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What’s the best advice you ever received on sales? (Part 1)


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Here is some practical advice on sales from veteran bankers (and a few former bankers—yes, Virginia, there is life after banking) as a special holiday gift. Here’s to a great year for all in 2015!

1. Be persistent.  Position yourself to be #2 at a minimum.  You will eventually be needed.

Bill Kepler Fulton Bank

2. ALWAYS return calls or emails the same day. Take ownership and “NO” is never the right answer . Plan for ALL meetings. Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up.

Gerald Deetz Arizona Business Bank

3. Be prepared for every meeting as though it is your only chance to win business, then listen closely to what the most important issues are, react quickly and appropriately

Kelly Condon Colorado Business Bank

4. Listen, listen, listen.

Frank Walter Heartland Financial  

5. The warmth of human contact is getting lost in modern technology. Email is no substitute for a phone call. Your clients actually want to hear your voice--even if it's a quick voice mail to follow up on an email.

Susan Eick Right Management

6. Do not waste the prospect’s time. Sell yourself, then uncover a problem, then provide a solution….in that order.

Chuck Cross Seacoast National Bank

7. The only way sales happen is if you batch your efforts and have a strategy.  I was told when I got started by my first boss to shut my door for 3-hours a week and do nothing except set up prospect / referral source / COI calls and research who I should be calling on.  This strategy still works today.

Jeff Hultman Illinois Bank & Trust

8. Focus, focus, focus.  Not necessarily in that order.

Conrad Freeman  Vectra Bank Colorado

9. Planned regular sales calling yields consistent results. Keep the top of the sales funnel full. Scrub your COI list! Work your lists!

Scott Page CoBiz Bank

10. Be a good listener and don't oversell.

Roberta Bastow First Niagara

11. If you have not convinced a new contact of your value proposition within ten minutes, it is very hard to reverse that first impression.

Rob Nichols First Niagara

12. You cannot be a good listener if you are not a good questioner.

Doug Miller State Street (retired banker, current brother) 

13. The best advice I ever received in regard to selling is “not to take rejection personally”. Much easier said than done, but something in keep in mind with each prospect call I make.

Gordon Oosting  Mercantile Bank & Trust

14. Connect emotionally and develop a bond. People want to do business with friends they trust.

Scott Sehnert Rocky Mountain Bank

15. It’s about being prepared, establishing an emotional connection, building confidence and ultimately understanding the needs of a customer.

Steve Fisher Northwest Savings Bank

16. Selling is about establishing long term relationships with customers, prospects, and COI's. The winning mindset is of providing value through industry insight, understanding economic drivers for the sector, and executing on your delivery of financial instruments.

Mike Olague Bank of the Sierra

See some patterns? Stay tuned for Part 2 with more advice on building relationships with business customers in 2015. Happy holidays to all!

P.S. Have some advice for bank Relationship Managers? Add it in the space below.

Is Cross-Selling the Secret Sauce for Business Bankers?




describe the imageIn a recent webinar on cross-selling, Charles Wendel and Buck Bierly discussed the challenges business bankers face in expanding relationships with business customers. The bottom line: Cross-selling may not be the secret sauce, but it is a key ingredient to increase per account revenue growth.
Here are some of their key points:
Selling more to an existing customer is less expensive and more likely to succeed than prospecting.
Cross-selling needs to be mandated from the top of the organization and reflected in compensation.
Management needs to set priorities for the products to be cross-sold.
Enhancing individual product profitability goes hand-in-hand with a cross-sell effort.
Cross-selling needs to be a continual and dynamic effort, not a one time event.
The account planning process should highlight cross-sell opportunities.
To listen to this complimentary webinar, go to
Bonus: To read an article by Charles Wendel on cross-selling that appeared in the BAI enewsletter click on the following link:

Cross Selling as Secret for Success?

Building Relationships with Small Business Owners: New Articles



In the November 2014 issue of Branch Manager's Letter Buck Bierly shares his insights on what bankers need to do to build relationships with small businesses.  To download a complimentary copy of the newsletter, go to

If you are interested in subscribing to the newsletter, contact Lana Chandler at 304-343-0206.

 branch manager sales


More free stuff: Savvy bankers know that prospecting is not a numbers game, it’s a relationship game. Being involved in your community, joining organizations, and attending networking events can all help you build relationships with prospects.

