While lots of bankers study and pride themselves on selling, few banks train in “team sales.” Like playing a team sport, one-on-one selling is different than when selling as a team. To the extent your bank uses a “client action team” or group of bankers representing different products to bring over a big client, improving your team sales technique can turbocharge performance. In this article, we look at six, often overlooked ways, your teams can boost its commercial client conversions from prospect to customer.
Building A Profile
Every banker has their way to prepare for a client call. Most look at old call reports, do some quick Googling on the Company or industry and then think of a rough plan. Other bankers review financials, use third-parties such as Vertical IQ or Dun and Bradstreet and put a detailed plan together. A team approach has the advantage of not only dividing up the work but gaining from everyone’s diversified way of researching plus the consolidation of many different perspectives.
To pull this off, banks need to develop a standardized format, methodology, and workflow to aid in the collection and production of information into a pre-call report.
Preparing for the Meeting – Direction and Labels
The most important thing for a sales team to do is to have a clearly communicated goal. “Stopping by,” “saying Hi,” or “checking in” is a waste of time for all involved. Every call should look to impart some value while moving the prospect to conversion. Maybe the goal is to assist with cash flow management, capital raising or to learn the prospect's goals for 2019 but whatever the reason is the meeting’s objectives should be clear.
Next, after the team is clear on the objective and desired meeting path, the call should be planned. We use the 5-4-3-2-1 model. There are others, but this one works well. The calling team gets together before the call and comes up with five negative labels, four positive tags, three “how” questions, two “what” questions, and one “no-oriented” question.
Negative labels serve the purpose of reducing or eliminating counterproductive emotions from the prospect. For example, if the potential borrower has the perception that the bank is too small compared to Bank of America, then someone on the team would look for the concern and then respond with, “It seems like you are worried if our bank is big enough to perform?”
Since negative emotions create barriers to winning the business, calling the concern out into the open helps address and then disarm the concern. Once you explain how your product line up is the same as Bank of America, you can move quicker, and you can handle the customer’s loan size, “size” no longer becomes a concern and likely becomes a positive attribute.
In contrast, coming up with a set of positive labels preps the team to reinforce the talking points you want the customer to come away with. If the team is talking about a complex transaction, then the team wants to be ready with an “experienced” positive label to support the notion that the bank is perfectly positioned to know the customer’s industry and handle the complexity of the structure.
Getting the team clear on what the negative and positive labels the group will likely use helps anticipates points of friction and express sales points more efficiently.
Finally, coming up with pre-planned “how,” “what,” and “no-oriented” (those questions that evoke a “no” response) help direct the conversation down the path to where you want it and architect the best stage to present your bank’s products. For example, if you are calling on a law firm, you might ask, “How do you ensure timely billing/collections for clients and do you ever have cash flow issues?” That question will lead to a conversation about your treasury management capabilities or at least provide intelligence to present your services in the future.
Assign Area of Responsibility
High-performing teams succeed because of specialization within the team. If it is a two person team, one should be primary client contact with the more senior person listening, taking notes and directing the major topics of the conversation. If there are three people, the third person should take over the note-taking responsibilities.
This takes time and practice, but the goal is to have the client contact person to talk about 70% of the time while the rest of the team is chiming in around 30% of the time. If your role is primary contact, then it is your responsibility to lead the conversation along with your pre-planned path. The team lead’s main job is to observe body language and listen to emotional cues. The lead can chime in to either ask a clarifying question, to change direction or to mirror the prospect (details HERE). While the lead talks, the primary contact can use the pause to plan out the next direction.
When you have three or more people on the team, roles get more specialized. Usually, when a third person is present, that member is assigned to take notes and listen for emotional triggers. These are points that have a lot of “energy” around them either positive or negative that the team can leverage. If a fourth person is available, they are assigned to listen for negatives or challenges while a fifth person can listen for positives.
In addition, usually, the third, fourth and fifth person is responsible for labeling the prospect’s emotions. You can see a breakdown of tasks below:
Using the Tactical Pause
In a team setting, the tactical silence becomes more valuable. It is normal for everyone to want to be heard and often someone to speak to fill the silence. However, creating a pause in the conversation to draw more information out is critical, particularly during negotiations. To make a tactical pause work, team members need to understand and practice the technique. The need to fill an awkward silence need to be overcome as the more people you have; the more effective the pause becomes to elicit greater information or move the prospect to your side of the negotiation.
For example, when asking about the bank’s competition for a certain piece of the banking business, some prospects are reluctant to disclose either because there is no competition, they feel ethically bound not to disclose, or they are afraid of negotiation contamination. When the primary contact person asks about the bank’s competition and a single name is thrown out, the team lead may validate if that is all. At that point, there should be silence until the prospect speaks.
Practice To Build Team Cohesion
Team sales take practice. Any high performing team drives part of their performance through teamwork which is a learned and perishable skill. Banking teams usually perform at a similar level to their highest level of preparation so if you don’t practice, don’t expect successful outcomes.
There is no shortage of potential clients, so banking teams need to practice with intent on the smaller clients to be successful at the larger clients. Teams should view every conversation whether it is an internal meeting, getting lunch at a restaurant or in front of clients as an opportunity to practice making introductions, telling stories, asking probing questions, listening, practicing the tactical pause, finding points of emotional energy, wrapping up a conversation and using both positive and negative labeling.
After your team recaps the meeting, highlights next steps, and says their goodbyes, the team should meet as soon as possible and recap the material points of what was learned. Team members should reach an agreement on what points of emotional energy were most important, how the client will decide, the value of the client, their readiness to move forward and who is responsible for what follow up. Notes should be further annotated and committed to a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Finally, the team’s performance should be assessed using the Stealth Debrief methodology (HERE) or a similar framework. Lessons learned should be noted in order to support continuous improvement.
Putting This Into Action
Don’t be the banking team that doesn’t prepare for the call and don’t be the team that brings in the product specialist for the only purpose of presenting product information. All bankers should be trained on both individual sales and team sales to take performance to a higher level. Planning the call, specializing job functions, debriefing and conducting the meetings with intent are all elements of an experienced banking team making a sales call as a group.
Practice, so when money and client well-being is on the line, you call back to your highest level of training – a level that will then run circles around your competition.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on November 28, 2018