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Q&A: What to Do If Your Prospect Goes Dark

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Question: I put together a great proposal. The prospect seemed ready to move. He told me that he was unhappy with the way his current bank had handled certain things over the last year. And then, silence. I left several voicemail messages. What do I do now?

Answer: If you have ever found yourself in that uncomfortable situation, you know how hard it is to admit to yourself that your prospect has probably decided to stay put. But in most situations, the incumbent bank has the upper hand. And if your prospect values personal relationships—which many do—it’s easy to see how he may be uncomfortable telling you to your face that he has, well, rejected your proposal.  It’s easier to ignore your voicemails, hoping that you’ll get the message.

OK, so what do you do? Buck Bierly suggests that you leave another voicemail message to let him off the hook but make clear that you’re still very interested in continuing to call on him.  Here’s how:

  • Let him know that you left several messages in the last few weeks.

  • Position your comments: “I know this is a busy time.”

  • Let him know that you understand why he many have opted to stay with his current bank: “I assume you ended up working with your bank on this opportunity.  You stated from the beginning that you felt a degree of loyalty to your relationship with Bill Swanson.”

  • Restate your interest in working together: “I’m sorry we weren’t able to help you with this opportunity but the more I’ve learned about you and your business the more I’m convinced that we would be a good resource for you in the future.”

  •  Ask for permission to follow up: “I’d like to continue calling on you. I’ve got some ideas on how we might be able to help you down the road. Please let me know if that’s a possibility.” 

    More often than not you’ll receive a return call. If you don’t and this is clearly somebody you’d like to do more business with, you can’t afford to drop this prospect from your long term plans. You may have lost the initial battle, but not the war.

    Make sure that the prospect is on your mailing list. Think about how to keep your campaign alive. Follow-up by phone in a month or two. Invite your prospect to an upcoming event. If you got this far, you have to assume that the incumbent bank is going to give you another opening in the not too distant future.

    Webinar Alert: Sign up for our upcoming live webinar on April 14 on “How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting” by going to 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

In Search of the Magic Prospect List

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“I need a better prospect list.” How many times have Marketing Departments heard that one? Don’t get me wrong; bankers do need good prospect lists. But I suspect that some people think that their Marketing Department is holding out on them, that there really is a magic database of creditworthy companies ready to change their banking relationships tomorrow.

While there are certainly ways to build a better list—by using multiple data sources, tapping into the knowledge that your colleagues have of the market and doing a better job of researching companies to be sure that they match your bank’s target profile—every list has flaws. Sure, D&B and InfoUSA have some out of date information, but that doesn’t mean that prospectors should avoid using them.  Most lists that have been run in the last 12 to 18 months are plenty good enough as a starting point.

The real issue is what you do with the list you have. Your job is to get in front of the prospects that your sales manager thinks are a good match for you and the organization. Until you have a chance to meet with the prospect—or as many say, the “suspect”—you won’t know whether you should spend more time with them or not.  And remember that in 70 to 80% of the cases involving proactive prospecting, your prospects will be at least moderately satisfied with their current banking arrangement. That doesn’t disqualify them; on the contrary, that probably means you’re in front of a viable prospect, albeit one that you’ll have to work hard to win over.

So don’t complain about your imperfect list. If you need to add more names to it, huddle with your sales manager. The first challenge is to get first and second appointments, and if you’re having difficulties doing that, seek out some coaching on your strategy.

To download our eBook on prospecting, go to Q&A on Getting in the Door: Prospecting Tips for Bankers.

You might also be interested in How to Confidently Ask Customers for Referrals.

Q&A for Bank Sales Managers: Should Treasury Management Prospect?

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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 or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.   


Sales Managers, Are You Developing Your Team's Prospecting Skills?


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

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

Relationship-Building Strategies: Short Summer Edition for Bankers


Summer can get pretty crazy. Here are a few ways to boost your productivity when you’re pressed for time this summer:

* Make sure to keep in touch with your top customers. If you can’t get out to see them, let them know you’re thinking about them. Make a phone call. Send an email. Encourage one of your associates to visit them. Do something!

Develop a plan for staying top-of-mind with your prospects. Building a good mailing list (which should also include email addresses) is the place to start. Then commit to sending something to all your prospects on a regular basis. If you’re stumped on what to send, consult with your Marketing Department; don’t overlook anything your organization publishes—annual reports, economic updates, relevant product updates, etc. If you’re really ambitious, see tip #6 below.

