Wednesday, August 20, 2014 VOLUME 6 ISSUE 7  
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Coaching Bankers to Ask for Referrals
Prospecting Strategies
by Ned Miller

When it comes to coaching commercial and business bankers on asking satisfied customers for referrals, Sales Managers often commit a big mistake. They assume that everyone knows how to ask.
If you’re serious about developing your team members’ ability to leverage their network in prospecting, we’d encourage you to put into place a series of four 1 on 1 coaching sessions every other week for 60 minutes. This formal coaching is best done face-to-face, but if that is not logistically feasible, phone meetings can be just as effective. In either case, these meetings have to be scheduled in advance and not left to chance. “I’ll get with you on Friday sometime.” expresses a hope and not a commitment, so get your Outlook calendars synchronized for Friday at 3:00 PM.
Here are the building blocks to cover in your coaching sessions on referrals: 
  • Make sure the Relationship Managers know which individuals in their network to ask for referrals.
    Start by helping your RMs construct a list of at least 10-15 satisfied customers. Have them think about anybody who has thanked them for their efforts. Include any business customer who has referred them business in the past. You can encourage them to add others to the list in subsequent sessions, including former customers, people they know through business and community organizations, and professionals like CPAs and attorneys.
  • Help the RMs build a Short Prospect List for a Satisfied Client to be sure they understand the concept.
    Don’t assume that all of your RMs will make the right connections without your guidance. Help them identify which of their prospects their network contacts are likely to know.
    Some bankers operate under the illusion that just doing a good job for their customers will lead to referrals. “If I provide outstanding service when they hear of an opportunity they’ll give me a call.” Others are more assertive and actually tell their clients that they’d like referrals. “Don’t keep me a secret. If you think of anybody, let me know.”
    Neither approach bears much fruit. Referrals rarely come if your clients have to think too fast or too much. And perhaps most importantly, the quality of referrals that you receive from these approaches can be problematic. Why? Because even your best customers have a hard time identifying exactly whom you’re targeting.
    As a Sales Manager, coach your RMs to develop a short prospect list for each network contact.
  • Strategize with them about when they’re going to ask.
    Is it better to do it over a meal? Should they wait for a high point in a relationship—after they’ve closed a loan or resolved a problem, for example?

Sales Managers should keep this part of the process simple. Get your RMs to schedule a face-to-face meeting with each person on their network list to talk about referrals. Waiting for high points can take longer than many RMs think. Lunches (and breakfasts and late afternoon beverages) are all good ideas, partly because people may be more relaxed and less likely to be interrupted than in the office.

  • Make sure your RMs know how to ask for the referral.
    Rehearsing this in advance with your RMs can help boost their confidence and improve their chances of success. Things to go over in your coaching include the following:
    Make sure there are no relationship problems or unresolved customer service issues simmering.
    Position this as a big favor.
    When they show their short prospect list, encourage them to think about how much assistance they can ask for. This is obviously a function of how well a contact knows a prospect, and how comfortable he is interceding on their behalf. Some may be prepared to pick up the phone and call a prospect personally to set things in motion. Others may be willing to provide a written testimonial; some people may agree to letting them use their names when calling.
  • Get your RMs to make a commitment to asking for referrals.
    This isn’t magic. You can help your bankers from getting discouraged if their calls don’t produce immediate results by setting some realistic expectations. They need to ask at least 15 or 20 customers to determine whether this works or not.
    Get them to agree to set up a minimum of one call a week for the next 10 to 12 weeks to ask for referrals. Your job is to insure that they don’t give up too soon.
    Talk about the calls in your weekly sales meetings. Give people a chance to talk about what’s working and what’s not. Publicize any victories.
    In your coaching sessions you can get a pretty good idea of how well this approach is working. If any of your RMs are having trouble with the process, ask them to schedule a few calls that you can go on to observe them in action. Let them pick the people but do spend time before the calls reviewing their approach. And, as you would after any joint call, make time to give them feedback afterward.
    This approach requires you to slow down, breaking the process of asking for referrals
    into its key parts. Outlining in advance what you hope to accomplish in each coaching
    session will give you and the banker you are coaching a useful roadmap.

Did you miss our recent webinar on Getting in the Door with Prospects? If you did, you can view it in our archive of recorded webinars.
Here are some of the things that Buck Bierly covered:

  • What to do if you don’t have a warm lead
  • Is cold calling your best option
  • Referrals from satisfied clients, your business network and COIs…where to start
  • Reasons why bankers avoid asking for referrals
  • Why customers give referrals
  • Anticipating referral reluctance
  • When to ask and how to ask your network for referrals
  • Value statements, value propositions and value drivers

You can register for the recorded session three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at or (3) go to the Training Center section of our secure WebEx website at and pay the fee for the webinar by credit card.
Looking for a sampling of the ideas that were covered? Go to Tips on Getting in the Door.
Live Webinar Alert:
August 13 The First 3 Calls on a Prospect



Coaching Bankers to Ask for Referrals
The What is Not The How
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