How Many Questions Should A Banker Ask On A Sales Call?

Better Bank Sales Calls

Statistics show that bankers do not ask enough questions on a sales call with a customer. The average banker asks about five to seven questions, and unfortunately, most of those are pretty standard like “What keeps you up at night?” or “Do you have your latest financials available?” As we like to say, good questions are better than good answers and customer questions are one easy area where bankers can improve. In this article, we look into the data on bank sales calls to see the right number and the types of questions to ask during the discovery phase of a sales meeting in hopes of improving your success rate.


Getting The Balance Right


Don’t ask enough questions and the banker will seem to have not done their homework or will not have enough actionable information to layout a customer sales plan. Ask too many questions, and the meeting will feel like integration with little depth.


By looking at thousands of sales calls, the chart below illustrates the fact that bankers should probably double the number of questions they ask in order to build deeper relationships with both retail and commercial clients. Instead of the seven average, we now teach to target approximately 12 questions. This doesn’t count intro or personal questions like “How was your weekend” but business related, open-ended questions the generates enough valuable information so a banker can develop a calling plan. 


The 12 Bank Sales Call Graphic - Column chart that shows you get the most conversion with between 11 and 14 sales calls


Of course, the appropriate number of questions will vary widely and will be driven by the banker’s relationship, the time available for the meeting, the ability of the banker to generate engagement and thousands of other variables.


Improving Your Question Quality


Bankers have a limited time with their prospect and much use the time wisely. Most bankers know to ask questions about the business and potential banking needs. Understanding the customer’s history, past/current performance, cash flows, and goals are all standard.  However, as St. Meyer & Hubbard teaches us, at least two questions should be original enough to send information to the customer that you are not the average banker.


For commercial customers, questions around the use and plans for emerging technology such as robotics are useful for manufacturing clients as it shows you are thinking ahead and could uncover some financing opportunities. Every business owner has anxiety over if they are employing technology fast enough so having that conversation is usually extremely helpful. Other quality questions that can set you apart and help you gather success-inducing information are those around an exit strategy, risk management or strategic planning. 


How you ask the question also matters. “How is your cash flow?” isn’t as good as “Can you walk me through how cash comes into the business sales from sales and the timing of the cash going out?” The first question is vague which may elicit a “good” or “strong” answer as opposed to generating more in-depth explanation of the inner workings of the business.


Putting This Into Practice


Quality questions stem from doing your homework and developing a calling plan for each prospect or customer. Management should first impart the importance of the discovery phase of the sales journey as that is one of the most important aspects of bank sales.


Then, management should coach their bankers to have a set of questions that they have designed to help the newer bankers and then teach them how to modify those questions for the prospect’s particular industry or situation.


Proactively deciding AND communicating the action plan to the calling team is critical and is a best practice of high performing bank sales teams. Everyone should know, based on the environment of the meeting the approximate questions to cover. First meetings usually generate more questions as do specialty meetings such as tours while meetings at industry conferences or social gatherings understandably generate less. The key is to be adaptable but have a plan to maximize your time and the prospect’s time.


Bankers should then learn to spread the questions out over multiple sales calls but move those questions that can ensure the next meeting forward to continue to build trust. Preparing 20 questions and then choosing 12 on the fly can help you collect the information needed to increase your relevance with the client and get that next meeting.


History shows that the average banker doesn’t do enough planning and as a result doesn’t ask enough questions. By increasing the quality and quantity of questions, your bank can be more successful and increase their closing rate by an average of some 25%.