Listen to Ned Miller’s tips on networking by downloading this mp3 file at

If you’d like a copy of an article on Asking Customers for Referrals, go to

Self-Assessment: Time for Bankers to Look in the Mirror

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Many of my bank clients are asking their relationship managers to reflect on their performance in 2014. It’s usually a worthwhile exercise. But what if such self-assessment occurred on a more frequent basis—weekly, say? Here’s one way it could.

We all know that it’s easy to kid ourselves about how well we’re doing. But when we have to look ourselves in the proverbial mirror, well, it’s another story.

I recently asked a group of business bankers to think about their “mirror questions.” Rather than giving the bankers the questions they should answer—a wily maneuver that consultants use all the time—I suggested that they come up with their own self-assessment. Specifically, I wanted them to devise a list of questions they could ask themselves each week to evaluate how well they had performed. It was, in essence, a personal report card that focused on their own critical sales behaviors.  

Now such introspection is not for everybody. But several of the bankers rose to the occasion. Here’s what one of the high-performers in the group wrote about the task: “The exercise was interesting; it forced me to redefine how I view a successful week.  I say interesting because I have always viewed success based upon what closed or is likely to close, but this exercise made me think more in terms of movement and progress, not just end results.”  

I’m not sure what he or the others will do with their lists of questions. They might forget about them—that’s what happens to a lot of things that fill time in sales workshops. Maybe they’ll pull them out after a long week and see how well they had performed using their own criteria—and get something valuable out of the process.

Or perhaps they’ll do something really bold. What if each banker had a trusted colleague, spouse or friend ask them the questions, holding them accountable each week for their critical behaviors? There would be only one rule: colleagues and friends could only ask the questions. There could be no disapproving glances, no tongue-lashings, no critical comments.

Management guru Marshall Goldsmith has 10 or 12 questions he uses to evaluate his performance each day. Each night he talks on the phone with a friend about his professional pursuits but also about whether he’s done his sit-ups, eaten sensibly, done something nice for his wife and children, etc. It works for him.

Do you want to come up with your own questions? If you do, stop reading here. If you need some inspiration to get started, here are the weekly questions that the banker quoted above came up with:

  • Did I define my specific objectives for the week? 
  • Did I add names to my prospect list? 
  • Did I plan appropriately for each sales call?
  • Did I develop a follow-up plan for each sales call?
  • Did each of my pending deals move forward? 
  • Have I reached out to an existing client this week?
  • Have I reached out to a COI this week?
  • Have I reached out to an internal partner this week?
  • Did I prioritize my time/resources appropriately?
  • Did I learn something about my sales skills?

These are all good questions. But my bet is you could come up with a list that might be more appropriate for you. You could add some questions about other things that are important--exercise, diet, family, etc. And then, if you found a buddy to ask you your own questions, you’d have a simple system to hold yourself accountable.

Is it worth a try? If you're looking to make changes in 2015, what do you have to lose?

If you found this blog post valuable, share it with your colleagues.

What do you think?  Please add your COMMENTS below...

4 Weekly Tasks for Bank Sales Managers (Video)


4 Weekly Tasks for Bank Sales Managers

Quick summary for those of you who don't like watching videos:

1. Start every Monday off with a 20-30 minute sales meeting. Focus on lead generation and pipeline "pull-through".

2. On Friday have sales team members update their pipeline reports. Identify any things that you need to ask about in the coming week.

3. Get a list by close of business on Friday of the calls your team has scheduled for the coming week. See if you like the quantity and quality of the activity. Decide if there are any calls you would like to go on.

4. Repeat the process each week.

Bonus: If you would like to download a copy of a Relationship Planning Guide, click on the link below. It will help your team members identify opportunities with both clients and prospects and develop approrpriate strategies for targeted businesses. You can use it in your 1 on 1 coaching sessions and quarterly client reviews.

Download Relationship Planning Guide

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Help Your Team Get the Most Out of Networking Events


The first holiday gift basket just arrived (Thanks, Bobby!) and I can’t wait to dive in to the goodies. There are other things (many) to look forward to in the next month and half. One of them is holiday parties sponsored by your clients and organizations in your community.

