first (and second) meetings with targeted prospects.
- What to do if you don't have a warm lead
- Is cold calling your best option?
- Referrals from satisfied clients, your business network and COIs…where to start
- Reasons why bankers avoid asking for referrals
- Why customers give referrals
- Anticipating referral reluctance
- When to ask and how to ask your network for referrals
- Value statements, value propositions and value drivers
Registration: You can register for the live session three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (3) go to the Training Center section of our secure Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com and pay the fee for the webinar by credit card.
If you can’t make the live webinar, the recorded version will be available in our archive within 24 hours of the live session. You can also contact Susan Lersch to find out more information about discounts for multiple lines for the same webinar. Her number is 610-296-4771.
Looking for a sampling of the ideas that will be covered? Go to Tips on Getting in the Door.
Live Webinar Alert:
August 13 The First 3 Calls on a Prospect
How do you learn how to play golf? You can watch the Golf Channel. You can read instructional books ghost-written for top professionals. You can take lessons where they’ll videotape your swing and compare it to the swings of touring pros
The correct answer is that you learn to play golf by playing. All the other stuff can help, but only if it’s followed by rounds of golf.
What does that have to do with learning how to network? And, more significantly, what does it mean for Sales Managers?
You can make a strong case for talking about the importance of networking in your sales meetings. You can encourage people to read books and articles on networking. You can even send people to courses on how to become a better networker.
All these things can help. But none can replace actually going to networking events and trying to apply the concepts. It’s just like golf: you can take a lesson but if you don’t practice what you’ve learned you’ll forget it.
Most of my clients have figured out that the first time people try a new skill or technique it will feel awkward. So, unless somebody encourages them to try it again, there’s a real possibility that they won’t. So that’s one way that Sales Managers add value.
There are obviously other things that Sales Managers do to improve the likelihood that their Relationship Managers will get better at networking:
- Get people to go to the right events. What might be right for Jill may not be the best use of Jack’s time,
- Make sure that people have a plan for each networking event. Maybe it’s a list of customers to talk to. Perhaps the goal is to connect with a particular prospect. Having clear objectives matters.
- Follow-up immediately afterward to see what your people got out of the event. Be curious about whom they talked to.
- Go to some events with them and observe how they operate. You’ll probably have some more things to talk about when you debrief the session.
- Ask people periodically whether the events they’re attending regularly are providing an appropriate ROI.
You don’t have to be a great networker yourself. But if you believe being active and visible at community and trade association events is important, you have to walk the talk.
Upcoming webinars: Getting in the Door with Prospects on July 16 and The First 3 Calls on a Prospect on August 13. Go to https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com to register or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-477 for more details.
Last week’s blog included three tips for building your business network. Here are three more things you can do to grow your contacts:
1. Go with a plan to every networking event. You may not love Chamber of Commerce functions or trade association conventions, but you can become an effective networker if you prepare well. Here’s what you need to think about:
--Are there people in attendance at this meeting whom you’d like to spend time with? If you don’t know, do some homework. If the answer is yes, make a list. (If you’re not sure of their names but can narrow it down to “attorneys under 35” or “small business owners” that’s a start. The individuals organizing the meeting may be able to help you identify who fits your description.)
--Set some reasonable goals for yourself. If you have 30 minutes to mingle before the main event, try to meet 2 or 3 new people. (Networking 101 tip: That means you have to get there early and avoid schmoozing with any of your colleagues who are also introverts.)
--Assuming you’re there to expand your network of prospects or referral sources, what business information are you interested in acquiring from any one you meet? My list is pretty short because I try to spend no more than 5 minutes with each contact:
- What do you do?
- How long have you been doing it?
- What’s an ideal prospect for you and your company?
--If you think the person is a likely prospect or Center-of-Influence for you, offer your business card (don’t leave home without them) and ask whether you could follow-up with them to talk further. You’ll usually get a card in return and can propose a few times when you could call. If you think somebody is a hot prospect, try for a face to face meeting right there. You can confirm it by email later.
-- Remember that in order to reap any of the benefits of meeting people you have to follow up.
2. It’s about relationships, not transactions. People will give you referrals if they know you, like you and trust you. It usually takes more than a few minutes of cocktail party banter to get to that level.
What can you do to get off on the right foot with a potential referral partner in your first meetings? The short answer is exactly what you would do to impress a business prospect:
--Do your homework on the individual and on his business.
--Be prepared to ask lots of questions. Be curious in a professionally friendly way.
--Share relevant personal and professional information about yourself.
--Look for common ground—interests, clients, anything that helps you build rapport.
--See if there are any small ways you can help your new acquaintance. An introduction perhaps? A book or article that might be of interest?
--If there’s potential here, find a reason to get together again.
3. Don’t ignore LinkedIn groups. If you check out the number of business-oriented LinkedIn groups in your market, you might be surprised. Obviously only a small fraction will be of interest to you, but researching the groups online can be done outside of normal prime selling hours. You can find out about their activities, get background on their members, and dip a toe in the group without a major commitment. If you like what you find, you can connect quickly to a lot of people. (For more information on how to leverage LinkedIn in business development, you can register for an archived webinar I hosted recently at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com.)
Bottom Line: Building a business network takes time and energy, but if you develop a plan, get some coaching, and stick with it, you’ll clearly benefit over the course of your professional career.
If you would like specific tips on leveraging your customer base for introductions, read our recent article on How to Confidently Ask Customers for Referrals.
Check out the quick reference guides available in our store at http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/store/.