What are the keys to success in building relationships with prospects? Here are eight things that high-performing relationship managers do consistently:
1. They focus on the right companies. Bankers need to understand what their banks are looking for. But there's more to this than just memorizing the target profile. Bankers have to assess whether they’re a good match for the prospects as well, considering whether they have the requisite skills and experience to deliver a compelling value proposition. (Note: If you're unsure, talk through your strategy with your sales manager.)
2. They prepare appropriately for the initial contact. At a minimum they familiarize themselves with the prospect’s industry using resources like RMA, First Research, Vertical IQ or LexisNexis. They also spend time reviewing the prospect’s website. By comparing industry trends with what appears to be going on in the company, they're able to frame intelligent questions for the first meeting.
3. They build relationships at the right level. In most cases successful prospectors start at the highest point in the organization that they can reach. In small to midsize businesses this is usually the owner or president. In larger companies they may be dealing with a chief financial officer or treasurer. Starting at the top of the organizational totem pole is not always easy, but usually pays dividends in the long run.
4. They have clearly defined objectives for both the first and second meetings. These objectives are far beyond just getting in the door and getting to know the individuals involved. Often they include such things as learning more about the organization’s specific business model and short to medium term strategy. Every successful prospector knows that the primary goal of the first meeting is getting a second appointment. To do that requires the ability to ask intelligent questions based on the research conducted on the company.
5. They use their team members effectively in developing and executing their sales strategy. These team members include their sales manager and partners from different lines of business who may see other ways to add value to the prospect relationship. Good prospectors are good quarterbacks and leaders in implementing strategy.
6. They work to understand their prospects better than the competition does. Specifically, they learn more about the industry in which the company operates, its business operations, how it manages its financial affairs and perhaps most importantly, the value systems of the company's key decision makers and influencers. They seek to be known for their experience and expertise.
7. They find a coach, somebody inside or outside the prospect organization who can give them a window on the inner workings of the company. A coach can help bankers see things in a different light (e.g. who the real influencers are within the company, what the values are of the key players, and who the real competition is in a given situation.)
8. They understand that prospecting takes time. In our experience, it takes between five and eight face-to-face calls to move a significant share of a prospect’s business. That requires both patience and persistence.
Interested in more tips on prospecting? Download our article on Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect.