The Internet and social media have made “branchless” or direct banks a reality. According to American Banker, they are growing fast. A decade ago direct banks attracted 3.5 percent of new banking relationships. Now, they are attracting about 8 percent.1 However, those new banking relationships are primarily retail. Direct banks still can’t compete with their traditional “brick and mortar” branch bank competitors for the small business market. That’s why you should be emphasizing, “old school selling” at your bank.

What exactly is “old school selling”? It is your bankers meeting with new or existing small business customers directly to build solid banking relationships. It’s calling on prospective customers and expertly presenting a complete package of deposit and lending products, and banking services, supported by good old fashioned customer service. Whether your bankers are working with new or existing customers, they want to make it clear that they can exceed customer’s expectations in achieving customer’s financial goals. Your bankers want all of the customer’s business and should show them that they will go the extra mile to earn it. Especially including the accounts of small businesses and its owners.

Your bank should certainly leverage the Internet and social media in its marketing campaigns. In fact, part of your campaign should include social media content about small business programs, after hour’s events, and advice for small business owners. The goal of these campaigns should be to drive existing and prospective customers to your branches.

Why the push for old school selling when online account opening is fast, efficient and cost effective? Online account opening is definitely a convenient service you want to offer your customers, but it doesn’t help them to truly understand the best options for all their financial goals. You want the customer feel confident in your services and you also want to make sure that you get you all of their business. For that, you need good salespeople who know how to build relationships. The strongest and longest lasting relationships are the ones created from great customer service and face-to-face interaction. Those face-to-face interactions happen in your branches and at your customers’ places of business. Great customer service starts with being proactive rather than just reactive. Strong and long lasting relationships in business don’t happen online.

So how do your bankers sell old school? Here are some tips you should share with them:

  • Know their customers and products. To be successful, bankers need to know their products. Refer them to our two-part post Life Hacks for Retail Lenders: How to Be a Better Banker – Know Your Customer and Know Your Products. Although focused on retail lending, the basic principles apply to small business banking and lending too.
  • Review the customer’s financial health. Your bankers need to learn about their customers’ financial health. This involves reviewing purchases, sales and cash flow, and other financial entries that represent potential growth and profitability. Bankers should keep a track record of the business, which will help them proactively recommend lending products.
  • Become a trusted advisor. Your bankers should learn as much as they can about their business customers’ objectives. They should offer practical advice and make recommendations, such as:
    • Creating a comprehensive business plan that includes contingencies in case problems arise
    • Encouraging them to create complete and accurate financial statements which will help them obtain lower loan interest rates
    • Developing a clear distinction between the business’ assets and its owners’ assets

Bottomline: Old school selling is a key to success for a small business banker and lender. It’s a competitive advantage you and your staff cannot ignore.


1 Market Share for Direct Banks is Higher Than Ever