Advice for SMEs on Selling Technology to Banks

Any complacent conception that the banks are somehow an ‘easy sales prospect’ should have been dispelled by the new reality that took over in the post-2008 banking world.

Today, to selling technology to the banks you’ll need to be on top form and wielding a compelling proposition.

In what follows, I’ll be sharing my experience in this domain and offering some top tips as to how to position yourself for success.

Understanding the environment

One lasting legacy of the various crises of 2008-2012, is that today’s banks are much more closely monitored and regulated. 

That regulation and the associated emphasis on compliance, has increased both bureaucracy and committee-based decision making. It has also forced more focus on the advance assessment of supplier/provider credibility.


  • the banks are now risk-averse at a near DNA  level – that’s not easy to overcome;
  • from a PR perspective, they’re painfully aware of how negatively their customers and investors now view news of ‘mission to Mars’ enterprises within banks;
  • the augmented regulatory framework now demands much tougher governance overall. In this context, that has generated “Know Your Suppliers” (KYS) requirements. In other words, increased due diligence with suppliers and the widespread use of preferred supplier registers;
  • banks were always inclined towards red tape and circumlocution. For the reasons I’ve outlined above, that has been now massively exacerbated – so you’ll need to accept the reality that fast decisions are unlikely.  

There is also widespread folklore in the banking sector relating to SME technology providers.

That runs along the lines that SME providers:

  • lack the resources to deliver the required outcomes over the timeframes involved;
  • struggle with post-implementation support is a challenge;
  • do not have in-depth Quality Management (QM) frameworks;
  • don’t understand banking;
  • do not have the financial or other resources, sufficient to meet bank liabilities in the event of project failures, delays or regulatory transgressions.

Whether these are all myths or partly the truth, is a moot point. What does matter is that you develop a sales strategy to cope with these perceptions.

Positioning yourself to make a positive impact

If the above looks gloomy and pessimistic, it isn’t. By objectively recognising the reality you’ll be facing, you can develop a strategy and tactics to deal with the position.

Let’s start with what I call ‘pre-positioning‘ activities:

  • develop prospect intelligence. That includes things such as identifying who are the key influencers and decision makers you’ll need to reach. Find out what they require by way of KYS compliance and what it’ll take to meet their criteria for inclusion on approved supplier status lists;
  • do whatever it takes to satisfy their KYS criteria. Do not try and somehow go around them – it probably won’t work and you’ll simply prejudice your interests for the future;
  • research and learn banking-speak as a language and identify what’s currently important to them;
  • be sure you find out just what it takes to be included on the invitation list for RFI/RFPs etc. Note – this isn’t always the same thing as just being noted on the KYS listings.

Once you have cleared the decks and know you have a chance of a hearing, move on:

  • COVID has probably ended or at least hugely reduced the scope for cosy chats over lunch or in offices. That may never change. So, develop a multi-channel contact strategy using video conferencing, just in case you physically can’t get in the door.

Don’t assume this is just a case of linking up – you need to have a presentation style that maximises the potential of this channel whilst limiting its drawbacks;

  • recognise that flagship proposals, with projected benefits arriving way over the horizon, are just not palatable any longer. Make sure you identify significant ‘quick wins’ in your proposition, which will generate some early ROI. These are also important as confidence-boosters for prospects;
  • deliver your proposition and benefits in business, not technology terms. Whatever the banks might say about cutting-edge visions, they are essentially highly conservative organisations and don’t like either technology for its own sake or being used as guinea pigs for untried solutions. 

Keep your proposition safe and based upon proven approaches because what you see as ‘leading edge’, they will see as high-risk and possibly ‘bleeding edge’;

  • offer shared-risk propositions, if you can. That will boost their confidence and appeal to their risk-averse tendencies;
  • develop different proposition strategies depending upon your target audience. Business people in banks will only register proposal details that are business benefit related. Keep topographical models, schematics and techno-jargon out – put those in a separate subset proposal aimed at their IT people or anyone who shows an interest;  
  • consider the psychological impact of who you have fronting your proposals in terms of video calls and possibly meetings. Use people who are slightly older and who ooze stability, level-headedness, experience and reassurance. Young people in expensive suits proposing big spends would worry many in banking – however bright said young people are. That might be controversial and tough but it is the reality of life;
  • finally, your proposal absolutely must show your risk containment strategies in areas such as overruns, overspends and technical failures. If it doesn’t, your prospect is likely to conclude that you’re unaware of them and that could be fatal for your outcome hopes.

That final point is so important that I’d like to invest a few more words in it.

SME’s must be able to clearly demonstrate that they operate industry-standard methodologies for risk containment – which often links back to QM standards. Accreditations ALWAYS carry weight with banks.

You should also show that you’re investing in liability control and accept your accountabilities in a responsible fashion. That introduces the concepts of things such as liability insurance, bonds and so on.

Finally, don’t forget that banks might see less risk if your proposition includes sharing the delivery responsibilities overall with a larger and more robust organisation. 

True, you might fear being overshadowed and eventually subsumed but there are ways to deal with those risks. The potential benefit though is that a bank might be more comfortable if they’re not entirely reliant upon a single SME for success.


I regularly hear people saying that it’s almost impossible to sell technology into the banks these days.        

That is fundamentally wrong. 

What is likely to prove to be an insurmountable challenge is if you try to submit a proposal that fails to address today’s regulatory and risk-management culture within banking. 

If you craft and deliver proposals that reflect some of the above realities, success will be possible.

How we can help

Anthony Martin Consultancy is a procurement and bid advisory consultant. We provide tactical and strategic commercial expertise to help you win more business and cut your supplier costs.

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