* Take advantage of networking events to rub elbows with your customers and prospects. If you get to the events early and keep moving, you might be able to spend a few minutes with lots of your personal list VIPs. (If you’re interested in tips on how to get more out of networking events, go to

* 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.

* 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.

Looking for a suggestion on how to jumpstart your prospecting efforts?  Check out our website at

You might also be interested in viewing the Prospecting Clinic series of recorded webinars. For more details go to or call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772.

10 Holiday Tips for Bankers


The Christmas holidays are almost here.  Nobody outside your immediate friends and family wants to see you between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  You tell yourself that it’s time for a well-deserved rest.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. On this planet savvy bankers need to use what’s left of the year to keep their momentum in business development. If you’re at a loss for ideas on how to do that, here are some suggestions:

  1. Keep scheduling appointments with your customers and prospects.   If your competitors are too busy attending holiday parties, it may be that much easier to get in to see some people on your list. And if somebody isn’t free before year end, get on their calendar in January 2011. Keep building relationships.
  2. Show your prospect list to some of your satisfied customers. (If you’re reluctant to do that, sign up for our archived webinar on “Asking Customers for Referrals” at
  3. Spend some quality 1 on 1 time with your current COIs. Meet with the CPAs of any of your customers whom you don’t know. (If you’re not sure who they are, add that to this list.)
  4. Go with a plan to any holiday functions you attend. That might include preparing in advance a list of people you want to talk to or making a commitment to meet 3 new people at the event. (For those of us trying to retain our figures, it could also include steering clear of the canapies.)
  5. Treat your most important line of business partners to lunch and swap ideas about how to help each other in 2011.
  6. Call your customers to thank them for their business. If appropriate, see #1 above.
  7. Schedule time to review your sales efforts in 2010. What specifically do you need to do differently next year?
  8. Do something nice for your Administrative Assistant.
  9. Review where you stand with your top prospects. If you’re at an impasse with any of them, set up a time to strategize with your boss on how to proceed. (You can also check out our article on “Getting in the Door: How to Work with Gatekeepers” at
  10. Think about your own professional skills. Are there any courses/ webinars/ books out there that would make you a better banker? Not sure? Ask your bank’s Training Department or send me an email at for some ideas.


Our next live webinar is on January 10 at 11 AM Eastern on “Leveraging LinkedIn for Business Development.” You can register by going to or by calling Whit Midkiff at 727-741-0766. If you can’t make the live webinar, a recorded version will be available roughly 24 hours after the presentation.




Do All Business Bankers Have ADHD?


Does everybody have ADHD? Well, not in a strict clinical sense. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, something like 4.4% of the adult population has been diagnosed with ADHD.  But even though I’m not a psychiatrist, I see too many bankers exhibiting symptoms that suggest a problem staying focused. They include:

  • Multi-tasking on conference calls
  • Inability to read beyond the first two lines of an email
  • Difficulty paying attention in meetings or on sales calls
  • Avoiding certain sales tasks (like preparing well for meetings with prospects)
  • Struggling to complete routine reports

It’s not surprising. Held hostage by BlackBerries, buried under daily avalanches of email and juggling an increasing array of administrative and compliance issues, many bankers are understandably frazzled.

So short of ingesting massive quantities of Ritalin, what’s a busy banker to do? Here are some techniques to stay on track:

  1. Schedule time to perform certain tasks. Figure out your peak times for certain important activities. If you write more fluidly in the morning, that’s when you should do your credit memos. Determine the best time to call your customers and prospects to schedule appointments. Put it in your calendar. View it like a meeting that you’ve scheduled with an important client and you’ll show up.
  2. Limit distractions. Disable that noise that lets you know another email has arrived.  If you  need to concentrate, close your door or find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  3. Concentrate on one thing at a time—no multi-tasking! If you’re on a phone call, don’t be scrolling through your email inbox.  
  4. Take notes in meetings. Ask questions. Summarize what you’ve heard. (These are all things that good listeners do.)
  5. Take breaks. A quick walk around the block or 50 sit-ups might just resuscitate you. 
  6. Apply the STOP technique.  Step back; think; select the best option; and proceed.

Busy isn’t bad if you’re productive. It’s when you lose control of your time that you need to regroup.

Check out our blog at  Recent topics include:

  • Business Development Doesn’t Take a Vacation: 9 Ideas for Bankers
  • Preparing for a First Call
  • The Five Mistakes Bankers Make on Sales Calls
  • How to Ask Customers for Referrals



Growing Loans: 4 Tips for Generating More Leads


Almost every banker I know is behind on his loan goals. Here are four things you can do to improve your chances of booking more assets in 2010:

Differentiate between Sales Strategy and Credit Strategy.

