In my town, there is a billboard that says –

“Our tellers are actually better listeners”

and then shows the logo of the bank in the lower right hand corner of the ad.

Since when has banking become therapy? My bank has now replaced my best friend, co-worker, spouse and dog? I don’t need better listening tellers for about a hundred reasons, including:

  • I don’t bank with tellers- I bank with bankers or ATMs and tellers are neither
  • Only the lowest common transaction is given to the teller and I will favor speed and accuracy 5:1 over listening
  • There is no brand equity to be garnered by the bank nor financial value to me for this elusive to describe quality

I bring this up because I spend a great deal of time with companies working on their messaging to their largest prospects.  All sorts of characteristics are thrown out as potentially the silver bullet differentiator – language like “market leader,” “proven experience,” “greatest value” and so on. It is so much fluff and hype, and yet it is offered up as the best way for a company to differentiate itself from its competitor.

Differentiation comes from the unique way in which your company understands and solves your prospect’s business problems. For big accounts, there are only three real business problems:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Risk

The shift is in focusing on the way the prospect counts their money, their time and their risk. A word of caution- when we are talking about very big sales, money is not about price, time is not about service and risk is not about guarantees. Those are not answers to business problems, they are answers to commodity questions from your competition.

The second shift is that if we are not talking numbers, we are not talking to them. When we put in platitudes like, “Lowest cost of total ownership.” What does that mean? When we offer banalities such as “Highest commitment to service,” how is a prospect to get excited about that? We need to make claims that are valuable in a business issue sense to our prospects,  and to do that, our answers have to be measurable. Some examples:

“Companies hire our firm when they need to solve one or more of these business problems:

  • Increase a division’s revenue by 8% or more in less than one quarter
  • Reduce new customer defections by more than 10% in less than a year
  • Accelerate new customer purchase persistence to 80%+ in their first month”

These answers are a formula that creates your business claim for the business solution you provide. This formula for creating these business claims is straight-forward:


Prospect’s Business Issue + defined amount of improvement + timeframe


A couple of guidelines –

  1. Use claims based upon your past best clients. Indicate that these are the possible results, but that every account is unique. Your goal is to engage a dialogue that provides the information necessary to add precision to your claim.
  2. Use language that is very specific to your industry so that your prospect understands that your value and your claim is designed for them.
  3. Create a conversation, not a debate. Your goal is to reach a quick and shared understanding of whether the prospect has the problem that you solve and whether you provide a credible and significant solution. If you are challenged on the claim, ask the informing questions that allow you to tailor the claim to that particular prospect.

As a general rule, I avoid free-consulting. It sets a bad precedent. However, this bank is so clearly in need of help that I will offer some advice as a favor to all who pass their silly billboard. Here are my alternatives to what they are offering.

  • 100% of those who qualify get loans in less than a week
  • We make over half of the motorcyle loans in the area, want one?
  • Give us your money, we’ll give you more back each month

Take your own shot at this last one.  I would love to hear some other alternatives.

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