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What I Learned Being A Banker & Interviewing 2k Businesses

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BizyDad

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My first thread. Exciting.

So over in this thread, I made a case for new folks who don’t know what their Fastlane looks like, to consider banking as a job as they figure it out. You can read why there, but long story short, it’s a place business owners come to talk about money. You can ask them all kinds of questions, and you see the bank account, so you know who to listen to and who is full of it.

@Andy Black asked me to share what I learned in my time there having basically interviewed something close to 2k business owners. I figured I’d make it its own thread. I basically dumped anything I think might help you from my experience as a banker into this post. Thanks for taking the time.

Banking Ain’t What It Used To Be

This was a disappointment to me at first. Where are all the gray haired bankers?

By working at a bank I had hoped to find a mentor, but I quickly learned my mistake. Working at a bank branch, you are a RETAIL banker. Ugh. I hated the word retail back then. You’re "just" a sales person. An order taker. Collect info, wait for some central department to make a decision. If you get to be really good, some business owner might recruit and mentor you to a higher paying job, but you have to stand out. Which is what happened to me, and maybe I'll detail that in my future intro post.

Also, no one at the branch level cares about your business plan. Save that for investor meetings. At the bank, it is all about how much money did you claim on taxes over 2 years and what collateral were you putting up ($$, home, business assets). As soon as I learned the rules, I was determined to find a better way to play the game.

The Biggest Threat To Your Money Is You

The dumb things people do to part with their money! Wild Vegas trips that get exposed and lead to divorce. Wiring money via Western Union to Saudi princes. Giving their girlfriend or college student kid or top salesperson a debit card linked to your main account. Smh. But getting that office space that is way too big or way too luxurious is also just as dumb.

I used to be surprised at how many times people said "We'll grow into it" and then don't. I figured these professionals knew their business. I was wrong. Business owners are still just people, and they get caught up in how it feels to have big offices, lavish furnture, nice cars, etc. If any part of your decision to spend big bucks in business is aspirational or motivational then you didn't make a business decision. It's ok to put yourself behind the 8 ball as a motivational technique, but don't put your business there.

Besides you, the next 2 biggest threats to your money are divorce, and a very very distant third is your internal accountant/bookkeeper/office manager To put that in perspective, I heard the tale of key employee embezzlement/theft about once a year. As a small business owner, you should never take your eye off your $$, and you shouldn't give anyone access to it. Just one man's opinion...

Know The Power Of A Question

My job as a banker is to profile you quickly to find out what I can sell you. Questions are powerful. He who asks the questions controls the conversation.

You ask, they answer. If they don’t respond with a question, you can ask another and guide the chat. Ask the right questions in the right order, and really pay attention to the words someone chooses, and you can uncover so much about a person, what they think, what they value, what they want.

You tell me what a person wants, and I’ll tell you who they are.

What I loved, as a salesperson, about being a banker to business owners is before they even sit down, I can be fairly confident about these basic facts about them:
  1. They want to make more money. This usually means they want to sell more product or they want more clients.
  2. If you show them a believable way to save/make money, they’ll probably do it.
  3. They are comfortable with a certain degree of risk. Meaning they will give you less objections to your ideas in #2 than the average person will.
Already armed with this info about my prospect is a huge. I can ask a series of questions and within 5ish minutes know whether I have anything I could possibly sell them. I still do B2B sales, and that's still true. But questions do so much more.

Ask intelligent, insightful questions, and people will perceive you as an expert, EVEN WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE A CURSORY KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBJECT. So whenever a business owner sat down in front of me, I’d always find a way to ask these three questions:
  1. How did you get started in this business/Where did you get the idea for this business?
  2. How do you get your clients/customers?
  3. What’s something you wished you had done differently?
The next time I met someone in that industry, I was armed with some deeper and more insightful questions, like “Hey, have you had to overcome XYZ challenge?” or “I’ve heard XYZ Marketing tactic is popular in your industry. Do you find it to be effective?”

Show people you understand what they are going through and they will open up to you like nobody’s business. That’s good rapport building. I’ll show some other examples of question use here in a moment.

Business Ideas Come From Anywhere… But Usually From The Line Of Work You Are Already In

Sorry Fastlaners, but there is no super secret shortcut. I think MJ has written about this process better than I ever could. Most people don’t have great imaginations. Most businesses start because some employee thinks they can do it better going alone. Most of the time they over-estimated themselves.

I will say this also. A business coach client once told me that when starting out, however long you think something will take, and however much you estimate something will cost to do, always triple the time and double the cost estimate.

In a start up, nothing ever happens as fast as you think it will, and that often leads to more costs to accomplish things. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute truth, but having seen many start ups, I’d say this is true enough. Even when its wrong, the worst case is you complete something ahead of schedule and for less cost.

Businesses Don’t Fail. Business Owners Quit.

I’m exaggerating a bit. But there’s that statistic about how many businesses fail within 2 years or 5 years. Yes, many businesses that start can’t get customers and close up shop.

But a lot of businesses “make it” to earn a decent income. But the business owner still shuts it down. Couple of examples:
  • A better opportunity. After three years, an entreprenuer's ecommerce business was paying her bills, but after three years she was frustrated. Margins weren't high enough to hire. She questioned if she could even be a leader. Sales weren't growing fast enough. Everything was on her. So when a GiantCorp recruiter saw her blog and reached out, she jumped at the chance to work at GiantCorp and make twice the money. She missed being around others to learn from. She never gave entrepreneurship another thought and for her, it was a good move. She is way happier now.
  • Just sick of it. A pizza guy knows how to make good pizza. He opens a pizza shop. His place gets known. Classy joint. Music on weekend nights. Pretty soon he’s spending more time in the back office dealing with things like rising food costs. His pizza is great, people love it, but he hates his new life. "Math? No one told me I’d need math to make pizzas!" (Yes, that's a quote. He was having a bad day.) After trying to sell the biz for 2 years with no takers, he closed the doors and went back to work for the guy he used to work for 5 years prior. Could you imagine? But his wife told me he was happy again, because he got to make the pizza.
So please, when you go into a business, try to have some clear idea about what your day to day is actually going to be like.

Creatively Assess Your Assets

Most people think as a banker the chief thing I had to sell was accounts and loans. That’s true. And every other banker was trying to sell that to.

I quickly realized another asset… A database of a few thousand local homeowners and 400-600 business owners. And boy did I ever leverage that to try and stand out from other bankers.

So picture any networking event. You come up to me, see my bank logoed sweater vest (yeah, I rocked it like that), and you think “Oh crap, I gotta get outta here! Don't look him in the eyes!” You’ve already talked to like 4 other bankers, not another one! But I don’t let you go. I engage you in a quick conversation with a question…

“Hey, you look interesting. Let me ask you when you come to these kinds of events, who are you looking to meet?”

This accomplishes a few things:
  • You're rude to walk away from a question. Especially after being paid a compliment.
  • I intrigued you; you are secretly wondering if I can help you. You have to engage to find out, now you're making eye contact.
  • You just told me who your ideal prospect/client is. So I know what you want.
Next I smile, always smile, and I ask the more bland, and what do you do? Not a business owner, I quickly move on.

Business owner? I’ll keep asking insightful questions until some point you kind of have to ask me what I do. If I really have to, I just stop asking questions and look off for a second disinterested. I never offer it. I make you ask. To fill the silence and not be rude, you’ll ask what I do. You think you know, and then I say:

I help my client’s businesses grow revenue.

