Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - June 29, 2016

The Start of a Customer Relationship

Note from Jeff: For this issue of Jeff's Thoughts, I've asked John Marston, who has played many roles in banking, to share a recent experience. More about John below.

Recently, a local nonprofit asked me to draw on my banking experience to help them review and update their use of financial services. The basic question was whether their current bank was serving them well, and whether they should explore other potential providers.

I helped them identify their needs, and then we asked four banks to respond to our list. It is important to understand that we didn't just call banks and say, "We're looking at banks, what could you do for us?" Our request for proposals was much more specific, providing a clear map to any bank that wanted to serve the nonprofit.

I was, frankly, shocked at the differences in the responses we received. Now, I'm not talking about the specific products and services the banks made available to this prospective customer. Nor am I talking about pricing and other parameters. Yes, there were some differences between what was offered by the various banks, but these differences weren't large.

Where differences were very large indeed were in what I would call the relationship side of their response. Certainly, they all promised a great customer relationship and wonderful, attentive service. But when did that great relationship begin?

For the winning bank, it was clear that the relationship began when they received our request. They took the time to read the request and address most of the points clearly and specifically. They listened to their potential customer from the start, so that there was already a relationship when we sat down to discuss their responses.

As for the bank that ranked last, it was just as clear that they would "turn on" the relationship after the customer signed on the dotted line. As for their presentation, they winged it. They came in with a generic pitch that didn't acknowledge, in any significant way, the specific issues we had asked them to address. They probably made the same pitch to the next prospect they called on, regardless of whether their needs were similar to or different from ours.

The other two banks fell somewhere in between. They didn't ignore the request, but they tended to offer prefabricated solutions based on common situations instead of responses to our actual questions.

As you can guess, the winning bank did not necessarily offer the lowest cost to the nonprofit. They won based on the relationship.

You might say that all of the banks promised great relationships. They all promised to listen to their customer.

But the winning bank delivered the relationship up front. They demonstrated their commitment to listening, instead of just promising to be good listeners.

I am often surprised by the lack of preparation I see in selling (and buying) situations. In my work in talent recruitment, I see both prospective employer and potential employee winging it in the interview way too often. That just leads to bad hires and missed opportunities.

Whether it is a hiring relationship or a banker-customer relationship, it starts with that first contact. When you recognize that and do the preparation needed to nurture the relationship to the next level, you will beat your completion, more often than not.

About John Marston

John Marston's many years of banking, in a wide range of roles for a variety of institutions, have given him a keen understanding of how banks work. He now applies that knowledge as principal of Innovative Talent Solutions, where he connects organizations in search of premier talent with exceptional individuals in search of new career opportunities in banking. Contact John at, or visit his web site at .