Successful Sales in Five Simple Steps

By Beth Miller

Let’s get the basics out of the way. Why does the staff at your bank need to be able to sell? It’s pretty simple. The majority of jobs in the financial industry require sales skills. The bad news is that there are a lot of financial institutions trying to sell, and if you are going to be successful, your bank needs to be at the top of that list.

But there is good news. Preparing your team for a successful sales call is simple—critical, but simple.

Pass along these steps to branch employees to use on every call, every time.

Step 1: Master your merchandise.

You are the expert on your products, services and solutions. Aren’t you? After all, clients come to your branch for more than the cookies and popcorn. Financial solutions can be scary to potential clients—don’t let clients smell fear on you. Before you sell anything, you need to know the benefits as well as the restrictions of every solution in your arsenal. Genuine confidence, the kind that closes the sale, can only come from a full understanding of your product or service. Anything less appears phony and that doubt will adversely affect either the client’s opinion of you, or your solution.

What tools are available to you? Make sure you know exactly what is written on any brochure or disclosure you will be sharing with your audience. If the client has a question about a product or service, who do you think they are going to ask? So, attend product trainings, stay current on changes and updates, work with your teammates and your marketing departments to ensure you are the expert you need to be.

Step 2: Aim directly for the audience.

For some banks, this one should be easy. Financial institutions with rural branches, for example, have the advantage of employing local salespeople. Then the challenge is simply to recognize the opportunity to engage a potential client.

Imagine this: you are in line at the grocery store picking up a few things for dinner. You recognize the gentleman who is trying to pay for his groceries in front of you—of course you do—your kids have gone to school together for years. He is struggling to use the point-of-sale terminal—certainly either the card or the terminal is not working properly. Do you hear the terminal beeping at him? That is opportunity knocking. You spring into action, “Hi Sam, looks like you are having some trouble with your card, you should come see me at ABC branch in the morning, I could get you set up with one of our accounts that comes with a reliable card and could probably even save you a few bucks in fees each month.” And, since you are on a roll, you say to the cashier, “Alicia, here is my business card, why don’t you have Ellen (the store manager that you used to cut grass for in high school) give me a call, we offer a very competitive merchant service and we can set you up with a terminal that won’t give you so much trouble.”

If you don’t know a lot about this potential client (or customer who does not use the branch), review the information available to you, from every resource. No doubt, your financial institution has invested significantly in tools and systems to capture everything you need to know about this customer. This is why!

For larger banks and larger communities, you may have to take other steps to learn about your current customers. What stage of life are they in? What assets and tools do they have to work with? What problems are you helping clients solve? How is that problem impacting their lives or something they care about? What are their priorities?

Step 3: Know your show.

Planning your approach is key to a smooth sale.

You knew Sam would welcome a solution to his frustrations with his debit card at the grocery store. You know he has a busy schedule would appreciate something reliable. Your quick solution presentation was exactly what he would want to hear. Straight to the point and of course, it never hurts to remind a busy father of exactly where to find you.

You also know that the same short and sweet approach would not have been impactful with the new business owner you met at the PTA meeting last night. He will be looking to set up a line of credit for working capital. Now that you know the details of your small business lending suite, ask for the meeting.

Knowing what you are going to say and why makes the difference between an uncomfortable sales call, and a successful solution presentation. What key points do you need the client to hear about the solution? About your institution? What points will matter to him/her? What questions do you anticipate he/she will have? And as you are the expert, make sure you also think about and prepare the answers to those questions.

Step 4: Look the part.

This seems like an obvious one, but take the time to apply what you know about your audience.

Will you be presenting your solution in a business meeting? Then suit up. Will you be discussing the solution in a barn? Then boots it is. Even conducting your meeting over the phone, you should have an appropriate greeting and a smile on your face. Always be the professional, there is no need for slang, dust off your manners, put your phone away, and give the potential client your full attention.

Yes, you talked to Sam at the grocery store while you had on your coat and boots, but when he comes to your office, he will need to see a confident, well put together, reliable professional. You are a direct reflection of your solution. He expects nothing less, don’t disappoint.

Step 5: Rewind, review and follow through.

Okay, so you helped Sam with a new account and debit card. You were even able to get the grocery store to sign up for your merchant service (good ol’ Ellen). Now what? How do you get good at selling? How do you form successful sales habits? By taking some time to mentally replay the meeting afterwards to identify what worked and what did not.

What went well? Did the audience respond well to a particular point? If so, write it down. Use it again. And again. Did you successfully squelch a potential objection? Nice job. How did you do it? How did your response mitigate the client’s concern?

What could have gone better? How better could you have responded or been prepared? Taking the time to formulate a better response will keep you from making the same mistakes next time. Turn this review into notes for next time. During your preparation for your next sale, review these notes. Really, do it. You will be glad you did.

One more critical item, the follow through: Don’t forget to follow up on any questions or promises you made during your conversations. Did the audience ask a question you didn’t have an answer for? Hopefully, you said that you would look into it and get back to him/her. So, do it. Do you owe the client an answer to something? Making sure you address any lingering questions or requests is key to solidifying the client’s trust in you and your solution.

Don’t get discouraged; it may take more than one follow-up call to make it happen. Be respectful but persistent.

Beth M. Miller has 12 years of experience in the financial industry, with a focus on employee and sales training, product and project management. She has also worked with a variety of relationship management systems and client needs and satisfaction surveys. LinkedIn.

Collaborating on this article was The Verdi Group, creator of the Needs to Leads program that helps financial institutions engage their customers and increase relationship depth.