Unlike the second verse of the poem it is critical that retail bankers do not ‘rest them nine to five’ because only through effective questioning techniques, coupled with empathetic listening skills, is it truly possible to uncover an individual customer’s needs. Satisfying these needs through selling products and services that match their needs is the cornerstone to building lasting long-term relationships with customers. Such sales, of course, must be an economic exchange of mutual value between individuals or companies and the bank. It also pays to remember that sales are the culmination of the efforts of all functions within a retail bank; from leadership and strategy to risk-management and marketing. One might think, given the negative publicity surrounding sales bonus cultures in retail banks that focussing on sales is undesirable. That couldn’t be further from the truth provided all sales are made to meet customer needs.
When I ask students about ‘knowing your customer’ they nearly always reply with their answers based on KYC, the verification process for customer identification, citing issues such as ‘do we know who the customer is, where they live and do we know the source of their funds?’ However knowing your customer is much more than this compliance-based view. It is about understanding dreams and aspirations, understanding how customers will use the services offered and what they are trying to achieve and understanding that these variables change over time. Product knowledge is a given in this situation, the key for effective sellers is to understand the rational and emotional benefits and drawbacks that the bank offers to each individual customer. Whilst the analysis should be based through probing questions, it should be done with careful balance, understanding not through interrogating the customer.
Indeed effective sales management is about educating the customer on all aspects of the product or service and doing so in a structured manner. I also recommend using the powerful techniques of comparing, contrasting, coupling and compounding when discussing the bank’s offers; and again, always keeping the focus on products or services that match customer needs. However, this is only the starting point for a potential long-term relationship. Repeated and consistent service delivery and product reliability, together with positive experiences with bank staff is what is needed to increase customer loyalty. This in turn leads to higher switching costs for customers as they become true advocates of their bank.
Top performing sellers also appreciate that understanding different personality types can dramatically increase the effectiveness of their interactions and that it is important to consider how contact is initiated. For example, bank initiated contact requires the application of different skills to customer initiated contact. Our four personality types model, with modifications on the Merrill-Reid approach to behavioural styles are more appropriate for retail banking customers, provides a framework for understanding and working with different personality types in the retail banking environment. Students typically tell me that this part of the course is really helpful to them … it doesn’t stop there … effective sales management also demands that we pay attention to operational excellence, branding, pricing and value, compensation schemes and the omni-present digital evolution … but those are matters for another time.
So, if you want to learn more about how effective sales management is critical for your banking career then the Certified Retail Banker qualification is for absolutely right for you.