Vertical IQ’s latest eBook, entitled “Unlock Sales Readiness: Advice from the Experts,” is available now! Along with it comes valuable insights from Sales Readiness experts, and in this blog series, we will bring you some of the highlights from our conversations with each of them.

jack hubbard coverWhen we say “Readiness Wins” here at Vertical IQ, we are referencing the fundamental idea that the right preparation yields the best results. This is certainly a pillar in the sales landscape, where having the necessary tools and the right guidance in preparation for client meetings can spell the difference between a successful business relationship and a lost sale.

Our newly released eBook, Unlock Sales Readiness: Advice from the Experts, touches on the idea of “Sales Readiness” and what it means to different sales professionals. In this edition of our “Advice from the Experts” Blog Series, we talked to Jack Hubbard, CEO and chairman of St. Meyer and Hubbard and host of Jack Rants Live, a LinkedIn live program.

Jack has served the banking industry for 50 years, having held various roles at community banks before co-founding St. Meyer & Hubbard. He has experience in the marketing and commercial lending spaces, as well as business development, and he has personally trained more than 76,000 bankers in the bank-to-business space.

Q: Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in the eBook. Can you take a moment to tell our blog readers a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Jack: I’ve spent six decades in and around banking, and I officially started a career in our industry in 1973. In 1987, I transitioned to the training business, where I spent 13 years with a company called FTR, which is no longer in business. Then, in 2000, I joined forces with my business partner, Bob St. Meyer, and started St. Meyer & Hubbard. I am the Chief Experience Officer at our firm.

We are a coaching and training company, and we work with no more than 15 community banks at any given time. This allows us to provide the best, most personalized service possible. Our entire focus is improving trust-based conversations, whether they happen in the field, in the branch, call center, mortgage, and so on. We also work with sales leaders to improve their behavioral conversations, whether that be in groups (team meetings) or one on one (coaching).

For 11 years, I’ve served on the Board of Directors at St. Charles Bank & Trust, a Wintrust Community Bank. On a personal note, I’ve been married over 50 years and have two children – Adam and Erin. Adam is in the banking business, and Erin is a Chief People Officer at a tech startup. I also have twin grandchildren. My personal passions are golf and fishing, and I’ve even had the great opportunity to drop a line with [Vertical IQ CEO and cofounder] Bobby Martin over the years.

Q: Vertical IQ’s new eBook focuses on “Sales Readiness.” How would you define Sales Readiness, and what does it mean to you?

Jack: Obviously, Sales Readiness means a variety of different things when viewed by different audiences. At a global level, it means effectively using the tools at your disposal, being well-trained and informed about the tools that your bank uses, and being very knowledgeable about the customer and what the customer might need or what their pain points might be. It also means being well-prepared to have a sales conversation by having the right questions ready.

Sales Readiness also is multifaceted. Cultural Sales Readiness is vital from a corporate strategy perspective. At a personal level, I’ve always said that the buyer has the answers, and the banker has the questions. Too often, the banker isn’t quite ready to ask those questions. In many cases, they’re not given the right tools, and they don’t understand the sense of urgency that a bank colleague might have when they need something done. So it’s also important for the support and operations staff to understand their role and know how to support their sales professionals as great partners.

This is why infrastructure is really critical. Sales professionals need the tools and the right corporate culture in order to be successful, so the executives and leaders of an organization need to be ready to properly prepare and equip their team. When someone says, “I can’t; this is too sales-y for me,” executives need to be ready to have an answer for that.

Sales Readiness for the sales leader means their ability to discern and understand the right and wrong behaviors that they are able to observe in a sales conversation in the branch. The manager needs to be listening and observing that dialogue so that they can be better prepared to coach on the outside.

Q: You talked about making sure a bank has the right culture, tools, and support to ask questions and engage with their clients. How important is it for bankers and salespeople to understand the industry that their customers come from when going into a sales call?

Jack: In a word, it’s vital. And unfortunately – and also fortunately – community bankers tend to be generalists, so they might be calling on an architect in the morning and on a pediatrician in the afternoon. Oftentimes, those conversations happen in the absence of being able to understand some of the issues that are going on in those respective industries. What the banker then has to do is fall back on what they know, which is their product. In turn, their questions for the architect and the pediatrician become very, very similar, and very, very product- and sales-focused.

That’s really one of the key benefits of a tool like Vertical IQ – the ability of a banker to know the right questions to ask and to look at some of the key issues that these specific industries are facing. They are able to drop a couple of really key questions on that buyer so that the buyer understands the banker has done some research on their industry, and they realize the banker is knowledgeable enough to at least ask the right questions. In some respects, the pediatrician and the architect may face some similar challenges but in very, very different ways. And without tailored industry knowledge, you’re going to commoditize yourself.

