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5 Uncomfortable (?) Questions for Bank Sales Managers


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Barry Trailer, co-founder of CSO Insights: “Our research shows the average B2B sale involves 4.5 buying influences and, more than likely, each of them touches base with at least one other person for buy-in, approval, etc. “

Question for Bank Sales Managers: Do your bankers have major pieces of business today that hinge on 1 or 2 personal relationships? 


Joel Klein, former New York City Schools Chancellor: “Once they are hired, teachers in Finland are required to devote two hours a week to professional development throughout their careers.”

Question for Bank Sales Managers: How many hours a week are you devoting to improving the skills of your bankers?


Daniel Birke, David Sprengel, Jochen Ulrich and Michael Viertier:“Top performing sales organizations have the same percentage of sales staff in sales management roles—around 8%--as lower-performing companies. However, they have about 30% more sales staff in support roles. While this may seem counterintuitive, this approach frees up sales reps from more administrative devote more of their time to customers. The result is that front line sales reps are three times more productive than their peers.”

Question for Bank Sales Managers: What are you doing to improve the administrative support for your bankers?


Dan Perry, Sales Benchmark International: “87% of Sales Managers tell me they want to spend more time with their ‘A’ players Yet Sales Manager selling time is hovering around 48%. SMs don’t have the time to spend with their ‘A’ reps (or any reps like they should). In comparison, World Class selling time is around 77% for SMs. And part of this time must be spent with those ‘A’ players.”

Question for Bank Sales Managers: Are you spending enough time with your top performers?


Terence Roche, Cornerstone Advisors: “An astounding 97% of recruiters recently surveyed said LinkedIn is the most common in-house recruiting platform. Everybody at our meeting said they use it almost daily.”

Question for Bank Sales Managers: How are you using LinkedIn in recruiting?  (Bonus question: How are your bankers using LinkedIn to improve their results in prospecting?)

Looking for more resources on sales management? Check out these blog posts:

4 Weekly Tasks for Sales Managers (video)

6 Questions for Bank Sales Leaders about Process

20 Questions Bank Sales Leaders Should Ask Themselves


Why Producing Bank Sales Managers Struggle

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The number one issue in the bank peer data on improving banker sales performance is coaching. Most banks today have a reasonable level of accountability (goals, incentives, reporting) but are behind other industries in sales coaching.
The majority of commercial and business bankers still see themselves as "loan officers" and when they make the time to coach they primarily coach the credit process (getting the deal approved and closed). Sustainable growth in sales performance begins with the front end of the sales process (focusing on the right businesses, not wasting time with the wrong opportunities, using effective value propositions rather than price and structure, etc.). These skills take time, energy, and coaching to develop. A higher level of coaching significantly decreases the amount of time it takes a banker to become competent in these key skills.
Many community and regional banks use a Producing Manager sales leadership model. A Producing Manager typically carries a loan portfolio of between $40 and $70 million and manages 2 to 5 sales team members. A promotion from Commercial Lender to Producing Manager is often a clear signal that the bank values the individual’s credit and sales skills and can often lead to greater management opportunities in the organization.
The rationale for having them continue to manage their portfolios (“We have to take excellent care of the customers and you’re the best person to do that”) makes sense to the Producing Managers on another level; while it may be in the best interests of their customers, it’s also often perceived to be in their interest to hold on to their “meal ticket.” Many lenders see their customer relationships as a form of equity so they’re not averse to holding on to their book of business.
This model is common in banks where sales goals are relatively modest and where real estate-related transactions predominate. In banks where the sales performance expectations are higher the Producing Manager model can have a long-term negative effect on the sales performance of sales team members. Here are several of the problems:

  1. When Producing Managers carry more than a $10 million portfolio, the amount of time they spend coaching the front end of the sales process (lead generation and qualifying) is generally limited.
  2. They spend most of their time working their own portfolios and coaching credit (not sales) issues with their team members.
  3. They can compensate for the lack of sales coaching (growing team members’ sales skills) by "feeding" them deals and consequently helping them to make their goals.
  4. Producing Managers continue to build their own reputations in the community while their team members are less visible and less prepared for building their own network and customer following.
  5. Since Producing Managers spend less time coaching sales process (specifically the front end of the sales process) they don't fully develop competency in their skills as coaches and sales managers. This is especially true when they only manage 1 or 2 team members.
  6. The Producing Manager model is tenable in some situations but it significantly affects sales results when the number of sales team members reaches 4 or more. (If, however, the portfolio is reduced to less than $10 million and fewer than 5 relationships there is some increase in sales coaching.)
  7. Sales team members in Producing Manager teams grow their sales skills more slowly than those team members with "full-time" Sales Managers.

A common use of Producing Managers is in geographically dispersed teams (sales team members are 50 to 100 miles away). Yet there are many banks that have been able to build effective coaching processes with sales team members who are not in the same location. Sales Managers learn to use the phone, make regularly scheduled visits, and provide electronic delivery of reports and data (sales reports, underwriting information, etc.) to provide the coaching that team members need.
How do banks deal with the need for credit coaching in smaller or more remote markets? In some organizations, senior lenders take on a mentoring role for credit only, acting as advisors on deal structuring. The mentor is not the Sales Manager, though, and is not asked to coach on anything but credit. Regional Senior Credit Officers can also provide the needed guidance on complicated credit matters.
The data show that “full-time” Sales Managers with 6 to 12 sales team members (not including support staff) produce better long-term sales performance. (The number is lower [6 to 8] in commercial banking and higher in business banking and branch teams selling to businesses [8-12].)
It takes time and effort to build sustainable sales performance. Coaching is the key and full-time Sales Managers flat out are better coaches.
Do you agree or disagree? Send me your thoughts at
Interested in more insights on sales leadership? Check out our Sales Leadership Blog Posts.


12 Questions on the Minds of Bank Sales Leaders


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Here are 12 questions that are vexing bank Sales Leaders today, with some links to previous blog posts that discuss the challenge in some way:

  1. Why did upwards of 45% of Commercial and Business Banking Relationship Managers (RMs) fail to make all their sales goals (not just loan goals) last year?
  2. Why do producing Sales Managers struggle in developing their teams? 
  3. Is it unrealistic to expect Relationship Managers to make 6 to 8 scheduled face-to-face calls a week? (See The Case for More Sales Calls.)
  4. How can generalist RMs develop expertise in niches that will help them differentiate themselves from the competition? (View our video on Prospecting Tips for Bankers on Developing a Niche.)
  5. How can I get my Board more engaged in business development? (Read Are your board members bringing in the right business?)
  6. What level of support can Marketing provide to front-line sales teams?
  7. Do branch managers have the ability to bring in new business from outside calling on microbusinesses and professionals? (See Buck Bierly’s thoughts in an Interview in the Branch Managers' Letter.)
  8. How should banks segment the small business market (by size, credit, industry, complexity of cash management needs, etc.)?
  9. What can you do to break down the walls between commercial and retail and wealth management and insurance? (Check out our complimentary webinar  “Is Cross-Selling the Secret Sauce?” at
  10. How easy is it to get an average performer to the next level in terms of sales skills? (To see the Progression of Relationship Development Skills chart, click on this link.)
  11. Are there “non-negotiables” for all bank Sales Leaders? (For more insights go to 4 Weekly Tasks for Bank Sales Managers (video))
  12. What tools are available to raise the “business acumen” of line bankers? (Listen to this mp3 file on Business Acumen vs. Product Acumen.)

Are there any questions that are on your mind? If so, add them in the space below or send them to

What’s the best advice you ever received on sales? (Part 2)



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"I always advise people never to give advice," wrote P.G. Wodehouse, the English humorist. Recognizing that wisdom is often in short supply, here is the second installment of practical advice on sales from banking veterans. (If you missed the first part, go to our December 22, 2014 blog post here.)

