Listen Your Way
Into More Sales
We often ask participants in our workshops to tell us what images are conjured up when we say the word “sales”. Please do it now.
What did you think about?
Frequently our workshop participants say things like “used cars”, “telemarketers”, “fast talkers”, “arm-twisters”. If you are successful in relationship sales, you know that these images are NOT what we are looking for as the foundation of Relationship Sales.
It is true that well-developed verbal skills are necessary for success in sales. There is, however, a more fundamental skill that may affect the sales process more critically than anything we say and that is our ability to listen. If you are successful in relationship sales, the image you came up with might well have been that of a very large ear.
It is probably safe to say that most of us have never had much, if any, training in listening skills. In school, we spend years learning the proper written and spoken construction of our language and no time in learning to listen.
The next time you are preparing for a client meeting or to meet with a prospect, keep in mind that you will develop significantly greater results in that meeting if you go in fully prepared to listen. Here are some tips that can help you:
- Limit Your Own Talking.
- Think Like the Customer—try to see the world the way he/she sees it.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions that are designed to get the client or prospect to tell you what’s new; what’s on their mind; what chal- lenges they face.
- Don’t Interrupt.
- Take Notes.
- Listen for the feeling/emotion behind the words–Empathize.
- Ask questions that allow the cli- ent/prospect to go deeper into the issue and cause him/her to think.
- Follow the 80/20 Rule—Your client/prospect should be doing 80% of the talking and you contribute 20% of the talking-mostly through your questions.
- Really care about what the client has to say. Listen to help.
The Chinese character for listening is a great reminder about how to listen effectively. Chinese characters are made up of a series of symbols that have meaning. They are actually pictographs—- pictures that have evolved to describe a certain situation.
In this pictograph, the left side of the symbol represents an ear. The right side represents the individual- that’s you. The eyes and undivided attention are next and finally there is the heart. This symbol tells us that to listen we must use both ears, watch and maintain eye contact, give undivided attention, and finally be empathetic. In other words, we must engage in active listening! It allows you to more accurately assess and guide the conversation and genuinely connect with your client. At this deep level of listening, your intuition will be most available to you and will provide you with the most information about the ‘heart’ of the client’s issue and the underlying impact it has on him/her. This puts you in the best position to offer the help that your services can provide.
A good listener hears
An effective listener understands
Your ability to listen will differentiate you from your competitors.
by Michael Dixon, Managing Director, Sales and Marketing MainStreet Advisors
Intra-company competition can be healthy. How you choose to reward that competition may be unjust. These two concepts cannot co-exist; you either have healthy competition or you have a truly destructive environment.
Scott and Tom are two Wealth Management Department salespeople at the same bank. Scott has been calling on The Boss at ABC Company for three and a half years. Tom is newer to the bank, saw ABC Company in the CRM database, and has been calling on a Direct Subordinate at ABC Company for a year and a half.
Scott has never been able to get The Boss at ABC to commit. His quarterly calls have at best lead to hedging on when it would be time to consider a change. Direct Subordinate does not have the authority to act on anything but he thinks the winds are now aligned for ABC Company to make the move. So Tom, quickly submitted – and then closed – a proposal that generated $25,000 in fee income for the bank.
But who should get the sales credit and in what proportion? Scott’s continued efforts and “keeping the name alive” gently spurred The Boss on to start thinking about such matters, which influenced Direct Subordinate to get a proposal to present to him. Recognizing the bank and “that guy” that he talks to every quarter, The Boss gave the thumbs up and Tom closed the deal in a meeting with Direct Subordinate.
The Bank’s Department Manager awarded Tom the sales credit. All of it! Scott didn’t even get a hearty handshake out of it, let alone a thank you. “It doesn’t matter if you’re both calling the same company if you’re calling on different people, it only matters who closes a sale first”, reported the manager when we asked. The fact that Direct Subordinate could never have bought the deal without The Boss having been won over was entirely irrelevant to the Manager.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is management at its most motivational – namely, motivating Scott not to let the door hit him in the posterior on his way out rushing to seek employment elsewhere, anywhere. Scott did get a job, quickly, with a large competitor and proceeded to start beating his former department’s brains out on the street by winning deals and creating competition which effectively lowered the price on the deals he failed to entice away.
