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Q&A on Getting in the Door: How Long Do I Keep Calling?

  
  
  
Prospecting for bankers

Question: How long do you keep calling a prospect to set up an appointment before throwing in the towel?

Answer: It depends on how important the prospect is to you. Start with the assumption that you’re going to have to work to get in the door. Once you and your sales manager have come up with the best approach—which will often focus on a referral from a party the prospect knows and trusts—you’re ready to launch your campaign.

Use different approaches: phone calls can be alternated with emails or letters. Be sure to practice what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone. Make every contact you have valuable, adding something that underscores the benefit of meeting with you.  Try to talk to a real person in the prospect’s organization and enlist that person’s help before going in to voicemail.

If after a number of unsuccessful phone attempts—we would generally say 4 or 5-- you may want to vary your routine. If you don’t have a referral, try to get one. If it’s appropriate, you might consider dropping by to set up an appointment. See if there’s somebody else in the company you can talk to.

Keep after your prospect for at least 8 weeks. If you’re still unsuccessful, drop this prospect into your follow-up file for 3 to 6 months down the road. Don’t give up after putting so much energy into the hunt. Things can and do change!

Here are other recent articles on prospecting that might be of interest:

In Search of the Magic Prospect List

How to Build a Bigger and Better Prospect List

Sales Managers: Do Your Bankers Have Good Prospect Lists?

Webinar Alert: Leveraging Your Network to Get in the Door with Prospects on March 24 at 11 AM Eastern. Topics that will be covered in this 45 minute webinar include:

  • When 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

  • Anticipating referral reluctance

  • When to ask and how to ask your network for referrals

  • Value statements, value propositions and value drivers

  • Frequent objections bankers face—and how to address them

  • How some bankers are using LinkedIn to schedule initial meetings

For more information call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or go to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com

 

 

In Search of the Magic Prospect List

  
  
  
prospecting for bankers

“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.

25 Questions to Assess Your Prospecting Process

  
  
  
Prospecting Assessment

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.

 

 

A Quick Sales Fitness Test for Bankers

  
  
  
Sales Fitness Test for Bankers

Happy New Year! Here’s a quick fitness test to start the year. Answer each question honestly.

1. What are your strengths in selling?

    2. What worked well for you in 2013?

        3. What do you plan to do differently this year?

            4. Are there any tasks that you should stop doing?

            5. Do you have a plan in place to retain your most profitable customers?

              6. Are you allocating the right amount of time to the customers and prospects with the highest potential?

                  7. How are your prospecting efforts going?

                      8. Do you have a strategy to develop more referrals from line of business partners, satisfied customers and COIs?

                          9. Are you using effectively the tools and sales training you have received?

                              10. What additional support do you need from your sales manager?

                                Bank Relationship Managers: To get the most out of this exercise, sit down with your sales manager and talk candidly about the year ahead. Invite suggestions. Listen to what your manager has to say.

                                Bank Sales Managers: Feel free to edit the questions for your team and add others. The most important thing is that you discuss the answers in an upcoming 1 on 1.

                                Interested in tips on prospecting? Go to Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect.

                                Visit our website to find out about our archived webinars on acquiring and expanding relationships. For more information go to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com

                                 

                                 

                                Blocking Out Time to Get in the Door with Prospects

                                  
                                  
                                  
                                Prospecting

                                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:

                                1. 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.
                                2. 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.
                                3. 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.
                                4. 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.
                                5. 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).
                                6. 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.

                                 

                                 

                                 

                                 

                                Cold Call Reluctance: Don't Hang Up on Yourself

                                  
                                  
                                  
                                cold call relucatance

                                Question: I’m experiencing cold call reluctance. I’m afraid the other person on the line
                                (decision maker or gatekeeper) will be rude so I expect to be rejected and fear that outcome. I’m afraid I will come across as being incompetent.

                                Answer: First, it’s a good thing to ask for help if you’re struggling with something. Cold call reluctance is not uncommon—many people have an aversion to cold calling. The question you need to answer is why. Are you skeptical about the benefits of cold calling? Are you saying to yourself that if you redoubled your efforts to find a side door referral, you’d be more successful? If the answer is yes to either, then you would know what you have to do—get a referral from somebody (a satisfied client, a line of business partner, a COI, etc.)

                                Here are some quick thoughts:

                                • You can’t control what other people are going to think or do. The only thing you should worry about is what you do.
                                • You should always believe that your prospects will benefit from dealing with you. Assume that they want to learn about how you might help them. That includes people at all levels from Administrative Assistants to company presidents.
                                • One of the challenges is figuring out how these prospects will benefit. If you have helped a dental practice with a loan to purchase diagnostic equipment or a way to process checks faster it’s safe to assume that other similar practices might be interested in talking to you. These success stories might be your bank’s stories, not necessarily your stories, but that’s OK. You can say, “We have worked with a number of dentists like you…”
                                • Talk to your manager about what approach you’re going to take with your top 10 prospects. That will help you script out what you want to say to get first appointments (remember, referrals are your best bet). Your manager might even spend some time with you role-playing the
                                  call.

                                 

                                If you’re looking for more resources on prospecting, you can download the following:

                                Common Objections Bankers Face in Getting

                                Q&A on Getting in the Door eBook

                                 

                                Webinar Alert: 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 susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com  or (3) go to the upcoming webinars section of our Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com and pay by credit card. If you can’t make a live webinar, you will  be able to view the recorded version within 24 hours of the event. We do provide discounts for organizations that sign up for three or more lines for a live webinar. Call 610-296-4771 for details.

                                 

                                What do you think? How do you deal with cold call reluctance? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below...