1.) Be likeable.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Friendships trump price, structure and stand the test of time.  

Mark Augustyn Mercantile Bank of Michigan

2.) Follow up, follow up, follow up!

Rosary Falero Coconut Grove Bank

3.) Everything I have received from MZ Bierly Consulting!

Rick Miller First Savings (PA)

4.) Bring value to the table.

Steve Epping M&T Bank

5.) Be persistent, consistent and honest. But above all listen!!! Also try to find a bond of same nature with your target. People like to deal with people they like.

Dave Hammer First Niagara Bank

6.) When the sale is over and you have the order, stop talking! Nothing good can happen. So many times giddy bankers go on and on about how the purchase will help the customer only to reveal something which leads to an objection...and the unwinding begins.

David Swoyer Santander Bank

7.) Be genuine. Also, the true rainmakers always have at least one prospect in each stage of the sales cycle.

Kevin S. Meade Valley Bank

8.) Listen to the person sitting across from you.  Understand their needs. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions.  Follow through as promised.

Laura  Calvert Old Point National Bank

9.) Target your prospects, research the business and industry, plan the talking points/questions, listen and don’t leave without asking for a commitment for a follow-up meeting.

Burt Blacksher WestStar Bank

10.) The first rule of sales:  Be somebody – always take the time to establish credibility and respect. I have found that to be helpful advice for most endeavors.

Rob Shuford, Jr. Old Point National Bank

11.) Look at each client/prospect interaction as an opportunity to listen, ask open-ended questions, and continue to provide solutions. The numbers will follow.

Jeffrey Orner Santander Bank

12.) Besides doing your homework beforehand, the best advice was not to give solutions on the spot. Take back all of the information, and schedule the next meeting to explore more. It is still one of the toughest points to convince young calling officers not to respond immediately.

Jon Levine S&T Bank

13.)  Persistence is more important than brilliance. No means, "Not yet."

Mike Comer Citizens National Bank (TN)

 14.) Understand your customer before you sell.  Ask questions and listen.  Only then will you offer solutions that meet their needs. 

Joe Witt Old Point National Bank

15.) Two qualities are predictors of successful selling: a strong ego and genuine empathy. You need a strong, healthy ego to manage sales resistance and rejection, and genuine empathy to connect to clients and build lasting relationships. High performers recognize the need to keep the ego in check and allow empathy to flourish.

Catherine Flynn The Bluestar Group

16.) Be positive, be persistent and add always add value.

Gail Letts C&F Bank

Looking for tips on improving your team’s prospecting results? Ned Miller will be leading a live webinar for bank sales leaders on prospecting on Monday, February 9 at 2:30 PM Eastern. If you can't make the live webinar, you can sign up to receive a recorded vserion. To find more information and register go the Graduate School of Banking's website: Leading the Prospecting Effort.

7 Rules for Building a Proactive Bank Sales Culture

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I recently stumbled across a short article  written almost 10 years ago by sales guru Dave Kurlan on 10 rules for developing a sales culture.

Whether you’re trying to get your commercial team out from behind their desks or promote more teamwork between RMs and specialists or equip branch bankers to proactively develop relationships with small business owners, all of Kurlan’s rules ring true. Here’s my slightly edited list of the most relevant observations with some editorial comments thrown in:

  1. The culture won't change without someone in management driving that change. That usually means the bank president in a community bank or line of business heads in a regional or mega-bank.
  2. Your people need to hear what you expect—and it better be simple, consistent with what your organization values and ultimately doable. Notice I didn’t say “easy.”
  3. You will have to show people what to do. And that means giving them the necessary skills and tools (e.g. templates, access to industry information, sales refreshers, etc.)
  4. Coaching is critical. After working with hundreds of banks over the last 25 years, my partner Buck Bierly says that coaching from first-line managers is the single most factor in a sales change initiative.
  5. You probably will benefit from expert advice. That is admittedly self-serving but it’s hard for most bankers to do this alone.
  6. Start with low-risk concepts. At the outset emphasize things like calling inactive clients as outreach, meeting with current customers to learn more about their business and asking your most satisfied clients for referrals. I know people need to acquire new relationships but don’t ask inexperienced calling officers to start there.
  7. The culture won't change unless you hold people accountable.