Most bankers I know buy in to the importance of attending networking events. Maybe as a result, sales managers don’t place as much emphasis on it as they should in their coaching.

I think they’re making a mistake. They need to help bankers learn how to work a room better, to become better networkers.

Here are five specific things sales managers can do:

  • Get people to go to the right events. What might be right for Jill may not be the best use of Jack’s time.
  • Make sure that people have a plan for each networking event. Maybe it’s a list of customers to talk to. Perhaps the goal is to connect with a particular prospect. Having clear objectives matters. 
  • Follow-up immediately afterward to see what your people got out of the event. Be curious about whom they talked to.
  • Go to some events with them and observe how they operate. You’ll probably have some more things to talk about when you debrief the session.
  • Ask people periodically whether the events they’re attending regularly are providing an appropriate ROI.

You don’t have to be a great networker yourself. But if you believe being active and visible at client functions and community and trade association events is important, you have to walk the talk.  Enjoy the holiday season!

Planning a Sales Conference or offsite meeting in 2015? Our consultants are frequent speakers at banking conferences and bank sales meetings. They have a reputation for delivering sales and sales management "how-to's" in a dynamic, engaging manner. Offering a range of keynote, half-day and full-day programs, their approach helps salespeople and sales managers gain a competitive advantage in every step of the sales process. For more information about how we may be able to assist you at an upcoming sales meeting or conference, call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 or email him at

10 Tips for Bankers on Finishing Strong in 2014

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1. Don’t stop scheduling appointments. If you have clients and prospects who are too busy to meet before year end, get them on the calendar in January. It will be harder to fill your calendar if you wait until after New Year’s.

2. Be nice to your customers, particularly the 10% who probably represent 80% of your profit. Tell them how much you value their business. Schedule time to meet with them (see #1).

3. Show your (short) prospect lists to the VIPs in your network, starting with some of the satisfied clients referenced in #2.

4. If you haven’t done it recently, review your customers’ accounts receivable and accounts payable lists. They could be great additions to your prospect list (and remember to ask for nice introductions from your customers too!)

5. Ask customers about their capital expenditure plans for the coming year. You might actually find a loan opportunity you didn’t know about.

6. Update relationship plans for your High Potential clients—those could be your best opportunities in 2015. (Cross-selling starts with a plan, not a prayer.)

7. Know what your objectives are at each holiday networking event you attend—and it better include some combination of checking the pulse of current customers, planting seeds with COIs, and meeting new people (prospects, potential COIs, etc.)

8. Think about revising your personal marketing plan. Does your LinkedIn profile need a facelift?  Do you need to get more testimonials from happy customers? How about joining a trade association or two to penetrate a niche that you’re targeting?

9. Figure out how to better leverage Senior Managers and product partners in the coming year. It could start with enlisting their support in crafting strategies for some of your key prospects.

10. Discuss with your boss what specific areas you need to focus on in 2015 to improve your selling skills and business acumen.  Options could include: signing up for a course; reading business publications like INC. Magazine, Fortune and any others that help you better understand the day-to-day challenges of your customers and prospects; spending more time with product specialists in your bank (e.g. Wealth Management, Treasury Management, Capital Markets); and delving into one or more industries that hold particular promise.

Bonus tip: Remember the important personal stuff. Spend quality time with loved ones of all ages. Go to the gym, don’t talk about it. Reflect. Count your blessings.

Next Complimentary Webinar on November 24 at 11 AM Eastern: What Small Business Bankers Can Learn from Moneyball

Moneyball, the 2011 box-office hit, tells the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and how he built a winning baseball team on limited budget using data and analytics. For a baseball franchise, analytics play a vital role in developing strategy, tactics and techniques. In this webinar Ted Triplett, the Chief Marketing Officer of Insight Ecosystems, shows how banks are applying this same approach to small business banking to gain a competitive advantage, improve performance and drive growth and profitability. You need not know anything about baseball to discover how to hit home runs by turning data into insight and insight into results.

Go to to register. If you have questions call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at

Recently recorded complimentary webinars available in the recorded sessions area of our webinar archive:

Q&A on Prospecting

Is Cross-selling the Secret Sauce?