                                 

                                Gatekeepers on Getting in the Door: Prospecting Tips for Bankers

                                  
                                  
                                  
                                gatekeepers

                                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

                                Webinar Alert:
                                “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 susan.lersch@mzbierlyconsulting.com or (3) go to the upcoming webinars section of our Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com and pay by credit card.

                                If you can’t make a live webinar, you will be able to view the recorded version within 24 hours of the event. We do provide discounts for organizations that sign up for three or more lines for a live webinar. Call 610-296-4771 for details.

                                 

                                 

                                Checklist for Bankers to Assess Mid-Year Sales Performance

                                  
                                  
                                  
                                Calendar

                                You have six months to meet your goals for 2013. What do you need to do?

                                That's one of the questions that forces Bank Relationship Managers to think. Unfortunately, thinking consumes both time and energy so most of us tend to avoid it. (One of the things a teacher of mine used to say was that "Most people would rather die than think--and most do.")

                                So if you had to think about your sales prowess--as if your professional future really depended on it--what should you focus on? Here's a quick checklist for starters:

                                1. How is your performance year to date? How do you stack up vs. your peers? How are you doing in retaining and expanding relationships with your key and high potential customers? What does your pipeline look like now and 3 or 6 months down the road? Are you making progress with your key prospects? Where do you see the biggest opportunities for growth? What are the major challenges you face?

                                2. What do you need to work on to improve your results? Be honest. Is it better product knowledge? A more focused prospecting approach? Quality time to prepare for upcoming calls? A better working relationship with your administrative assistant? A consistent follow-up plan to stay top of mind with your COIs and prospects?

                                3. Who can help you get to the next level? The obvious answer is your sales manager, but think about where you might find other allies. Are there customers who could refer you to other businesses? Do you need to do a better job of networking internally with product partners in cash management or private banking or capital markets? Can the Executive Director of that trade association of manufacturers become a referral source?

                                4. What's your plan? Get specific. Write it down. Make sure that you get feedback from your personal board of advisors (e.g. your spouse, your boss, any of your good friends or coworkers who want you to succeed, etc.)

                                For most of us this is not a 20 minute exercise. But if you've only got 20 minutes to start the process today, do it. Your results in 2013 (and in 2014) may well hinge on it.

                                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 nmiller@mzbierlyconsulting.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

                                 

                                19 Takeaways from a Sales Workshop: A Bank Sales Manager's Notes

                                  
                                  
                                  
                                describe the image

                                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 nmiller@mzbierlyconsulting.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

                                 

                                9 Business Development Ideas for Summer

                                  
                                  
                                  
                                beach shot

                                Working on getting in beach shape for your vacation at the shore? Going on a cruise? Catching up on your reading? Whatever you plan to do this summer outside of work, here are 9 business development ideas for bankers:

                                1. Do something nice for your best customers. I’m not talking about sending them tickets to a baseball game or a concert, although that’s not a bad thing to do. Let them know you’re thinking about their business. If you have something specific in mind—maybe something that would improve the way they manage their cash—visit them. If you don’t, visit them anyway.

                                2. Bone up on the competition. Mystery shopping is not just for branches. Use your network of customers and prospects and COIs to find out what your top competitors are doing with their business customers. Share your insights with your colleagues.

                                3. Take a product partner to lunch. Get to know your Cash Management rep better. See if he knows anybody on your prospect list. Pick your Wealth Management contact’s brain about what she’s seeing in the market. Remember it’s not just about them giving you introductions--ask how you can help them meet their business development goals.

                                4. Do some industry research. Not just the First Research, IBISWorld or VerticalIQ kind—that’s a given to stay current. Visit some trade association websites to see whether you can learn things that will make you more knowledgeable about the issues facing your customers and prospects. Attend a trade association meeting. 

                                5. Meet some friendly accountants. Review all the financial statements you have received over the last 18 months and see whether you know all the CPAs who prepared them. If you don’t, ask your customers to set up a lunch so you can meet them. For more insights here are answers to 10 Questions on Getting Referrals from CPAs.

                                6. Write an article for a local business publication on a topic that would be of interest to your prospects. Milk it for all it’s worth. Before mailing it to the editor, send it to your customers and prospects for comments. After it’s published, get a PDF of the file and share it with everybody you know who might be interested.

                                7. Review your relationship plans with your Sales Manager. What, no relationship plans? Click here to download a Relationship Planning Template.

                                8. Keep improving your skills. Be honest with yourself about what you need to work on. If you’re a credit wiz who struggles with selling, sign up for a webinar or buy a book on prospecting. If your product knowledge is sub-par, get some tutoring from one of your colleagues. Lousy at negotiating? Take a course. (See below for some upcoming webinar ideas.)

                                9. Show your prospect list to your satisfied customers. You might be surprised how inclined they are to help you with your business development efforts. If you’re interested in pointers on how to do that, check out this article on How to Ask Customers for Quality Referrals.

                                Summer is a time to recharge your batteries. But it’s also a time to refocus your energies on how to retain your customers and acquire new ones.

                                Looking for a suggestion on how to jumpstart your prospecting efforts? Check out our live and recorded webinars at http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com or call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772. Here are the next two live webinars:

                                1. LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week Session 2--June 10, 2013

                                * How to take advantage of LinkedIn's research capabilities

                                * Using LinkedIn to identify prospects

                                * Tips on scheduling appointments with prospects

                                * How to use LinkedIn groups to expand your network

                                * Leveraging LinkedIn as a communication tool

                                2. Building Referral Relationships with CPAs--July 15, 2013

                                 

                                 

                                 

                                 

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