By Roxanne Emmerich
Most banks hire “sales training” firms, create incentive programs and set goals – only to find after two years of working hard that they’ve made virtually no progress … if any at all.
If it feels like selling, your people are doing something wrong
The new skills of selling are more about collaborating than competing. These new skills are based on the premise of caring about finding out what the customer needs to be successful and then finding ways to help them accomplish that success.
To do that, there are several steps:
Ask good questions. Questions need to include the following elements to be effective:
Keep the questions short by eliminating any unnecessary words.
Include the word “you” in each sentence.
Make sure the question cannot be answered with a yes or no response, but rather will create the opportunity for the customer to talk about herself.
Ask deeper level questions. For instance, if you ask, “What is the biggest challenge you have in your business?” and receive the answer, “Inventory” – then ask “Why?” Always dig one level deeper.
Examples of good questions for someone taking rate inquires in a bank might include: “Are you currently a customer of ours? Do you have children? Have you always lived in this area? How did you hear about us? What investment goal are you using this money for?”
This line of questioning opens the floodgate for easy sales that will greatly help the customer or prospect. By finding out about their children, the door is opened for a conversation about college-education funding, retirement savings, and car savings for when children are old enough to own a car. If the customer is new to the area, questioning should open the door for retirement-account transfers, a mortgage, checking, savings, and more. Once you understand the customer’s needs, you have the ability to help them by suggesting investments and products that will best serve them.
Listen intently. The more you hear about a customer’s needs, the more you can help them. But unfortunately, most retail salespeople are busy talking and quoting, rather than listening. Have you ever heard this conversation from your team members?
Prospect: “What are your certificate of deposit rates?”
Bank employee: “Our current rates are 0.5 percent for a three-month, 1 percent on a six-month and our “special of the week” is our 13-month CD paying 2.0 percent.”
Prospect: “Thank you.”
Bank employee: “And thank you for calling First National Bank.”
As The Emmerich Group surveyed banks and credit unions for one of the bank associations, we found that in 97 percent of the cases, this is what happened. People who called to invest money were given rates and then hung up on … politely, of course.
Why is it that when someone calls who says they have money, they are not helped to invest that money – a transaction that would help both the bank and the customer?
It’s because most bank employees have never learned how to sell. We think that selling is backing someone into a corner that they would never get themselves into if we weren’t skilled at manipulating them into it. So the alternative is to ignore the customer and wait for them to beat down your door – hardly a professional or helpful approach.
Suggest solutions to their problems and challenges. Selling is easy. The reason most employees don’t do it is because they see it as manipulating, cheating, and stealing. Not only do the best sales professionals not do that; they take great satisfaction in helping others meet their goals. Leave the manipulating to the professional cons. Just ask good questions, listen intently and enjoy the rewards of great sales.
Good salespeople know that the old methods of selling, which worked years ago, today are no longer working. The only place you see those practices still reinforced is in some car dealerships where they still think that selling is about arm-wrestling the customer. Banking is far different. In fact, you can make massive strides in your retail sales area by establishing what I detail above – the ask-listen-suggest formula.
Assessing where you are with retail sales is an important part of the new game of banking.
Take a look at the retail banking assessment we use with our top-tier advisory clients (facing page).