Q&A on Retaining Key Customers

bank sales manager q&a

Question: We have a longtime marquee customer whose long-time account officer just retired.  I handed them over to my strongest Relationship Manager, who arrived with the endorsement of the customer’s accountant.  


While the CEO and CFO like their new banker, they said they are still going to use the opportunity to shop the relationship.  I went to lunch with them a few weeks ago, and if they said it once they said it 20 times – they are thrilled with us and have zero complaints. 


Losing this relationship would reverberate negatively for us and very positively for whoever stole it. Outside of responding to an RFP, I’m thinking we should do something else that leverages our position as the incumbent and/or elicits guilt at the prospect of leaving–something like bringing in lunch for all the employees.  


Do you have any tried and true tricks you could suggest? 


Answer:  My quick reaction is that your approach should include more than one grand gesture (buying lunch for the masses); it might be a series of things involving various parties inside the bank and the company (e.g. something involving your CEO and their CEO; a “relationship review” with the CFO and your team; a special event; etc.)  


Here are my assumptions and suggestions:  

  1. You don’t know whether they will put their business out to bid but if they do, it will take several months for the process to unfold. This means that the plan you develop should look out over the next 3 to 6 months at a minimum. 

  1. Presumably your former RM has left you with a good understanding of who all the players are (inside and outside the C-suite). Your new RM has to meet with all of them in the near term. That may involve some joint calls with members of your team who know some of these parties (e.g. TM rep, senior management, you, etc.) 

  1. You have a good working relationship with their external advisors (CPA, attorney, etc.) Your new RM needs to meet with the key people there.  

  1. Your new RM is up to speed on the industry, the firm’s capabilities and strategic priorities. He/she has to be able to demonstrate that in conversations with all people in #2 and 3. Your new RM (and the other members of your team) should be able to discuss how you’re going to help them (e.g. accelerating collection of receivables, attracting and retaining staff, financing investment in technology, etc.) This means that you have a plan for enhancing the value you bring to the company. 

  1. You understand what the C-Suite values (and my guess is that is more a combination of professionalism and technical proficiency than price). Your RM has to deliver what they’re looking for.  


If I were you, I would also sound out others about what you could do. If you have a coach within the company—somebody who likes you and wants the bank to succeed—get that person’s insights.  


Final comment: You could make the case that this is what every Commercial Relationship Manager should be doing to retain a top client. Unfortunately, many aren’t doing as good a job on this as they should.  


What do you think? What advice would you give this Sales Leader? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below… 



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