It’s only natural for bankers to want to be nice to their business clients. But in business-to-business sales (B2B), where the stakes are high and business clients are increasingly more sophisticated and risk-averse, being nice just doesn’t cut it. Being "friendly" is great for retail banking but to be successful on the business side, bankers must challenge their business clients out of their comfort zones and focus on delivering value.
In a recent survey of more than 6,000 sales representatives in numerous industries, B2B sales representatives fell into 5 distinct sales profiles:
1. The Hard Worker is always willing to go the extra mile, doesn’t give up easily, and is self-motivated.
2. The Problem Solver is detail-oriented, addresses service issues quickly, and places importance on post-sales follow through.
3. The Relationship Builder doesn’t want to appear pushy, focuses on customer needs, and is generous with his or her time.
4. The Lone Wolf is a salesperson who is self-assured, difficult to control, and follows his or her instincts.
5. The Challenger always has a different view of the world, understands the customer’s business, and loves to debate.
Most bankers are a combination of these profiles. Over my 40 years working with bankers, most Commercial and Business Bankers fall into a combination of profile 3 &4...they focus on building relationships with their business clients and they prefer to work alone without outside controls or constraints.
There is merit to each of these sales profiles, but only one is the clear winner in B2B complex-solutions selling: the Challenger. The Challenger is defined by the unique ability to use constructive tension throughout the sale and provide value to customers through a three-pillar approach of teaching, tailoring, and taking control.
Challengers use their deep understanding of clients’ businesses to push their thinking and fully engage in the conversations. They are much more than “order takers” or “product pushers.” They’re not afraid to share unique ideas or potentially controversial views. They’re assertive but respectful of their business client. All excellent characteristics when applied properly. Challengers offer business clients a unique perspective, have strong two-way communication skills, know the client’s value drivers and business economics, can pressure the customer, and talk about money.
If you analyzed your Commercial and Business Bankers, how many of them would fit the Challengers profile? The banks with the most Challengers on their sales staff will eventually own B2B bank sales in their market.