LinkedIn Tips

5 Steps to Leverage LinkedIn as a Warm Introduction Tool

CPAs, real estate brokers, and customers are a great source of referrals, but LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can help you create more quality introductions. A lot more!

Leverage LinkedInFor 17 years now of working with banks and bankers around the country.  One thing I’ve come to realize specifically about commercial lenders and relationship managers is that most aren’t utilizing LinkedIn anywhere near to the level they could.  The primary reason for this is that they don’t have a simple plan to follow that will help them better leverage this powerful tool.  I promise you if you take a little time each week, like me, you will be amazed at how you’re able to unlock the power that LinkedIn offers to create quality, targeted warm introductions. Read more

Culture Gets “Lip Service” In Most Banks

Culture Gets “Lip Service” In Most Banks

Conceptually, most banking executives have a pretty good understanding of their bank’s culture. At least conceptually! Maybe you’d describe your bank’s culture as feeling very much like a “family” where employees care for each other and have each other’s backs. Often, I’ll have banking executives refer to their bank’s culture as a “community bank culture” and while these are both accurate descriptions, they’re also very limited descriptions of their bank’s culture.

Authors of Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, Kim S. Cameron and Robert Quinn have this to say about what truly forms an organization’s culture: “The reason organizational culture was ignored as an important factor in accounting for organizational performance is that it refers to the taken-for-granted values, underlying assumptions, expectations, collective memories, and definitions present in an organization.  It represents “how things are around here.  It reflects the prevailing ideology that people carry inside their heads.  It conveys a sense of identity to employees, provides unwritten, and often, unspoken guidelines for how to get along in the organization, and enhances the stability of the social system that they experience.”

The truth is, most of what actually forms a bank’s culture is taken-for-granted assumptions, unwritten and often unspoken guidelines for shaping employee behaviors. Wow! In such a highly-commoditized industry like banking, why would you ever allow one of the rare things that do differentiate one bank from another to be left in such a conceptual framework of understanding?

Starbucks Culture Is Very Clearly Defined

How is it that we can go into a Starbucks in any state — be it in a hotel lobby, airport or retail shopping center — and have the identical customer experience? How did they do that? Certainly, wasn’t luck! The reality is that Starbucks culture was designed and built over time to align with the founder’s vision for the brand. The culture is exactly the type of culture needed to attract and retain Starbucks loyal customers. It’s also the culture needed to differentiate Starbucks from its competitors.

Many executives don’t have the depth of understanding about what actually forms an organization’s culture. They also don’t realize there are four distinctly different types of cultures that exist in companies today:

The Clan Culture: This is a very family-like culture.

The Hierarchy Culture: This is a traditional corporate culture.

The Market Culture: This is a culture able to respond to changing market conditions.

The Adhocracy Culture: This is a culture that supports innovation.

Within each of these four types of cultures, there are a number of distinctly different behaviors. Every bank has employee behaviors that fall within each of these four different types of cultures.

Culture Trumps Strategy Every Time!

The fact is any competitor in your market can easily and quickly replicate your product mix and marketing strategies. So that’s not going to give you a competitive advantage. Clearly, service levels do differ among banks however the fact that three out of four bankers refer to themselves as “a relationship bank” only serves to further commoditize the industry.

One of the few things your competitors can’t readily replicate is your culture! That alone makes it something worth serious attention. The following are a couple examples of how we’ve helped banks define their current and ideal cultures. Once these have been defined, a bank has a clear roadmap of how the organization needs to evolve. On-boarding, performance management, and incentive compensation structures can all be evolved to help a bank preserve the part of their culture that has gotten them to their current level of success while making the changes needed to better ensure the bank’s success in the future. The same holds true for banks acquiring or merging.

Well-known brands like Disney, Southwest Airlines, Harley Davidson, Ritz Carlton and Starbucks know exactly how important their cultures are to their positioning in the market and their ability to attract and retain loyal customers.

Isn’t it time banks start taking steps to define and align their cultures too?