What? Don’t you work for a bank? How? Is this some special division?

Oh no, I laugh. I work in a branch. And I have 500 businesses in my database, including several (insert their ideal prospect). My job is to call them regularly and know what's going on in their business. I’m on the phone all the time at work. But I also have to grow my branches’ balances. So one thing I do is try to get my clients do business with other clients. This way money goes from one account to another, and my branch doesn’t lose the balance. By helping my clients and introducing them to each other to do business, I achieve a win, win, win.

So let me ask you, does your banker send you business?

In 3 years, only 2 people ever said yes their banker sent them business. I said great! Keep ‘em. You have a good one. And I moved on.

To everyone else, I said, Let’s chat a little more so I can learn a little more about your business, and when I leave, I’ll try and find 3 people I think you can do business with, ok? I just make introductions, up to you whether you do business, but I promise I don’t waste anyone’s time. Sound good? (They nod their head). And after I do that and you meet with them, will you then consider bringing your banking relationship over to me?

Of course they say yes.

Do you see the sequence of questions and predictable answers? It got to be robotic for me, but for them, it was always a first. I stood out.

So I’ve built rapport at this point and I’ve promised them they want. And they know what I want too. Its all out in the open. So now I get to ask the magic question. “Can you give me a rough idea how much you keep in your account?”

It didn’t always work, sometimes I made it a joke, other times I gave a little further explanation for the question, but eventually I got so good at it that more than 50% of the time people would tell me. No matter what they said, I quickly moved on because this is an uncomfortable question to ask (in a public networking event, no less). I spent the next several minutes enthralled as I asked more questions about who was a good client for them.

(Side note... Ok, I haven’t thought about this in years. But I just wrote this story down, and yes, I got a lot of people to tell me their bank balance in a public setting! It was normal to me then, but writing it out just now… woah! People are crazy. :rofl: Pro tip - Don't give strangers your bank balance people! Ok, moving along...)

Ok, so when I left the event, I’d prioritize the people with the biggest balances first (sometimes I had to guess), and I’d do my best to find 3 meetings for them. Added bonus, making those client calls I was supposed to make went so much easier when I was calling to introduce my client to somebody. By reciprocity, I’d get 75% of prospects to actually follow through and open accounts, get loans, etc. My clients loved me. This is a big part of how I became a national achiever at my bank.

I believe this basic tactic can be applied by any number of businesses and/or taught to your sales people. I had a database and the ability to drive sales for people. Be a connector. Give more than you get. Ask powerful questions. Most people can develop these assets.

An unexpected benefit is this, since this was their first introduction to me, my clients always felt like I am honest and like they can confide anything in me. They would come to me for all kinds of advice. All because I dared ask these kinds of questions. And that's still true to this day.

So look at your assets differently. Here are other examples:
  • A client with drivers did a food drive where they handle the pick ups. It was “easy”, their clients were biggish companies, so they just asked the HR managers to send out an email for people to donate cans of food by leaving them next to the shredding bins. Over the course of a month, the drivers left boxes for the cans one week, picked them up the next. They generated press and good will. (SEO people, this is great link juice). I’m sure this impacted client loyalty too.

  • Another client had a way too big and empty parking lot. Do you like going to coffee shops with big empty parking lots? So they opened up the parking lot for any number of events, which basically gave her coffee shop free publicity, word of mouth, and easy customers. Talk about turning a weakness into a strength.

  • Another client was in the costume business. Super seasonal. When they decided to start selling sexy costumes, their business really took off. Another word for sexy costumes is lingerie, and viola, their super seasonal business morphed into an actual Fastlane business with consistent sales and shocking enough gear that generating press and social media buzz became, for them, super easy. Who buys sexy Donald Trump outfits for women? Yuck. But you’re going to Google it now, aren’t you? And the HuffPo will write about it. Buzzzzzzz.

Talk about creatively assessing an asset.

Sell Thru, Not To

I heard someone once tell the story about how the guy who invented Velcro approached his sales. I don’t know whether its true or not. But someone says to the guy “How were you able to convince the world to buy your product?” And he responds, “I didn’t. I convinced 5 people”. “What?”

“Yea, all I had to do was convince the heads of the sneaker industry and the car industry. They sold it to the world.”

Some of the best businesses I saw leveraged this idea of not trying to directly sell to the customer, but instead selling thru Centers Of Influence. A lot has already been written in this forum about finding other businesses who target your customers and trading referrals or developing cross promotional tactics. If you can, do it. It’s “easy” money.

Leave No Marketing Channel Unconsidered

Think classified ads are dead? Wrong. Think AOL is dead? Wrong. Think phone books are dead? Wrong.

I was shocked at the stories I heard about where people got their customers. I’m not suggesting you are going to Fastlane by using classifieds, AOL and phone books. I am just saying that for the right businesses, your customers might be reached using techniques others think are dead.

Dead just means less noise for you to cut through.

I had a multi-million dollar estate planning law practice with 15 employees. Their only paid marketing channel? Ads in Catholic church flyers (a place full of older people who take legacy seriously). Yes, just Catholic churches. Yes, I’m talking the paper leaflets handed out.

If I remember right, they just covered the cost of printing them and in exchange get to say something tactful and respectful on bottom quarter of the back page, with a nice hook. I don’t recall the hook. $4-5 million a year in sales if memory serves.

What Did They Wish They’d Done Differently?

These answers are all as personal as the owners and businesses were. But there was one consistent message I got, and it came from the ones who felt they were successful. They often said:

“I wish I had started sooner”.

----------

Thanks again for reading. I know it was long. I hope some piece of this helps you get a little farther, a little faster down your path. If you could give me some feedback, I'd appreciate it. What stood out to you?
 

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broswoodwork

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I did it! I read it all, without skimming, in one sitting. Worth it.

Thank you for writing this up.

Edit: What stands out to me is your value first orientation. It seems like your focus on what's in it for the account holders positions you miles above the expected level of service at the bank. Your Jedi mind tricks to break down the prospect's walls, and get them out of their own way, so you can help them are awesome.
 
Last edited:

Andy Black

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My first thread. Exciting.

So over in this thread, I made a case for new folks who don’t know what their Fastlane looks like, to consider banking as a job as they figure it out. You can read why there, but long story short, it’s a place business owners come to talk about money. You can ask them all kinds of questions, and you see the bank account, so you know who to listen to and who is full of it.

@Andy Black asked me to share what I learned in my time there having basically interviewed something close to 2k business owners. I figured I’d make it its own thread. I basically dumped anything I think might help you from my experience as a banker into this post. Thanks for taking the time.

Banking Ain’t What It Used To Be

This was a disappointment to me at first. Where are all the gray haired bankers?

By working at a bank I had hoped to find a mentor, but I quickly learned my mistake. Working at a bank branch, you are a RETAIL banker. Ugh. I hated the word retail back then. You’re "just" a sales person. An order taker. Collect info, wait for some central department to make a decision. If you get to be really good, some business owner might recruit and mentor you to a higher paying job, but you have to stand out. Which is what happened to me, and maybe I'll detail that in my future intro post.

Also, no one at the branch level cares about your business plan. Save that for investor meetings. At the bank, it is all about how much money did you claim on taxes over 2 years and what collateral were you putting up ($$, home, business assets). As soon as I learned the rules, I was determined to find a better way to play the game.

