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/.
If you’re trying to develop your team’s prospecting skills, you may need to assess your own activities. Here’s a quick list of questions to get you started:
- Have you met recently to review the prospect lists of all your team members? If you haven’t done it within the last 3 months, schedule a time to do so.
- Have you clarified your expectations regarding the amount of prospecting that’s appropriate for each banker on your team? If Amanda has recently inherited a big portfolio, the priority in the near term is probably to focus on that. James may be in a totally different situation; with a small book of business, his calling should center on prospects and COIs.
- Are you using your weekly sales meetings to highlight the importance of new client acquisition? There are lots of messages competing for the attention of your Relationship Managers; if prospecting is near the top of your list of priorities, make sure you weave it into your meetings every chance you get.
- Are you strategizing with your team about how they’re doing with the prospects you’ve identified? Strategy starts with how your banker is going to get in the door but includes what value proposition makes the most sense, who to involve, what competitive advantages you have, etc. The best coaches get involved early in the prospecting process.
- How much pre-call, post-call coaching are you doing? If you’re not building this into your one on one coaching sessions, you’re missing a chance to have a big impact on the quality of the prospect calls being made.
- Are you making joint calls with all of your team members? Some sales managers have a tendency to take over joint calls (surprise!). In some situations that may be appropriate, but if it always happens, you need to reassess your approach. Joint calls are a great way to observe the skills of your team and provide immediate feedback and coaching.
- Are there things that could improve your team’s chances of success in prospecting? Access to better industry data? More competitive intelligence? Sales refreshers on key elements of the prospecting process? If you’re not sure what’s out there, arrange to sit down and chat with one of your recent hires.
- Are you celebrating progress? Remember that in prospecting, small advances can be considered victories, so don’t just highlight closed business. Recognize team members who are doing the right things to generate and develop leads as well.
Looking for more coaching pointers for your team? Download our eBook Prospecting Pointers by going to http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/prospecting-pointers-e-book-download/.
Sales Managers: To sign up for a 30 minute consultation on how we can help you improve your team’s results in 2013, call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 or email him at email@example.com.
Billboards promoting banks always catch my eye. “Free checking” is popular in many parts of the country. Pictures of smiling bankers are common. One I saw recently highlighting “customer-friendly” service got me thinking. Is being friendly enough to win business?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard bankers tout service as something that differentiates them from their competition. While it may be true, it’s naïve to think your prospects believe it.
Talking about service and delivering it are two different things. Your customers might be able to attest to the exquisite care you supply, but prospects—certainly ones who don’t know you well—can only yawn at the service value proposition. When it comes to service, everybody is from Missouri: you have to show ‘em your stuff before you’ll gain much ground.
In prospect situations that translates into doing your homework. If you don’t research the industry and the business that you’re calling on, you’re not going to impress anybody. Asking most prospects “What keeps you up at night?” isn’t acceptable anymore. If you don’t know the answer, you shouldn’t be calling on them.
Coming prepared implies that you’re prepared to listen and learn, but there’s something else that successful bankers also do routinely: they educate their prospects.
High-performing Relationship Managers have a point of view. They don’t try to tell their prospects how to run their business. But in their area of expertise—how companies or individuals manage their cash, investments, debt, etc. – if they see something that isn’t quite right, they don’t ignore it. They do not subscribe to the theory that the customer is always right.
I don’t want to create the impression that high-performers are obnoxious. (Well, some are.) If you’re trying to impress a prospect, you obviously can’t be a jerk. But you do need to be assertive.
High-performing salespeople know how to lead constructive business conversations. Pleasing customers is important, but not their #1 priority. In building relationships their goal is to provide value. They know that it’s not enough to just be nice if you’re trying to displace an incumbent.
A quick story: I struck up a conversation with the CEO of a middle market business recently. While generally unimpressed by the conversations he had with local bankers, he did speak highly of one bank. In his estimation, the bankers there demonstrated three things:
(1) Preparation: They were well prepared for each meeting.
(2) Insights: They had concrete ideas that were relevant to his company.
(3) Persistence: The bankers kept coming back.
