Five tips on preparing for the commercial banking sales call

When I was a young commercial banker in the ‘70’s, we often went on joint calls to visit prospects.  One guy would drive and the other would look through the file for the first time and say, “So what are we gonna say to this guy?”  And that was about it for call preparation.

Whenever I tell this story in commercial bank workshops there’s always some nervous laughter because some of them know that’s about all they’re doing today, despite the fact that there is far more pressure on bankers to do a better job of preparing for any call, especially to a strong prospect.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedYou hear the words, “value proposition,” “resonate”, “differentiate,” “provoke,”, “disturb” and so on, approaches intended to get the prospect’s attention so that you don’t sound just like the other banks’ calling officers.  But how often are you successful at it?  Maybe there’s something lacking in the way you’re preparing for your calls.

Here are five ideas. See if any of them remind you of your own approach, or more importantly if you are a manager, what you see your team doing.


  • You don’t put enough time into it.  If you’re calling on a strong company and you’re the new bank, two hours is the absolute minimum to prepare.  The resources are abundant for learning.  You just need to use as many as you can. Before the Internet back in my day, we had those Dun & Bradstreet and other reports that told us almost nothing.
  • You prepare for the wrong things. The primary skill set of most commercial bankers is lending, so they prepare to explore borrowing needs, despite the fact that the majority of businesses don’t use credit. Many lenders forget that banks are in the payments business. Every business has to receive money and disburse it.  They do it every day. Why not explore how you can help with it?
  • You were trained to be a banker, not a salesperson. This means you go into calls prepared to talk about business issues, but not to lead the prospect through self-discovery regarding what he is trying to do, how it’s working and how he feels about it.  And don’t forget that your manager got the job as the sales manager because he or she was a very good commercial banker, so the corporate calling behavior never changes.
  • When you do prepare, you focus on learning all you can about the prospect, instead of the industry and the market the company is in. Focusing only on the company limits your opportunity to discover those tidbits of information that your prospect will find more valuable.  Imagine calling on a company and saying, “Last year 1400 companies in your industry wasted an average of $50,000 because they failed to take advantage of two readily available tax breaks. I’d like to share that information with you today and learn how you are approaching it.”  I’d sit up and listen if I heard that from a banker, wouldn’t you?
  • You won’t call above your “sweet spot.” The bigger the company, the bigger each sale is, but you feel more comfortable calling on the $2 million rather than the $10 million company.  Since your goal in the first call is to conduct needs discovery, you’re going to be asking questions and getting the prospect to talk to you. Don’t worry about your “presentation” just yet. Reach up a notch and get out of your comfort zone.

Call preparation is easier when you…

Think Like Your Customer

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

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