The Biggest Threat To Your Money Is You

The dumb things people do to part with their money! Wild Vegas trips that get exposed and lead to divorce. Wiring money via Western Union to Saudi princes. Giving their girlfriend or college student kid or top salesperson a debit card linked to your main account. Smh. But getting that office space that is way too big or way too luxurious is also just as dumb.

I used to be surprised at how many times people said "We'll grow into it" and then don't. I figured these professionals knew their business. I was wrong. Business owners are still just people, and they get caught up in how it feels to have big offices, lavish furnture, nice cars, etc. If any part of your decision to spend big bucks in business is aspirational or motivational then you didn't make a business decision. It's ok to put yourself behind the 8 ball as a motivational technique, but don't put your business there.

Besides you, the next 2 biggest threats to your money are divorce, and a very very distant third is your internal accountant/bookkeeper/office manager To put that in perspective, I heard the tale of key employee embezzlement/theft about once a year. As a small business owner, you should never take your eye off your $$, and you shouldn't give anyone access to it. Just one man's opinion...

Know The Power Of A Question

My job as a banker is to profile you quickly to find out what I can sell you. Questions are powerful. He who asks the questions controls the conversation.

You ask, they answer. If they don’t respond with a question, you can ask another and guide the chat. Ask the right questions in the right order, and really pay attention to the words someone chooses, and you can uncover so much about a person, what they think, what they value, what they want.

You tell me what a person wants, and I’ll tell you who they are.

What I loved, as a salesperson, about being a banker to business owners is before they even sit down, I can be fairly confident about these basic facts about them:
  1. They want to make more money. This usually means they want to sell more product or they want more clients.
  2. If you show them a believable way to save/make money, they’ll probably do it.
  3. They are comfortable with a certain degree of risk. Meaning they will give you less objections to your ideas in #2 than the average person will.
Already armed with this info about my prospect is a huge. I can ask a series of questions and within 5ish minutes know whether I have anything I could possibly sell them. I still do B2B sales, and that's still true. But questions do so much more.

Ask intelligent, insightful questions, and people will perceive you as an expert, EVEN WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE A CURSORY KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBJECT. So whenever a business owner sat down in front of me, I’d always find a way to ask these three questions:
  1. How did you get started in this business/Where did you get the idea for this business?
  2. How do you get your clients/customers?
  3. What’s something you wished you had done differently?
The next time I met someone in that industry, I was armed with some deeper and more insightful questions, like “Hey, have you had to overcome XYZ challenge?” or “I’ve heard XYZ Marketing tactic is popular in your industry. Do you find it to be effective?”

Show people you understand what they are going through and they will open up to you like nobody’s business. That’s good rapport building. I’ll show some other examples of question use here in a moment.

Business Ideas Come From Anywhere… But Usually From The Line Of Work You Are Already In

Sorry Fastlaners, but there is no super secret shortcut. I think MJ has written about this process better than I ever could. Most people don’t have great imaginations. Most businesses start because some employee thinks they can do it better going alone. Most of the time they over-estimated themselves.

I will say this also. A business coach client once told me that when starting out, however long you think something will take, and however much you estimate something will cost to do, always triple the time and double the cost estimate.

In a start up, nothing ever happens as fast as you think it will, and that often leads to more costs to accomplish things. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute truth, but having seen many start ups, I’d say this is true enough. Even when its wrong, the worst case is you complete something ahead of schedule and for less cost.

Businesses Don’t Fail. Business Owners Quit.

I’m exaggerating a bit. But there’s that statistic about how many businesses fail within 2 years or 5 years. Yes, many businesses that start can’t get customers and close up shop.

But a lot of businesses “make it” to earn a decent income. But the business owner still shuts it down. Couple of examples:
  • A better opportunity. After three years, an entreprenuer's ecommerce business was paying her bills, but after three years she was frustrated. Margins weren't high enough to hire. She questioned if she could even be a leader. Sales weren't growing fast enough. Everything was on her. So when a GiantCorp recruiter saw her blog and reached out, she jumped at the chance to work at GiantCorp and make twice the money. She missed being around others to learn from. She never gave entrepreneurship another thought and for her, it was a good move. She is way happier now.
  • Just sick of it. A pizza guy knows how to make good pizza. He opens a pizza shop. His place gets known. Classy joint. Music on weekend nights. Pretty soon he’s spending more time in the back office dealing with things like rising food costs. His pizza is great, people love it, but he hates his new life. "Math? No one told me I’d need math to make pizzas!" (Yes, that's a quote. He was having a bad day.) After trying to sell the biz for 2 years with no takers, he closed the doors and went back to work for the guy he used to work for 5 years prior. Could you imagine? But his wife told me he was happy again, because he got to make the pizza.
So please, when you go into a business, try to have some clear idea about what your day to day is actually going to be like.

Creatively Assess Your Assets

Most people think as a banker the chief thing I had to sell was accounts and loans. That’s true. And every other banker was trying to sell that to.

I quickly realized another asset… A database of a few thousand local homeowners and 400-600 business owners. And boy did I ever leverage that to try and stand out from other bankers.

So picture any networking event. You come up to me, see my bank logoed sweater vest (yeah, I rocked it like that), and you think “Oh crap, I gotta get outta here! Don't look him in the eyes!” You’ve already talked to like 4 other bankers, not another one! But I don’t let you go. I engage you in a quick conversation with a question…

“Hey, you look interesting. Let me ask you when you come to these kinds of events, who are you looking to meet?”

This accomplishes a few things:
  • You're rude to walk away from a question. Especially after being paid a compliment.
  • I intrigued you; you are secretly wondering if I can help you. You have to engage to find out, now you're making eye contact.
  • You just told me who your ideal prospect/client is. So I know what you want.
Next I smile, always smile, and I ask the more bland, and what do you do? Not a business owner, I quickly move on.

Business owner? I’ll keep asking insightful questions until some point you kind of have to ask me what I do. If I really have to, I just stop asking questions and look off for a second disinterested. I never offer it. I make you ask. To fill the silence and not be rude, you’ll ask what I do. You think you know, and then I say:

I help my client’s businesses grow revenue.

What? Don’t you work for a bank? How? Is this some special division?

Oh no, I laugh. I work in a branch. And I have 500 businesses in my database, including several (insert their ideal prospect). My job is to call them regularly and know what's going on in their business. I’m on the phone all the time at work. But I also have to grow my branches’ balances. So one thing I do is try to get my clients do business with other clients. This way money goes from one account to another, and my branch doesn’t lose the balance. By helping my clients and introducing them to each other to do business, I achieve a win, win, win.

So let me ask you, does your banker send you business?

In 3 years, only 2 people ever said yes their banker sent them business. I said great! Keep ‘em. You have a good one. And I moved on.

To everyone else, I said, Let’s chat a little more so I can learn a little more about your business, and when I leave, I’ll try and find 3 people I think you can do business with, ok? I just make introductions, up to you whether you do business, but I promise I don’t waste anyone’s time. Sound good? (They nod their head). And after I do that and you meet with them, will you then consider bringing your banking relationship over to me?

Of course they say yes.

Do you see the sequence of questions and predictable answers? It got to be robotic for me, but for them, it was always a first. I stood out.

So I’ve built rapport at this point and I’ve promised them they want. And they know what I want too. Its all out in the open. So now I get to ask the magic question. “Can you give me a rough idea how much you keep in your account?”

It didn’t always work, sometimes I made it a joke, other times I gave a little further explanation for the question, but eventually I got so good at it that more than 50% of the time people would tell me. No matter what they said, I quickly moved on because this is an uncomfortable question to ask (in a public networking event, no less). I spent the next several minutes enthralled as I asked more questions about who was a good client for them.