Leveraging Your Expertise

In November’s edition of The Evolutionary Banker, I addressed a few trends that are changing the ways in which business owners and corporate decision-makers are making buy decisions. It’s imperative we understand these trends so we can adapt accordingly. One of the takeaways from November’s blog was that decision-makers are looking for their vendors and service providers to have more knowledge and expertise in their industry and with their types of businesses. The value proposition of today’s “generalist” salesperson continues to decline. The same holds true for the generalist relationship manager. Having a little knowledge about a lot of industries practically ensures you’ll position yourself as a commodity in the market.

In this edition of The Evolutionary Banker, I’ll walk you through the process of evaluating your professional and personal background in a way that will help you to better leverage your collective body of knowledge and professional expertise such that it will help you to focus your 2018 business development activities.

The process I will lay out for you is exactly the process I went through personally in 1999 when I transitioned from being a generalist business trainer, coach, consultant to one who developed deep industry expertise such that I am a sales culture expert for banks.

Now the value of “positioning” yourself and your bank as having industry expertise applies regardless whether your bank is in a rural market or a metropolitan market. However, what does differ is the execution of the strategy.

In rural markets, we coach relationship managers to tailor their presentation so that they highlight their years of experience and expertise with businesses similar to the business they’re calling on. As you meet with business owners in different types of businesses, your story has to change in order to highlight your expertise working with businesses similar to the one you’re calling on. That’s what “positioning” means — to consciously and ethically shape perceptions.

A quick but related side note, too many bankers call on businesses in different industries and say the very same things and represent their bank in identical ways. I call that “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” positioning. The relationship manager is hoping to hit the bulls-eye and say something that he or she hopes will resonate as unique with the prospect. Given that 3 out of 4 bankers present themselves in an identical way, the approach used by most RMs has the opposite effect of achieving differentiation — it positions them as a commodity.  

Back to the discussion of execution… in metropolitan markets, we’re seeing more and more relationship managers focus their outbound business development activities on one or two niches/segments as a means of boosting their productivity.

Our goal of my three recommendations below is to help you establish your market “sweet-spot.” Your sweet-spot is defined as that segment of the market where your talents, expertise, experience, track-record, and contacts are highly desirable and highly valued. Aligning all of these “assets” will make your business development activities far more productive in 2018. The following are the steps and evaluation process necessary to determine your sweet-spot:

#1. Realize you’ve already developed industry-specific knowledge: As a result of being a relationship manager for ten or twenty years or more, you have naturally developed deeper pockets of industry-specific knowledge based on the business you’ve conducted in the past.

Questions to help you assess your existing expertise include:

  • Are there certain industries where you’re naturally more comfortable talking to those types of business owners and decision makers?
  • Are there industries where you have a deeper knowledge of the industry, and a greater grasp of industry jargon and acronyms?
  • In what two or three industries have you done more business than other industries?
  • What industry concentrations exist in your existing portfolio?

These may represent industries that would be fruitful to focus on in 2018. But more analysis and reflection are required.

#2. Evaluate your upbringing: Without even realizing it, we may have been exposed to and learned about certain businesses either through our parents or the various jobs you may have held growing up. For example, if one of your parents was a doctor, likely you were exposed to numerous discussions throughout your childhood related to the medical field and being a doctor. If your market has a fair number of medical groups and hospitals, your upbringing will be very useful when calling on doctors, medical groups, and hospitals. If your parents owned an auto-parts business, likely you learned a lot about the automotive industry growing up. If your bank has banked companies in the automotive industry, the knowledge and stories you were exposed to growing up will be extremely useful when calling on automotive-related businesses in 2018.

Questions to help you assess your upbringing include:

  • What profession were/are your parents in?
  • What professions interested you growing up?
  • What were or are your hobbies?

These questions can help you assess whether or not any knowledge gained while growing up may be of use and leverage as you strive to determine your sweet-spot for 2018.

#3. In which industries do you have the most contacts? We say frequently in the Sales Honing Academy, “like fish, business people swim in schools.” We recommend assessing your database of contacts to determine where you have concentrations of contacts in the same industry. These concentrations of contacts represent an excellent and completely overlooked source of referrals and warm introductions. I recommend organizing all of your contacts by industry type. For example, group all of the doctors you know together, likewise list all of the contractors you know in another list. Keep working your way through your database until you get everyone (customers, colleagues, vendors, salespeople, friends and even family members) segmented by industry type.

