Let’s be honest, banks currently struggle turning themselves into sales organization. We know we can improve. The good news is that most bankers really care about the customer and strive to do the best by them. However, when it comes to understanding the sales process, there is much to be desired. Part of the issue is training bankers not to be sales people, but to be true financial advisors. Since we work with lenders the country over and do constant lender training in association with our ARC Hedge product, we consistently see these 8 mistakes being made that end up hurting loan and deposit production. Since the path to growing top line revenue in part lies in training, here is our list of challenges and solutions, in order of importance that will help turn your bank into a consultative selling powerhouse:
Presenting No Clear Value Proposition
Every banker, not matter what the role in the organization, must be able to articulate the vision and reason for why the bank exists. By similar token, each business development officer must be able to clearly and succinctly articulate the value proposition for the product. You might have to update your products and services (see blog on bank brand HERE or product brand HERE) on enhancing your value proposition but your bank needs to have a clear picture of value and then train the staff on how to present that value. Without this step, little else matters.
No Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Solution
You can’t call yourself a service organization if you don’t have any way to institutionalize knowledge about the customer. How else are you going to record what current solutions you are working on, their goals, dreams, pain points and view of the economy? If you take the time to ask the right questions, you should spend the money to record what the customer tells you. Not only does a CRM system help capture information, but it forces your bank into a better customer management process plus helps instill a process for things like onboarding, termination or cross-sell. Even more important, it helps prioritize where you spend your resources as a good CRM will help rank the customers in terms of importance or profitability. Next to a loan pricing model, a CRM system is a piece of technology that can most quickly alter profitability.
No Organized Process For You AND Not Understanding The Process For Them
Per the above, banks need to better understand the customer journey and how to help the customer along the way. Every bank should develop a checklist for critical processes, or at least a formal road map for things like how to open and follow up on a new account, how to handle various customer problems and when to review accounts to suggest new products and services.
In similar fashion, in your sales process banks should strive to understand and respect the customer’s process. This is called “discovery” and includes not only asking what are the steps your customer has to go through to utilize a bank’s product or service, but also understand their pain points. Grasping why they want to switch banks or expand their current level of service will give insight into their motivation.
As a side note, some aggressive bankers take short cuts trying to get a faster sale, which usually leads to no sale. You can’t manage a process that you don’t understand and you can rarely rush a process through because of your own bank’s needs. Chances are every customer has to build at least some form of a consensus within their organization. Your bank’s job is to find out who will be part of the formal or informal decision process and make sure they are on board. Take the time to understand and respect the customer’s process and you will find that you will automatically shorten the sales cycle.
Asking for Unearned Commitments
You can’t ask for commitments that you haven’t earned, so take the time to build value through content, ideas and service so you can ask for the process to be moved to the next stage. Give customers a reason to take your call or open that email, then give them a reason to discuss their problems with you and then give them a reason to review a product or service and then finally give them a reason to agree.
Poor Follow Up
We have found it takes about 20 substantive interactions to get a customer to start a relationship with us. Unfortunately, most bankers stop after 3. Being consistent, persistent, aware of the process and willing to follow up not only proves that you care but that can be counted on.
Selling Without Pain
Understand who your customer is and isn’t. You may have a very profitable prospect, but if your value proposition isn’t strong enough or there is no current “pain” then likely you are not going to convert the customer over to your bank. While some would argue that there is no harm in trying, we would say that banks need to be hyper-focused on how they use their limited resources. While it is true that you may land a sale with a customer without pain, you most likely could have been twice as efficient landing two customers that are experiencing pain.
You Don’t Provide Proof
Bankers underestimate the role of social validation or fail to provide some level of proof of the bank’s value. Quality references, testimonials or some other form of product/service validation will dramatically shorten the sales cycle. This could include a return on investment calculator or some other tool to help them visualize the outcome. If you can’t get proof from their peers because it is a new product or service, then offer a guarantee in some form to bridge the gap and make it easier for the customer to come on board.
Failing To Ask For The Business Or A Decision
Sometimes getting new business is as simple as asking for it. If you solve the above issues, then your staff should be trained, ready and deserving of asking for the business. All parties should understand that a “no” or “maybe later” is OK, but your bank staff should be trained to at least get an honest answer out of the potential client. The best case is that you end up with a sale and the worst case is that you can now better allocate your resources. Sometimes the timing isn’t right in which case that gets logged into the CRM system and the process restarts at a later date. Instead of demanding sales quotas, to build a better bank culture, just make sure you have the process right and ask that your business development officers just get a “Yes,” “No” or “Maybe” from the customer.
Banks are good at “opening” the sale, but have historically been troubled at “closing.” If you don’t have the staff experience or the training time to pull off some of the above, look for ways to augment these challenges with a better process. One bank that we recently met installed a kiosk in their lobby that asked questions about the customer’s goals and then gave the customer a “financial type.” The questions were fun and informative. While any banker could have asked the questions, this bank’s staff felt awkward about the traditional process of an interview or survey. By leveraging the kiosk technology, bankers gained the insight they needed and were able to parlay the assistance into more sales. The kiosk served as a useful tool to help the less experienced bankers. Bankers may need to get creative, but if your bank can solve these 8 selling mistakes, 2016 will look like a very profitable year.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on October 26, 2015