(Side note... Ok, I haven’t thought about this in years. But I just wrote this story down, and yes, I got a lot of people to tell me their bank balance in a public setting! It was normal to me then, but writing it out just now… woah! People are crazy. :rofl: Pro tip - Don't give strangers your bank balance people! Ok, moving along...)

Ok, so when I left the event, I’d prioritize the people with the biggest balances first (sometimes I had to guess), and I’d do my best to find 3 meetings for them. Added bonus, making those client calls I was supposed to make went so much easier when I was calling to introduce my client to somebody. By reciprocity, I’d get 75% of prospects to actually follow through and open accounts, get loans, etc. My clients loved me. This is a big part of how I became a national achiever at my bank.

I believe this basic tactic can be applied by any number of businesses and/or taught to your sales people. I had a database and the ability to drive sales for people. Be a connector. Give more than you get. Ask powerful questions. Most people can develop these assets.

An unexpected benefit is this, since this was their first introduction to me, my clients always felt like I am honest and like they can confide anything in me. They would come to me for all kinds of advice. All because I dared ask these kinds of questions. And that's still true to this day.

So look at your assets differently. Here are other examples:
  • A client with drivers did a food drive where they handle the pick ups. It was “easy”, their clients were biggish companies, so they just asked the HR managers to send out an email for people to donate cans of food by leaving them next to the shredding bins. Over the course of a month, the drivers left boxes for the cans one week, picked them up the next. They generated press and good will. (SEO people, this is great link juice). I’m sure this impacted client loyalty too.

  • Another client had a way too big and empty parking lot. Do you like going to coffee shops with big empty parking lots? So they opened up the parking lot for any number of events, which basically gave her coffee shop free publicity, word of mouth, and easy customers. Talk about turning a weakness into a strength.

  • Another client was in the costume business. Super seasonal. When they decided to start selling sexy costumes, their business really took off. Another word for sexy costumes is lingerie, and viola, their super seasonal business morphed into an actual Fastlane business with consistent sales and shocking enough gear that generating press and social media buzz became, for them, super easy. Who buys sexy Donald Trump outfits for women? Yuck. But you’re going to Google it now, aren’t you? And the HuffPo will write about it. Buzzzzzzz.

Talk about creatively assessing an asset.

Sell Thru, Not To

I heard someone once tell the story about how the guy who invented Velcro approached his sales. I don’t know whether its true or not. But someone says to the guy “How were you able to convince the world to buy your product?” And he responds, “I didn’t. I convinced 5 people”. “What?”

“Yea, all I had to do was convince the heads of the sneaker industry and the car industry. They sold it to the world.”

Some of the best businesses I saw leveraged this idea of not trying to directly sell to the customer, but instead selling thru Centers Of Influence. A lot has already been written in this forum about finding other businesses who target your customers and trading referrals or developing cross promotional tactics. If you can, do it. It’s “easy” money.

Leave No Marketing Channel Unconsidered

Think classified ads are dead? Wrong. Think AOL is dead? Wrong. Think phone books are dead? Wrong.

I was shocked at the stories I heard about where people got their customers. I’m not suggesting you are going to Fastlane by using classifieds, AOL and phone books. I am just saying that for the right businesses, your customers might be reached using techniques others think are dead.

Dead just means less noise for you to cut through.

I had a multi-million dollar estate planning law practice with 15 employees. Their only paid marketing channel? Ads in Catholic church flyers (a place full of older people who take legacy seriously). Yes, just Catholic churches. Yes, I’m talking the paper leaflets handed out.

If I remember right, they just covered the cost of printing them and in exchange get to say something tactful and respectful on bottom quarter of the back page, with a nice hook. I don’t recall the hook. $4-5 million a year in sales if memory serves.

What Did They Wish They’d Done Differently?

These answers are all as personal as the owners and businesses were. But there was one consistent message I got, and it came from the ones who felt they were successful. They often said:

“I wish I had started sooner”.

----------

Thanks again for reading. I know it was long. I hope some piece of this helps you get a little farther, a little faster down your path. If you could give me some feedback, I'd appreciate it. What stood out to you?
Wow. You’ve some stories in you, and you write well.

What stood out for me is:
  • How things fall into place because you bring new business to your potential new clients
  • How some business owners sell through others. This is similar to Jay Abraham’s great question of “Who already has your clients?”


I’m a fan of both, and am now wondering how to combine the two.
 

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My first thread. Exciting.

So over in this thread, I made a case for new folks who don’t know what their Fastlane looks like, to consider banking as a job as they figure it out. You can read why there, but long story short, it’s a place business owners come to talk about money. You can ask them all kinds of questions, and you see the bank account, so you know who to listen to and who is full of it.

@Andy Black asked me to share what I learned in my time there having basically interviewed something close to 2k business owners. I figured I’d make it its own thread. I basically dumped anything I think might help you from my experience as a banker into this post. Thanks for taking the time.

Banking Ain’t What It Used To Be

This was a disappointment to me at first. Where are all the gray haired bankers?

By working at a bank I had hoped to find a mentor, but I quickly learned my mistake. Working at a bank branch, you are a RETAIL banker. Ugh. I hated the word retail back then. You’re "just" a sales person. An order taker. Collect info, wait for some central department to make a decision. If you get to be really good, some business owner might recruit and mentor you to a higher paying job, but you have to stand out. Which is what happened to me, and maybe I'll detail that in my future intro post.

Also, no one at the branch level cares about your business plan. Save that for investor meetings. At the bank, it is all about how much money did you claim on taxes over 2 years and what collateral were you putting up ($$, home, business assets). As soon as I learned the rules, I was determined to find a better way to play the game.

The Biggest Threat To Your Money Is You

The dumb things people do to part with their money! Wild Vegas trips that get exposed and lead to divorce. Wiring money via Western Union to Saudi princes. Giving their girlfriend or college student kid or top salesperson a debit card linked to your main account. Smh. But getting that office space that is way too big or way too luxurious is also just as dumb.

I used to be surprised at how many times people said "We'll grow into it" and then don't. I figured these professionals knew their business. I was wrong. Business owners are still just people, and they get caught up in how it feels to have big offices, lavish furnture, nice cars, etc. If any part of your decision to spend big bucks in business is aspirational or motivational then you didn't make a business decision. It's ok to put yourself behind the 8 ball as a motivational technique, but don't put your business there.

Besides you, the next 2 biggest threats to your money are divorce, and a very very distant third is your internal accountant/bookkeeper/office manager To put that in perspective, I heard the tale of key employee embezzlement/theft about once a year. As a small business owner, you should never take your eye off your $$, and you shouldn't give anyone access to it. Just one man's opinion...

Know The Power Of A Question

My job as a banker is to profile you quickly to find out what I can sell you. Questions are powerful. He who asks the questions controls the conversation.

You ask, they answer. If they don’t respond with a question, you can ask another and guide the chat. Ask the right questions in the right order, and really pay attention to the words someone chooses, and you can uncover so much about a person, what they think, what they value, what they want.

You tell me what a person wants, and I’ll tell you who they are.

