Why do bankers keep asking stupid questions? You know what I’m talking about. Asking prospects things like the following:
1. Where are you banking?
2. What products and services are you using?
3. How are they priced/ structured?
4. What are two things you wish your current bank was doing but isn’t?
5. How can I get a copy of your statements so that I can come back with a proposal?
One of our clients took offense when we kept referring to these as the five stupid questions. “But that’s what we have been taught to ask—I can show you the sales training manual that we used at my previous bank.”
Yes, sales trainers bear most of the blame for this. In the Dark Ages (before, say, 2000) just getting bankers in front of prospects was a rare enough occurrence. What they said to business prospects wasn’t all that important in many cases.
But in today’s competitive environment, you have to do better than ask the same old tired questions. To stand out—and to get a second appointment and a third and a fourth—you have to do a better job of getting your prospect talking more about his business than about his current banking arrangements.
And to do that, you have to steer the conversation away from your products and services—even if that’s what the prospect thinks the conversation is going to be about. That’s not necessarily your fault; even if you’ve sold the appointment as a chance to get to know the prospect’s business to see if there may be a way to work together, many customers will expect you to pitch your products. Surprise them: Don’t!
Your goal in any initial meeting is to learn as much as you can about the prospect’s world. A little history can help you gauge how the prospect thinks and what he sees as the keys to his success. Understanding the current environment in which the business is operating—that’s where industry intelligence fits in—can help you frame the kind of business (not banking) questions that will impress your prospect. And that will help you uncover some possible topics for your next meeting.
The “five stupid questions” aren’t bad questions. If you ask them before asking a lot of other questions, though, your chances of getting back in the door are going to be limited. The first conversation is about them, their products, their challenges, and their strategy, not about you.
To download a tool that will help you in planning a question sequence that leads to a better conversation, go to Inverted Triangle.
Interested in more tips on prospecting? Download our article on Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect.