Competition for quality commercial customers is ruthlessly competitive. For you to succeed as a commercial loan officer, you must be able to identify good prospects, understand their needs, distinguish yourself and your bank, and finally win the prospect’s business. However, very few banks teach their commercial lenders how to script sales calls. Not having infrastructure around the sales process could be a mistake because lenders that communicate with a sales script are 50% more likely to close business, and the business they do close is more desirable by the bank. Even for hardened veteran bankers, sales scripts can improve performance as it creates a framework that imposes more discipline to test different questions and answers.
In fact, a veteran banker can get the most out of a script as they are more likely to deviate from the script depending on the situation. Here, veterans can now compare the sales outcomes with the script and see where systemic improvements can be made. Further, for banks looking to capture institutional knowledge, sales scripts are an excellent way to pass experience between lenders.
What is a Sales Script?
A sales script is a plan or path that allows the commercial lender to explain the bank’s value proposition, anticipate the borrower’s responses, direct the conversation and interaction, help sound more spontaneous (ironic but true) and, most importantly, it gives more opportunity to listen to the borrower.
Scripts cannot be predetermined because every borrower may be different. However, having a script with multiple outcomes or scenarios can help the lender explain and ask the right questions to progress the conversation to a close. Also, every lender must write her script in her words. The language, the tone, and the stories must reflect you and your personality. A script must be written down, and rehearsed multiple times. A good guide is that for every 15 minutes of script, it should take the lender three hours to write and rehearse. Also, what has worked in the past may not work now – market conditions, competition and the industry all change, therefore, your script must also evolve.
Why Sales Scripting Works In Banking
Success in commercial lending is challenging for most individuals. However, the sales steps in the process are very basic:
- Ask prospects what they do. This involves not just their immediate financing needs but their entire business structure and the related goals for the business and themselves.
- Ask prospects how and why they do what they do. This entails understanding the prospect’s business and personal needs, fears and pain points so that solutions can be considered that the prospect herself has yet to consider.Create a solution to help your prospect do what they do better. Here the lender is innovating the prospect’s business to help them achieve their goals, hopes and dreams.
- Create a solution to help your prospect do what they do better. Here the lender is innovating the prospect’s business to help them achieve their goals, hopes and dreams.
A lender must be aware that the biggest competitor is inertia – that is, prospect chooses to do nothing. For example, the prospect chooses to rent vs. buy, or chooses to stay with the existing bank, or chooses not to expand the business. Therefore, one of the biggest goals of sales scripting is to overcome inertia.
Steps to Commercial Loan Scripting
Here are the four steps to create scripts for commercial lenders. 1) Opening and introduction, 2) Sales conversation, 3) Proposal discussion and 4) Closing.
In the opening and introduction, lenders are initiating contact. Whether you initiate the prospect with a cold call, meet at the Rotary Club, or get introduced through a broker or friend, remember that you are the acting agent and the prospect wants to maintain status quo. You must give a reason very quickly and convincingly why the prospect must change. The prospect will most likely give you a reason why change is not in their best interest, and you must be able to anticipate that response and turn around the response to continue the sales flow, to get to stage two (and then three and four).
In the opening and introduction a question like, “are you interested in refinancing your building” is not a good start. The prospect is most interested in the status quo, and the answer will most often be “No I am not”. That leaves the lender with no flow to the next question. Anticipating the borrower’s response is important to your script.
Here are some other opening scripts that could work better: “We have worked with a number of borrowers in your line of business (or your region), and we were able to save them X number of dollars in financing costs.” Or “We were able to refinance a similar business to yours recently on a 10-year commitment that allowed the borrower to expand his facility and fully pay off his business at very attractive rates”. Then you must ask to engage the prospect to try to get to step two – the sales conversation. In order to get to the sales conversion, you must ask for a meeting. A possible question to get to a meeting would be, “Could we meet next Tuesday to discuss how our bank can help you obtain a similar result?” Furthermore, do not give all your information to your prospect at the opening stage – a prospect finds it much harder saying “I’m not interested” when you have not given them your complete product or service offering. How can someone not be interested if they do not know what you’re selling? Therefore, leave the details for next state - sales conversation.
Unfortunately, regardless of how good your opening script is, the common answer to any opening is “I am not interested” or “I am happy with what I have” or “Call me back another time” or “Send me some material about your bank.” Most sales people will stop there and accept defeat. This is where sales scripting is so powerful. You must have more than one set of lines ready-made and rehearsed to continue the opening and introduction. Different responses will work for different people, different situations and different feedback.
One script that we use to respond to “I am not interested” is this: “Other business owners have told me the same thing, however, after a 15-minute discussion with me and seeing what we can do they were impressed with our innovative solution. Could we meet next Tuesday for 15 minutes for coffee or at your office?” Another question could be “Lack of time is common for most people in your industry, but after we meet for 15 minutes you will be impressed with the value that we delivered to some of your competitors (or other business owners), and you too may find our meeting invaluable. What do you say if we meet next Tuesday for only 15 minutes?”
As you can see, a good commercial lender will anticipate not just the first response, but a set of multiple responses from the borrower. Each response is a hurdle that the lender must overcome with a multiple rehearsed lines (using the line that best fits the circumstance). Rarely is the first response from a prospect the significant hurdle and a good sales person will get to the significant hurdle in the third, fourth or even fifth response.
Most experienced commercial lenders intuitively script their sales process in their head. However, even years of experience are not good substitutes for a written and rehearsed scripting process. In a future blog, we will discuss some powerful scripts that commercial lenders can use in stages two and three of the sales process (sales conversation and proposal discussion).
Submitted by Chris Nichols on August 03, 2016