>> Learn more about how Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence can help you become “sales ready.”

Q: In terms of training and coaching, is there something specific that you recommend sales professionals lead the initial conversation with when preparing for a call? 

Jack: It’s all about getting ready for the call and understanding the industry and the individual. I call it “the four buckets of planning” – and bucket number one is really about the business, the industry, and the humans in that industry. When I started working in banking in 1973, I had to go to the library or talk to somebody who knew somebody in order to learn about a business or industry. You don’t have to do that today: Those conversation starters are a click away, and information is readily available in virtually any way you want it. So that’s really important, and we start there.

The second bucket is what we refer to as the “call roadmap,” which is: What are your maximum and minimum goals for the call? Based on those goals and your objective, the call can meander in a lot of different kinds of ways. But if you look at what’s a homerun versus a single or double, at least you can target your questions towards that, which helps you shorten the sales cycle and helps the buyer much sooner.

The third aspect of effective planning is the conversation itself. How do I build trust and credibility? How do I frame the discussion and guide where this is going? What questions am I going to ask? What stories or testimonials should I tell? And what am I going to do to prepare for the next call? You should always be thinking about what you’re going to do next. When you’re across the table from the buyer, you should be thinking about whether that prospect is going to be a good fit for you, for the bank, and for the culture of your organization. Can you see yourself banking with this person? Are they credible? And so all of that preparation for your maximum and minimum goals becomes very, very important.

And finally, the last bucket is right up Vertical IQ’s alley. The buyer is expecting that next-step conversation, but too often, the bankers don’t get there. This is where bankers should share the timely articles like you’ll find on Vertical IQ that you can simply click on and print to leave behind as a value add. I always say to bankers, if you leave something behind with a bank logo on it, it’s likely you’re going to be left behind and not get back in the door. What buyers are looking for today is not bank collateral or brochures or pitch books, but value. And they want to know the banker can help them take their business to the next level.

Q: You’ve discussed the importance of trust and building relationships with your clients. When a banker or sales professional goes into these conversations with clients and prospects, are they thinking about that? Do they think of themselves as a trusted advisor or relationship manager, and is that relevant?

Jack: Call preparation doesn’t have to take hours and hours – but it does take minutes and minutes. The way I always look at it and teach bankers is: If you were calling on you, and you knew that you weren’t prepared to call on you, how would you feel about you? And so if you put it on yourself and say, “Some salesperson called me, and I knew they weren’t prepared,” you wouldn’t feel very good about them. That’s how your buyer feels about you if you’re not prepared.

I think this mindset goes back to an organization’s culture. If you go on a bank website, it’ll say a lot of things about relationships and trust, partners and team, and all kinds of great stuff – but then you go into their pipeline meetings, and people are getting beat up left and right for not selling enough product. That sends a mixed message. So building trust starts inside the organization.

I also think that bankers need to do a better job understanding the two different kinds of buyers: technical buyers and relationship buyers. Some people buy based on competence, quickness, efficiency, and rate terms, while others buy based on value, partnerships, and relationships. It would be ideal to match the banker that has a relationship mindset with the buyer who wants a value-added relationship, but unfortunately, that’s very hard to do. So the banker at least needs to understand which buyers are more technically oriented and which are relationship-oriented – which helps them become a trusted advisor.

A trusted advisor is a banker who is willing to refer their best customer to their most challenging competitor because the banker knows that competitor will do a particular thing better than they can. When you do that selflessly, you are a trusted advisor. And when that happens, and you refer that client to that competitor, and they do a good job, it will reflect very well on you. And you’ll get more business than you could ever imagine.

Q: Jack, you have shared a lot of wonderful advice and insights here. Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know, or anything else that might be helpful to them?

Jack: When I talk with CEOs about Vertical IQ or other tools, the first thing they want to know is, “How much does it cost?” That is the wrong question. So what I always say to those CEOs is that you’ve got bankers out there who desperately need help. What is the price of ignorance? What will it cost you in terms of lost relationships and lost value if you don’t invest a few dollars in Vertical IQ or something similar?

It’s appalling to me how our industry is still willing to spend a lot of money on “shiny objects,” yet we aren’t willing to invest a few dollars in our people so that they can provide value to the marketplace.

>> You can read more of Jack’s insights in our new eBook by clicking here. Stay tuned to our blog for future installments of our “Advice from the Experts” Blog Series

Image credit: Vertical IQ

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