How to Prospect for New Customers
Finding high-quality net new prospects is easier said than done. Prospecting for new customers requires extraordinary self-discipline and persistence. Some people find it exciting, while others find it stressful. No matter which camp you fall into, a thorough and effective prospecting regimen can help you ensure the bank always has potential new growth opportunities. So, what steps can you take to fill the pipeline successfully?
Align your prospecting approach with bank strategy
Before you start seeking out customers, it’s important to understand your bank’s strategy and marketing plan. Every bank has a unique risk appetite and growth strategy that will delineate the type of industries, companies, and risk profiles that make up your target market.
To get a clear picture of your bank's target market and strategy, talk to your team and your leadership to make sure you understand:
- What size customers should you be considering?
- Which industries the bank has a strong appetite for and which ones it wants to avoid?
- What risk profile is generally deemed acceptable?
Information doesn’t always move quickly to associates, so stay on top of your bank’s call reports, investor presentation Q&A, and press releases to get clues about what direction your leadership may be taking the bank. You could get early indications that your bank is contemplating entering a new vertical or market, or planning to pull back on certain industries or types of lending.
Armed with information about your bank’s strategy and target market, you’re ready to divide your prospecting attention between existing customers and potential new customers.
Leverage strong relationships with existing customers
Selling to existing customers can be more convenient and less stressful than approaching new prospects. Getting in the door and proving your value is less of a challenge, since you already have a relationship. To demonstrate your ability to add value as a consultative partner, you can:
- Review the customer's business plan, call reports, and news to uncover potential needs;
- Consult other departments within your own institution for advice on highly technical services or specialized lending opportunities; and
- Speak directly to the customer to get a sense of what financial services they currently use and which ones they'll need in the future.
Find high-quality new prospects
Referrals can come from a variety of sources. The first place to start is asking existing customers for specific referrals. These leads will be "pre-qualified" since your customer will likely have a sense of whether they fit into your bank’s general appetite.
You can often find high-quality leads from other departments within your own bank. A colleague in treasury or wealth management may have a customer with commercial banking needs they can refer to you. There are also a variety of other professional relationships you can take advantage of such as law firms, insurance agents, vendors, or other peers that you can meet through professional events, industry conventions, trade shows, your state banking association or, of course, RMA.
Beyond these relationship-based forms of prospecting, you can also use online resources such as Dun & Bradstreet, your local chamber of commerce, and other professional directories as well as trade and business publications.
Stay up-to-date on your prospects’ needs
Ultimately, your best prospecting tool is knowledge. Stay informed about current trends and best practices in commercial lending so that you understand the challenges your prospects face and can offer relevant solutions. Continuing education, networking, and articles written by experts in the industry are ways that you can make sure that you can fill your current and future customers’ needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
With a background in funding, Associate Product Manager, Kate Perniciaro, prides herself on helping clients reach their potential. Before joining the RMA team, she held the position of director for a business loan entity where she assisted businesses of all sizes with lucrative and affordable funding solutions. She is currently at the helm of RMA’s eMentor product and takes an active role in guiding banking teams to bolster their knowledge and reach their potential. Kate holds a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sustainability Studies from Stony Brook.
Contact Kate at email@example.com