In Part 1, I highlighted the importance of Prospecting — the practice of identifying likely future customers and developing meaningful relationships with key decision makers — in Business Banking. In this installment, I address how business bankers can use available information to be more successful in their prospecting efforts.

“You can’t go home again”

It’s hard to miss the rapid and dramatic changes in how companies market and sell to consumers compared to only 10 or 15 years ago. Every morning, I am slightly nostalgic as I walk by the empty storefronts of Tower Records and Borders, and am continually amazed by the growing crop of wireless retail stores (6 within 3 blocks of our office, and growing).

In contrast, we find organizations focused on B2B sales, including banks, have not evolved their methods and approaches as quickly as the consumer side. Case in point: even today, a widely accepted and time honored way of prospecting for small business and middle market banking is driving around business parks and taking note of the companies found there. The fact that I receive “knowing nods” every time I mention this (instead of incredulous surprise) leads me to believe that many business bankers have failed to notice the new environment we live in.

Here’s the truth: intuition and picking names from a hat are no longer sufficient for covering Business Banking clients. As competition for banking services increases, clients are expecting more and more from their partners. Bankers must now demonstrate they understand both the client’s industry and their specific business needs and objectives.

Innovative banks are, nevertheless, succeeding by differentiating on the basis of the overall banking experience. For Business Banking, a large share of this superior experience hinges on the banker’s ability to tailor the bank’s value proposition to the specific needs and objectives of each client.

Banks can do this in three ways:

1. Banks can collect, store and integrate data generated about clients and prospects from internal data systems (e.g., Account Data, Transaction Data, Marketing Response Data) and external sources (e.g., social media, UCC filings, press releases).

2. Banks can analyze and transform the immense amounts of client and prospect data into actionable, account specific recommendations for when and how to engage with each company on an ongoing basis.

3. Banks can deliver this intelligence into the hands of business bankers when and where they need it (e.g., through their CRM system, via their mobile device).

When collecting this data, here are four themes to look for:

Growth: Companies that are growing will have more and more complex banking needs (and potentially higher risks). How do you maximize your share of these large-wallet opportunities in accordance with your bank’s lending guidelines? Start by tracking employee growth patterns on LinkedIn. Identify companies that have recently placed posts for new hiring on job boards like

Funding: Companies can receive funding from multiple sources, including Venture Capital, Private Equity, Foundations and Government. This information is publicly available. Imagine how much more effective you will be approaching a recently-funded prospect with a compelling cash management offer vs. leading with credit.

Financial Sophistication and Banking Preferences: You can tell a lot about a company’s financial needs and preferences based on the presence of fairly simple signals that are easily accessed through public channels (e.g., company websites, green-company directories, government records). Here are three examples: (i) small businesses with a designated CFO will have more complex needs than those without; (ii) ‘green’ companies are likely to be open to e-solutions and paperless records; and (iii) companies with international sales are likely to be interested in FX payment solutions.

Timing: Timing is everything. Your chances of closing a deal are significantly higher when a company experiences a significant business event. Use Google Alerts to identify potential acquisition activity. Track your contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter to identify management and ownership changes (i.e., a new CFO is a prime candidate to contact during his first 60 days).

The research effort needed to find these nuggets of information may be overwhelming. The good news is that tools can help. Big Data solutions are able to transform the reams of internal and external raw data about your clients and prospects and deliver tailored, company-specific insights and talking points to your PC or mobile device.

The latest advances in technology and rapid proliferation of information make it possible for bankers to be much more productive in their sales processes and successful in prospect engagement. And while networks and relationships are still incredibly important, successful bankers will be much smarter about who they spend time with and why.

If you are excited to learn more about a proactive approach to Business Banking, download our FREE whitepaper: Banking on Predictive Sales Intelligence: Six Steps to Data-Driven Selling in Business Banking

Business Bankers: we’d love to hear from you. Please share your experiences and successes in driving share-of-wallet growth in your territory using a data-driven approach.