Currently, your contacts are likely listed in alphabetical order. This makes them easy to find, but not easy to leverage. That’s a huge distinction. When you take the time to classify your contacts by industry type, your marketing productivity and the value you’re able to provide others will skyrocket.

The question you want to ask yourself when assessing your database is: In which two or three industries do I have the most industry contacts?

To summarize:

The world is changing. What we did in the past to be successful, likely isn’t going to sustain our success in the future. Knowing this, we need to start the process of changing the ways in which we market and sell the services offered by our bank. Your prospects and customers are looking for more knowledge, advice, and counsel from their vendors and service providers. Let’s make sure we adapt to the times! The recommendations above will move you a long way towards leveraging your experience, expertise, and your contacts.

What You Need To Know About The Changing World of Sales

The entire world is changing, so too is the world of sales. Astute bank leaders and relationship managers decipher these signs and adapt. Remember, extinction is what occurs when a species is unable to adapt to environmental changes. Many banks will face extinction over the next five years, but those that adapt will continue to thrive in this new era of selling.

The following are three trends that are affecting how we will develop new business:

  1. Direct access to decision-makers will diminish.
    If your relationship managers are having trouble getting in front of decision makers now, beware, it’s only going to get tougher. A lot tougher. CEOs and business owners alike are buried in assessing and trying stay ahead of all of the changes driven by technology, regulation, consolidation, and innovation. This means there will be less interest and time available for face-to-face meetings with bankers.
  2. Standardizing of the buying process.
    Buyers will continue to leverage technology in every area of business to drive up efficiency and drive down costs. Gartner estimates that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchase transactions without talking to a human. Going directly to the source and by-passing the traditional sales process and sales people all together is already being seeing in manufacturing, distribution and dealers. It’s only a matter of time till we’ll see it in banking.
  3. Decision-Makers are demanding more.
    The old needs-based selling model developed by IBM and Xerox is not entirely dead. But it’s close. The consultative sales model still offers a competitive advantage in slower evolving industries such as banking. But a new era of selling is emerging which calls for salespeople to have more expertise and industry specific knowledge. As markets become more crowded and business in general becomes more complex, business owners and corporate decision- makers are looking for more insights, recommendations and strategic advice from their vendors and partners. Your relationship managers must learn how to deliver value outside of the standard promises made by every banker of responsiveness, service and pricing. The new style of selling is called “authoritative selling.” Authority selling is the approach that will help you stand head and shoulders above  your competitors in a side-by-side comparison. Authorities have more than a surface level understanding of an industry. They have deep insight that becomes readily available to a prospect when relationship managers use industry specific terms and are able to refer to specific equipment used by their prospect by name. Authorities understand the industries pain points, not just the pain points of a specific company and that is a true competitive advantage. Relationship managers will be called on to bring more to the table if they hope to retain their long-time clients and remain successful in the future.

Simple Steps to Becoming an Authority and Expert

Relationship managers are typically fearful of seeing and defining themselves as authorities and experts in anything other than banking. Part of what it means to evolve means being open to redefining ourselves and our value proposition. The following are some simple steps you can take to better position yourself as more of an authority and expert.

  • Leverage your existing experience: Review your entire banking career; are there a couple industries where you’ve had more clients than other industries? Are there a couple industries where you’ve done significantly more transactions than other industries? Not that this is the sole criteria for choosing to focus a percentage of your business development time on one or two industries, but it is a consideration.
  • Consider the depth of the market: In rural markets, relationship managers don’t have the luxury of focusing on a particular industry. That said, for community banks in rural markets, your relationship managers still need to demonstrate industry specific knowledge and present themselves and their bank as having deep expertise in that industry. In metropolitan markets, relationship managers need to research and assess the size of various vertical niches in which they’re considering pursuing. Is the niche large enough with enough companies and businesses that match well with your banks credit appetite and product offering? As an example, in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, there are 4,228 “professional services” firms with revenues of $3M to $50M. That niche is more than large enough to focus some of your business development activities on becoming an expert at and known for working with professional services firms.
  • Leverage Online Platforms: Conducting industry research has gotten very easy. Googleand other search engines represent very powerful ways to search the internet for industry specific resources. In working with hundreds of relationship managers in rural and metropolitan markets helping them to implement a segmentation approach, we have found tons of useful resources that are free. Of course there are the “tried and true” resources such as D&B and advanced data platforms from Vertical IQ, Nielsen and Resonate.

