During my 13 years in the business banking world, I came to realize that almost all bankers want to think they know their customers. Several years ago, my manager shared a story about a time he “knew” his business banking customer…or so he thought.
This customer came into the bank every day and they would chat about things that were going on in their lives. One particular day, the customer said he had to get to an appointment to close on his loan at the bank down the street. “Why aren’t we handling your loan?” the manager asked. The customer’s response: He did not know this bank offered the loans–they had never talked about it.
WOW! The manager felt that he “knew” this customer, and on a personal level he did have a good relationship, however he had not asked the questions that would have afforded the opportunity to grow the banking relationship.
Developing a friendly relationship with customers is a great way to build rapport, however it is important to stay up-to-date on the changes taking place in their specific business and the hot topics within the industry.
At the beginning of a new banking relationship, you court the prospect, visiting them on a frequent basis. You formulate questions to gain an understanding of their operations, goals, and challenges, and then you develop a proposal for products and services you feel would be beneficial to their business. You celebrate the success when they transition their banking relationship to you. Well done–but what happens now? If you simply move on to the next prospect, eventually your customer is going to be wooed by another banker. Remember: Your best customer is your competition’s best prospect.
In order to keep those best customers, you have to stay at the top of your game. Here are some simple steps to help you maintain and grow those existing relationships:
- Stay on top of changes within your customer’s industry. Subscribe to industry news for your customers’ industries. Ask about how your customer has prepared to face the changes occurring in their industry; offer new ideas and develop a plan together to ensure their business can endure.
- Be proactive in sharing industry-specific information with your customers. Tools, such as Vertical IQ, offer you the capability to easily share industry information with your customers on an on-going basis. Your customers crave this type of knowledge yet often do not have the time to search for it. During every interaction, be prepared to share relevant information with your customers.
- Ask business questions in every interaction. Bankers who really “know” their customers ask questions about their business operations on a regular basis. Here’s a trend that I saw is occurring within your industry; are you experiencing this within your business? or I noticed that the forecast for your industry looks like this; how are you preparing for this change? Ask very specific questions that will provide you with the necessary knowledge to recommend the right plan of action.
- Know your customer’s customers. Gain an understanding of who your customer’s customers are and be able to share insights about those industries as well. For example, are you banking a CPA who has several dentists as clients? Share industry information with him relating to the dental industry. You have now helped your customer better serve his
Maintaining relationships is just as important as prospecting…maybe even more important. Develop a process for staying in touch with your customers on a regular basis, sharing meaningful insights about the customer’s industry. Remember: YOU are the banking expert, and your role in the relationship is to be knowledgeable about your customer’s industry and business, develop trust, and offer valuable solutions throughout the relationship as you continue to arm yourself with industry knowledge. You naturally will become the trusted advisor you strive to be.