You don’t get many opportunities to have in-depth conversations with business customers so it’s up to you to make the most of it when the opportunity does come up
There are 3 basic steps that will help you to get the most out of the conversation; both in terms of establishing and building a customer relationship and in uncovering problems that you may just have a solution for.
Step 1: Prepare, prepare, prepare.
With the amount of information available online today from Google and social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and the like, there’s really no excuse for not taking a few minutes to do some research on your customer. You don’t have to talk about whatever you find there explicitly in your conversation but it will help you to get a sense of what the customer’s interests are, what type of industry it’s in, how old it is and so on.
Don’t forget also to look at your own records that can tell you about previous banking activity; what turnover goes through the bank account, do you have up-to-date financial information, are there any outstanding issues that need to be resolved?
Step 2: Engage, don’t sell.
Customers don’t want to hear about the bank’s products and services. Get used to it.
What they want to hear about are solutions for their business problems. But you can’t offer those solutions if you don’t find out what the problems are – that means you have to engage the customer in an in-depth conversation about the business. Use a template as an aide-memoire (definitely not a checklist) to cover all the areas of the business that you want to learn about. The more you can find out about the business, the better your chance of discovering a need.
The key thing here is for you to keep quiet and let the customer do the talking!
Step 3: Close positively.
When the conversation reaches its natural conclusion and you have been able to discover some needs that the customer genuinely has, summarise them to make sure you understand the situation correctly and then get the customer to confirm that with you.
Then offer the solutions that you think are appropriate. Be careful about offering too much at one time – you don’t want to overwhelm or confuse the customer. If there are multiple needs, focus on the main one or two that will improve the customer’s business in the shortest possible time. Make a note for a later date not too far away to follow up on the needs that have not yet been satisfied.
If the customer is fully in agreement with you and your solution, explain the process, the timeline and the cost.
Finally, thank the customer for taking the time to talk about the business with you. A little humility can go a long way in ensuring a long-lasting customer relationship.