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Six reasons your bank-at-work program is underperforming—and how to fix it

“Bank-at-Work,” or workplace banking, is not a new concept. It’s a logical strategy for community and regional banks that seek a competitive edge. But too often we find banks have tried it with only limited success. We’ve consistently seen six problems in how Bank-at-Work programs are structured, and staff trained, that result in sub-optimal performance.

Let’s back up a moment and think about why Bank-at-Work (also referred to as Bank@Work) should be a key strategy for regional and community banks.

At the beginning of the year, 5,670 FDIC insured banks did business in the United States. But the industry has become increasingly consolidated, with the top 15 banks accounting for two-thirds (66 percent) of total assets. That means the remaining 5,655 banks typically face one of two competitive issues: They are small players in a large market or have reasonable scale in a small market with limited growth.

In either case, Bank-at-Work offers an opportunity to grow at low cost because it leverages commercial relationships the bank already has. It’s a simple concept: Bank the business, their management and their employees. And it plays to the strength of community and regional banks that can perform more nimbly; break down line-of-business silos; and get their commercial, wealth management and retail teams to coordinate.

What stands in the way of effective execution? Bank-at-Work requires a skill set typical retail bank managers often lack. For example, Bank-at-Work sales teams need to engage in activities that target companies, coordinate resources, present to company decision makers and execute worksite events.

The question is: Does your training address the functional skills required to successfully execute these sales activities?  We consistently see the need to conduct skills assessment, map to new skills needed and create training protocols to support Bank-at-Work sales teams and their specialized activities. Usually most of the functional elements exist but haven’t been adapted for outbound sales initiatives such as Bank-at-Work.

So which new or enhanced skills do salespeople need?

1. Company targeting skills

Sales teams often fall into the trap of introducing Bank-at-Work to easily approachable companies and organizations. But this ad-hoc targeting approach usually produces unprofitable, revolving relationships instead of a strong, vibrant customer portfolio. Successful program implementation requires sales teams skilled in strategic prospecting. To develop this skill, the sales force must clearly define a targeting strategy that:

  • sources and evaluates opportunities to fit the banks’ profile for quality accounts
  • aligns with the commercial client base
  • identifies where there will be a greater chance for implementation success

To accomplish all this, training must equip sales teams with a defined targeting model as well as a criteria-based evaluation process.

2. Cross line-of-business partnership skills

Bank-at-Work representatives need to coordinate other bank resources for successful program implementation. For example, they must gain support from the commercial and small business banking team to facilitate client introductions and cross-sell. They will also need to recruit help from other resources, including wealth management and mortgage, for worksite presentations and events. Lacking partner support, your Bank-at-Work team will resort to cold calling companies and handing out flyers, neither of which drive quality accounts or pay for incremental program costs.

Building partnerships requires Bank-at-Work teams to become skilled at cross-business communications. To hone this skill, representatives need to be taught how to conduct effective meetings with partners. This includes explaining the Bank-at-Work value proposition and sales fulfillment strategy. Partners will also want to understand the service level expectations for client referrals, joint calls and onsite events. At the end of the day, obtaining resource support for Bank-at-Work depends on the confidence level partners have in the retail team’s ability to deliver the program at a consistent level for clients.

3. Presentation skills

Bank-at-Work reps need proficiency in presenting to company decision makers. Yet retail bank staff are usually unaccustomed to interacting with or presenting to senior-level company decision makers. This inexperience leads to hit-or-miss sales conversations. Underdeveloped presentation skills can also drain confidence among cross-business partners with the retail team’s ability to implement the program effectively—reducing client referrals and onsite event support.

4. Upgraded sales conversation skills

Your institution’s training may already include a sales conversation model with dialogue cues that build rapport, make the value case, handle objections and close the deal: all important steps. But have you adapted your model for outbound selling?  Client-facing coaching sessions are crucial to demonstrate first-hand how Bank-at-Work presentations should flow. Nothing rivals seeing a pro in action to instill learning—but this requires experienced retail bank managers to take the lead and make outbound sales calls with their Bank-at-Work teams. Are client-facing coaching sessions part of your training protocols?

5. Group sales skills

Many Bank-at-Work teams struggle to generate employee awareness or program interest. That’s because many programs end up relegated to “tabling days” or “Benefits Fairs” that lend themselves to price/product-based, quick-hit events with nominal employee engagement levels.

On the other hand, a hosted series of financial education workshops offers a relevant, tangible benefit company decision makers can put their name behind and support. Having multiple workshop topics allows Bank-at-Work teams to develop a presentation calendar that provides bankers the opportunity to be seen onsite on a regular basis—and assemble groups of employees with similar needs. It all leads to a more consistent sales process.

To successfully execute group events, sales teams must learn to deliver effective group presentations that generate one-on-one employee meetings that in turn lead to new accounts.  They’ll also need structured, detailed processes to drive consistent results. Does your training include protocols for capturing employee contact information for one-on-one meetings?

6. Improved sales coaching

The final piece of the puzzle that could limit your Bank-at-Work team’s success is a lack of effective sales coaching. Our evaluation of Bank-at-Work programs shows that sales managers often lack the functional experience of selling and implementing them. That poses problems for leaders tasked with helping their sales teams thrive.

We recommend sales managers participate in comprehensive “train-the-trainer” sessions to gain the knowledge and skill to effectively coach performance. They will also need to learn how to utilize impactful sales coaching techniques and develop management routines that drive consistent program performance.

Given the reality of lower foot traffic in branches, financial institutions must generate more face-to-face interactions with customers and prospects to grow sales: the ultimate objective of Bank-at-Work.

In the final analysis, we recommend financial institutions adopt a tactical learning plan that combines client-facing training (for impactful hands-on learning) with classroom sessions (for role playing, critiquing and practicing Bank-at-Work activities). In-person training venues, combined with e-learning and webinars, will help ensure your sales teams effectively implement Bank-at-Work for clients. In these ways, you can make Bank-at-Work work for your bank.

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Paul Corrigan is a senior consultant at Austin, Texas-based Peak Performance Consulting Group. He can be reached at  [email protected].

David Kerstein is president of Peak Performance Consulting Group. He can be reached at [email protected].

If you like this article, check out: How to keep your bank’s customers, even when they get fighting mad.