What I loved, as a salesperson, about being a banker to business owners is before they even sit down, I can be fairly confident about these basic facts about them:
  1. They want to make more money. This usually means they want to sell more product or they want more clients.
  2. If you show them a believable way to save/make money, they’ll probably do it.
  3. They are comfortable with a certain degree of risk. Meaning they will give you less objections to your ideas in #2 than the average person will.
Already armed with this info about my prospect is a huge. I can ask a series of questions and within 5ish minutes know whether I have anything I could possibly sell them. I still do B2B sales, and that's still true. But questions do so much more.

Ask intelligent, insightful questions, and people will perceive you as an expert, EVEN WHEN YOU ONLY HAVE A CURSORY KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBJECT. So whenever a business owner sat down in front of me, I’d always find a way to ask these three questions:
  1. How did you get started in this business/Where did you get the idea for this business?
  2. How do you get your clients/customers?
  3. What’s something you wished you had done differently?
The next time I met someone in that industry, I was armed with some deeper and more insightful questions, like “Hey, have you had to overcome XYZ challenge?” or “I’ve heard XYZ Marketing tactic is popular in your industry. Do you find it to be effective?”

Show people you understand what they are going through and they will open up to you like nobody’s business. That’s good rapport building. I’ll show some other examples of question use here in a moment.

Business Ideas Come From Anywhere… But Usually From The Line Of Work You Are Already In

Sorry Fastlaners, but there is no super secret shortcut. I think MJ has written about this process better than I ever could. Most people don’t have great imaginations. Most businesses start because some employee thinks they can do it better going alone. Most of the time they over-estimated themselves.

I will say this also. A business coach client once told me that when starting out, however long you think something will take, and however much you estimate something will cost to do, always triple the time and double the cost estimate.

In a start up, nothing ever happens as fast as you think it will, and that often leads to more costs to accomplish things. I wouldn’t say this is an absolute truth, but having seen many start ups, I’d say this is true enough. Even when its wrong, the worst case is you complete something ahead of schedule and for less cost.

Businesses Don’t Fail. Business Owners Quit.

I’m exaggerating a bit. But there’s that statistic about how many businesses fail within 2 years or 5 years. Yes, many businesses that start can’t get customers and close up shop.

But a lot of businesses “make it” to earn a decent income. But the business owner still shuts it down. Couple of examples:
  • A better opportunity. After three years, an entreprenuer's ecommerce business was paying her bills, but after three years she was frustrated. Margins weren't high enough to hire. She questioned if she could even be a leader. Sales weren't growing fast enough. Everything was on her. So when a GiantCorp recruiter saw her blog and reached out, she jumped at the chance to work at GiantCorp and make twice the money. She missed being around others to learn from. She never gave entrepreneurship another thought and for her, it was a good move. She is way happier now.
  • Just sick of it. A pizza guy knows how to make good pizza. He opens a pizza shop. His place gets known. Classy joint. Music on weekend nights. Pretty soon he’s spending more time in the back office dealing with things like rising food costs. His pizza is great, people love it, but he hates his new life. "Math? No one told me I’d need math to make pizzas!" (Yes, that's a quote. He was having a bad day.) After trying to sell the biz for 2 years with no takers, he closed the doors and went back to work for the guy he used to work for 5 years prior. Could you imagine? But his wife told me he was happy again, because he got to make the pizza.
So please, when you go into a business, try to have some clear idea about what your day to day is actually going to be like.

Creatively Assess Your Assets

Most people think as a banker the chief thing I had to sell was accounts and loans. That’s true. And every other banker was trying to sell that to.

I quickly realized another asset… A database of a few thousand local homeowners and 400-600 business owners. And boy did I ever leverage that to try and stand out from other bankers.

So picture any networking event. You come up to me, see my bank logoed sweater vest (yeah, I rocked it like that), and you think “Oh crap, I gotta get outta here! Don't look him in the eyes!” You’ve already talked to like 4 other bankers, not another one! But I don’t let you go. I engage you in a quick conversation with a question…

“Hey, you look interesting. Let me ask you when you come to these kinds of events, who are you looking to meet?”

This accomplishes a few things:
  • You're rude to walk away from a question. Especially after being paid a compliment.
  • I intrigued you; you are secretly wondering if I can help you. You have to engage to find out, now you're making eye contact.
  • You just told me who your ideal prospect/client is. So I know what you want.
Next I smile, always smile, and I ask the more bland, and what do you do? Not a business owner, I quickly move on.

Business owner? I’ll keep asking insightful questions until some point you kind of have to ask me what I do. If I really have to, I just stop asking questions and look off for a second disinterested. I never offer it. I make you ask. To fill the silence and not be rude, you’ll ask what I do. You think you know, and then I say:

I help my client’s businesses grow revenue.

What? Don’t you work for a bank? How? Is this some special division?

Oh no, I laugh. I work in a branch. And I have 500 businesses in my database, including several (insert their ideal prospect). My job is to call them regularly and know what's going on in their business. I’m on the phone all the time at work. But I also have to grow my branches’ balances. So one thing I do is try to get my clients do business with other clients. This way money goes from one account to another, and my branch doesn’t lose the balance. By helping my clients and introducing them to each other to do business, I achieve a win, win, win.

So let me ask you, does your banker send you business?

In 3 years, only 2 people ever said yes their banker sent them business. I said great! Keep ‘em. You have a good one. And I moved on.

To everyone else, I said, Let’s chat a little more so I can learn a little more about your business, and when I leave, I’ll try and find 3 people I think you can do business with, ok? I just make introductions, up to you whether you do business, but I promise I don’t waste anyone’s time. Sound good? (They nod their head). And after I do that and you meet with them, will you then consider bringing your banking relationship over to me?

Of course they say yes.

Do you see the sequence of questions and predictable answers? It got to be robotic for me, but for them, it was always a first. I stood out.

So I’ve built rapport at this point and I’ve promised them they want. And they know what I want too. Its all out in the open. So now I get to ask the magic question. “Can you give me a rough idea how much you keep in your account?”

It didn’t always work, sometimes I made it a joke, other times I gave a little further explanation for the question, but eventually I got so good at it that more than 50% of the time people would tell me. No matter what they said, I quickly moved on because this is an uncomfortable question to ask (in a public networking event, no less). I spent the next several minutes enthralled as I asked more questions about who was a good client for them.

(Side note... Ok, I haven’t thought about this in years. But I just wrote this story down, and yes, I got a lot of people to tell me their bank balance in a public setting! It was normal to me then, but writing it out just now… woah! People are crazy. :rofl: Pro tip - Don't give strangers your bank balance people! Ok, moving along...)

Ok, so when I left the event, I’d prioritize the people with the biggest balances first (sometimes I had to guess), and I’d do my best to find 3 meetings for them. Added bonus, making those client calls I was supposed to make went so much easier when I was calling to introduce my client to somebody. By reciprocity, I’d get 75% of prospects to actually follow through and open accounts, get loans, etc. My clients loved me. This is a big part of how I became a national achiever at my bank.

I believe this basic tactic can be applied by any number of businesses and/or taught to your sales people. I had a database and the ability to drive sales for people. Be a connector. Give more than you get. Ask powerful questions. Most people can develop these assets.

An unexpected benefit is this, since this was their first introduction to me, my clients always felt like I am honest and like they can confide anything in me. They would come to me for all kinds of advice. All because I dared ask these kinds of questions. And that's still true to this day.

So look at your assets differently. Here are other examples:
  • A client with drivers did a food drive where they handle the pick ups. It was “easy”, their clients were biggish companies, so they just asked the HR managers to send out an email for people to donate cans of food by leaving them next to the shredding bins. Over the course of a month, the drivers left boxes for the cans one week, picked them up the next. They generated press and good will. (SEO people, this is great link juice). I’m sure this impacted client loyalty too.

