In March 2005, I was promoted to the branch manager position for one of the local branches of the bank for which I worked. Having managed a different department for the bank, I was excited about the new challenge. But, being tasked with both management and sales of the branch was going to require a different skill-set. I was ready. I was comfortable with the products and services we offered, was easily able to build relationships with my direct reports and customers, and was fortunate to be in an area with a lot of opportunity.

Fast-forward six months, and the bank restructured how business banking was going to be handled. Branch managers would now have a piece of the pie when it came to calling on business owners, focusing on the small businesses in a three- to five-mile radius of our respective offices.

Say what??! I didn’t know how to call on a business owner! They were really smart people…what did I have to bring to the table? This was not what I had signed up for!

Luckily, the bank had thought this through, and we all underwent extensive training to learn how to call on these business owners. I quickly realized that what I had to bring to the table was my banking expertise. The business owners were all really smart in their field, but many were not as knowledgeable about the banking aspect.

From my perspective as a branch manager, having the ability to understand how a business owner thinks–what keeps them up at night–and being able to offer solutions to fit their day-to-day banking needs was imperative.

Perhaps you are in a similar place and wonder how can you prepare effectively to go and call on business owner. Industry research tools, such as Vertical IQ, are perfect resources to help you gain an understanding of your customers’ industries, allowing you to become a trusted advisor in the relationship.

The branch manager’s sales call playbook

Branch managers who are expected to grow business relationships are in a unique position: Not only do they have a branch to run, they have the added expectation to call on business owners, and in turn, bring new business to the bank or grow existing relationships.

With all branch managers have on their proverbial plates, how does industry research benefit their calling efforts, and when is there time to pre-call plan?! I recently had a bank sales leader tell his team if they would spend just five minutes preparing for their calls, they would be leaps and bounds ahead of any other banker calling on the same business owner. 

And it’s true.

Gaining industry insight prior to engaging with business owners helps bankers become more competent and confident on their calls. Understanding the cash flow, and therefore being able to offer beneficial banking solutions, is critical to managing business client relationships. After all, products and services don’t vary drastically from one institution to the other, but the banker does!

Here are my tips on how busy branch managers can use Vertical IQ to quickly, but effectively, prepare for a conversation with a business owner and also keep engaging them with meaningful touchpoints.

Pick your Call Prep Questions

Asking the right questions can be a gamechanger. Gone are the days where you ask a customer, “What do you like about your checking account?” or “Tell me about your current banking situation.” Instead, try asking meaningful questions to generate conversation, such as, “How vulnerable is your revenue to overall economic conditions?” Be prepared with two or three industry-specific Call Prep Questions from the Vertical IQ Industry Profile, and you will be able to center the conversation around meaningful topics that are interesting to your customer.

Share relevant information

Sharing news articles found on the Industry Profile with a business owner, as well as passing along their industry’s Quarterly Insight, is a great way to build credibility; now the banker is becoming a resource for pertinent content while also providing consistent, valuable contact with their customers.

Stay up-to-date on trends

Successful bankers know that relationships must be nurtured long after the on-boarding of a prospect-turned-customer. Staying up-to-date with a customer’s industry means understanding changing trends and discussing those trends with the customer–and the Industry Trends section of the Industry Profile can help you do this. Sharing this information with your business customer is a great conversation-starter, allowing you to ask if/how they are preparing should they be impacted by one of these industry trends. Proactively developing a strategy with the business owner’s interest at the forefront is key to nurturing a long-term banking relationship. 

Save time, build relationships

Being a busy branch manager can feel like two jobs in one: You are responsible for the day-to-day supervisory duties of running the branch while also being tasked with winning new bank business. It’s a big job, but Vertical IQ can simplify at least the latter part. Spending just a little time on the Industry Profiles for your customers’ and prospects’ industries can streamline your call preparation as well as your relationship management tasks. And you will quickly discover that being both prepared and proactive will help you win (and keep) the business time and time again!



Courtney Farfour | Director of Bank Success