The CEO did not talk about how friendly the bankers were. For some prospects that might be important, but your goal is not to be likable; your goal is to win business. The secret ingredient is usually value in the form of compelling ideas, cost-savings, etc.
Will the CEO keep meeting with these bankers? Yes, without question. Will he eventually do business with them? I’m not going to make a Mitt Romney $10,000 bet on it, but if they continue to look for ways to improve his company’s results, I’d say yes again.
Agree or disagree? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Live Webinars
Building and Sustaining an Effective Branch Sales Organization February 27
For more information, go to http://www.eventspan.com/event/2012-02-27-building-and-sustaining-an-effective-branch-sales-organization.
Getting More Out of LinkedIn: Banking on Relationships March 12
“You can add value in two ways: You can know the answers. You can offer the questions. Relentlessly asking the right questions is a long term career, mostly because no one ever knows the right answer on a regular basis. --Seth Godin
There are a lot of different value propositions. Some bankers think that the only way to get new business is by undercutting the competition’s price or providing more flexible (translation: looser) credit. They say, “Give me your statements and I’ll come back with a better offer.”
But, you say, that’s not me. You know that portraying yourself as the low-cost provider isn’t realistic. But are you unwittingly positioning yourself as the cheapest game in town? Do you:
- Apologize to customers for your pricing?
- Have difficulty justifying fees?
- Struggle with what you’re worth as a banker?
Maybe you rely on your responsiveness to customers—“I’ll always be accessible. Here’s my business cell phone and my personal cell phone. If you ever need me…” Taking care of customers is arguably an important skill for salespeople. But can you demonstrate that to prospects? It’s hard to be convincing—particularly when every other banker on the street says the same thing.
The highest performing salespeople have figured out that they have to deliver both good service and good ideas. They convince prospects that it’s their banking experience and expertise helping business owners get where they want to go that matters most.
High performers work hard to differentiate themselves by getting to know prospects well—how their businesses operate, what their long-term goals are, etc. They build their careers on asking lots of questions—good ones, the kind that demonstrate to their prospects that they are genuinely interested in learning first about what’s unique about their businesses.
These advisors—and that’s what they become for their clients—are comfortable sharing their perspective on what works for comparable businesses. They come to meetings armed with ideas on how to improve a business owner’s situation.
So how does this value proposition sound: “Mr. Prospect, my job is to understand your business, anticipate your needs, and help you make the best financial decisions for you and your business.”
Action Items: Do research on a key prospect before your next meeting. Find relevant industry information from e-Mentor, IBIS World, First Research or LexisNexis. Plan what questions you need to ask to get a better understanding of how the business operates. Don’t pitch products before you understand the owner’s long-term (3-5 year) personal and business objectives.
Listen to what Buck Bierly views as the five most common mistakes bankers make in sales calls:
- Planning one meeting at a time
- Not preparing “cognitively”
- Using the wrong question set
- Selling to the first need
- Assuming the business owner is committed to resolving the need
You can download a four minute mp3 file with Buck’s thoughts by going to http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/the-5-mistakes-bankers-make-in-sales-calls
You might also be interested in signing up for our recorded webinar “5 Mistakes Bankers Make in Sales Calls.” You can register for the webinar by going to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com
Heading to Italy for two weeks in August? Working on getting in beach shape for your vacation? Trying to get your golf handicap below 10? Reading the complete works of John Updike?
Whatever you plan to do this summer outside of work, here are some business development ideas for bankers:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do some industry research. Not the First Research or RMA kind-everybody does that. Visit some trade association websites to see whether you can learn some things that will make you more knowledgeable about the issues facing your customers and prospects. Attend a trade association meeting.
- Meet some friendly accountants. Review all the financial statements you have received this year 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.
- 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.
- Review your relationship plans with your Sales Manager. What, no relationship plans? Send me an email at email@example.com and I'll get you a template that you can use.
- Keep improving your professional 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.
- Show your prospect list to your satisfied customers. And to your COI buddies. You might be surprised how inclined they are to help you with your business development efforts. According to a Greenwich survey a few years back, over 65% of business customers would be willing to refer their bankers to others. Most are never asked to do that.
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 this summer? Check out our archive of recorded webinars on prospecting at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com/ or call Whit Midkiff at 727-741-0766.