  • Another client had a way too big and empty parking lot. Do you like going to coffee shops with big empty parking lots? So they opened up the parking lot for any number of events, which basically gave her coffee shop free publicity, word of mouth, and easy customers. Talk about turning a weakness into a strength.

  • Another client was in the costume business. Super seasonal. When they decided to start selling sexy costumes, their business really took off. Another word for sexy costumes is lingerie, and viola, their super seasonal business morphed into an actual Fastlane business with consistent sales and shocking enough gear that generating press and social media buzz became, for them, super easy. Who buys sexy Donald Trump outfits for women? Yuck. But you’re going to Google it now, aren’t you? And the HuffPo will write about it. Buzzzzzzz.

Talk about creatively assessing an asset.

Sell Thru, Not To

I heard someone once tell the story about how the guy who invented Velcro approached his sales. I don’t know whether its true or not. But someone says to the guy “How were you able to convince the world to buy your product?” And he responds, “I didn’t. I convinced 5 people”. “What?”

“Yea, all I had to do was convince the heads of the sneaker industry and the car industry. They sold it to the world.”

Some of the best businesses I saw leveraged this idea of not trying to directly sell to the customer, but instead selling thru Centers Of Influence. A lot has already been written in this forum about finding other businesses who target your customers and trading referrals or developing cross promotional tactics. If you can, do it. It’s “easy” money.

Leave No Marketing Channel Unconsidered

Think classified ads are dead? Wrong. Think AOL is dead? Wrong. Think phone books are dead? Wrong.

I was shocked at the stories I heard about where people got their customers. I’m not suggesting you are going to Fastlane by using classifieds, AOL and phone books. I am just saying that for the right businesses, your customers might be reached using techniques others think are dead.

Dead just means less noise for you to cut through.

I had a multi-million dollar estate planning law practice with 15 employees. Their only paid marketing channel? Ads in Catholic church flyers (a place full of older people who take legacy seriously). Yes, just Catholic churches. Yes, I’m talking the paper leaflets handed out.

If I remember right, they just covered the cost of printing them and in exchange get to say something tactful and respectful on bottom quarter of the back page, with a nice hook. I don’t recall the hook. $4-5 million a year in sales if memory serves.

What Did They Wish They’d Done Differently?

These answers are all as personal as the owners and businesses were. But there was one consistent message I got, and it came from the ones who felt they were successful. They often said:

“I wish I had started sooner”.

----------

Thanks again for reading. I know it was long. I hope some piece of this helps you get a little farther, a little faster down your path. If you could give me some feedback, I'd appreciate it. What stood out to you?
Absolute gold!

Love, love, love this!

I worked as a personal banker in 2013-2014, and I agree 100% with recommending banking as a great way to get a glimpse into the various companies and industries, how they pay, and where there's some great opportunity.

Even as a bank teller, you can get this insight.

After a few months getting to know my customers, I knew which companies paid well and which ones didn't. I knew that the guy working as a welder in the oil industry was making 6 figures, while the branch manager of our bank was making less than half that. I got to see the paychecks of solopreneurs such as hairdressers and handyman services. I got to see how certain people were not what they seemed, like the classy lady who came in wearing fancy suits and jewelry, but whose account was always horribly overdrawn.

Not only was it a great education, it was also a great stepping stone up to a better job. Because my role at the bank had sales goals attached to it, I quickly stepped up to a software sales position that paid more than double what the bank did.

So questions for you!
  • What would you say you'd recommend as the top 3-5 industries or good earning opportunities after looking into so many different businesses?
  • If you think about some of the more successful clients you had, what were some of the qualities that they shared? I know we've all seen lists of "habits of successful people," but were there any patterns you'd highlight? For instance, I'd be curious to know whether personal character, choosing the "right" industry, or being more risk tolerant was the most important factor in becoming successful. Let's set aside the three top money thieves (a person's own dumb choices, divorce, and internal embezzlement) and say none of those are an issue. Would you say that there were clusters or patterns where the odds of success became predictable and high?
Also, just have to say - your script for how you talked to people at networking events is absolute gold. Love it!
 

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Man if I had thought of that, I could have make bank in commissions when I was a retail banker. Excuse me... "Universal Consultant" (? Stupid PNC lol

Or idk. Honestly the whole phone game was never my thing. I'm glad I'm out.
 

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Thanks everyone. So glad this was well received.

I did it! I read it all, without skimming, in one sitting. Worth it.

Thank you for writing this up.

Edit: What stands out to me is your value first orientation. It seems like your focus on what's in it for the account holders positions you miles above the expected level of service at the bank. Your Jedi mind tricks to break down the prospect's walls, and get them out of their own way, so you can help them are awesome.
I don't often laugh at forum comments, but when I do, it's often a @broswoodwork post. You're hilarious man.

I am a huge believer in lead with value in sales, which is part of the reason why, when I came across this forum, I decided to stick around and give back a bit. I feel like there are like minded people on here.

Absolute gold!

Love, love, love this!

I worked as a personal banker in 2013-2014, and I agree 100% with recommending banking as a great way to get a glimpse into the various companies and industries, how they pay, and where there's some great opportunity.

Even as a bank teller, you can get this insight.

After a few months getting to know my customers, I knew which companies paid well and which ones didn't. I knew that the guy working as a welder in the oil industry was making 6 figures, while the branch manager of our bank was making less than half that. I got to see the paychecks of solopreneurs such as hairdressers and handyman services. I got to see how certain people were not what they seemed, like the classy lady who came in wearing fancy suits and jewelry, but whose account was always horribly overdrawn.

Not only was it a great education, it was also a great stepping stone up to a better job. Because my role at the bank had sales goals attached to it, I quickly stepped up to a software sales position that paid more than double what the bank did.

So questions for you!
  • What would you say you'd recommend as the top 3-5 industries or good earning opportunities after looking into so many different businesses?
  • If you think about some of the more successful clients you had, what were some of the qualities that they shared? I know we've all seen lists of "habits of successful people," but were there any patterns you'd highlight? For instance, I'd be curious to know whether personal character, choosing the "right" industry, or being more risk tolerant was the most important factor in becoming successful. Let's set aside the three top money thieves (a person's own dumb choices, divorce, and internal embezzlement) and say none of those are an issue. Would you say that there were clusters or patterns where the odds of success became predictable and high?
Also, just have to say - your script for how you talked to people at networking events is absolute gold. Love it!
Thank you. Respect from someone who has been there means even more. I'll answer those questions when I have a little more time.

I shared the networking script because I'm kind of hoping someone actually reads this and starts using it. It's been stuck in my head going to waste for over a decade. :)

Man if I had thought of that, I could have make bank in commissions when I was a retail banker. Excuse me... "Universal Consultant" (? Stupid PNC lol

Or idk. Honestly the whole phone game was never my thing. I'm glad I'm out.
Me too.

The phone stuff wasn't critical to my success. Most of the time I made the calls as a quick almost social check in, (first question, how is business going?) and would wrap up with, "Do you have any upcoming needs I should be aware of?"

Busier clients didn't want me calling unless I actually had something for them. I had to dig deep to crack into their meeting calendar.

But this "I have someone I think you should meet" really helped me to not waste anyone's time.

My favorite was actually helping people meet other COI's/ referral partners. That's an easy phone call.

Wow. You’ve some stories in you, and you write well.

