Want to make a sale? Ask for it

by Paul Krutak

Gone are the days when people got into banking because they didn’t want to get into sales. The nature of banking today is such that you must consider yourself a salesperson. However, it’s critical to understand that sales is not what many think of as stereotypical, such as the “used car” or “door-to-door” salesperson. A true sales professional realizes that sales is really very simple – it’s nothing more than finding a need and filling it!

It’s also important to realize that we are all salespeople! Yes, that’s right, everyone is a salesperson. It’s just that we are all salespeople to different degrees. Take yourself. When you got up this morning, did you look in a mirror, perhaps in the bathroom as you shaved or applied makeup? Think about what was going through your mind. Did you think to yourself something like, “I’m pretty good looking,” or “I like the way I look,” or “I’m going to have a good day”? Most of us with a positive self-image think these thoughts as we stand in front of the mirror in the morning, and it’s a form of convincing ourselves that we should go forward with the day. Another way to look at how you are a salesperson is to consider your significant other if you have one. The next time you look at your significant other, think to yourself, “Who did the sales job?” You probably wouldn’t be together unless someone sold the other one on being together! So we are all salespeople to one degree or another.

The next question is to consider your customer. Consider a prospective customer who has never stepped foot in your bank. Do you think that person would come into your bank just to “kill” time, like some people kick tires when shopping for cars, or like other people pass time by browsing in a mall store while their husband or wife shops in another store? Not likely. Some of your existing customers do kill time at your bank. There are many banks around the country that have existing customers who enjoy coming in for coffee, cookies, and even to have a non-banking conversation. However, can you imagine someone that does not bank with you thinking that he or she would simply like to pass some time by reading your various product and service brochures? Of course not. When a prospective customer visits your bank, that person is looking for something. That person is expecting you to be the expert, and he or she will absolutely not be surprised if you ask for action.

When you ask a customer to take action – whether it’s to open an account, sign up for eStatements, talk to a mortgage lender, or anything else – you are subtly telling that customer you are proud of your bank and you think the product or service involved is good for that customer. When you ask a customer to take action, you are doing that customer a favor! You wouldn’t want the customer to go to another bank where products and services might be inferior. So do your customer a favor and ask him or her to take action – whatever is appropriate for the product or service involved.

Despite all the reasons we should ask customers to take action – i.e. ask them for their business – it is still not done frequently enough. In all the years that Haberfeld has mystery shopped banks, “not asking” is the primary reason accounts don’t get opened. There are a few individual banks that now have some other reason as the primary one for not opening accounts during mystery shops (e.g. not recommending an account), but for Haberfeld bank clients in general, not asking is still the number one culprit. If a bank is not getting accounts opened during a mystery shop, the odds are high that in “real life” new accounts are being missed, too.

As many sales experts will point out, this is so easy to fix! You, and your staff, simply need to develop the habit of asking. The first step for many is to realize that asking customers to take action is a very important aspect of the Customer Acquisition and Growth strategy’s sales process.

Jeffrey Gitomer, a sales expert and the author of The New York Times best sellers The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Black Book of Connections, and more, explains, “The most powerful element of selling, is actually asking.”

Brian Tracy, who specializes in the training and development of individuals and organizations and has consulted for more than 1,000 companies and addressed more than 4,000,000 people in 4,000 talks and seminars throughout the US, Canada and 40 other countries worldwide, says, “The world belongs to the askers.”

Perhaps an even simpler perspective is offered by Myers Barnes, a popular speaker, best-selling author, and sales consultant who has helped generate billions of dollars in revenue for some of America’s top corporations. He reports that many years ago, a Detroit newspaper reported Henry Ford had purchased a huge insurance policy. A friend of Mr. Ford’s, who was also an insurance salesperson, was naturally upset and asked Ford why he did not buy from him. Mr. Ford’s answer holds a secret. Ford replied, “Because you didn’t ask me.”

If you are hesitant to ask a prospective customer to open an account for fear of appearing like a hard-sell, high-pressure salesperson, you need to get over it! After your presentation, asking for the order is your fundamental responsibility. So, ask. Ask enthusiastically. Ask confidently.

Another simple concept to use in conjunction with asking is something used by many professional salespeople. Haberfeld’s mystery shopping reveals that bankers often do this without thinking about it consciously. This concept is to tell someone that you want their business. When people know you truly want their business, they are more likely to say “yes” when you ask. Great examples from Haberfeld mystery shops include, “We’d love to have your business!” and “We really want you as a customer!” If you’re not already using phrases like this along with “May we open that account for you today?” – please do!

Many sales professionals agree that when you talk to your clients and prospects they expect you to ask for the business, and they may be somewhat upset with you when you do not!

One sales expert says that she never buys from someone who doesn’t ask for the sale. If someone doesn’t ask for the sale, she gets to wondering why and usually ascribes it to one of three reasons:

  • The salesperson lacks confidence in the product.
  • The salesperson doesn’t know how to ask.
  • The salesperson doesn’t really care about the sale.

If you’ve done a good job explaining the benefits of your product or service, you have every right to ask the prospect if they’d like the opportunity to enjoy those benefits by taking action – opening an account, signing up for online banking, agreeingment to talk to a loan officer, etc. People aren’t naïve; it’s both odd and even a little rude when you make a pitch and don’t follow through by asking for the business.

Finally, one sales expert sums it up succinctly, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no!”

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