The people who remain in the department accept that sales credit issues like this one are simply The Way. Why? Is it fair? That doesn’t matter because “it is the way we’ve always done it.”Surprisingly enough, turnover has been a problem for this department. It seems that a number of salespeople have arrived, and once they start to produce, stay on average no more than 2 years.
Of course, in situations like this, it is always a matter of multiple causes, and this simple matter is only the easiest to explain, of a much larger problem. If you have issues like this one, I strongly urge you to address them sooner rather than later. Because if you don’t you’re not looking at healthy competition, you are dealing with self-inflicted damage.
To RIA or not to RIA
by Kevin Maas President, Wealth Management Compliance Alliance, a business unit of Pohl Consulting and Training, Inc.
After a brief hiatus resulting from the Great Recession, the purchase of a registered investment advisor firm (RIA) by banks is back. Banks of all sizes, including those with trust departments, are on the hunt for RIAs and are armed with capital looking for a better return. RIAs can definitely present the opportunity to produce fee income for the bank and at a rate of return that is quite attractive.
However, there are many factors to consider and traps to avoid in order for the purchase of an RIA to deliver on the opportunity. The factors affecting your consideration of an RIA are numerous and many are complex. Thus, this article should be viewed as an introduction and not a guide in your consideration of the purchase of an RIA.
The consideration of the purchase of an RIA is strategic rather than tactical. This means more than just getting the board to approve the purchase of an RIA. As with any strategic decision, the purchase of an RIA can have far-reaching effects on all areas of the bank. In some cases, that is one of the main reasons that the purchase of an RIA is considered. The change in perception in the community of the bank and the introduction of a sales culture that is the norm in an RIA into the bank are commonly-cited strategic reasons to purchase an RIA. However, the purchase of an RIA also presents other less desirable changes. The management style, compensation structure, independent decision making and views of who “owns” the customer to name just a few examples of attributes of the purchase of an RIA that must be considered and addressed prior to setting out to find an RIA to purchase.
The fundamental strategic consideration is the extent to which the RIA will be connected to the bank. On one end of the spectrum is the investment of bank capital to purchase an RIA, but allowing that RIA to continue to operate independent of the bank. The other end of the spectrum is for the RIA to be closely aligned with the bank, likely to a greater degree with the trust department, with goals to encourage cross-selling, shared services, shared tools, using the same vendors and the same compensation and incentive programs. One end of the spectrum or one of the innumerable points in between is not inherently better than the rest. However, prior to setting out to find an RIA to purchase, you need to know how the bank will approach the connection of the RIA to the bank. This particular topic, while generating significant conversation over the years, continues to be one of the main challenges faced by banks that have acquired an RIA.
As with business in general, the devil is in the details. Thus, the following tactical considerations should also be addressed prior to setting out to find an RIA to purchase.
Experience. An RIA operates in a different marketplace than banks. Do not underestimate the degree of difference between RIAs and banks. The fact that your organization has proven the ability to run a successful trust business is likely a handicap rather than a benefit in managing an RIA. The skills and talents of bankers tend not to translate to the RIA business world. Unless senior management at the bank has one or more individuals with significant hands on, in the trenches, RIA experience in the last 5 to 8 years, you are likely poorly-equipped to ask the right questions, much less effectively assess the answers to those questions.
Absent significant experience with RIA’s you are very well served to retain the services of a third party that can deliver to you the needed experience and perspective. Another significant benefit of a third party advisor is that they can help you stick to your plan when the cold sweats of “deal fever” threaten to overcome your better judgment.
