Having served in various banking leadership roles for nearly 20 years, Leslie Parnell knows a thing or two about relationship-building and customer retention. She understands that business owners are looking for more than just a bank; they are looking for a trusted, value-added partner — someone who understands their business and wants to help them succeed.

When Parnell was first introduced to Vertical IQ in 2022, she knew she had found a valuable source of Industry Intelligence for bankers to use for call preparation and to share with business owners, and she was pleasantly surprised to also discover that she had found an indispensable partner focused on bankers’ success.

Q: Many banks say they want to build “relationships” with their customers. Why can this be challenging to banks in today’s world?

Parnell: Throughout my banking career, I have always placed an extreme value on customer relationships. As a banker, you don’t want to just be a vendor; you want to be a partner. And to be a partner, it’s not just about understanding your customer’s business; it’s about understanding their full industry in order to help them grow and be successful within their niche.

For banks that work across a broad geography, however, the industries can vary greatly. If you are going to ask your bankers, branch staff, and underwriters to truly understand the nuances of all of these different types of businesses in different markets, you have to equip them with the tools they need to build their acumen — to help them quickly understand the local economy, learn about an industry’s typical product usage, and to call prep efficiently and effectively. And this is where Industry Intelligence is a real game-changer.

Q: Bankers are stretched thin, so time is often tight. How does Industry Intelligence fast track call prep and move relationships forward in the sales cycle?

Parnell: There are few tools that can help a banker save time and shorten the sales cycle as well as Industry Intelligence from Vertical IQ. From a time perspective, you can essentially move from the first call to the third in just one call. By doing your call preparation using Industry Intelligence, it allows you to grow and deepen the relationship much faster and helps you bring value without having to go out and question the customer about their business like your competitors have to. It can be much more differentiating than the cookiecutter, “Tell me about your business” conversation.

In my experience, I have seen bankers whose call prep is simply Googling the company and then going out to the customer to have the business owner tell the banker about themselves. You can still Google to learn about the company, but you can also “Vertical IQ,” if I can make it a verb. With their Industry Intelligence, you can go into meetings with more than just, “Tell me a little bit about your business.” Now, you’re going in and can say, “Here’s what I understand is happening in your industry. Is this impacting you?” or, “Here’s what I understand are some recent trends and challenges for your industry. Are you experiencing this as well?”

Q: Business relationships must be continuously nurtured in order to succeed. How does Industry Intelligence help build and deepen relationships?

Parnell: Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence is outstanding for call prep, but it also can help you stay in front of the prospect or customer. Bankers who reach out to business owners regularly with useful touchpoints like the Vertical IQ Quarterly Update or one of the industry news articles are able to get in the door as a result. It’s really about focusing on deepening those relationships and bringing value.

It’s one thing to be a great relationship-builder, but bankers aren’t always educated on their prospect’s or customer’s industry or bringing additional value to the relationship. Traditionally, bankers have learned all about a customer’s business because they told us about it, but now, using Industry Intelligence from Vertical IQ, a banker gets to go out and tell them, “Hey, did you know that this is a trend in your industry? Did you know that this is something that’s happening in your local market? How is this impacting your business?”

Industry Intelligence allows bankers to proactively bring value and build trust while also streamlining processes — from prospecting to relationship management and development, from pre-call planning to annual customer reviews. It enables you to be creative too, plugging in useful, tailored insights at almost every stage in the game.

Q: A lot of banks are putting an emphasis on cross-selling. How can you use Industry Intelligence to tap into these cross-sell opportunities?

Parnell: Cross-selling is essential to banks’ success. Instead of calling a customer and saying, “We see you have credit with us; can we come in and talk to you about something else?,” you can look at bank product usage on Vertical IQ and better understand what additional needs they may have based on their industry. For instance, maybe you have this customer’s loan, but using Vertical IQ, you discover that 97% of businesses in their industry use ACH [Automated Clearing House], which tells you that you need to take a treasury management officer out and have a working capital management discussion.

But what’s more, even in situations where treasury management can’t go to that meeting, there are working capital management Prep Questions on Vertical IQ that you as a banker can be prepared to ask. Then you can go back, sit down with your treasury management officer, and you can put together a strategy on how best to support that customer.

Unique value for different bank roles

Parnell explains the ways in which various teams across a bank can find value in the Vertical IQ tool.

    • Retail banking: “Having Industry Intelligence at their fingertips is essential to retail bankers or tellers who have to react to a customer’s needs when they walk into the branch.”
    • Treasury management: “Treasury management officers can look at the product usage so they can quickly dial in and be much more educated as to how to help and craft solutions.”
    • Credit underwriting: “It helps underwriters look at a loan to ensure it truly meets the needs of the customer while also protecting the bank’s assets.”

Q: You’ve been involved in training bankers over the years. How can Industry Intelligence help on that front?

Parnell: The benefit of Vertical IQ for training bankers is one I didn’t originally anticipate when I began using the product. It makes sense that it would help newer bankers quickly understand the industry that they’re calling in, the local economies that they’re calling in, but there is great value for more seasoned bankers as well.
I’ve found that some senior bankers who have been in financial services for many years may be a bit skeptical initially, but when you start showing them the industry trends and challenges available on Vertical IQ, that’s where even the most experienced bankers will say, “Wait, I didn’t know that about the industry. That would be great information to share with my customer.”

I’d also add that bankers need to be mindful of their competition. You don’t know who among your competitors is using Vertical IQ, but if they have all this Industry Intelligence in their hands and they’re using it, they are bringing value to your prospect or to your customer — and they will win the business. It’s as easy as that.

Let’s face it: Most banking products are more or less the same from one bank to the next. It comes down to the people, their training, and the support they provide to the customer. Using Vertical IQ will help differentiate a banker by the value they bring to all aspects of the relationship. You certainly don’t want to be the person that’s not using it!

Q: There are other tools out there for industry insights. What makes you such a Vertical IQ enthusiast?

Parnell: That’s easy. The product is a great time-saver and a fantastic resource to add value to relationships. When I first saw a demo of Vertical IQ, I knew that their Industry Intelligence and Local Economies data could check so many boxes for bankers, but it is the people who make up the Vertical IQ team that truly seal the deal, in my opinion. Vertical IQ had the same mindset as me when it comes to valuing relationships with their customers, and that was what made me such a fan of not only their product but of the company as a whole.

First and foremost, they help potential customers analyze if it is the right product for their organization. Then, they provide the support to help leadership clearly articulate internally what that value proposition looks like for a bank.

Their onboarding training process taught me not only how to use the product but went to the next level: showing how to incorporate Industry Intelligence into every phase of the sales cycle — from prospecting to deepening existing customer relationships and everything in between.

But then there’s the relationship support and the user support — even the in-depth usage data they use to align customer goals to the Vertical IQ product. It is all about the people who make up Vertical IQ. They provide support that goes well above and beyond anything I expected. Yes, they are technically a vendor, but they are also an essential partner that helps banks succeed. It is all about the relationship.

We would like to extend our gratitude to Leslie Parnell for taking time to share her thoughts on Vertical IQ. To learn more about how Vertical IQ can give your team an edge, contact us at 919.787.4600 or info@verticaliq.com.

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