What stood out for me is:
  • How things fall into place because you bring new business to your potential new clients
  • How some business owners sell through others. This is similar to Jay Abraham’s great question of “Who already has your clients?”


I’m a fan of both, and am now wondering how to combine the two.
Just wait until I start sharing my tactics for growing my agency (Honestly, it'll be a little while before I do...)

As for stories, yeah, I've got a couple...

My working title for my intro post is "How I learned the greatest lesson MJ DeMarco had to teach me". I'll get to it someday soonish. Hahaha.
 
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Did you just in some small way compare my post to Jay Abraham?

Wow. Speechless.

I'll definitely read it. Thanks for the share.
Yep. Lol.

We’d love to hear more stories and your takeaways from them in this thread.

Especially as a banker, you’ve got a lot more experience on the do’s and dont’s of starting a local business and even applying for SMB loans.
 

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“Hey, you look interesting. Let me ask you when you come to these kinds of events, who are you looking to meet?”
Your whole sales script is beautiful. Did you learn sales on your own or do you have a favorite resource?

I believe this basic tactic can be applied by any number of businesses and/or taught to your sales people. I had a database and the ability to drive sales for people. Be a connector. Give more than you get. Ask powerful questions. Most people can develop these assets.
I'll probably be thinking about this for a while.

Thank you so much for taking the time to compose this. I'm really going to look forward your posts.
 

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Another client had a way too big and empty parking lot. Do you like going to coffee shops with big empty parking lots? So they opened up the parking lot for any number of events, which basically gave her coffee shop free publicity, word of mouth, and easy customers. Talk about turning a weakness into a strength.
I read about someone who owned a nursing home and was receiving complaints about short visiting hours and lack of parking, thus hurting his occupancy rate.

He bought a shuttle van, approached a coffee shop down the street and asked if he could set up a designated phone inside the shop for visitors to call the nursing home, to be shuttled over.

The coffee shop loves it as they got more business. While families waited they bought coffee and pastries as gifts for their loved ones.

The families loved that visiting hours could be extended and didn’t have to worry about parking.

The nursing home owner now enjoys 100% occupancy and owns the best home in town.

Create win-win-wins.
 
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First, some disclaimers. I was a banker 15 years ago. I've probably forgotten a lot. This was going to be my intro post, and I just got to writing so much I decided to make it a stand alone post. I really did include as much of this time as I can remember, but a lot has probably changed since then, so I don't want to get too specific in answering certain questions.

Also, I was a retail banker. Once a business grew above a certain size, the account is taken out of the branch level (I can't even call them) and handled by the private banking level. At least, that's how it was back then. So in this post I have a myopic view of success, because in 3 short years I didn't witness too many businesses grow past the branch phase.

In future posts I plan to share some more from my experience as a marketer, and we can get to some of the good stuff then. That said...

So questions for you!
  • What would you say you'd recommend as the top 3-5 industries or good earning opportunities after looking into so many different businesses?
  • If you think about some of the more successful clients you had, what were some of the qualities that they shared? I know we've all seen lists of "habits of successful people," but were there any patterns you'd highlight? For instance, I'd be curious to know whether personal character, choosing the "right" industry, or being more risk tolerant was the most important factor in becoming successful. Let's set aside the three top money thieves (a person's own dumb choices, divorce, and internal embezzlement) and say none of those are an issue. Would you say that there were clusters or patterns where the odds of success became predictable and high?
There were 2 kinds of entrepreneurs that got to "success". The knowledgeable and the determined.

The knowledgeable is fairly self explanitory. They understand the industry, the competitive landscape, and they saw a way to either actually do something better or at least market themselves better.

The determined is the classic story of the person who figures, "there has to be a way" to accomplish x. They often don't even think of starting a new business. The have an idea and talk to people and those people suggest this is a good business idea. Many of these people often grow bigger than the first type, but they also often consider themselves blessed, fortunate, or lucky. They have an idea, they start bringing it to fruition, and then one day they meet someone or several someone(s) who really help take things to the next level, etc etc.

So depending on what you mean by success, the first group is much more likely to build a profitable enterprise, and the second is more likely to build it bigger.

As for the recommended industries, I was a banker in Scottsdale in the mid 00's. So when I say real estate and ecommerce businesses were the top two, take that with a grain of salt. Those are still probably still in my top 5, but many many of my top clients back then got wiped out.

I'll also say that if you can find a way to be in the B2B space, you'll probably have better staying power, generally speaking.

We’d love to hear more stories and your takeaways from them in this thread.

Especially as a banker, you’ve got a lot more experience on the do’s and dont’s of starting a local business and even applying for SMB loans.
Well, specific questions would probably trigger memories/stories. Failing that, I think I'll have better, more actionable stories from my time as a marketer. Between my two careers, I could write a nice "do's and don't's" post, and thanks to you, I plan to. But it'll be better as a stand alone.

As for the banking side and getting loans, like I said, things have probably changed dramatically, and each bank has different policies for underwriting, so I don't want to give specific tricks as that would be misleading.

That said, I will share this. Common sense suggests a dollar of income is a dollar of income. But banks often don't deal in common sense.

See, at the branch level, a dollar of W-2 income is worth $1. But a dollar of 1099 income might only be worth $.85 and a dollar of rental income might be worth $.7. Every bank discounts income differently, so this hypothetical number for illustration purposes only.

So, if you are going to apply for a loan for a new venture, keep your job so you have income to show you can pay the loan back if the business fails. Or, if you have a business and are only taking 1099 (which I believe with the latest tax laws probably ain't smart), but if this describes you, put yourself on payroll a couple of months before you plan to apply.
 
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The knowledgeable is fairly self explanitory. They understand the industry, the competitive landscape, and they saw a way to either actually do something better or at least market themselves better.

The determined is the classic story of the person who figures, "there has to be a way" to accomplish x. They often don't even think of starting a new business. The have an idea and talk to people and those people suggest this is a good business idea. Many of these people often grow bigger than the first type, but they also often consider themselves blessed, fortunate, or lucky. They have an idea, they start bringing it to fruition, and then one day they meet someone or several someone(s) who really help take things to the next level, etc etc.

So depending on what you mean by success, the first group is much more likely to build a profitable enterprise, and the second is more likely to build it bigger.
I thought about this some more and wanted to expand it. Specifically as it relates to risk.

In the example I gave, the knowledgeable approach is less risky, but the determined approach has a greater reward.

But that is misleading. People's risk tolerance had little to do with success. We have this feeling from the investing world that the bigger the risk the bigger the reward. It works there because we are talking about spreading risk to a variety of companies and smaller companies fail more often and have way more room to grow than giant companies.

In business I saw several people with high risk tolerance take needlessly big chances and ultimately close their doors. I saw timid risk averse people build "productocracies" and they never felt like they were taking big chances. Every step of the way people wanted what they had to offer, so what is risky about that?

But I've seen the reverse too. I've seen risk averse people get paralyzed and never grow or start. I've seen gamblers shoot for the moon and land amongst the stars.

I think the thing every successful business has in common is they took the next step, and they take more right ones than wrong ones.

Sometimes they are confident in it. Other times they hope for the best.

Keep growing your business, and more importantly keep growing yourself and your skills. If you don't have a plan, then put one foot in front of the other. Ask for help when you need it.

And don't forget MJ's advice about listening to "the market". If you fail at that, you're doomed.
 

WillHurtDontCare

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He who asks the questions controls the conversation.
If you take nothing else away from this thread, let it be this.

