The top 5 reasons why commercial bankers are terrible prospectors

It seems every commercial and business banker is out on the streets chasing the same few prospects, so the ones who are the most skilled are the winners. How good is your sales team at prospecting? I do a lot of work with these groups so it’s easy for me to see where they can use some help. Here are 5 weak spots you should identify and correct:

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 Cropped1)      They cold call.  They don’t know how to use social media, business contacts and existing customers to cultivate referrals.  Since the best performing relationship managers never call anyone without a referral or some background qualification process, you must get your team to quit playing the cold call game and wasting all that time.  An easy tactic is to have them create a prospect list of say 30-50 names, and take that list on every call to an existing customer. Then at the end of the call, show the list to the customer and say, “Who do you know from any of these companies? May I use your name when I call?”  This is far more powerful than asking for names. No one ever gives you names.

2)      They don’t know what to say when they make a phone call to make an appointment.  There is no value proposition, no benefit, no script.  Often they will open the phone call with, “This is Bill Adams from Century Bank. How are you today?” which is the weakest way to start a phone call.  The best approach is simply, “This is Bill Adams from the commercial division of Century Bank.  Thank you for taking my call. I know you’re busy so let me get right to the point and tell you why I’m calling.”  Then offer a strong value proposition.

3)      They don’t have a value proposition, because they don’t prepare for the call. Number one of these is of course the warm referral. But after that are: subject matter expertise in the industry, years of experience in dealing with a common problem for that industry, information about trends, legislation or news that the prospect might not have.

4)      They’re unable to deal with common objections over the telephone, thus failing to get appointments with top prospects.  Here’s a pop quiz I give in every workshop on this subject.  You’ve called a prospect and after half a minute of conversation, the prospect says to you, “Why don’t you just send me something in the mail and I’ll look it over and get back to you.”  So let me ask you what I ask my learners, “What should you say now?”  In almost every instance the learners give me the wrong answer, “It would be no trouble for me to drop off the information.”  Is that the answer you would have given? If so, you need to work on this area.

5)      They don’t know how to structure the call once they get the appointment. A little bit of choreography goes a long way, and the critical step is always conducting a thorough discovery of needs.  The majority of calls made by commercial bankers contain two pieces: Blah, blah, blah about the bank, and “Do you need to borrow?”  The banker is told to go out and grow loans, so he asks about loans.  If yours is a small bank, you can be sure the relationship managers from your larger competitors are exploring their prospect’s deposit habits, information capabilities, collection of receivables and how disbursements are handled.  Treasury services are undersold in small banks, but they drive fee income and have huge retention and cross-sell potential. Help your lenders understand and sell Treasury  and other products.

Ramp up your team’s prospecting skills and start bringing in new business.  You have to…

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

2 Responses to The top 5 reasons why commercial bankers are terrible prospectors

  1. Gregory, Excellent column, you raise good points, all valid. I’d go further to “institutional failure.”

    The bankers’ banks have largely failed at defining a strategy, determining the differentiation they’d like to stress, aligning their marketing and sales efforts, training their bankers to execute their strategy, and providing them the tools they need, on a continuing basis, to have something relevant, empathetic, and valuable to say or do to build confidence, trust, and relationships with referral sources, prospects, and customers.

    Sales leaders and marketing leaders urge their bankers out to the market with a “sell harder, sell smarter” message and compensation plans that reward product selling with little or nothing behind that to back it up. They seem content to say, “Let the bankers figure all that out, that’s why we pay them the big bucks.”

    That’s just abdication, pure and simple.

    So, sure, could bankers be better skilled at the points you raise? Absolutely? Could that skill improvement produce differential results? Yes! And that differential result will tend to cluster in a relatively small number of bankers. Does skill development solve the “BIG” problem (no strategy, etc. etc.) ? NO! Both strategy and skill development (and coaching) are needed.

    • No question you are spot-on Nick, in terms of digging deeper into the root of the problem AND the solution. As you point out (and I think I see where you are going) is that the issue is way more complex. But of course a blog post is simply a blog post and in 600 words I don’t have much time for OD ranting here! Thanks for your comments. For the rest of you who do not know Nick, his company is superb in this area.

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