A specific and critical area of experience that must be considered prior to setting out to find an RIA is the bank’s ability to monitor and guide the RIA from a regulatory and compliance perspective. Certainly you will be keenly aware of the regulatory and compliance attributes of the RIA as part of your due diligence. However, as the owner of an RIA, your organization will have a significant, ongoing requirement to constantly monitor the RIA to ensure that the squeaky clean business you purchased stays that way. Not to mention that the ownership of an RIA by a banking organization presents new and unique regulatory considerations. It is the rare community bank that has the compliance expertise and experience to address the unique and extensive regulatory demands of an RIA. As with the business expertise discussed above, if your organization does not have compliance staff with significant RIA experience, you are well-served to consider a third party firm which can provide the needed regulatory, compliance and supervisory understanding that is required to protect your investment.
Culture. The type of RIA considered for purchase by community banks tends to have one or two principal owners that manage the entire firm and not only define the culture, but really are the culture of the RIA. While this has likely been a key element of the RIA’s success, it is also a culture that your bank will not be able to maintain. Attempting to maintain a small organization, entrepreneurial culture within or even parallel to the rest of your bank’s business is likely impossible. Thus, the real question is how will you migrate the RIA’s culture to a culture that is one you can support and maintain. Many banks have floundered with their RIA purchases because they did not have a plan to guide the unavoidable changes in the culture of an RIA once it become a part of the banking organization.
Hopefully this brief look into the purchase of an RIA has started you down the path of thinking through and documenting not only how to buy an RIA but, of significantly more importance, how you will manage and guide that RIA to continued success within your organization. The purchase of an RIA is an excellent business decision for some banks and a disaster in the making for other banks. Your job is to objectively determine and document a plan prior to purchase and then to execute that plan after the purchase to avoid disaster.
Do not be the dog that chased the car with no idea of what to do with the car should you catch it.
This is a No Whining Zone!
At the risk of being accused of whining about whiners, I was recently reminded about a behavior that drives me nuts. Maybe you saw this same graphic on Facebook. It made me think about all the times I have been asked about how to deal with whiney employees.
First, let’s define whine. Webster’s Dictionary defines whine as “complaining in an annoying way.” As parents we often equate whining with a certain tone of voice—perfected by children, typically between the ages of 2-4 and once extinguished, it may only return in the teen years.
Dealing with a whining child can be frustrating. Dealing with someone else’s whining child—especially a whining adult —- is even more exasperating. With adults, the whining isn’t necessarily accompanied by the annoying tone of voice but more frequently it is a recurring pattern of coming to you—the boss—-with one complaint after another. “It’s always too cold in here. It’s always too hot. They are changing where we can park again. That department never responds to my requests without at least three follow up calls. They never answer their phone, it always goes to voice mail….”
I’m not convinced that whiners know they are whining. It may be a habit that’s been perfected for getting attention and often for getting what they want. Make no mistake— whining is a habit and it can be broken. If you are the whiner’s supervisor—guess what? This task falls to you. Unless of course you wish to do nothing and make no mistake—this only enables the whiner.
Have you ever wondered what the root cause of whining is? We don’t do behavior unless there’s a pay-off. What’s the pay-off for whining? There are two possibilities: 1) By whining, the whiner is able to make a connection with the person to whom he/she is whining. As human beings we do crave connecting with others. There are of course more positive ways to connect with one’s boss. Wouldn’t it be interesting to survey bosses and find out if there is a correlation between limited whining in the workplace and those bosses who hold regular one-on-one coaching with their employees and regular staff meetings? These are positive activities in which employees can make a connection with you and eliminate the need to gain your attention by coming to complain about –(fill in the blank: co-workers, the computer system, the air temperature, a challenging customer). 2) The second motivator for whining could be a need on the part of the employee to stand out as someone who is admired for dealing with “whatever the subject of the whining is. “Oh woe is me, I have such a tough life!” or stated another way, “I am a victim and I have no power.” (In our next issue of Fill Ins, we’ll explore the “pity pool” and how to drain it!)
