lady having a meeting on laptop

Jack Hubbard is the chairman and chief experience officer at St. Meyer and Hubbard, a bank sales training consultancy. We recently sat down (virtually, of course) with Jack to talk about how the pandemic has impacted bankers and how they can continue to connect with business owners when they can’t be face to face.

VIQ: For banks (and bankers), why has the shift to virtual sales calls been especially challenging?

Jack: A recent Barlow Research study found that 72 percent of business owners felt that the personal connection they have to their account officer is one of the main reasons they stay with their primary financial institution. Even more — 82 percent — of business owners said they need to have personal interactions with their account officer to have a strong relationship with the primary financial organization. This makes for a challenging conundrum for banks during a pandemic when face-to-face meetings are discouraged!

Of course, there are some bank employees who simply cannot work remotely, such as banking center personnel. But for those employees who could conceivably work remotely, the fact is that few banks and credit unions had formal work from home policies in place prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Yes, some had “telecommuting policies,” but most were either too broad or too restrictive.

Add to this the technology resources gap — a lack of at-home printers, cameras, lighting, etc. — and it’s clear why this shift to virtual sales created quite a bit of heartburn for banks in the past year.

VIQ: How can bankers connect with clients and prospects in a meaningful way when they can’t be face to face?

Jack: The simple answer is technology. Of course, there are security parameters that must be considered by financial institutions, but with the guidance of your IT and risk teams, technology can enable bankers to maximize professional interactions with the marketplace and improve productivity while having engaging virtual conversations.

Bear in mind that this new way of doing business virtually can have a learning curve, especially for more, shall we say “seasoned” bankers, but that can easily be overcome with training. Once everyone is up to speed on the tech, there are a number of ways you can build rapport and trust with your clients in this virtual world.

  • Learn the business owner’s communication style: Do they prefer to get right down to business, or do they like to chit chat to warm up? Your referral source, the prospect’s website, and/or their LinkedIn profile can help you deduce this.
  • Know your technology: You build credibility when you are comfortable with the virtual meeting technology and can walk the business owner through it if it’s new to them.
  • Frame the conversation: Share how you like to work with business owners and what you want to accomplish during the meeting, and be sure to ask what they hope to accomplish too.

But these “technical” tips are only the beginning. Perhaps the top way that you can make an indelible impression on your clients or prospects in this new virtual sales environment is the same as in “normal times”: by sharing Industry Intelligence that is of value to them and their business.

VIQ: What are your top recommendations for bankers to use Industry Intelligence effectively in our new “virtual” world?

Jack: Industry Intelligence, like you’ll find on Vertical IQ, enables bankers to make a meaningful connection with business owners, even when they are separated by a computer screen. These ideas for using Industry Intelligence can help bankers boost their “trusted advisor” status with prospects and clients — it’s a simple but powerful way to add value to a relationship.

  • Send a personalized invitation: When you send the meeting invitation, include a PDF of the Vertical IQ economic update for the business’s city or county with a personal note. Then, when the business owner accepts the invitation, send a thank you email with some industry-focused thought-starter questions as another differentiator. You can use the Call Prep Questions from the Vertical IQ Industry Profile to get ideas.
  • Do your homework: Just like in “normal times,” you should do your pre-call planning, getting up to speed on not only the client or prospect’s business but learning about the ins and outs of their industry: how the industry operates, trends, risks, etc. Again, just like in an in-person meeting, you should come to your virtual meeting armed with conversation-provoking questions tailored to the client or prospect’s industry and business. Just like Vertical IQ says, “Readiness Wins.”
  • Follow-up with a “leave-behind”: Follow-up letters are a thing of the past. Instead, send a recap of your meeting and something else of value to the business owner. This information is NOT about you or your organization. Instead, it should be something of value about HR, strategic planning, a marketing tip — anything that the buyer would find valuable to them and their business. A current news article about their industry is a great option for this value-add “leave-behind” piece.
  • Don’t forget the ‘tweeners: Let’s say on your call, you agreed you’d circle back with the business owner in a month. Don’t neglect to continue to reach out with “‘tweeners” during those 30 days in order to stay top of mind. For example, two days after your virtual meeting, your conversation recap and news article go out. On day 15 — right in the middle — send something else of value to the prospect. This could be an economic update on the location they are considering for expansion, for example. Or it could be valuation information about their industry. Maybe it’s an update on how the industry is being affected by COVID-19. Again, Vertical IQ has amassed great data to use for ‘tweeners, and it’s available at the click of a button.

VIQ: What technology tips/tricks have you discovered that might be useful to others shifting to virtual sales calls?

Jack: We’ve made a number of suggestions to our clients on ways they can improve their virtual meetings with clients and prospects.

  • Technology training: It’s important for bankers to be comfortable with the technology they are using to conduct the virtual meeting so that it goes off without any hitches. We recommend banks identify “super users” who can help train their colleagues. There are also lots of YouTube videos and books on using video conferencing effectively.
  • Better lighting and web cameras: Another part of conducting a professional video conference is having good production value. Tools like a ring light and an external web camera are inexpensive but can really improve the appearance of your call. Many banks are also investing in the creation of branded background images that bankers can use to create a consistent and professional appearance on their calls. This also is a measure that improves privacy for the banker.
  • At-home printing capabilities: For security reasons, most banks prohibit bankers from printing bank documents on their home printer. It is a relatively small investment to provide an at-home bank-owned color printer to bankers so they can have ready-access to the printed documents they need in order to do their job remotely.

We developed an eight-part video training series that deals with technology considerations, conversation considerations, including when partners join the conversation, and leadership considerations. We put it into a learning system we call Remote Relationship Development, and more than 2,500 bankers are using the process to become more virtually effective. We’ve created a landing page on our website that describes the program:

A few other quick tips to consider:

  • Customize your meeting invitation subject line with your client or prospect’s name.
  • Send an agenda one day ahead of the meeting to confirm without asking to confirm.
  • Customize the waiting room with the name of the buyer and their company so that when they enter the meeting, it’s all about them.
  • When they enter the meeting have your screen set to their website or LinkedIn Company page.
  • Set the record function to automatic (within policy) and ask if the buyer would like to receive a copy of it.
  • Turn off the other notifications for your calendar or email.

Keep in mind: At least some remote work is likely part of your organization’s “next normal.” Trusting your trustworthy people is the key. You couldn’t watch them every second when they are on the road making sales calls — what’s so different now? With a little extra empathy and flexibility, everyone can be more productive and professionally fulfilled in this strange new world.


Free webinar!

As part of Vertical IQ’s Spring 2021 Banking Webinar Series, Jack Hubbard will be presenting a session entitled 8 Keys to Remote Selling Success on March 10 at 1:00 ET. In this webinar, Jack will discuss the specific technology investments banks need to make to successfully shift their teams to remote selling. He also will share how bankers can better prepare for and execute on these virtual client and prospect calls by incorporating Industry Intelligence into their conversations. Register today!


Image credit: Anna Shvets, Pexels

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