Business Acumen: The Key to Differentiating Yourself


Business Acumen: The Key to Differentiating Yourself

How can business bankers differentiate themselves in the market place? In this short video Buck Bierly discusses how many of the best Relationship Managers succeed by providing prospects with valuable ideas and unsolicited insights. Using their expertise and experience, RMs can stand out by demonstrating a higher level of business acumen than their competition.


Next live webinar: What Small Business Bankers Can Learn from Moneyball on November 24 at 11 AM Eastern

Moneyball, the 2011 box-office hit, tells the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane and how he built a winning baseball team on limited budget using data and analytics. For a baseball franchise, analytics play a vital role in developing strategy, tactics and techniques.

In this complimentary live webinar Ted Triplett, the Chief Marketing Officer of Insight Ecosystems, shows how banks are applying this same approach to small business banking to gain a competitive advantage, improve performance and drive growth and profitability. You need not know anything about baseball to discover how to hit home runs by turning data into insight and insight into results.

If you would like to register for the live webinar on Monday November 24 at 11 AM Eastern just click on http://mzbierlyconsulting.webex.comSpace is limited to the first 100 participants.  (If you can't make the live session, register anyway and we'll send you a link to the recording.)

If you have any questions call 610-296-4771 or email


Do All Bankers Have ADHD? (Podcast)



bank sales managersDoes everybody have ADHD? Well, not in a strict clinical sense. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, something like 4.4% of the adult population has been diagnosed with ADHD. But even though I'm not a psychiatrist, I see too many bank relationship managers exhibiting symptoms that suggest a problem staying focused. That makes business development a challenge. If you're a sales manager, this is an important topic.

To download the mp3 or a transcript of the recording, click on the link below.

Do all Bankers have ADHD?

Our next 2 live webinars are complimentary:

* "Is Cross-selling the Secret Sauce?" with Charles Wendel on November 3, 2014

* "What Small Business Bankers Can Learn from Moneyball" with Ted Triplett on November 24, 2014.

All webinars begin at 11 AM Eastern. To sign up go to or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771. Space is limited to the first 100 participants. (If you can't make the live webinar, register now and we'll send you the link to the recorded versions.)

Building End to End Relationships with Business Owners


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Business owners have two lives – business and personal. Both lives have multiple financial needs. Limiting your prospecting calls to business products only reduces the profitability, growth, and loyalty of your relationships with business owners.

“Many financial institutions have basically said to their Branch Managers, ‘We need small business loans, so go get me some,’” points out Buck Bierly, President of MZ Bierly Consulting, Inc. (Malvern, PA). “When you look at the data supported by people like Barlow Research, roughly 35-40% of small business owners borrow on a regular basis commercially. The other 60 to 65% of business owners do not borrow on a regular basis. If they borrow, it is typically through home equity lines or credit cards.”

By focusing on small business loans only, you’ve automatically narrowed the focus for conversations with business owners. You go into the meeting asking, “Do you borrow?” and if yes, “What kind of rates are you being charged? And would you like to lower that rate?”

Five Stupid Questions

“We have this expression…it’s called the five stupid questions, and this is what most inexperienced salespeople do in the banking world,” says Bierly. Those five stupid questions are:

1.  Where are you banking?

2.  What products are you using?

3.  How are they priced and structured?

4.  What are two things your current institution hasn’t done that you wish they had?

5.  Can I have a copy of your statements to put together an offer of how we’d handle your borrowing relationship or your banking relationship?

“In the end, all those questions are doing is a product-to-product comparison for a single product, perhaps. Or a product-to-product comparison for multiple products,” Bierly says. “All you’re doing is setting up a price and structure competition.”

Expand Your Focus

An end-to-end relationship with a business focuses on the moment that an invoice is generated to the moment a payment is made for something like college tuition. Savvy bankers recognize that money is circulated all the way through the business and all the way through the owner’s personal life.

“The business owner has a business life and a personal life. Combine those two together using a phrase like in the business owner’s life, which really means from the moment that business owner generates an invoice,” explains Bierly. The owner sends the invoice to a client who then processes it through the accounts payable area of that particular organization.

The money from the invoice circulates through the owner’s business….paying off credit cards, paying employees, going into an investment account, paying down a line of credit, etc. At some point in time, the owner takes money out of the business through salary and/or shareholder distributions. The business then begins a new process….the money starts circulating through the owner’s life.