What should you do? You expect your employees to come to you when they have difficulties but you must also expect them to come with solutions in mind. The most effective way to stop whining is to listen to the employee’s concern and then ask a simple, straight-forward question: “What are you going to do about it?” or “What do you suggest the solution is to this problem?” If the employee doesn’t answer by proposing a solution, or says, “I don’t know that’s why I’m asking you” (or words to that affect), don’t jump in with a solution—let the silence consume the room, then say, “I’m sure you can think
of something.” This puts the employee on notice that you expect him/her to be part of the workplace solution. Whining is so much easier than coming up with a solution and unless you lay out the expectation that solutions are expected, your employee will continue to whine. Your side of the conversation can be to engage in the discussion of the solutions that the employee suggests.
If there is a long track record of the employee whining, you may need to redirect the employee’s behavior with an even stronger approach. The conversation may need to go something like this: “Alicia, it is my policy to have an open-door and I encourage employees to come to me with problems. I expect however that you will have thought of some solutions.
I’ve noticed that in most cases when you come to me you are not coming with suggestions of what to do about the problem. I’d like you to be part of making things better by having thought about solutions to the problem.” It is worth considering that if you’ve hired someone or inherited someone who is incapable of coming up with solutions to problems they shouldn’t have a place on your team.
A proactive approach for dealing with whiners is to have a list of workplace norms with which everyone is familiar. If you don’t have a written list of workplace norms at your next staff meeting, get busy and engage the group in creating it. This is a list of how we agree to conduct ourselves in our workplace to ensure that we have a most productive a pleasant environment. A typical list might include:
- Treat each other with dignity and respect
- Share ideas and offer help to each other
- Recognize each other’s contributions
- Use time and resources wisely
- Identify problems and issues and recommend solutions—-No whining!
Some organizations actually have framed copies of the list on the wall to help as a reminder to all.
When someone new joins your staff, as part of the department orientation, review the norms with them and share examples so that they understand the workplace expectations and culture. The act of creating this list with your team can be quite productive. Periodically reviewing “how we are doing at upholding our norms” can also nip little problems in the bud and provide opportunities to reinforce the positive workplace behaviors that are so critical in maintain a productive and positive work environment.
The Last Word
with LOYD POHL
Is it paranoia when they really are out to get you? Conspiracy theorists claim that there is a deliberate effort to reduce the numbers of community banks through “excessive” regulatory oversight. The theory is that “they” (the infamous “they”) want to reduce the regulatory cost to the government of all these small banks and somehow moderate the risk to the system by getting rid of the smaller organizations.
We all heard this theory during the financial crisis and it seems there is a resurgence of the paranoia in the last year. The common theme recently is the latest big issue with the regulators: Vendor Management.
Banks and departments within banks are getting MRAs or warnings about potential MRAs for poor vendor management. Which leads of course to an overreaction on the part of the bank management. Examples abound:
A bank’s due diligence process on a vendor that was not “significant” nor would have access to client information took 90 days after the decision was made to use this vendor. Then the contract review took another 30 days.
A Trust department went through an extensive selection and due diligence process for their core system and made a selection. Because the new risk management/vendor management process wasn’t followed exactly (new as in implemented during the selection process), they had to start over. Twelve months later, they were able to implement their choice having had to extend the incumbent contract twice.
Will this pass? I doubt it will ever go back to the old days but we will figure out how to operate within this environment. Banks will moderate their approach and the regulators will go on to other things. Remember the changes community banks had to make to their lending practices during the crisis? I remember hearing bank executives warning that this was the end of community banking because we couldn’t underwrite loans the way we used to. Many of our community bank clients and contacts have figured it out and have been enjoying significant loan growth – even with the “new” underwriting rules.
Adapt! Apply practical screens to the process. Let departments adapt the overall bank vendor management policies to their circumstances. Be clearer about identifying significant vendors from all the rest. Define better and more realistically what due diligence a non-critical vendor will be subject to. Tell the vendors up front what the Vendor Management protocol is and involve them in the process. Make sure a vendor management representative is on any task force looking at a vendor choice – and respect their role.
Community banking will survive because good community bankers adapt!