By Kate Young
Jack Hubbard won’t talk about networking. After personally teaching or coaching more than 68,000 bankers, this 31-year veteran of the ABA Bank Marketing School faculty has seen it all. And he’s quick to tell you that whether you’re prospecting, interacting with current clients, or simply meeting people for the first time, you’d better be prepared to give more than you take from the encounter.
While teaching this year’s class in commercial business development, Hubbard emphasized that it’s not about getting past the gatekeeper, cross-selling, or closing techniques. These approaches went out with bog phones. Instead, if bankers want to develop meaningful, lifetime partnerships with their business clients, the keys to that kingdom are insights and value. Without them, you might as well go home. That’s why he prefers to use the term netsharing.
What are you supposed to be sharing?
Content, for one. And not just any content, but content that is relevant, actionable, and genuinely helpful to the individual you’re sharing it with. This is an opportunity to educate your contacts with new ideas or perspectives. To show them that you’re listening to them and thinking about solutions to whatever challenges they’re facing. To build a relationship in which you become a trusted source of information.
Hubbard describes this type of relationship in terms of the Five C’s of Trust-Based Selling:
- Conversations – In a commoditized industry, the most important thing that you have to sell is your ability to interact, empathize, and respond appropriately. That requires back-and-forth communication.
- Curiosity – If you don’t ask questions—and take the time to dig deeper than other bankers—you may not see the solutions that everyone else has missed.
- Collaboration – Remember that this isn’t a zero-sum game you’re playing against your customer. When you work together toward customer-centered solutions, everyone wins.
- Customization – One size does not fit all. If it did, price would be the only issue. And your bank might not be able to win that competition.
- Connectivity – The customer-banker relationship should never be binary. Just as your customer can refer you to new business opportunities, you can—and should—connect your customer to new contacts who may prove valuable in a variety of ways.
This is where marketing comes in.
Netsharing isn’t a sales effort, a campaign, or a tick mark (e.g., “I went to two events this month”). By providing business bankers with the right tools, marketers become true partners with the sales team. Marketing can participate in numerous ways. By helping bankers target their markets, for example. By generating fresh, relevant content—even helping bankers write articles that can position them as thought leaders. By helping them enhance their social presence with color photos, punchy summaries, unique taglines, and rich media to post on their LinkedIn profiles. By participating in sales meetings, and providing coaching and guidance. Hubbard calls this approach, being LinkedIn-licious.
Spoiler alert: Marketers can also help business bankers think about good questions to ask.
Great salespeople ask great questions.
This is all about your ability to ask versus tell. Ultimately, you want to ask the questions that no other banker will ask at events—the kind of questions that show you’re listening and understand individuals and their businesses. But how do you even get the conversation started? To do that, try focusing on the kind of questions that put people at ease—the kind of questions that open doors to further conversation, but without making the other person feel cross-examined.
Here’s Hubbard’s top 11 list:
11. How long have you been a member [of the organization where an event is taking place]?
10. How did you get involved?
9. How often do you attend?
8. Tell me about your business and your industry.
7. How did you get interested in your business?
6. How do you stay current with the trends and best practices in your industry?
5. What’s one thing you would do in your business if you knew you wouldn’t fail?
4. What challenges are you facing?
3. What do you do for fun?
2. How about we continue this conversation at your shop? Got some time on (DATE)?
The number-one netsharing question is one that everyone can answer easily, and almost always with a healthy dose of genuine enthusiasm. And although it may be a cliché, it rarely fails to get people to open up.
- Where are you from?
Were you expecting something more exotic? Hubbard has always taken a practical approach to sales conversations and he cautions us to remember one of the most important axioms of netsharing: It’s better to be interested than interesting.