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Sunday, April 01, 2012
Volume 17 | # 405
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A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing. » George Bernard Shaw

Surveying the Scene

A friend emailed me this week what she labeled an “interesting” survey. I think the word she should have used was “predictable.”

In it, “Banks” and “Financial Services” were the least trusted industries in the entire survey. We even came in below “Brewing and Spirits” and “Media.”

Okay, I get that we all like and trust that Dos Equis guy. But coming in below the media? Just… wow.

Of course, I’m reminded of a friend’s comments that you always have to add or subtract 15% from any survey finding. He argues that you can still find 15% of people who think it’s possible that Elvis had breakfast at a Waffle House somewhere this morning. So, adjust your level of confidence in survey findings accordingly.

Also, when I read this type of survey, I find myself wishing the surveyors would go beyond the obvious. For instance, when someone states he doesn’t trust banks, how about asking him if he has a personal example? Has a bank ever mislead or mistreated him? Better yet, has an individual banker ever mislead him?

While I’m not naive enough to believe no one would have stories, I’d bet the house that the percentage would be tiny.

But when folks with powerful megaphones have made our industry the official bogeyman in recent years, folks can be forgiven for knee-jerk distrust.

All that said…okay, let’s cry ourselves a river. Life is great - but it’s not always fair - and “waiting on things to get better” isn’t exactly a brilliant strategy.

I recently heard US Bank’s CEO, Richard Davis, make a great generalization regarding banking relationships. He said that folks tend to love their banker, like their bank, and hate the industry. I think that sums it up pretty well.

While few of us have the power to affect how our industry as a whole is perceived, we each have the power to affect how our companies and we personally are perceived.

Folks tend to distrust people and places they feel removed from. Conversely, we tend to be fond of people who go out of their way to acknowledge and engage us. We are also drawn to folks who explain things clearly and are straightforward with us.

The customers of your institution know they have a bank.

Make sure that yours are also quite aware that, in you, they have a banker as well.

Meeting Expectations

On a recent conference call, I was asked if I could give advice to in-store branch managers about how to have productive conversations with their retail partners.

While I’ll grant that theirs is a unique relationship, I suggested that the approach I’d recommend is pretty universal.

Before you can be “productive”, you obviously have to get a conversation going in the first place. I frequently point out to bankers that the key to getting a person – whether he is your peer, supervisor, subordinate, or potential customer - to actually want to have a conversation with you is simple.

You need to focus on the right subject.

And the right subject is him.

After the giggles subside, I clarify that I’m referring to whatever it is that the other person is thinking about or is important to him.

One of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes encapsulates it: “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

And what’s the best way to know what others want? It’s complicated. You ask them and actually let them tell you. Too many folks “ask” but never give the impression that they really want to know. Or they ask questions with an obvious agenda in mind.

Yes, it’s great when we can sit down with our retail team partners (or customers, employees, employers, etc. for that matter) and “talk shop” in detail. But my suggestion to this banker to solidify her banker/retailer relationships was pretty simple.

Make a point each week to personally (face-to-face) ask the other guy some version of, “What can I do this week to help you?”

Often, the answer will sound like, “Well… I can’t think of anything right now, thanks. How about you? You need anything from me?” (We humans like to reciprocate goodwill.)

Frequently, we learn new things. And sometimes we don’t. But those 30-second “touching base” conversations often accomplish about as much as many lengthy meetings I’ve witnessed.

If nothing else, they remind folks that you have a personal interest in their success. When we show someone that we are personally interested in his success, he tends to remain (or become) personally interested in ours.

And that sounds like a pretty productive 30 second meeting to me.

Who will you offer to help this week?

The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you're willing to work. » Oprah Winfrey

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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