As the director of client success at Vertical IQ, I communicate with bankers on a daily basis, and in doing so, I gain valuable perspective on how our tool is (or isn’t) being used.

During training calls, I ask a member of the bank’s leadership team to share closing remarks. Recently, for three calls in a row (all from different banks), the leader has wrapped up with the same message: “Why are we still asking business owners: ‘Tell me about your business?’ Stop asking them that and instead do your homework! Learn about their business using the resources that are available on Vertical IQ.”

This comment strikes at the heart of Vertical IQ’s value to you. The industry-specific information we provide enables bankers to learn about their clients’ and prospects’ industry before they meet with them. By doing even five minutes of pre-call planning using Vertical IQ, bankers can ask more astute, probing questions that will impress their client, and more importantly, will engage the client in a more meaningful conversation that will build a profitable banking relationship.

Ask better questions, get more business

It’s time to remove, “Tell me about your business?” from your conversations. Honestly, the question is about as effective as asking a client about the weather! Instead, here are four chapters within each Vertical IQ Industry Profile to use to ask more salient questions.

Industry Trends                                                    

A trend is different from the latest general topic within an industry. A trend is more specific than that. Let’s look at cosmetic dentistry as an example. Ten years ago, the hot topic within dentistry was teeth whitening; now, the latest rage is veneers and removeable braces to align teeth. So, while cosmetic dental procedures have been an industry trend for a decade, it has included a changing product suite over those years.

Using the Industry Trends information available on the Industry Profile for dental practices, you’ll be able to ask a better question than just, “Are you doing cosmetic dentistry?” Perhaps you could say something like, “I know that cosmetic dentistry—including whitening, removeable braces, implants, and veneers—can be a profitable revenue source for many dental practices. How is your practice taking advantage of the growing demand for cosmetic dentistry?” This question will inspire a deep conversation that leads to trust-building and will eventually uncover financial needs.

Call Prep Questions

Even among bankers who consistently prepare for client calls by using Vertical IQ, many dismiss the Call Prep Questions chapter. It’s an underutilized section of each Industry Profile because everyone thinks, “I already know how to ask a great question.” But here’s what those site users are missing by skipping over the Call Prep Questions chapter: OUR questions are written to specifically address topics that are relevant to the industry.

And the Call Prep Questions chapter not only tells you what relevant questions to ask, it explains why you should be asking your client or prospect that question, which makes the question even more relevant. In short: Our questions get at something really critical happening within the industry.

For physician practices, for example, many bankers may know to ask something like, “What’s your average collection period?” So, are you expecting the practice manager to educate you and explain that most collections are X days past due? But if you used Call Prep Questions, you could already know the likely answer going into the conversation. Instead, you could ask something like, “I understand that most medical practices’ collection periods average 17 to 23 days, but typically 15-19 percent of receivables are over 120 days old. What is your average collection period, and how many of your receivables are over 120 days old?”

Bank Product Usage & Banking Solutions

Another hum-drum go-to question that many bankers ask a prospective client goes something like this: “What are you looking for from your bank?” or “What can I help you with?” Why ask such generic questions when you can look at the Vertical IQ Bank Product Usage chapter to learn what products most businesses within the vertical are using? And then check out the Banking Solutions chapter to understand WHY businesses within the industry need those products.

As an example, looking at the machine shops Bank Product Usage in the Industry Profile, you’ll find that half of businesses within the industry use short-term loans or a working capital line of credit (less than one year). Then, turning to the Banking Solutions chapter, you will find these questions to ask regarding the cash flow challenges created by cyclical demand from machine shops’ manufacturing customers:

  • What cash flow challenges do you encounter due to swings in manufacturing activity?
  • How do you finance operations during extended periods of limited manufacturing activity?

These two questions are directly related to a machine shop industry-specific pain point. Aren’t these queries more engaging and delving than, “What can I help you with?”

Do your own homework!

As a banker, you are providing a service to your clients, and as a result, your clients likely have certain expectations from you. Should it be their responsibility to educate you on how their industry operates? The challenges and opportunities they face? The bank products that they typically use and need to be successful? Most business owners barely have the time to do the things they need to do in order to run their company; explaining industry trends to their banker shouldn’t be on their to-do list, should it?

Instead, with a little pre-call planning using Vertical IQ, you will be able to go into your client and prospect calls armed with the latest knowledge about the way the industry works. Just by asking better questions, you’ll effectively show your client that you have done your research, you’re prepared for this call, and you care about winning their business!