The value proposition of today’s “generalist” banker is declining. Decision makers are expecting more insights and recommendations from their relationship managers that can positively impact the business. Simply providing a commercial loan or line of credit isn’t likely to sustain banks in the near future. Developing industry expertise that helps you differentiate yourself is crucial for on-going success.

The 2018 Sales Honing Academy is a great way for Relationship Managers to move away from generalists and start building value and relationships with prospects. We’re offering two programs in 2018 allowing you to pick the best option for your team. Learn more.

The Difference Between Micromanaging and Developmental Coaching

The intention behind the coaching is what distinguishes micro-managing from developmental coaching.

The intention of micro-managing is often driven either by an intention to catch an employee doing something wrong or discredit them and then be able to provide negative feedback, or to solidify a manager’s role, value (at least in their own eyes) and importance to a team or project.  The subconscious intent of micro-managing is punitive!  That’s a very important distinction.

Developmental coaching is entirely different because it’s collaborative and designed to give an employee more competence and confidence.  In short, developmental coaching is designed to build employees up!  Developmental coaching starts with an invitation to an employee which could sound like this, “I noticed how you were processing the ABC forms and I’d like to offer you a couple ideas that might save time and make your life a little easier, are you open to coaching?  Now let’s be clear, as a manager, you could also say “I noticed how you were processing the ABC forms and I’d like you to do them this way instead.”  The latter communication is very direct, which is not necessarily a problem depending on the tone of the communication.  But, it’s certainly not collaborative in nature.  In addition to strengthening an employee’s skills and knowledge, developmental coaching provides an opportunity to build and deepen your relationship with your employees which creates more trust and commitment.  All of which is positive.  The only possible downside is that developmental coaching requires a bit more time than a more direct approach of telling an employee how to correctly do something.  But the added time is well worth the investment.

Environment for Change

Whenever an organization feels the need to adapt, change or innovate, it must first create the right environment necessary for employees to feel comfortable and secure while they make the appropriate behavioral changes during the transition.

This and subsequent articles will focus on some of the most critical recommendations and “enlightened leadership qualities” necessary to help your team, department, and bank become more nimble and adaptive.

Enlightened Leaders Focus On Creating The Right Environment

Enlightened leaders know employees will be uneasy going through any change, be it a small internal process change or a large initiative such as a change of your core processor or implementing a new CRM.

During any change effort, employees get very primal in their needs and often quite insecure.  Employees want to know “What does this mean to me?” and “Is my job secure?”  Enlightened leaders know this and take specific steps to help nurture employees through the very predictable fear that is naturally associated with any change.

The following are a few simple, but impactful actions leaders can take to help create an empowering environment where change can happen in a timely and effective manner:

  • Acknowledge the obvious:  Executives and managers help defuse employee tension around change when they talk about it openly and often, especially in the early stages of the change process.  By talking about the change and the impact change can have on an organization, department or team, you are validating the feelings of employees while being empathetic.  This helps managers build trust and most importantly, begins to create an environment where employees feel comfortable coming to their manager to discuss their concerns and worries.
  • Lead by example: As a manager, your employees must see you change your behavior.  It has to be noticeable.  Furthermore, it’s not just enough for your employees to see you changing, they must also hear you talk about the impact these changes are having on you.  When a manager changes their behavior and then discusses it openly with their employees, this shows employees that while change is uncomfortable, their job security isn’t on the line.
  • Be vulnerable: The more transparent and real you can be as a manager about your own struggles and insecurities associated with change, the better.  Many changes in our lives, whether personal or professional, require us to go from a state of proficiency to a state of being a humble learner.  The fear is that being less than proficient in our jobs puts our jobs and our livelihood at risk because we’re being judged.  And if employees feel their livelihood is at risk, they likely will be highly resistant to change their behavior.  Having the courage as a leader and manager to be vulnerable is counter to the notion that good leaders are tough leaders.

The truth is that today’s fluid business landscape demands leaders be much more insightful and have a deeper understanding around what employees are really going through as you make change at your bank.

I will be sharing more leadership “gems” specific to how to become a 21st-century enlightened leader.