“There’s a high percentage of people who own businesses that have jumbo mortgages and second homes. So if all you’re focusing on is the business, you’re missing opportunities,” Bierly says. “If you focus on the business owner’s personal life, you may find opportunities that wouldn’t be apparent in their business life.” He cites these examples:

  College tuition

  Buying a second home

  Refinancing a mortgage

  Private wealth management

  Consumer banking

“Don’t limit your sales activity to just business loans. Find out, ‘What does this business owner’s life require them to do at this point in time?’ Then focus on that. By doing so, each interaction with a business owner becomes more profitable and more effective because you’re focusing across a broader array of financial management processes and uncovering a broader array of financial needs,” says Bierly.

Consistent Calling Activity

Consistent calling activity means that you consistently get in front of specific types of relationships. Here’s how Bierly identifies these relationships:

  Retention relationships are the top ten percent of the business relationships in your branch. “The top ten percent would have to be stacked ranking based on some metric. For example, aggregate loan and deposit balances or revenue contributions. Most institutions can’t measure the latter, so we suggest they use aggregate loan and deposit balances,” says Bierly.

  Expansion relationships offer a lot of opportunity to expand the relationships. Let’s say it’s a professional practice that’s got $1.5 million in revenue. The business is using somewhere between 10 and 15 financial management products; that would include both the owner’s business life and personal life. So if you have somebody in your book of business who only has two product categories (6 DDA’s is commonly viewed as one product category) with your institution, you can pretty much guarantee that they’re buying another 8 to 13 product categories from someone else.

  Acquisition relationships are the targeted businesses you’re trying to go after. “We [MZ Bierly Consulting] don’t call them prospects in our process,” Bierly says. “These are people that you and your bosses have agreed on would be good brand builders for your branch. They also match a credit profile and a profitability profile that your branch has defined.”

A Different Client Conversation

With a different client conversation you get deeper into what’s changing in the business. Instead of focusing strictly on financial issues, you focus on the business owner. If you’re calling on a business under $3.5 million dollars, MZ Bierly Consulting always recommends taking an owner focus. Instead of focusing on financial issues at the business management level, focus on how you can help the owner optimize some of your solutions for where the business is going, not where it’s been.

Have a conversation about…

  Where do you want your business to go over the next one, two, three years?

  How is that likely to change your day-to-day business operations?

  How are those operational changes likely to change your financial management processes?

EXAMPLE: Let’s take a look at some of the products you’re buying from my competitor. At XYZ Bank you bought some of those products three or four years ago. Are they still working as effectively for you as they did when you bought them? And as you look down the road over the next year, two years, three years, do you see how that effectiveness could potentially change based on our conversation?

Change is the common thread in having a different client conversation. Whether it’s change in the business itself or the owner’s life, successful salespeople identify and address emerging financial needs. Having the skill to look ahead is key to developing relationships with business owners.

“Stop selling products, sell to change,” emphasizes Bierly. “What’s changing in the business owner’s life? Look at the end-to-end relationship. And whatever is changing is what you sell to, because that creates more momentum to change the banking relationship than selling a single product does or campaigns or blitzes do.”

The Quality Factor

“You can make more calls on businesses talking to the business manager about financial issues…and you keep making more and more calls at that level, but it always leads you to the same thing. You end up with a product focus and selling one or two products at a time, if you’re lucky,” Bierly continues. “Changing the conversation and staying focused on what we call key relationships [includes your retention, expansion, and acquisition relationships] results in more opportunities with fewer calls because the calls are better focused, better planned and you’re spending more time understanding the business owner’s total life rather than just one element of their business.”

Honing your relationship development skills isn’t just changing the activity; it’s changing the quality of the activity by…

  Changing the quality of the clients and prospects you’re calling on

  Improving your conversations with business customers

Examples are focusing on your key relationships and being better prepared. “In the end, you change that client conversation because you are better prepared,” Bierly says. “You’ll find more opportunities faster to get into a relationship and create more momentum in moving those relationships from whatever institutions currently are fulfilling them.”

This article by Lana Chandler was originally published in the "Branch Manager Letter" in October 2014.

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