  • Credit is a solution to a need. How the solution is positioned, discussed, and matched to both short-term and long-term needs is selling.
  • A high-performing salesperson does two things:(1) Ensures that what a decision maker “says” is his need “really is” his need and (2) Shows how the approved loan really is a match for the determined need.
  • Determine your sales strategy before you begin the term sheet, not after it languishes: To whom am I selling? What are their jobs? What are their needs/interests/values? How do I change my sales approach to meet their value systems?

Discuss regularly with your Sales Manager the types of business that match your bank's credit quality and profitability objectives.

  • Study your market. Focus on the businesses that best match your business objectives. Be clear about your bank’s credit appetite for certain types of business. If you’re unsure how a credit opportunity will be received, have a pre-flight discussion with your credit partners.
  • Before you push out a term sheet talk through your pricing strategy with your manager. How aggressive can you be?

 Manage Your Market, not Just Relationships.

  • You are a market manager, managing growth in all sources of business from customers, prospects and COIs.
  • Your objective is to grow wallet share and market share.
  • Face-to-face is the best way to sell. Get out from behind your desk.
  • Behind great bank Relationship Managers are great administrative support people. Get the support you need.

 Think Like a Business Owner.

  • Your job is to understand the owner and his business and anticipate his needs. Write RFPs, don’t respond to them.  
  • Educate your customers and prospects. Share ideas and recommendations. Be a resource to your customers and prospects.
  • Sell at the right level. Decision makers and influencers have different value systems. Get in front of decision-makers early in the process.

If you have questions about how we help commercial and business banking sales teams through onsite sales training, webinars and consulting, call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772. Check out our website for more ideas on how to generate more loan opportunities. You can sign up for our blog at  Recent topics include:

  • Business Development Doesn’t Take a Vacation: 9 Ideas for Bankers
  • Preparing for a First Call
  • The Five Mistakes Bankers Make on Sales Calls
  • How to Ask Customers for Referrals





8 Nutty(?) Ideas for Bankers on Managing E-Mail


Have you just returned from a short vacation and found 630 e-mail messages waiting for you? You might just be interested in these eight suggestions on how to cut down on e-mail from a recent book entitled The Tyranny of E-Mail:

  1. Think before you send it. Is it really necessary?
  2. Don’t check it first thing in the morning or late at night.  Who are you trying to impress? There are enough workaholics out there.
  3. Check your e-mail twice a day. OK, that may not be possible in your current job. But how about once an hour?
  4. Keep a written to-do list that includes e-mail messages you need to send. Do it all at once.
  5. Give good e-mail. Keep them short. Use the subject line. No silly “Thank you” messages.
  6. Read the entire incoming e-mail before replying.
  7. Do not debate complex or sensitive matters by e-mail. Call or better yet, walk down the hall and talk face-to-face.
  8. Schedule media-free time every day. LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, e-mail—there are other ways to connect with people. And other things to do with your life.

Agree or disagree? Let me know any ways you’re coping with the deluge of e-mail at

If you’re interested in tips on how bankers are using letters and e-mails to get in the door with prospects, check out a recent article by Ned Miller at



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CEOs on Bank Sales Process


This week I had the chance to spend time with three wise bankers, each with 30 or more years in banking. Two are CEOs, the other is a Chief Credit Officer who served as a bank president earlier in his career. When you find yourself in their company it pays to listen up.

Here are some of the things they said about selling in banks, which are relevant whether you're a management trainee or a veteran.

  • It is a good time to be a banker. Not an easy time, for sure, but one when it's possible to learn a lot.


  • Don't expect things to return to the way they were in 1997 or 2003 or 2007. The banking landscape has changed forever. Don't let yourself get nostalgic.


  • You don't have to be a great salesperson to be successful in banking. But you have to be active and visible in your community and committed to pursuing new business opportunities.


  • It's not about making calls; it's about building relationships.


  • Don't kid yourself: It takes time to develop a professional network.


  • Be a good partner. If you team well with bank specialists and line-of- business partners you'll go far-and your customers will clearly benefit.


  • It's easy to lose sight of what's important. There's a tendency today to spend too much time thinking about operational or administrative matters. One president remarked that if some branch managers spent as much time worrying about taking care of business customers as they do about locking the vault, they'd be a lot more successful.


  • While it's important to learn about the bank's products and services, it's more important to learn as much as you can about your customers and prospects.

Agree or disagree? Send me your comments at


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