What Don’t You Know About Your Customer?


I’m Your Customer and You Don’t Know Me

In our work with banks, we still hear some employees asking the wrong question: “What product or service can I cross-sell this customer?” Are your staff asking questions that help them sell a product or to get to know the customer? Come on admit it, simply being focused on what you can sell someone is not exactly customer focused now is it?

A better approach when preparing to make a follow-up call or meet a customer is to ask yourself, “What don’t I know about this customer? What challenges, anxieties, goals or dreams do they have that I can uncover?” Given their life stage, what areas are important to consider? For example, “I wonder if this young family has an emergency fund for unexpected expenses? I wonder if this newly retired customer’s funds will last through retirement?” Now you can prepare specific questions to engage the customer, build trust and be viewed as a financial partner, not a salesperson!

e.g. “Many of my newly retired customers like you are concerned they will outlive their funds.   How comfortable are you with your current retirement and lifestyle planning?”  In other words, instead of asking “what can I sell?” always be thinking “What can I learn about this customer?” “Where are they experiencing ‘pain’ in their life or what major life events are coming up?”

Be Viewed as a Trusted Financial Partner


When you’re focused on transactional selling, you tend to give the customer exactly what they ask for and then attempt to cross-sell another service or two like on-line banking and a savings account. This short-term approach is often the end of the relationship. However, those who truly see themselves as financial partners go way beyond the initial basic transaction. They follow up, keep going deeper with their questions at each future touch point, add customer information to the profile (preferably housed in a CRM system) and build trust. Because they own and manage the relationship, they can spot opportunities to make product recommendations that improve the customer’s financial well-being and the customer is more likely to be open to hearing them. Your bank is not relying on one-time sales but revenue from a book of business.

How a Relationship Manager Gets to Know a Customer

It’s important to build relationship management into your onboarding and reboarding program. Earlier this year we implemented an onboarding and relationship-building skills training program with a client. Last month I facilitated a follow up tele-coaching call with a group of their personal bankers and branch managers. They shared examples of how they are building trust and deeper relationships with their customers by asking relevant, non-product related questions.

I was impressed with Cindy, a relationship manager. She shared when making her three-month follow-up call, she felt comfortable asking her customer “What are your top two financial priorities or goals in the coming years?” The customer mentioned they wanted to reduce debt, buy a bigger home for their expanding family, and hopefully, begin saving to retire early.

That discovery question led to another onsite meeting to help the customer restructure a loan to reduce debt, meet with a financial advisor and come up with a plan to help them reach their goals. She earned his trust over time and developed the relationship.  The loan officer and the financial planner were aided greatly by having access to the notes Cindy added to the customer’s profile in the CRM system.

The customer later admitted they were about to visit with another financial planner and had no idea the bank could advise them and had these additional services. This customer is now on the way to becoming an advocate because he has already introduced a neighbor to this bank. Building relationships naturally leads to customer loyalty and added business.

Challenge the Assumption I Know My Customer!

Action Steps

  1. Determine if your staff and managers ask questions just to sell a product or to discover the concerns and goals of their customers. Avoid pushing the product of the month and let go of the old transactional sales model.
  2. Be sure to capture and record key information in a customer profile that includes top financial goals, dreams, anxieties, life stage, current services, rent or own, hobbies, and much, much more. Managers should jointly review profiles periodically with your personal bankers.
  3. Include an “open-probing” exercise in sales meetings with practice and role play. Be sure to use questions that begin with, “what, how or tell me”. This will instill confidence in engaging customers in deeper conversations.
  4. Ask each banker to make a list of their top 25 customers and prospects. Challenge them to ask, “What don’t I know about each customer and their financial priorities?” Make a list of what they’d like to learn and create questions to find out! Here are some samples:
  • How happy are you with your current level of savings?
  • What does financial success mean to you?
  • How would you handle a large unexpected expense such as an auto or roof repair?
  • Tell me what your experience is with financial planning?

The Bottom Line

Take the time to demonstrate genuine interest in your customers and find out what’s important to them. Technology alone does not build relationships—-your people do!  When you make an emotional connection, they’ll be advocates for life!  I’ll be coming to your area soon – Let’s put on an exciting and educational program for your staff! See demo video below.


Barbara Sanfilippo is an award-winning speaker, coach, customer relationship consultant and founder of High Definition Banking®. Her training and consulting firm partners with banks to instill a structured relationship management process to accelerate organic growth and focus on the financial health of customers. Barb is passionate about creating inspired employees and leadership committed to making a difference in the lives of their customers. Engage Barb directly for your Annual Staff Event at 858-674-5500, ext. 101 or Barb@HighDefinitionBanking.com. For consulting, training and whitepaper visit www.HighDefinitionBanking.com and view her speaker demo video at www.HighDefPeople.com. Connect on LinkedIn.