Developing 21st Century Enlightened Leadership In Your Bank

Look forward to a series of articles on enlightened leadership for organizational evolution. This first one will introduce change and inspire leadership.  Change starts with you.

Simply said, organizations don’t change.  Executives and employees are the ones who change, and as a result, organizations evolve.  All too often, executives and employees become comfortable in their habitual ways of doing things and rigid in their thought processes. However, as the pace of change continues to quicken, having an organization that can adapt, flex and evolve is essential to remaining successful.  At every level of a bank, supervisors, managers and executives must become a catalyst for the necessary changes and develop  their abilities to inspire employees to want to change.  To do this, you must be willing to be the first in your department to change.

Know What You’re Dealing With

When it comes to effective organizational change, think of a bell curve.  Imagine that the receptivity of employees to change in your bank were to be placed on the curve.  If there were 100 employees in your bank, here’s generally how your organization and employee population would break down:

  • 15% of your employees would be open and enthusiastic about a new direction or a new system.
  • 15% of your employees would be negative and resistant to change while preferring to keep doing things as they always had.
  • 70% of your employees representing that fat middle portion of the bell curve would neither be enthusiastically open nor negatively resistant to change.  They’re lukewarm about it and most likely trying to figure out “what does this mean to me?”.  This 70% would be somewhere between “cautiously optimistic” and “somewhat concerned” about the new direction.

As a manager, it is important to assess and “read” your team prior to, and during, a change initiative.. Getting employees bought-in and receptive to change is a crucial, difficult and a fluid job.  At different times, employees can become more positive or more negative. This will largely depend on what they’re being asked to do and how difficult or easy the change is for them. Employees often need to be managed and coached differently in order for them to feel comfortable changing their behavior.

In October’s blog, we’ll be discussing how enlightened leaders create an environment that’s conducive for change to occur.

Behind On Your 2017 Sales Goals?

Behind On Your 2017 Sales Goals?
Here’s what to do to salvage your year.

With Labor Day and the end of summer just around the corner, a sickening feeling is beginning to develop in the pit of their stomachs for a large percentage of relationship managers.

Do you know that feeling? The feeling of being behind in your 2017 production. Possibly way behind.

Lisa and I hear this every year at the end of summer. “My production seemed to be on track coming into June and my pipeline was pretty strong. A couple deals I thought were going to happen didn’t. And a couple other deals I was counting on aren’t going to happen until next year. Now I am way behind on my production goals.”

We’ve all been there. We all hate those sleepless nights, tossing and turning wondering where we’re going to find a few deals that will close quickly so we can salvage our year. And the pressure only gets worse as we move into September and the year marches on.

Here are five actions you can take immediately to salvage your year:

  1. Adjust your priorities – In order to find deals that have a possibility of closing this year, you must adjust your priorities from trying to develop new relationships to cultivating existing relationships. The probability of meeting with a prospective new customer for the first time in September and having that prospect turn into a new customer this year is remote. It can happen, but it is unlikely. In the time you have weekly to devote to business development, a disproportionate amount of time must be dedicated to reconnecting with those prospects you’ve already met.
  2. Leverage existing relationshipsMake a list of every prospect you’ve met with or spoken to in the past 18 months, but haven’t talked to or met with in the past two months. Consider even going back 24 months. You already have some type of relationship with these people…that’s what you need to build on and leverage if your hopes are to pull out a decent 2017. Leveraging existing relationships holds a much greater probability for new business this year, than initial prospect calls with new prospects. Remember, the business you close today is the by-product of your collective activities over the past 12 to 24 months. The relationships you initiate today are more likely to become closed transactions 12 to 24 months in the future. If it’s September and you’re behind on your production, at least 75% of your calling activities need to be focused on cultivating existing relationships.
  3. Don’t overlook turn-downs and lost deals – Circumstances change. Sometimes we forget that. Review every deal you turned down or lost to another bank in the past 18 months. Make a list of those borrowers and give them a call to check in and see how things are coming. With a reasonably high degree of frequency, the lenders and RMs we coach uncover a borrower whom they had written off where circumstances had changed and they were able to close a piece of new business. That happened with an RM last week where he called a borrower that “decided to go with another bank.” Well, the borrower didn’t switch banks as represented and, in addition, their circumstances had changed. Making them much more receptive to the structure offered by our client and the RM picked up a new $500,000 relationship. At this time of the year, you can’t afford to limit your possibilities as to where new business can come from. Turn-downs and lost deals represent another source of new business in 2017.
  4. Make more calls and schedule more appointments – When it’s September and you’re behind in your production, it is imperative you increase the number of phone calls made and appointments set every week. Again, the bulk of your time is spent calling prospects where you already have a relationship and trying to schedule an appointment where it makes sense to do so. You must be willing to suspend judgment and simply “make the call” when you’re looking for new business opportunities.
  5. Block time in your calendar – Most RMs make sales calls in between all of their other work as opposed to blocking time in their calendar to make phone calls. This lack of consistency in an RMs calling efforts creates a lack of consistency in their pipeline. It’s just that simple. Let me say that again…weak, inconsistent calling efforts usually create weak, inconsistent pipelines and mediocre production. One of the first disciplines Lisa and I develop with our coaching clients is how to develop a disciplined calling effort which starts with having a disciplined calendar and systematic time and priority management process. Hint: A “to-do” list is not what we’re talking about here. We recommend blocking at least one hour, four days a week (Tuesday through Friday) dedicated to calling prospects. And it needs to be the 1st task or project completed of your day. Period! By blocking the first hour of your day, you ensure the likelihood of actually doing the work. When we don’t schedule calling time or try to fit it in later in the day, the chances are much greater than you won’t make the calls. In fact, most RMs in this situation are behind in their production in large part because they haven’t made enough quality calls throughout the year.