Ever wonder why politicians will sometimes simply ignore questions and go off on irrelevant tirades? Because he who dictates the conversations wins.

Questions frame conversations. You can (and sometimes should) answer questions with questions to frame the conversation in a way that aligns with your goals.

Great post @BizyDad. I definitely wouldn't have considered the "dead" channels like Catholic Church bulletins.
 
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IlseVdG

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I loved it! I feel like I had an actual conversation with you, a very insightful and entertaining one. Reading this went effortless, yet I learned so much... Seems like you not only hook clients but also readers!

I also loved the comments here. I will also read that book Jay Abraham’s Mindshift Challenge.

What stood out to me?
Your passion for your work, dripping from the pages (and by the way I consider reading this whole thread as a half-fulfilled day chore of reading books for the "75 hard" challenge). The passion that drives winning entrepreneurs. The win, win, win. The importance of connection with clients. And the importance of good sense. The combination of these.

I can really relate to what you said about the power of asking questions, and the power of good rapport with clients. Reading this inspires me to take it to the next level. I will certainly come back to this, to reread the practical advice.

Next Monday I have a job interview planned. It's for a half commercial, half legal job. It's about detecting needs of entrepreneurs and translating those to legal services and tools. I would be working in a team of team business coaches, sales managers en client advisors. Reading this post excites me even more about this possible change from the current 100% legal job. But... we'll see. There are all these questions that I want to ask first. ;-) Just taking it step by step.
 
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Next Monday I have a job interview planned. It's for a half commercial, half legal job. It's about detecting needs of entrepreneurs and translating those to legal services and tools. I would be working in a team of team business coaches, sales managers en client advisors. Reading this post excites me even more about this possible change from the current 100% legal job. But... we'll see. There are all these questions that I want to ask first. ;-) Just taking it step by step.
Thank you for your kind words, and good luck in your interview!
 

Valere

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So let me ask you, does your banker send you business?

In 3 years, only 2 people ever said yes their banker sent them business. I said great! Keep ‘em. You have a good one. And I moved on.

To everyone else, I said, Let’s chat a little more so I can learn a little more about your business, and when I leave, I’ll try and find 3 people I think you can do business with, ok? I just make introductions, up to you whether you do business, but I promise I don’t waste anyone’s time. Sound good? (They nod their head). And after I do that and you meet with them, will you then consider bringing your banking relationship over to me?

Of course they say yes.

Do you see the sequence of questions and predictable answers? It got to be robotic for me, but for them, it was always a first. I stood out.

So I’ve built rapport at this point and I’ve promised them they want. And they know what I want too. Its all out in the open. So now I get to ask the magic question. “Can you give me a rough idea how much you keep in your account?”

It didn’t always work, sometimes I made it a joke, other times I gave a little further explanation for the question, but eventually I got so good at it that more than 50% of the time people would tell me. No matter what they said, I quickly moved on because this is an uncomfortable question to ask (in a public networking event, no less). I spent the next several minutes enthralled as I asked more questions about who was a good client for them.

(Side note... Ok, I haven’t thought about this in years. But I just wrote this story down, and yes, I got a lot of people to tell me their bank balance in a public setting! It was normal to me then, but writing it out just now… woah! People are crazy. :rofl: Pro tip - Don't give strangers your bank balance people! Ok, moving along...)

Ok, so when I left the event, I’d prioritize the people with the biggest balances first (sometimes I had to guess), and I’d do my best to find 3 meetings for them. Added bonus, making those client calls I was supposed to make went so much easier when I was calling to introduce my client to somebody. By reciprocity, I’d get 75% of prospects to actually follow through and open accounts, get loans, etc. My clients loved me. This is a big part of how I became a national achiever at my bank.

I believe this basic tactic can be applied by any number of businesses and/or taught to your sales people. I had a database and the ability to drive sales for people. Be a connector. Give more than you get. Ask powerful questions. Most people can develop these assets.

An unexpected benefit is this, since this was their first introduction to me, my clients always felt like I am honest and like they can confide anything in me. They would come to me for all kinds of advice. All because I dared ask these kinds of questions. And that's still true to this day.

So look at your assets differently. Here are other examples:
  • A client with drivers did a food drive where they handle the pick ups. It was “easy”, their clients were biggish companies, so they just asked the HR managers to send out an email for people to donate cans of food by leaving them next to the shredding bins. Over the course of a month, the drivers left boxes for the cans one week, picked them up the next. They generated press and good will. (SEO people, this is great link juice). I’m sure this impacted client loyalty too.

  • Another client had a way too big and empty parking lot. Do you like going to coffee shops with big empty parking lots? So they opened up the parking lot for any number of events, which basically gave her coffee shop free publicity, word of mouth, and easy customers. Talk about turning a weakness into a strength.

  • Another client was in the costume business. Super seasonal. When they decided to start selling sexy costumes, their business really took off. Another word for sexy costumes is lingerie, and viola, their super seasonal business morphed into an actual Fastlane business with consistent sales and shocking enough gear that generating press and social media buzz became, for them, super easy. Who buys sexy Donald Trump outfits for women? Yuck. But you’re going to Google it now, aren’t you? And the HuffPo will write about it. Buzzzzzzz.
Your process is amazing. It is truly a creative process and takes time to figure out how to approach different types of individuals. You have to make a connection in a short time in order to establish trust/spark interest between you and a potential client. Also, you brilliantly emphasized the value proposition factor. They must understand what they can get out of your future business relationships before they can commit to them. Thanks a lot for sharing your insights!
 

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eliquid

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Business Ideas Come From Anywhere… But Usually From The Line Of Work You Are Already In
Good read, thanks for posting.

Not sure if you ( or others reading this ) have read my SaaS thread, but I constantly harp on the subject of "being the domain authority" before you start a SaaS.

Authority not meaning you are the best or the top at what you do, but that you know more than the lay person. Your statement of "business ideas come from your line of work" is an exact match to this.
 
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BizyDad

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Good read, thanks for posting.

Not sure if you ( or others reading this ) have read my SaaS thread, but I constantly harp on the subject of "being the domain authority" before you start a SaaS.

Authority not meaning you are the best or the top at what you do, but that you know more than the lay person. Your statement of "business ideas come from your line of work" is an exact match to this.
I'm glad you liked it.

I have not yet committed the time to read yours, but I have it bookmarked and am looking forward to it. I have noticed you have some of the more insightful posts on the threads, so thank you as well. :smile:
 

becks22

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How did I miss this thread? Thank you so much! There's so much here, it's honestly going to take me awhile to unpack my thoughts!
 

Parks

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How does this have so little replies but so many likes lol? Awesome thread.

Although this is a semi gravedig, it's worth appreciating how much I am fan of your almost scripted conversation starters. This should be a book alone I'd buy forsure (coming up with your own ways/methodologies) With the right tweaking you can learn a lot about people and the market needs.

Almost like a Dale Carnegie How to win friends & influence people setup. Thank you for the share OP.
 
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BizyDad

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How does this have so little replies but so many likes lol? Awesome thread.

Although this is a semi gravedig, it's worth appreciating how much I am fan of your almost scripted conversation starters. This should be a book alone I'd buy forsure (coming up with your own ways/methodologies) With the right tweaking you can learn a lot about people and the market needs.

Almost like a Dale Carnegie How to win friends & influence people setup. Thank you for the share OP.
Thanks for the compliment. Much appreciated.
 

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