1. Don’t stop scheduling appointments. If you have clients and prospects who are too busy to meet before year end, get them on the calendar in January. It will be harder to fill your calendar if you wait until after New Year’s.
2. Be nice to your customers, particularly the 10% who probably represent 80% of your profit. Tell them how much you value their business. Schedule time to meet with them (see #1).
3. Show your (short) prospect lists to the VIPs in your network, starting with some of the satisfied clients referenced in #2.
4. If you haven’t done it recently, review your customers’ accounts receivable and accounts payable lists. They could be great additions to your prospect list (and remember to ask for nice introductions from your customers too!)
5. Ask customers about their capital expenditure plans for the coming year. You might actually find a loan opportunity you didn’t know about.
6. Update relationship plans for your High Potential clients—those could be your best opportunities in 2015. (Cross-selling starts with a plan, not a prayer.)
7. Know what your objectives are at each holiday networking event you attend—and it better include some combination of checking the pulse of current customers, planting seeds with COIs, and meeting new people (prospects, potential COIs, etc.)
8. Think about revising your personal marketing plan. Does your LinkedIn profile need a facelift? Do you need to get more testimonials from happy customers? How about joining a trade association or two to penetrate a niche that you’re targeting?
9. Figure out how to better leverage Senior Managers and product partners in the coming year. It could start with enlisting their support in crafting strategies for some of your key prospects.
10. Discuss with your boss what specific areas you need to focus on in 2015 to improve your selling skills and business acumen. Options could include: signing up for a course; reading business publications like INC. Magazine, Fortune and any others that help you better understand the day-to-day challenges of your customers and prospects; spending more time with product specialists in your bank (e.g. Wealth Management, Treasury Management, Capital Markets); and delving into one or more industries that hold particular promise.
Bonus tip: Remember the important personal stuff. Spend quality time with loved ones of all ages. Go to the gym, don’t talk about it. Reflect. Count your blessings.
Next Complimentary Webinar on November 24 at 11 AM Eastern: What Small Business Bankers Can Learn from Moneyball
Moneyball, the 2011 box-office hit, tells the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and how he built a winning baseball team on limited budget using data and analytics. For a baseball franchise, analytics play a vital role in developing strategy, tactics and techniques. In this webinar Ted Triplett, the Chief Marketing Officer of Insight Ecosystems, shows how banks are applying this same approach to small business banking to gain a competitive advantage, improve performance and drive growth and profitability. You need not know anything about baseball to discover how to hit home runs by turning data into insight and insight into results.
Go to http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com to register. If you have questions call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at email@example.com
Recently recorded complimentary webinars available in the recorded sessions area of our webinar archive:
Q&A on Prospecting
Is Cross-selling the Secret Sauce?
Can bankers interested in developing new business benefit from developing expertise in one or more segments or niches? I think they can.
Niches can be a springboard to success in banking. Specialists with strong personal brands often attract quality leads. Their expertise is what separates them from the competition.
But even generalists can benefit from a focused effort to develop more detailed knowledge in 2 or 3 areas for new business development. If your market includes a major medical center, you could devote time to becoming more knowledgeable about what’s going on in health care. If your branch is near the court house, maybe you should be targeting lawyers.
Before settling on any niche, talk to your sales manager. If you have an idea about what you’d like to focus on, that’s great. If you don’t, your boss might have some suggestions.
This short video includes some other thoughts that might be helpful to you. To get my comments, click on the link below.
Special webinar offer: You can receive a $100 discount when you use coupon code tm5tx8bg31 to sign up for any recorded webinar in the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series. To register for any webinar go to the recorded webinars section at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com.
For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building a Good Prospect List
Leveraging Your Network to Get in the Door
How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting
Preparing for First Calls on Prospects
Industry Research as a Differentiator
Business Operations Meetings: Building Strong Relationships with Business Owners
Delving into Financial Operations: Selling to Financial Change
The First 3 Calls on Prospects
Following Up on Proposal – Persistent or Pest?
Getting the Most Out of Networking Events (Live session on June 16, 2014)
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
“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.
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.
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.
Recently one of my clients decided to institute a regular time for all business bankers to schedule prospect appointments for the coming week. The theory was good—it is important to set aside time to do this.
Unfortunately the first few weeks have turned into an exercise in cold calling. The initial results have been about what you’d expect. Cold calling has a very low hit rate—in this case, fewer than 5% of the calls are generating appointments. While the Sales Leaders are still convinced that this is a step in the right direction, at least some business bankers are grumbling about “dialing for dollars.”
I’m not a fan of cold calling but I can endorse this experiment if the following conditions are met:
- The bankers have already attempted to get introductions to the prospects from the people in their network. This includes their partners from other areas of the bank and Senior Management, as well as their customers, business connections and COIs. It might also include endorsements from another party in the prospect’s organization who knows them and their work.
- They have researched the company and the individual on the list. Doing homework before picking up the phone is the only way to avoid sounding like everybody else who is trying to get in front of a prospect.
- For less experienced prospectors, Sales Leaders have reviewed the “script” that is going to be used in the telephone call and in any other communication contemplated (see #4.) The most important part of this script is why the prospect should give you more time. Is it your industry knowledge? Experience with similar companies? Your Sales Manager can help you think through the best value proposition to use to get an initial meeting.
- Letters, emails, and LinkedIn messages are considered as part of the mix of the prospecting communication strategy. You don’t have to do all of them, but you should think about whether any could improve your success rate. Well-crafted, customized emails can show how you might add value for a particular prospect. LinkedIn is a much less cluttered channel than email and has opened doors for some business bankers who understand how to use it. If you’re only relying on your charm on the phone, you could struggle.
- Sales Leaders have approved the overall plan for follow-up. (You don’t think the first call is going to magically result in an appointment, do you?) This means that the banker has thought about other content to send to this prospect (e.g. articles, ideas, case studies, etc.) and other ways to connect either online (through LinkedIn groups) or offline (at trade association gatherings or by dropping by where appropriate).
- At least a portion of each banker’s weekly prospecting effort is devoted to the previous 5 bullet points. Cold calling is rarely the best option and shouldn’t be the default if bankers are having difficulty getting in front of prospects. Leveraging your network, researching prospects, strategizing with Sales Leaders, and getting coaching can often spell the difference between success and failure.
A final note: Tracking what is producing results—and while this starts with initial appointments, it really means what’s surfacing opportunities that lead to closed business—will help my client decide whether to continue the weekly calling regimen or to put more emphasis on ways to generate warm leads.
What do you think? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below...
For more on Ned Miller’s views on cold calling check out Stop Training Bankers on Cold Calling.
Looking for ways to energize your team? If you’re planning a sales meeting or refresher workshop, contact Ned Miller at 610-296-4771 to discuss how we might help. Check out our popular prospecting workshop on “Building Prospect Momentum” by clicking here.
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
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 email@example.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...
In the workshops I lead on prospecting, the question bankers usually ask is “How do I get through gatekeepers?” not “How can I have more success working with gatekeepers?”
What’s the difference? In my view, the first implies an adversarial relationship and invites a range of potential behaviors that could ultimately scuttle your chances of meeting the
people on your prospect list. You know what I mean—techniques to convince an assistant that it really is an urgent or personal matter when it’s not; or that you should be patched in to Roger because he knows you and what you’re calling about when he doesn’t.
So when referrals guru Bill Cates published a blog post recently entitled 5 Tips for Getting Through the Gatekeeper I was interested in his perspective. Now Cates freely admits that his ideas are not magic, just things that he has used over the years. Here’s a quick summary (my words, not his):
1. If you have a strong introduction (Cates doesn’t say it but read here “a referral”) your prospect will either set up the appointment himself or ask his assistant to do so.
2. Don’t discount the possibility of getting through to some prospects using email and LinkedIn. In those cases where you succeed, you may end up working with an AA to set up a meeting. [Ned’s note: Unsolicited emails—or ones without an introduction from a trusted third party—are usually deleted quickly. LinkedIn is a less cluttered channel than email, but users have to be smart about using it for connecting.]
3. It may be advantageous to send something valuable in advance to pique the prospect’s interest. [Ned’s note: Make sure it’s not product propaganda. Articles, presentations, topical information from third parties are all fine.]
4. If you do mail or email something to your prospects, involve their assistants in advance,
alerting them to what you plan to send and asking for their help in making sure it gets into the hands of Mr. Big.
5. Always be kind and professional. If the gatekeeper finds your behavior offensive in any way, you’re toast. Remember that the gatekeeper is not your enemy and may well be your way in.
How would savvy gatekeepers react to Cates’s suggestions? I polled three women who work with senior bankers. Their responses confirmed much of what Cates said, particularly about the importance of an honest, direct approach. But you will see some disagreements, particularly over the idea of sending material in advance. Here are lightly edited excerpts:
- “Friendly and honest is what I respect and gets my attention. People who suggest that they and the Executive are “best buddies” are offensive. Some truly believe if they are just matter of fact and insistent (i.e. dismissive of me) they will get put right through. We know better.”
- “If you have a pleasant voice and approach, we’ll listen. If you try to pull it off that you’re our boss’s buddy or that you have talked to our boss before and you haven’t, WE KNOW and you’ll never get in.”
- “Regarding #4, have the patience to explain who you are and get to the point of what you want. Most likely you don’t need to speak to our boss, but we can direct you to the right person.”
- “Be prepared…at least know our .com email address.”
- “#3 is the most effective option…If I can get information, whether via email or a packet they send to me, I am happy to share it with my boss for his opinion (assuming it is within his areaof responsibility and they are ‘barking up the right tree’ in the first place).
- “Be careful of ‘over communicating’-- you don’t want to be perceived as pushy or a pain.”
- “In my opinion, if you treat the assistant as a real person and not a stepping stone, that usually works the best. No one likes to be belittled, but everyone likes to feel valued.”
- “Mailing information usually doesn’t work. They are inundated with junk mail on a daily basis and it will probably be thrown out…”
Looking for additional resources on prospecting? Check out these:
Prospecting Pointers eBook
Common Objections Bankers Face in
Q&A on Getting in the Door eBook
“Networking in the Age of Social Media” September 30, 2013 at 11 AM Eastern, 10
AM Central, 9 AM Mountain
You can register for live webinars three ways : (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (3) go to the upcoming webinars section of our Webex website at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com and pay by credit card.
If you can’t make a live webinar, you will be able to view the recorded version within 24 hours of the event. We do provide discounts for organizations that sign up for three or more lines for a live webinar. Call 610-296-4771 for details.
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 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