In summary, a lot of business can get closed in the last four months of the year. If you are behind on your 2017 production, then a disciplined calling effort that is focused on prospects you’ve already met with or given proposals to is required through the remainder of the year. Even if all these efforts don’t translate into closed deals in 2017, your efforts will ensure a much stronger pipeline going into 2018 which also isn’t a bad thing.

If I can help you end 2017 on a stronger note, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 760-720-9270.

Best of luck,

Are Your Lenders “Completely Typical and Unmemorable” – Part Three

In this final blog in my three-part blog series on effective customer messaging strategies, I’m going to focus in on five steps you can do to tailor your message so that it resonates with each prospect and customer. Our goal is to create as much affinity as possible with each and every prospect with which we meet. As you may recall from Part Two of this blog series, affinity is a natural attraction that is formed between two parties due to their similarities. Also discussed in Part Two was narrow-casting which is the art of tailoring your message to your audience. By narrow-casting the messages we deliver to our prospects, we create affinity.

Differentiating ourselves from our competitors is one of the toughest things to do today, especially for banks as most offer nearly identical products and services. Narrow-casting is a powerful strategy that helps guard against sounding and selling like every other banker by developing a unique ability to communicate with customers in ways that resonate with each one.

Here are five steps you can take to make sure your communication strategy is honed for every sales call you go on be it with a prospect or an existing customer.

#1. Thoroughly read your prospect’s website – As you likely know, a company’s website is a carefully crafted expression of that company’s philosophy, values and service offerings. It’s like their company “fingerprint” in that it is extremely personal to them. A quality sales call deserves careful pre-call preparation which includes reading your prospect’s website. Don’t skim your prospect’s website! Read it! Ideally, you want to demonstrate deep industry and company knowledge in your sales call as a means of differentiating yourself from your competitors. The foundation of being able to do that is truly reading the prospect’s website.


#2. Learn your prospect’s positioning strategy – The development of a company website is usually quite a lengthy process. The layout of the pages, the images selected and the copy are all carefully crafted to make the right impression to their prospective customer. If you skim your prospect’s website, you will miss a lot of important information that will help you craft a communication strategy that will position you and your bank as the ideal choice. Notice the images used throughout the website. Do these images show an organization that is stable and traditional? Maybe the images show an organization that is innovative and progressive. Remember the old adage “a picture is worth a 1,000 words?” The images used on your prospect’s website starts the process of honing your communication strategy.

#3. Their positioning strategy becomes your positioning strategy – The copy used throughout your prospect’s website may have been written by a professional copywriter or possibly an internal marketing person. Regardless of who wrote the website copy, rest assured that a lot of people read, edited and honed that copy before it went live on their website. Notice the words and phrases used throughout the website. Likely you’ll see certain words and phrases used consistently throughout the website. When you find those words and phrases, you’ve hit pay dirt because those words and phrases give you the clues you need to really dial in how you position your bank and its products and services.

