A joint benchmark survey of LinkedIn usage among community banks and credit unions revealed that 56% of their sales people are not allowed to use social media sites while at work. Only 26% reported that they were encouraged to utilize LinkedIn as a sales tool.
Helping financial services firms transition from a sales culture focused on tick-marks and busy activities to a culture driven by sales performance and execution is challenging. Many community banks and credit unions continue to struggle to define their sales processes to become more proactive so as to remain viable and relevant within their marketplaces.
One of the most powerful tools to emerge in the past decade is LinkedIn. It has changed the way the sales happen. Unfortunately, many veteran banking execs and leadership teams have fostered some misconceptions about this tool, and continue to miss out on the opportunities presented by this powerful business development tool.
Myth #1: “LinkedIn is basically just ‘Facebook for business.’ And social media doesn’t generate business. Our time is better spent making more calls.”
LinkedIn is not Facebook. In many ways, LinkedIn shouldn’t even been classified as Social Media. Instead of thinking of LinkedIn as “social media,” think of it as “power networking.” LinkedIn allows bankers across the organization to not only connect with their clients, prospects and centers of influence, but also be visible by consistently adding value to others. It banking experts to share their expertise with large groups of people, stay in front of potential opportunities and get more mind time with decision makers. LinkedIn facilitates conversations and builds trust 24/7.
Leadership teams within forward thinking financial institutions recognize that the art of selling is not persuasion, it’s conversation. It’s not about pitching, it’s about catching. It’s not about closing the deal, it’s about opening a relationship. It’s not about volume of phone calls or visits a relationship manager makes, it’s about the care, planning, and value that goes into each call made.
A recent survey from the National Federation of Independent Business found that only 2% of small business owners said getting financing was their biggest issue right now. If your teams are making sales and only focused on loans, finding interested takers is an uphill battle. If your sales teams can connect with business owners, proactively stay in front of them with added value, establish themselves as a subject matter expert and be the first person their connections think of when it comes to banking expertise, then when that business owner does need help, the phone will ring.
LinkedIn allows salespeople to proactively market, connect with and stay in front of more local business owners and prospects than any person could physically do via phone, email and face-to-face calling.
Myth #2: “LinkedIn is a tool for posting your resume. If my employees are on LinkedIn, we’re only helping them look for another job.”
If you are worried about whether or not your sales team might get a call from a recruiter with a better offer, then you have bigger problems to worry about. Top employees will always be on the radar of recruiters, but if you provide a positive environment that people want to be in, you provide training, coaching in an environment that helps people grow, and pay your people fairly and competitively you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your best employees.
If someone wants to post their resume on LinkedIn, you aren’t going to stop them by blocking their access at work. The trade-offs of having an employee connect with limitless business owners far outweighs the risk of someone being contacted by a recruiter.
Myth #3: “When people look at your profile on LinkedIn, they want to see your experience.”
Most LinkedIn users don’t care about your resume. What do people care about? How can this banker help me? How is this banker different? Will this person add value and help my business? Will this person build trust with me so they can be a partner to my business and help my growth?
But most banker’s LinkedIn profiles don’t reflect this at all. Most bankers on LinkedIn talk about themselves, not about how they can help the buyer. Bankers need to create their profile with this thought in mind: How can I differentiate myself from the thousands of other bankers? What will my clients care most about? How can I show this on my profile?
Myth #4: “Why worry about LinkedIn when a business is just going to look us up on our bank’s website.”
When your bankers make sales calls and meet someone, it’s 60-70% likely that business prospects will first Google the banker, not the bank. LinkedIn will be one of the top items in the search results for your banker. If I’m a tech savvy business ownder and I can’t find the banker that I just met when searching LinkedIn, I’m going to ask myself: “How tech savvy is this banker? Or even the bank for that matter? Is this person really going to be able to help me if they can’t even access the computer to setup a profile?”
If the business owner does find your banker’s LinkedIn profile, what will they find? Will they see that your banker is connected in the community? Will they view your banker as someone who can add value to their business and be a true partner, making introductions to others? Will they see that others have recommended or endorsed them for their quality of work? Does the profile solidify in the mind of the business owner the value this person will bring to the relationship?
Banking is about relationships. LinkedIn’s entire business model is based on building relationships and connecting people in the business community.
If your bankers don’t have at least 500 connections, they are at a severe disadvantage. But it’s not just about numbers, it’s who makes up those numbers.
While teaching at Stonier this Spring, I had a student come up to me and tell me, “Until 6:00 AM today, I wasn’t on LinkedIn. I have the biggest portfolio in the bank. Until this morning, I didn’t realize how much this was hurting my business. After taking your class I have had an epiphany.”
Myth #5: Our Compliance team is concerned about privacy and risks associated with using LinkedIn or other social media sites.
Are there risks to using Social Media? Yes. Are there just as many risks if you ignore Social Media? Absolutely.
LinkedIn has gone to great lengths to secure its site. The government has put processes in place to force the bank to look at how they are using LinkedIn and other social media sites. Claiming that your bank doesn’t do social media is an excuse to avoid adapting to a world that changed years ago. There is no excuse for a bank to not allow its sales teams to use LinkedIn.
When compliance and IT run your bank or credit union, you’ll never have a sales organization. Compliance is a vital partner with sales and marketing, so you manage risks but do it in a consistent, professional way that allows your sales people to do their job and be successful without one arm tied behind their backs.
To not allow your bankers to be on Linkedin, is pure folly. You hire a salesperson to be out in front of customers and prospects in the community. If compliance or risk departments are telling your team that you can’t use LinkedIn, its time your leadership gathered the team together, including compliance to have a long hard talk about how the bank makes its money and how you can better work together to bring more business to the bank. The only thing worse is a banker that chooses not to use this vital conversation and value tool.
Bankers call everyday telling us about the appointments they’ve generated by using linkedin. We recently had a conversation with a banker who was able to track over $10 Million in new loans from the previous year by using tagging in LinkedIn. It took training, coaching and consistent use of LinkedIn three to four hours a week, but the investment clearly paid off.
Those who work in the financial services, especially those who work with business owners, need to recognize the value of LinkedIn and learn to more fully leverage their profile; use endorsements and recommendations; expand their network; prospect with LinkedIn; prepare for conversations; and maintain contact utilizing this rapidly growing professional tool.
Remember, Sales is about Conversations. Conversations lead to trust. Trust builds relationships – for life. LinkedIn is a great way to start and continue the process.
Jack Hubbard is Chairman and Chief Sales Officer of St. Meyer & Hubbard, a boutique training, coaching and sales consulting company that exclusively serves the financial services industry. Hubbard has personally trained and coached more than 66,000 bankers and credit union professionals.
Jason Tonioli is a Co-Founder of www.kadince.com and Elevation 43. Kadince streamlines the internal processes and approvals for marketing and compliance teams with its first of its kind digital ad approval tool for banks and credit unions. Elevation 43 provides marketing and CRM consulting services to banks and credit unions.