Business Banking Sales Strategies—How to Choose and Attract More of Your Best Customers

Who are your bank’s best business customers?  Find out and then go after them with these three steps!

Think about fly fishing for a moment (bear with me — I do have a business point here): A fly fisher’s success is based on alignment of three elements: 1) the fish they want to catch, 2) the fly they use and 3) the cast, or the way they deliver the fly to the fish. The better the fishers define these three elements, the more success they’re likely to have.

You face a similar challenge. Your success is tied to your ability to choose and attract more of your best customers. Like the fisher, you must choose the fish (target customers), select the fly (the benefits they want), and develop your cast (your sales system). Then, you must communicate these to your salespeople. Why? Because, you’re not fishing alone. Unless you’re careful, your salespeople will be tempted to sell to anyone with whom they can connect, pleading for larger territories, price concessions, better terms and giveaways that drive down your profits.

Step #1 — The Fish: Define your most desirable customers.

Your ideal customers are your most profitable, lowest risk, lowest cost to serve (relative to prices they pay), most reliable, most predictable, and most loyal customers. When you define your ideal customer, you’re saying “Here’s who we’re set up to serve best” and “Here’s who we’re not set up to serve well.”

How do you define your ideal customer? First, assess profitability and growth of your current customers (divided by location, industry, growth rate or other criteria that make sense to you). Then, look for the common characteristics of the most profitable customers:

  • Demographics — This is who they are in terms of age, gender, location, family characteristics, ethnic group and other indicators.
  • Psychographics — This refers to their decision-making:
    • What challenges are they facing? What problems are they seeking to solve?
    • How do they recognize it’s time to address the challenges? What are the circumstances?
    • What benefits or outcomes are they seeking when they buy?
    • What’s important to them about how they seek solutions or how the solutions are delivered?
    • Why do they buy from you rather than from competitors?  (For example: Less time required, the experience of doing business with you, unique products or services, price?)
    • Why do you lose sales? At what point in your sales process do they typically stop?

As you define your ideal customer profile, avoid the trap of choosing the usual demographic markers of business type, age, income, and zip code (e.g. successful middle-aged dentists in zip code 02109) just because you can obtain the information easily or because they seem obvious. Push yourself and your team harder than that — ask how and why you’re choosing particular characteristics.

Look at the alternative direction as well: Do you know why your prospects don’t turn into clients? At what point in your sales process do people drop out? At what point in connecting with a business banker or walking around your branch do most prospects go away? At what point in your discovery and proposal process do you tend to lose people? Rely on your hunches and develop specific, quantitative data to test your hunches and provide a basis for comparison over time.

Step #2 — The Fly: Develop and tell a compelling value story.

Like a fly fisherman choosing a fly based on the type of fish, time of day, time of year and specific characteristics of the stream, choose your value story to entice your ideal prospects. Your best prospects, hearing the story for the first time, should see themselves revealed in your story and hear the benefits they want so clearly that they are called to bank with you.

To achieve this effect, you must craft the story carefully and say it consistently, even down to the same words, so you attract the prospects you want and so you can tell whether the story is working or not. There are many possible ways to construct the “why should I bank with you?” compelling value story. Here’s one example:

Script template: MyBank is in the business of giving target prospect group a specific benefit #1. And what I mean by that is, almost all the target prospect group members we’ve ever met find themselves experiencing problem or pain experienced by target prospect group members and not having benefit #1 or a related benefit. Have you ever wished that you could have that but you simply don’t know how to do it? Well, that’s what we do at MyBank; we give you the opportunity to have benefit #1 or related benefit when you want it.

Example: MyBank is in the business of giving small business owners the freedom and ability to check on their businesses from any place in the world, at any time.  And what I mean by that is, almost all small business owners we’ve ever met worry about how they cannot just monitor but do something about customer receipts being deposited promptly, paying their vendors at the right times, and ensuring that there’s enough cash in the bank when they’re on vacation (if they ever take one) or tied up in a customer job somewhere for a few days.  Have you ever wished that you could do that but you simply don’t know how to do it? Well, that’s what we do at MyBank; we give you the ability to see and manage what’s going on in your business when you need to be away from the office for a few days.

Of course, this story may or may not appeal to you or your ideal customers. You need to develop and test your own stories. The question is: Do you have a story? Does each member of your staff know how to tell the story in the same way? And do you have ways to test the story to see whether there might be other ways to tell it that would work better or faster?

Step #3 — The Cast: Define your sales system.

The last step in our fly-fishing story is the cast — how the fisher offers the fly to the fish. Serious fly fishers practice their casting techniques for hours, seeking to deliver the fly to exactly the right spot at exactly the right moment, with a motion that looks to the fish exactly like the real fly or bug they want for breakfast. You and your sales team must practice, too—polishing and refining your casting motion until it becomes a reliable, dependable and predictable method of drawing your fish to the surface and prompting them to bite down.

This means translating your knowledge about your ideal customers into steps, tools and activities that communicate to the prospective customers that “we’re the ones for you” and then testing them until you’re sure your approach works consistently. The successful practices become your sales system for catching your ideal customers.

Your purpose in defining the sales system is not to drive your salespeople crazy, although it may. It is to increase your revenue and profitability by consistently and predictably attracting more of your best prospects and retaining more of your best customers. If you find that asking certain questions leads to better results than other questions, or other sequences of questions, the questions and the sequence become part of your system. Likewise, if certain displays or a certain conversation while you’re ringing up the sale produce better results, they become part of your system.

Remember: No detail is too small provided you can test it and your tests show that the detail makes a difference in terms of attracting and selling to your ideal customer.

Nick Miller is president of Clarity Advantage, Concord, Mass., a firm that helps banks generate more profitable relationships faster with small- and medium-sized companies, their owners, and employees. He can be reached at

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