Question: Why is getting in the door with prospects becoming harder for business bankers?
Answer: Some people think it's because business owners have less time than they used to. I think the real reason that bankers are having trouble arranging appointments is because they don't realize that they are competing for the business owner's time. And, for a prospect to give up his valuable time, he will need to get something of value from you.
How do you demonstrate possible value and get a prospect interested in talking to you? Here are several approaches that will improve your chances. (In parenthesis is our estimate of the success rate that a typical banker speaking to a decision maker has for each.)
1. Third-Party Referrals: Use a referral from an existing client, an acquaintance, or a third-party professional. Be sure to ask for permission to use his or her name before using it as a referral: "Betty Jones from XYZ Electronics suggested that I contact you." (65%)
2. Industry Experience and Expertise: Focus on your experience and expertise with the prospect's industry. "Over the last few years I've worked with a number of trade associations like yours and I'd like to discuss with you some of the ideas . . ." (30%)
3. References: Refer to a piece of news, an article in a publication, or the company's website. For example, if the prospect is a dental practice: "I saw on your website that you do cosmetic dentistry..." (20%)
4. New Situations/Products/Services: Discuss a new situation, a new product, or any innovation at your bank that might be of value to the prospect: "We recently enhanced our cash management products to provide wholesalers with . . ." (10%)
5. Community Approach: Discuss the fact that you both do business in the same community and could be a resource for each other in the future:
"You've been doing business in this area for a number of years and so have we. Unfortunately, we've never had a chance to meet. I'd love the opportunity to find out more about your business, where you are, and where you're going; to tell you more about us and the kind of things we're doing. And then, who knows, maybe we can be a resource for each other somewhere down the road. Do you have some time in the next week or so to get together?" (Varies by market. In small towns this can work 80% of the time. In larger metropolitan areas, it has a much lower success rate.)
All of these can work but none is foolproof. Use the one that fits your situation. Obviously, if you have a referral from a satisfied customer, use it. Some relationship managers weave elements of several of the approaches into their calls to schedule appointments-the more ammunition the better!
Tip for Bankers: If you're struggling setting up appointments with prospects, write out the key points of your opening for the next 10 calls you make. Review them with your Sales Manager or a colleague before you make the phone calls. See whether your percentage improves.
Interested in more tips on how to get in the door? One of our recent articles in the ABA's Commercial Insights newsletter answers common questions about prospecting including:
* The pros and cons of sending a letter first
* Using scripts
* How to treat secretaries and administrative assistants
* Following-up after the first meeting
You can download it by going to http://www.mzbierlyconsulting.com/getting-in-the-door-with-prospects.
You might also want to check out the recorded webinar on the same subject in the Prospecting Clinic series at https://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.com