One of my favorite duties as a Business Banking Team Leader (many years ago) was training new lenders. The training often involved a few weeks of shadowing with the new hires. A common response from many of these trainees after a customer call was “wow, you ask a lot of questions.” I often defended my style with an analogy of a conversation with a Parent/Grandparent.
Imagine being on a 2-hour flight seated next to a Grandparent looking lovingly at pictures of their grandchildren. What would happen if one showed a little interest in the grandchildren and asked a few questions? In most circumstances, a pleasant conversation would begin and last for most of the flight resulting in a new friend. It has been my experience that most business owners have a similar maternalistic feeling towards their business and enjoy discussing their business with interested parties.
My motivation for asking questions during a banking call was twofold: My genuine fascination with individuals who have the courage to start or purchase a business and secondly, greed. I knew to maximize the incentive pay I had to get new loans booked. Between the loan application and my incentive payout was a gauntlet of credit analysts and approval authorities that might question any facet of the transaction. If I could successfully answer and mitigate their concerns I (and my customer) had a win, an approval, a loan closing, and incentive pay.
A recent blog by Chris Nichols confirmed my question strategy. In the blog, Nichols attempts to answer “How Many Questions Should A Banker Ask On A Sales Call?“
Gong, a sales support organization using AI, has determined an effective bank sales call should involve asking between 11 and 14 well-placed open-ended business questions (not simply ice-breaking chit chat).
Examples of well-placed and open-ended questions might be:
“Who is your largest competitor and what makes them successful?”
Rather than asking, “Tell me about your competition?”
Or, “What do you wish your current bank would do better?”
Instead of, “How do you like your current bank?”
And, “Can you explain the changes you are making to address IT security in your company?”
Versus, “How is your IT security?”
Taking the time to prepare for a call and formulate well-positioned questions can differentiate an effective lender from competitors and ultimately position the lender as a more trusted advisor. In addition, the increased information gained through the effective questions will flow through to the loan package and make the submission and approval process much smoother.
In the end, the lender has a better relationship with the borrower and potentially has also made a new friend!