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How to Sell Banking Services to Millennials & Keep Your Firm Relevant


It is sad that the straight jacket of regulations that has been put on the community banks has shrunk the number of community banks from a one time high in the early 90s of 450 banks down to 172 today.

But not certain it is just overregulation but could be coupled with the fundamental change to banking and how we relate to the new customer.

I was in the business in that decade, and my work and my client’s businesses were booming. I had five clients my first year in business, and everyone wanted to learn how to sell, and get new business. New banks were opening all the time.

Today, the costs to run a bank have sky rocketed, and the new generation of millennials are not going to work for banks, nor wanting to bank in the “relationship” type of manner.

What is there for bank executives that want to keep their banks around, and not be bought nor merged to do to survive this decade? This article is written with the intent of starting the dialogue of some things that should be considered for those who want to be around and provides some starting suggestions.

The First suggestion – change things up!

Not just change your website, or change your logo, I mean really change things to makes a difference in your bank’s long-term survival! I know that is easier said than done since many bankers and board do not like change – but change is needed!

Second – think about how you connect with others.

Now that the average banker and bank client’s age is over 40 years old. How do you attract new clients who are the Millennial Business Owners?

You must reach out to this new generation differently- and it is not over the phone.

I have two kids in that generation, and I went back to Graduate School recently with this generation. I have been studying how to sell and work with these millennials for the past year.

I worked on it, I studied them, I studied using their communication mechanisms and I recently surveyed them in regards to why they bank where they do.  I want to share it with you.

Keep in mind, I am not new to banking, I have been working with community banks for over twenty years, and that doesn’t mean that I am old, it means I have seen the changes that the banks have gone through.

I was at the front of the curve in getting banks to switch from Operations focused to Sales focused back in the Security Pacific and First Interstate Bank days, and I am ahead of the curve today, in social media and business development in the millennial world.

How do the traditional firms that hire millennials in sales, sell to their prospects? What are the codes, what is the process?

Or is there a process? Is that an old school terminology, “sales process”?

The young guys out of college that work at twitter in business development; use twitter to reach out to their prospects. They “Tweet” them to get to them. Now, I have read one of their salesperson’s tweets, and it needs my twist of focusing on the correct value propositions. But that is merely a training effort.

Other firms looking for new clients write blogs, then tweet with the article in the link, and have their contact information in twitter and at the end and middle and end of their blog post.

Summary of Selling Banking Services to Milinaeals:

1.)  They don’t do the sending out letters and then following up with a phone call

2.)  They do go bike riding and wine tasting with prospects to network

3.)  They do connect through other channels before they start selling.

4.)  They do text, they do tweet, and they use Instagram a lot more than Facebook

5.)  They read news on the internet and they read blogs and now they send messages on Instagram

In my survey, not one of the people I surveyed both on-line and over the phone picked their banks because a banker called them over the phone.

The overall results were, they like deals. If you give them a good deal, and don’t bug them, they will switch. To them it is a transaction, not a relationship.

All of those surveyed like to communicate via automation and do their banking automatically.

Two of those interviewed bank at USAA because they were former military, everyone else was banking at traditional banks.

In communicating with Millennial Business Owners recognize that they don’t use email or phones for communication.

Recently on a PBS show there was three millennial interviewed, and I wanted to communicate with them in regards to writing this article. I reached out to Rick Rieff, the Co-Host, who I have worked with in the past.

He wrote me, “I don’t think we communicated with them via email, here is their website.”

I went to their website, and guess what? There was a photo, an Instagram, a twitter, and you tube link.

That is it! Again, no Phone Number no Email!!

So, I went on my twitter account and followed two of the guys, and then sent direct tweets to both of them. I also messaged one of them, of course at night, through Instagram, and he wrote me right back.

To further support this idea of a change in communication Bausch Lomb Executive Brian Schwartz shared with me the following research:

“Millennials on average spend 12 hours a day on electronic devices. This extreme usage is affecting their vision. A sustained visual task causes one to blink less- in fact, two thirds less. Which causes the eyes to get dry, that’s why there’s a new technology of lenses that is addressing this issue. “

So in other words, communicate with them in the manner they are using 12 hours a day.

Third – Millennials think differently.

Millennials don’t think about banking, they only think about who and where they are going for lunch or dinner.

And of course, with whom they are having drinks with. They volunteer and give back more than prior generations.

They are more liberal in their politics, and like straight and direct interactions with people they come in contact with.

They don’t have pretense, they will walk into your office with out knocking on the door and ask for a raise and/or ask for immediate feedback on their performance. If your bank needs to grow – you can’t leverage the bank like you were used too.

Getting new business from a new segment of the population is critical.

Finally – there is loyalty that can be won.

Loyalty from Millienials has a Strong Monetary Value as it costs seven times more to get a new client than to keep one.

Since Millennials don’t think about banking – Once You Get Them, They Become Loyal Clients!

Millennials might not be the best ones to give you references, openly.

Through my survey I learned that if you play your cards right, they will be loyal and indirectly give you referrals.

Just don’t bug them in the old school way of trying to call them on the phone for a meeting.

This is very counterintuitive; you will gain loyal Millennial business owners by staying out of their way and not calling, or asking for lots of face-to-face meetings!

In regards to social media, profiles with a large number of subscribers and followers are also able to gain a significant number of referral fans as a result of their efforts.

The referral process is usually as simple as people seeing their friends ‘like’ something and becoming fans along with them.

This domino effect is usually capable of being able to reach out to an increasing base of niche consumers as it perpetuates itself.

These are some thoughts to start the discussion on selling to millennials.

I have an active Twitter account, and active Instagram account, and I opened a YouTube channel plus about 5 other social media accounts. I am going to be using reddit ( now to help grow attention and business for a unique client.

I still have my website, and I still update it and I write a blog, on a separate account. I wrote and scheduled a month’s worth of tweets for some of my clients.

I have evaluated their social media strategies in addition to their sales strategies and tactics, and I have had my clients re-evaluate their brand messaging.

It is not easy to change, and I know better than most, as I went back to Graduate school in 2014 and got my Masters Degree, and it was not easy.

But I learned how to work with millennials by being in class with them, by being good friends with them.

As an experienced Bank Consultant working with over 100 banks, I am very passionate that I can help bankers learn to do this as well.

As always, Good Luck and Good Selling

No PART of this may be copied or used without the written permission of the author.
Deborah Johnson, MPA (Gavello)


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    Jim Holly"She created a real burst of interest and desire to sell. We piqued an interest level we didn't know existed, and she has the ability to present the material in a non-threatening manner. In this particular area of training Deborah is able to present the materials without it being an onerous or burdensome concept for people who are not use to sales training. She got people to see that selling was actually helping people."

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