#4. Their words become your words – When a company makes references about the history of the company, the values and philosophies that they adhere to or commit to while delivering quality products and services with the utmost of integrity…THOSE are the exact words you want to use when describing your bank.

Real World Example:

The following words and phrases are taken verbatim from the “About” section of a very successful company’s website:

“Service has been the cornerstone of our historic growth and successful operation for the past fifty years.”

We pride ourselves on:

  • Partnership reputation
  • Understanding our customer’s culture
  • 24/7/365 availability
  • Ability to adapt and grow with our customer’s business trends

We have grown steadily during this time by following our motto… “exceeding expectations…together!” This philosophy represents not only our internal teams working together, but our associates working with customers to find creative and unique business solutions that will provide a more efficient and cost effective business model.”

The Key:

These words were carefully developed to tell a story that differentiates their company to their customers. Again, they are like corporate “fingerprints.” The words on your prospect’s website provide you with a clear customer messaging strategy. They tell you what’s important to them! Let your competitors describe their bank in generic terms over and over again. You now have a highly effective strategy to describe your bank in unique terms that will create affinity and that resonate with every prospect!
There is a very simple communication format for weaving those phrases called positioning statements into your conversations. Again, the goal of this strategy is to position your bank to be very similar in many ways to your prospect’s business.

How To Do It: Your positioning statement gets linked to a statement about your bank, product, service, culture, values and philosophies.

Your positioning statement: “Today, service really needs to be the driver of company growth and successful operation.

Statement about your bank: “Since the beginning, the founders have worked hard to instill a partnership mindset and culture in the bank. We strive to be available to our customers on a 24/7/365 basis which allows us to grow and adapt with our customers business trends.”

Expressed this way, this statement would create affinity and resonance with the owner of a company that espouses these virtues. It would also differentiate you powerfully from any other bankers the owner may be considering doing business with. You would be positioned as the ideal choice! That’s how powerful this strategy is.

#5. Integrity above all

The final point is the most important strategy of the bunch. With very little creativity and a high degree of integrity, it’s pretty easy to utilize a large percentage of positioning statements found on the website of your prospects when describing your bank and its products and services. However, the representations we make about our banks must be accurate.

If you work for an extremely conservative bank and you’re calling on a company that prides itself on being innovative and progressive, then it would be completely out of integrity to represent your bank as innovative and progressive.

In conclusion – In any highly commoditized industry, it is imperative sales people are able to utilize advanced customer messaging strategies to create affinity with prospects and successfully differentiate your bank from the six others that are competing for the business. Effective customer messaging takes time to develop. But if you’re calling on high quality prospects, why wouldn’t you take the time to give yourself a competitive advantage.

Are Your Lenders “Completely Typical and Unmemorable?” Part 2


Welcome to the second blog in a three-part series dedicated to the art and science of effective customer messaging.  As we discussed in my last blog, the common banking jargon and buzzwords used by most Lenders and Relationship Managers, position them as a commodity.  Sometimes good customer service, competitive rates, and broad selection of financial products are not enough to differentiate a bank from their competitors in today’s highly competitive business landscape.

23In this blog, I’ll be discussing the role of the following aspects that lead to more effective customer messaging:

  • Affinity – A powerful force used to differentiate and attract new customers
  • Narrow-casting – The art of tailoring your message to your audience
  • Thinking differently about what a company website represents

Well-Known Brands with Effective Customer Messaging Strategies

In my last blog, I referenced the following five companies who are exceptional at branding and messaging customers.

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As we delve deeper into the subject of customer messaging, let’s briefly look at these five companies and their customer messaging strategies.

Two factors strongly contribute the effectiveness of their customer messaging strategy.

1. They know who is their ideal customer

In today’s saturated market, generalized, “one-size-fits-all” messaging that is designed for a broad audience  simply is not heard.  It’s just more noise in an already noisy marketplace.  Effective marketers target very specific types of customers —  ones they know from their experience are the “ideal customers.”

