relationships and developing pipelines. One profession is especially adept at this: dentistry.

When you think about it, the similarities can be striking. The challenges both bankers and dentists face in generating revenue, for example. Instead of selling a particular product or service, both sell something more complicated: health, be it dental or financial.

Many bank clients have not identified a need for a specific product but could use financial services to improve their overall financial health. Like all those people who only go to the dentist when they have a problem, they tend to steer clear of bank services except the ones they really need.

Bankers and dentists must show their clients what is in their best long-term interest. Both must conduct a "needs analysis" -- like taking X-rays of financial profiles -- before they can recommend the right solution.

Awhile back, many dentists discovered that their scarcest resource, time, was not always properly used. Their investment in office space, receptionists, and other staff was not optimal, so they developed a sales management system to increase revenue per square foot and revenue per full-time equivalent.

First, they put their reception employees on a bonus program based upon how many appointments they set. Second, they created demand and an ongoing pipeline by identifying routine needs, for example, semiannual checkups and teeth cleanings, that can be scheduled far in advance.

With the help of low-level staff, dentists have turned those appointments into a predictable stream of small sales. These are then augmented by the more specialized services the dentist provides. In order to develop this business line, the dentist engages clients in a diagnostic discussion in which their needs are explored and a customized plan is developed.

The parallels to bankers' sales process are striking, yet few of us execute as effectively. We do not typically use our less professional staff -- tellers -- to build sales of simple products and set appointments with customers (referrals).

But much like receptionists, our tellers can account for more than 90% of customer contact, so their presence should be leveraged. They can suggest products, make customers aware of specials, and become an integral part of sales teams.

Further, bankers need to profile customers to develop a complete picture of their financial welfare, to be followed by a customized plan.

This is what needs-based selling is all about. With an in-depth understanding of customers' financial profiles, bankers can create value for clients while building shareholder value through a longer-term sales program and cycle -- much as dentists do.

Dentists use a "health benefits model" to build a series of future contacts and sales, acting on information obtained during the initial diagnosis stage. Their assistants and receptionists can use the information to set appointments with patients who look for the dentist to take charge of their dental health.

Similarly, bankers have the tools to build an effective revenue stream by securing future contacts and sales to meet evolving customer needs. Acting on profiles can generate a stream of appointments.

We have a unique opportunity to become the financial health professionals for our clients. We need to apply rigorous sales disciplines and profiling techniques to get there. If our dentists can do it, so can we.

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