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Three Misconceptions Commercial Banks Make About Today’s Sales Environment

The way business customers buy anything, from software to loans, has changed out of all recognition in the past decade; the commercial banking industry is still trying to adapt

For years now, sales teams across industries and in all parts of the world have had to deal with how the amount and availability of information has changed the way business customers buy products and services, some of them incredibly complex customized “solutions.”

This shift has prompted a change in the way the best salespeople sell. They’ve moved from selling solutions – from telling customers how a supplier has exactly the product they need for a unique problem they face – to selling “insight,” which means telling customers something they didn’t know about their own business or industry.

But all this information overload has led prospective buyers to either just feel overwhelmed or to do a lot more due diligence – including bringing in professional intermediaries – to make sure they don’t misinterpret or misunderstand the proliferation of data offered them about products and services.

Commercial Banking’s Turn

While this trend has run through most industries at least since the financial crisis, it’s hit commercial banking much more recently.

It’s no secret that this industry has been much slower than others in joining the internet age. Customer demands for self-service and the entrance of alternative lenders, however, have also brought about the need for a different sales approach. As the industry starts to get to grips with these shifts,  a few common misconceptions have risen to the surface.

And these misconceptions are keeping financial services firms from changing their sales approach to insight-based sales. Forward thinking banks have a big opportunity to be early movers in this trend and to provide a differentiated experience where customers expect just “more of the same.”

Working internally do debunk these pre-conceived notions is the first step to adopting an insight-led sales culture, and making way for a new approach that deepens customer loyalty while increasing efficiency and profitability. Three misconceptions stand out from the rest:

  1. Money is the ultimate commodity, so we can’t possibly have a unique differentiator: Money may be the ultimate commodity, but additional services and advice are not.

    What many financial institutions do not realize is that customers are not just looking for access to the cheapest funds – they are also looking for the lowest risk, minimum hassle and best guidance for achieving whatever it was that pushed them to seek access to those funds in the first place. 

  2. Our customer retention rate is very high, so we don’t need a new approach: Many financial institutions confuse inertia – or lack of disloyalty – with true loyalty. Loyalty as defined by CEB entails more than retention. It also encompasses purchasing additional products in services, willingness to pay more for existing products and services, and willingness to recommend or advocate for your provider to friends and family.

    Just because a customer remains a customer, it doesn’t mean they are bringing you all of their business.

  3. Our bankers are not really salespeople: Bankers have the responsibility to advise their customers about the course of action that aligns with the customer’s interests. Every one of these advisory conversations is a sales conversation, as risk-aversion makes customers generally unwilling to abandon the status quo in favor of a new solution, even when that solution is objectively better than their current state.

    More than in almost any other industry, bankers are well positioned to help customers identify underappreciated opportunities and risks, and delivering that advice with insight not only helps broaden the relationship with the customer – it helps the customer accomplish fundamental life goals more quickly and more soundly.


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