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For Smart Business Bankers, 2018 is Already Here

Don't wait to get your 2018 sales strategy underway. Here's how to get business bankers focused on cultivating next year's prospects before January 1st.

Subscribe TodayLate in every season, most major sports teams begin retooling for the future. They will reshuffle players, dump veterans and even trade all stars as they try to get a jump start on building the team they need to be competitive when the next season gets underway. They realize that — for them anyway — “next year” is already here.

This same sort of thing needs to happen more often in the banking industry.

It’s December. We’re late in the fourth quarter, and there’s a mad dash to close out the year. Banking execs are burning the midnight oil as things get shoved onto the balance sheet as fast as possible. Finally, on December 31, the weary and weathered collapse — exhausted, and ready for a break.

What most don’t realize, however, is that by resting — even for a week — there’s a cost to the sales funnel. The pipeline suffers a slowdown in Q1, with the impacts still potentially creeping into Q2. Taking the month of December to obsess over last year’s balance sheet while pausing for eggnog means starting every year behind plan. Some never catch up and recover, continuing to fall further and further behind.

One Midwest community bank finally put a stop to this EOY madness. Executive management decided they were going to “play for next year” — starting this year with what they call “Logo Day.”

It started back in September, with 43 bankers involved in the process. They hailed from various branches and areas inside the bank — commercial banking, treasury management, wealth management, mortgage lending. They were given instructions: Chose nine prospects they would be proud to add to their portfolios in 2018. Using their own criteria as to company size, industry type and where the prospect banked now, they thought carefully and strategically about these opportunities.

The team of 43 bankers looked on LinkedIn, they drove around their communities, they took photos of logos on delivery trucks, and checked out at previous prospects they had previously contacted but had not yet earned their way in the door.

After selecting nine their prospects, they hopped online and printed out the logo of each firm — nine logos, nine sheets of paper. Then on October 9, they brought their printouts — 387 in total — to “Logo Day”.

Logo Day ‘Trade Show’

The day began with some initial exercises to put the focus on sales and to get their minds wired around prospecting. This included questions about current prospect approaches, how they found their leads, and why these firms were added to their list. Listening carefully among the participants: the CEO and heads of the aforementioned divisions. Think their participation made a difference?

After the kickoff conversation wrapped, each of the bankers hung their logo sheets on the wall. They then participated in a “Logo Trade Show.” Colleagues went from sheet to sheet looking for duplicates that were also their list, or for companies where they had an easy “in”.

Getting Their Six

The goal of this bank’s Logo Day was to have each banker walk out with targeted prospects along with a strategy for outreach. In this case, management wanted them to drill down to six. They wrote “dupe” for ones where there was overlap and “mine” if they wanted to call dibs on someone else’s prospect. Ultimately, each associate was asked to articulate their rationale for each prospect.

“I selected Acme Corporation because I know two people from the company that attend chamber meetings,” said one commercial banker. “One is in marketing and one in HR. I sit at their tables often, and we are each connected on LinkedIn.”

“My sister-in-law just started working at Acme Corporation this year,” said another, a manager at one of the bank’s branches. “She is the new assistant to the CFO.”

Each banker was given the opportunity to relinquish the prospect. In the illustration above, the commercial banker conceded the prospect to the branch manager on the condition she keep him in the loop and consider cooperation on future joint calls.

This process lasted for nearly two hours. Bankers had positive and honest conversations with each other and even the CEO lost a couple of his opportunities. When necessary, a third-party arbiter needed to step in to help them determine who would be assigned a particular prospect, but that only occurred a couple of times.

For half a day, 43 bankers did nothing but talk sales and prospecting strategies while brainstorming with colleagues all the creative ways they could get in the door with high value targets. They shared best practices and discussed specific tactics with one another — e.g., effective initial voice mails, and how to win over gatekeepers.

What Next?

Bankers were given a very short and simple task to complete. They wrote up a brief “Prospecting Strategy” including a description of the benefits each prospect would gain by developing a relationship with the bank (or at least considering one). This approach forced bankers to focus on the prospect, not products — the good old “WIIFM?” strategy.

The final box on the prospecting worksheet focused on a high level initial contact strategy. That could be as simple as connecting with a key contact on LinkedIn and requesting a meeting, or an initial introductory letter, or getting a referral from someone. Cold calling was not an option.

With six completed prospecting strategies in hand, each banker scheduled a meeting with their manager sometime in the following week. The goal? To have the banker discuss the prospect, their strategy and perhaps even practice their pitch with the boss.

This coaching approach works. Managers can evaluate progress and discuss other successes during weekly check-ins. They will also listen in and monitor some telephone appointments to see what’s working and what isn’t. These learning all get woven into ongoing pipeline meetings. Shining a light on these key activities helps bankers stimulate new ideas while also holding them accountable.

For participants at the Midwestern bank, it was obvious that Logo Day was not a motivational speech or a “training event.” Hopefully they will enjoy the same success as others. In 2016, one bank had 20 business bankers participate in a similar Logo Day event, where each selected 12 prospects and half ultimately became clients. The bank earned 120 new business banking clients, and 40% of them borrowed money. With an average deal size of $900,000, the bank generated more than $43 million in new loans and millions more in new deposits and fees.

Buying endless lists and having bankers burn through them makes no sense in today’s hyper competitive landscape. A good “bankerpreneur” should own their territory. They should select who they would be proud to have as a client. They can create the opportunities and engage them in a trust-based manner.

Hosting a Logo Day event helps facilitate that process, and gets everyone at the bank excited. It helps them play for next year, now.

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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