Bank Sales Strategies – 4 Keys to Retaining Small Business Customers

High levels of dissatisfaction with banks—particularly larger banks—hint at an oncoming train of significant customer attrition and churn when the economy improves and business owners feel confident they can get credit or better service at other banks.  How can individual business bankers and branch managers raise the odds of retaining small businesses and their owners as customers?  Here are four no-fail strategies.

Strategy #1: Attract the Right Customers

Line salespeople have the greatest opportunity of anyone in the bank to attract the right small business customers.  The key is to establish criteria around what types of businesses you want to go after (or in the case of existing small business customers, keep).  What businesses are a good fit for the products and services you offer?  Who will benefit most from the value you provide? Answer these questions then identify and pursue the prospects that fit the criteria.  Referrals are invaluable in this process.  If you can, get introduced by someone the prospect knows and respects.

Strategy #2: On-Board Small Business Customers Thoroughly  

Once you’ve got the right customers, dig in and really learn what makes them tick—their goals and strategies, plans for the future, challenges they face, etc.  Offer sticky products (e.g. online bill payment) where the customer can use them.  Continue the dialogue with post-opening follow-up.  Here’s a 3 – 6 – 3 on-boarding plan to consider:

  • Day 3 – contact the customer to thank them for their business, ask about their experience, and introduce a second contact, such as a sales assistant, within the bank.
  • Week 6 – the sales assistant contacts the customer to answer operational questions, correct minor problems (if any), and continue a discussion around something that was brought up in the original conversation.
  • Month 3 – the relationship manager visits the customer to learn how problems and questions have been handled, discuss future visits and communications plans, and continue previous discussions.

After the three-month mark, it’s important to continue to building trust and demonstrating interest and enthusiasm.  Continue calling four to six times a year and be a valuable resource by bringing ideas, insights, and information on how small business customers can run their businesses better.  Look beyond just their businesses and expand your conversations to include the owners, their families, and their employees.

Strategy #3: Give Them Reasons to Stay

This is an extension of strategy #2.  Small business customers will want to stay with you and your bank when they are delighted, perceive they are getting value, feel bonded to you, and are engaged with you.  Delight them by knowing what they expect from their banking relationship and going beyond that expectation.  Develop a strategy for this and execute it consistently.  Add value to the relationship by engaging them in strategic dialogue and helping them to build their businesses proactively.  Bond with your small business customers through shared activities (e.g. school, civic, sports) and shared friends and networks.  And finally, engage with them emotionally by aligning yourself with your customers’ core values and beliefs (e.g. environmental consciousness, community, family, ethics, etc.)

Strategy #4:  Quickly Fix Problems

Your goal should be to solve your small business customers’ problems in one day or less and each problem should be solved by one person from the bank.  If it can’t be solved within a day, be sure to share progress reports.  Keep your customers in the loop; don’t leave them hanging for days wondering what’s going on.  Throughout the process, always provide high levels of personal interaction.

Why Small Business Customers Stay

According to the JD Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction Studysm, small business banking satisfaction is highest among customers who believe they have a collaborative relationship with their bank.  Critical components of a collaborative relationship include assignment of an account manager who fully understands the customer’s business, ongoing communication, and easy and convenient access to the bank through branches and online channels.  By employing the four strategies outlined here, you’ll increase your chances of retaining your most valuable, profitable small business customers for years to come.

Nick Miller, president of Clarity Advantage, helps banks generate more profitable relationships faster with small and medium-sized companies, their owners, and employees. Clarity consulting, communications, sales tools and training help banks recruit and deploy sales team members, choose their best business and consumer prospects and clients, then approach, engage, sell, expand, and retain relationships. Clarity also assists banks with consumer sales and cash management sales. Clarity clients have posted increases in household penetration, cross-sells, deposit volume, and loan volume. Visit Clarity’s website at where you can subscribe to “The Weekly Sales Thought,” a free eNewsletter and podcast focused on business-to-business selling and sales management.

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