Most bank calling officers are inadequately prepared to effectively sell bank products. It is not because they can’t, but because the art and science of selling bank products is rarely taught. When it is taught, it is without understanding that banking has a set of special needs to include regulatory compliance, the component of credit and the emotional content of dealing with the most private of information – a person or company’s financial position. While it is helpful to understand some of the techniques of a traditional sales person, marketing banking services, which are often both intimate and intangible, is not the same as selling a widget that is more easily understood. Selling credit or deposit services is clearly different. If you are a banker looking to build a steady stream of business, then it starts by understanding the unique challenges that come with selling banking services.
The Emotional Approach – Tell A Story
At its most basic level, many bank business development officers falter by simply presenting the attributes of a bank product. Maybe it is the rate, or hopefully the service, but many calling officers treat the process like a check box and they feel their job is to go through the list of product characteristics. This is the difference between “showing” a bank product and “selling” a bank product. The reality is that good bank sales people don’t sell as much as they guide. However, it is a planned path where the customer is led on a journey of self-discovery and evolutionary realization of needs.
The effective bank sales process starts with asking the proper questions (and listening!) to understand the customer’s needs and uncover their goals, dreams, fears and pain points. Once gathered, the bank calling officer must start to tell a story of how they can help.
The story can be an example of a client that has been helped by the bank, a history of rates, a picture of what the future looks like from all the time or money you have saved the prospect or just an analogy to drive home a certain point. Whatever approach you take, the goal is to string your logical sales points together in a tidy emotional bundle woven through a story. To the extent you can work in visuals and leave behind (or email) something that reminds the prospect of the story, so much the better. Your prospect may not remember all your financial product does, but tell a good story and they will remember it for a long time.
The Why of You
Bankers often make the mistake of talking to potential customers about WHAT they do or can do for them. This usually results in instantly turning your banking service into a commodity. When a banker explains what their bank can do, to the average customer, it sounds almost identical to what another bank can do for them.
To differentiate yourself, explain the WHY. For the most part, customers care less about what you do and more about how good you are being you. That is, after you listen and learn about your potential customer, when it comes time to talk about the bank, start with the reason for your bank’s existence and the reason why you are in the banking business. The result will be much more memorable and much more meaningful.
The Role of Marketing and Advertising
Undoubtedly, personal connections are the largest factor that drives sales in banking. However, the second biggest factor is your and your bank’s ability to establish a brand and market. If your bank wants more business, start with the question of what does your sales and marketing plan look like? If your bank has a haphazard and disjointed plan of placing a couple ads, sponsoring a couple events, sending some statement stuffers and distributing brochures, it is no wonder why you want more business.
With the current state of digital marketing, every bank should be able to obtain a very positive return on marketing investment within two years as they try various marketing experiments and figure out what works (You can start with our suggestion HERE).
Your Largest Challenge
Most likely you are not losing business to your competition, but losing business to indecision. We call this “selling against a ghost” because the average bank calling officer has no idea what he or she is up against. The competition usually isn’t the bank down the street, but the status quo of doing nothing. For the potential customer, doing nothing is so much easier than having to complete loan documents or transfer deposit accounts. For the banker, competing against do nothing is a hazy, vague, emotional and frustrating proposition.
The byproduct of the above concept is that it is difficult for consumers or businesses to evaluate a business development officer’s experience, quality of service, range of bank products or even the quality of the bank. Try explaining the concept of a Tier 1 capital ratio and you will be met with glazed stares.
Unfortunately, bank calling officers spend too much time positioning their experience, their product and the quality of the bank than focusing the sales process on what really matters. When it comes to selling banking services, the primary driver of success is the bank’s and banker’s ability to establish an emotional connection. This might include how the phone is answered, the look of the office, a common set of friends, a shared experience or any number of non-quantitative factors.
Anything you can do to help establish that connection is a plus and this includes getting your face and background on your bank’s website, getting active in quality networks (Alumni, non-profits, community service, investment clubs, LinkedIn Groups, etc.), marketing your testimonials, asking for referrals and promoting content (blogs, white papers, calculators, etc.). All materially help prospects connect the dots and shorten the sales process. They key is to transfer a level of trust by leveraging both your past work and your connections.
Putting It into Practice
The art of bank selling is an exercise in emotional packaging. Establishing social validation and a brand, when aided by marketing and emotional approach will serve to boost the sale of bank products. Take a look at your website, your brochures and your marketing and see if you are telling enough stories and using enough emotional wording plus visuals in your approach. Chances are if you increase your emotional content while taking the time to put the “Why” in front of your prospects, you will likely find that your sales effectiveness will be the envy of the banking industry – and we say that with more emotion than facts.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on March 28, 2016