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Buck Bierly's Tips on Preparing for Prospect Calls



Many bank sales managers say that their people try to wing it on sales calls. Buck Bierly agrees. Download a four minute mp3 file with his thoughts on call preparation by going to

Note to Sales Managers: This could fit very nicely in an upcoming sales meeting. If you need some help figuring out how, call 610-296-4772 or email me at

Interested in tips on how to prepare for a first call on a prospect? You can download our recent article in the ABA's Commercial Insights newsletter by going to



March Madness: Sales Success Tips for Bankers



When March Madness rolls around, I do more than grab for the remote to check the college basketball coverage on television. I also pull out my copy of "Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court."


John Wooden, the UCLA basketball coach whose teams won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years between 1964 and 1975, is eminently quotable. Here are some that I like:


"Failure to change is often just stubbornness that comes from an unwillingness to learn, an inability to realize that you're not perfect. There cannot be progress without change-even though not all change is progress."


"You must never stand still. You're either moving upward a little bit or going the other way. You can't expect to go upward too quickly, but you can sure go down very quickly...Progress comes slowly but steadily if you are patient and prepare diligently."


"When you are too engrossed in those things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect those things over which you do have control-namely, your preparation."


Perhaps my favorite piece from this collection is Coach Wooden's "Eight Suggestions for Succeeding." At the risk of boring those relationship managers who do not follow sports, I offer them to you as timeless reminders on how to become a better professional.


  1. Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.
  2. Remember, it's the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.
  3. Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.
  4. Be more interested in character than reputation.
  5. Be quick, but don't hurry.
  6. Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will have.
  7. Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.
  8. Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.


I'd suggest that you ponder #7 for a minute. If you objectively evaluate your own professional skills, it often becomes clear what you need to work on. But don't stop there. Ask for some coaching. That will help you improve your sales results and get to the next level.


Visit our website for selling tools and tips for bankers at Sign up for our blog at  Recent topics include:

  • Prospecting for Bankers: Get a Coach
  • How to Ask Customers for Referrals
  • Relationship Managers: How to Be a Better Resource for Your Customers
  • CEOs on Bank Sales Process

Give Before You Get: Think Referrals


So you missed it. "Make a Referral Week" was March 8 to 12. But even if you didn't provide a stimulus to the economy last week, you can still get in on the action.

Start by thinking about who you might be able to assist with a good referral. At the top of your VIP list should be your key customers.  You should also think about your COIs, and even your prospects.  

My guess is that some of them have referred business to you in the past; others might be in a position to do so if you ask them the right way. But slow down, this is not about you asking for referrals, it's about giving them referrals. 

The next step is to ask yourself whether you know the profile of an ideal customer for any one of these VIPs. If you don't, it's time to ask. Before picking up the phone, though, you might want to think about how you're going to frame the conversation.

It may be enough to joke about missing "Make a Referral Week."  Your contact may or may not be suspicious about your intentions if you tell the truth: "Many of the best leads I get are referrals from satisfied customers. I was thinking about whether I might be able to refer business your way. Would you like to set up a time to talk about who your ideal prospects are? "

At the same time, you could inquire whether they have identified any specific prospects whom you might know.  Some of your contacts might surprise you and actually share names of their prospects with you.

There's one other thing you should ask about. If you do identify a good prospect for your customer or COI, what's the best way for you to make the introduction? The answer may well depend upon the nature of your relationship with the party you're referring, but it's useful to have an idea of how the handoff could be best accomplished. 

OK, but what if you don't know anybody to refer?  That could change, particularly if you now have a  clearer idea of what they're looking for. There's no need to be embarrassed. "I can't think of anybody now, but you never know" is a perfectly appropriate answer.

Don't be surprised if this conversation does lead to a question about how they might be able to reciprocate. Decide whether you want to take them up on it now, or defer it to another time.   My recommendation is that you should definitely plan on doing it at some point.  (According to research from Greenwich, over 60% of business customers are willing to provide referrals to their bankers if asked; fewer than 25% are asked.)

One final thought: Bankers should make every week "Make a Referral Week."

If you want to get some specific coaching on how and when to ask for referrals, go to our blog at

Prospecting for Bankers: How to Ask for Referrals




Getting referrals from satisfied customers is the best way to get in the door with prospects. If you're not sure how to ask a customer for help in your prospecting efforts, here are several approaches.

1. You have just finished resolving a problem for your customer Jack Smith. He thanks you for your help and you respond:

"I'm glad I could help you out. If you have minute I could use some help too. (Wait for a response.) Over the last few months I‘ve been working to build my customer base. To get things moving I built a prospect list of 20 names of businesses in the area that would be a good match for me and the bank. As you know, getting in front of good prospects is tough going. Would you be willing to take a minute and look over my list? Any insights or help you could give me would be a great help."

2. You have just finished closing a loan or completing a cash management installation for your customer Jane Doe. She thanks you for all your help and you respond:

"If you have minute I was hoping you could help me out on a project I've been working on." (Wait for a response.) Over the last few months I‘ve been focusing on building my customer base. To get things moving I built a prospect list of 20 names of businesses in the area that would be a good fit for me given my background and expertise. Since you've been doing business in the area for over a decade I thought you might know some of the businesses on my prospect list. Would you be willing to take a minute and look over my list? I would be grateful for any insights or help you could provide."

3. You have just completed a third call on a prospect. This call and the previous call s on this prospect have been very well received. At the end of the call the prospect thanks you for some of the ideas you discussed on the call. You decide to ask him for a referral.

"Do you have another minute? I could use some help with my prospecting. (Wait for a positive response.) At the beginning of the year I made a personal goal to bring in 10 new customers this year. I consistently maintain a prospect list of 30 names of businesses in the area that I would like to have as customers. Since you have an extensive network here I thought you might know some of the businesses on my prospect list. Would you be willing to take a minute and look over my list? I would be grateful for any insights or help you could provide."

Remember that you have to earn referrals first. But if you've done that, don't be bashful about asking for help! It's often the quickest way to sales results for bankers.

For more information on asking customers for referrals, visit our website at or call 610-296-4772.

Prospecting for Bankers: Get a Coach


How do you build a competitive sales strategy? The best way is to find an internal or external coach. You can use the coach's understanding of the company to help you gain insights into the competitive situation.

Here are six things that a coach can assist you with:

  1. Determining how the prospect sees its relationship with the current bank
  2. Getting a clear idea of the decision-making process within the organization
  3. Identifying  the tangible and intangible needs of the key players in the decision-making process
  4. Determining what specific needs were developed in the organization either internally or externally by another banker or consultant
  5. Identifying any previous solutions that the company has considered in the past or is currently considering
  6. Cluing you in on who the competition is for the business you are seeking. The coach can give you background about other bankers who are involved with the company-- both the incumbents as well as any other bankers who are prospecting the business.

Is it easy to find a coach? No, but if you do you'll get a leg up on your competition.

Want more insights on building effective sales strategies? Check out our website at  for ideas on how to improve bank sales.

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