They do this for two reasons:

  • They don’t have the budget sufficient to effectively mass-market
  • Capturing the attention of new customers isn’t easy

2. Their marketing messages are crafted to resonate with their ideal customer

22This is called “narrow-casting” which is a fancy word for focusing your marketing messages such that they resonate with your ideal customer.  Just like a dog-whistle can only be heard by a dog, to create effective marketing messages, they must be designed and crafted to speak directly to the hearts and minds of a company’s ideal (most profitable and loyal) customer.  When done effectively, a marketing message creates an affinity or attraction between a company and their ideal customer.  That attraction causes a customer (new or prospective) to be interested in what a company is offering.  

Who are the ideal customers for the five companies identified above and what is their customer messaging strategy?

  • Harley Davidson’s ideal customers are men ages 35 to 65 who are either somewhat rebellious by nature or who want to break from convention and take to the freedom of the open road.
  • Gucci’s ideal customers are mostly wealthy or upper-middle class women primarily, but also men.  When you wear Gucci, you tell the world you’re sophisticated, successful and that “you’ve arrived.”
  • Starbucks ideal customers are hipsters of every age.  Starbuck’s is an experience and their locations have become extensions of our living rooms where people hangout for hours and offices where people meet to discuss business.
  • Disney’s ideal customers are kids who want to go to the “happiest place on earth.”  Disney’s brand speaks to all parent’s desire to create lasting family memories.
  • Southwest Airlines is “the fun airline” whose ideal customers are friendly, fun and like low fares.

What do you notice about all five of these well-known brands?  Their messaging is carefully designed to speak and resonate with their ideal customers.  These companies craft marketing messages that create affinity between the company and their ideal customers.

21What Is Affinity?

Advertisers have been using affinity to attract their ideal customers for centuries!

Affinity – Noun

  1. an attractive force
  2. a natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, or idea
  3. a person, thing or idea for which such a natural attraction is felt.

When Lisa and I work with Relationship Managers and Lenders on improving their customer messaging, we guide them through an evaluation process that helps begin to define their target market and their ideal customer.  If you’re going to improve how you message customers, you must abandon the notion that saying the same things you’ve always said to different customers is effective.  It’s marginally effective at best.  You want to communicate in a way that creates affinity between you and your prospective customer.

There are many benefits to creating affinity with your ideal customer.  It helps you and your team:

  • Focus your marketing efforts and make you more efficient
  • Leverage your strengths
  • Become more effective at differentiating yourself from your competitors
  • Bring more value to your customers by better leveraging your knowledge, expertise and experience
  • Become better able to put yourself in situations where you’re most attractive to your ideal prospect

If your desire is to work smarter, not harder, you must become more strategic and disciplined about your marketing efforts.

Thinking Differently About Company Websites

Lisa and I are huge believers in having a disciplined and in-depth, pre-call planning process.  If you’re preparing for an in-person sales call with a potential ideal customer, why wouldn’t you thoroughly prepare?  After all, ideal customers are your bank’s most profitable and loyal customers.

Unfortunately, the pre-call planning process of the majority of Relationship Managers is anything but disciplined, and it certainly isn’t “in-depth.” All too often, pre-call planning happens in the car while driving to the sales call.

Part of a thorough pre-call planning process involves reading (not skimming) and studying, (you heard me right) “studying” a company’s website.

A company’s website is far more than just a presentation of facts, history, products and services offered by a company.

A Website Is Like a Fingerprint

Everything on a company’s website is designed with a purpose and every sentence and paragraph is carefully crafted.  So much time and energy goes into the development of a website because it is usually the hub of a company’s marketing platform.  It is an individual and unique expression of a company much like a fingerprint is unique to each individual.

Consider what else beyond the surface level information you can glean from a company’s website:

  • What the owner’s values are and what the company values
  • What it takes to build a successful company
  • The vision and mission of the company
  • What differentiates them from their competitors
  • What is their philosophy on customer service
  • What they are committed to
  • Are they a charitable company and if so, what charities do they support
  • How they present and position their products and services to their prospective customers

This information is the critical content every Relationship Manager and Lender should be using to craft much more effective marketing messages.  

In my final blog post on this subject, I’ll be focusing on the development of a true customer messaging strategy that is unique and specific to each of your team’s sales calls.