Are there any other “rules” you’d add? Feel free to include your comments in the space below or email them to me at

Check out our recorded webinars on building momentum in prospecting. Go to to sample the complimentary Q&A on Prospecting webinar that Buck Bierly led recently.

Tip for Branch Managers: Team Up with Business Partners

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“Business partners can help you look at a relationship and strategize where to take the relationship. A credit partner, for instance, can help you strategize from a credit angle,” explains Buck Bierly, President of MZ BIERLY Consulting, Inc. (Malvern, PA). “Business partners can also be people that when you get an opportunity, you run it by them and say, ‘How can we best do this?’”

Most Branch Managers are not experts in everything. You do, however, need confidence talking about your products. While you should be conversationally competent in all the products you represent, management usually doesn’t expect you to be the hands-on person for everything. For example, Branch Managers are usually not expected to write proposals, install products and service products that belong to treasury management.

“You should understand enough about how the treasury products work that if somebody mentions, ‘I’d like to speed up my receivables. It’s really driving me crazy here,’ to dig a little bit into that. Find out where the receivables process is breaking down. Then come back to a treasury partner and say, ‘Hey look, this is what my client said to me. Do you have some ideas that might be helpful?’”  

Use Client Profiles

When working with clients, MZ BIERLY uses client profiles. “Before you can actually talk to a business partner, we ask you to fill out a client profile that talks about the business, the industry sector, and where the business is going,” Bierly says. “You then show the profile to your business partner as you’re discussing the client’s needs.”

EXAMPLE:  You’re working with a stand-alone veterinarian. They want to collect their receivables faster. The client profile gives the treasury management office (TMO) a better idea of what these people do and how they do it.  

“So now the TMO can engage you a little bit more by asking, ‘Have you thought about this? Well, maybe we can try that, and so on,’” says Bierly. In other words, the TMO is helping you strategize and plan the relationship. Inviting them to go with you, because you think they can do a better job than you would, is the “team selling” part. 

“After you make the call or joint call, you come back and say, ‘Hey, do you see any additional areas we want to explore further?’. Let’s figure out the next step and then the process begins again,” Bierly says. “From that debriefing, you uncover additional things. You start to take a look at that same business partner or another business partner in order to take the next step with that relationship.”

Real World Examples

The following are some examples of how and when you need to team up with a business partner:

*A business owner wants to buy a building. You may not have the credit skills to really understand some of the ins and outs of owner occupied property purchases and all the required documentation. “You need to engage a credit partner who may be a small business banker or somebody who’s assigned as a credit support person that is actually part of the centralized underwriting team,” Bierly says. “These partners can help you look at the relationship and strategize from a credit angle.”  

*With very wealthy business owners. You’ve got a private banking group and you’ve got an owner who would qualify as a private banking candidate.

*The business gets a little larger. It starts to use what we’ll call low level treasury management services.

The Right Knowledge and Support

“The future of the financial services industry is selling as a team. The day of sole executors is coming to an end in the best financial institutions,” Bierly says. “Selling is a team effort, because nobody has enough product experience to understand every single product and how it relates to the client’s life. Engaging your business partners before, during and after meetings with clients becomes the ideal way to acquire the knowledge and support you need.”

This article by Lana Chandler originally appeared in the Branch Manager’s Letter (


Q&A on How to Become a Better Banker


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Question (from a Business Banker): I would love to hear your suggestions on what I could read up on to become a better banker. I would like to strengthen my knowledge on credit and industry trends – specifically, manufacturing, real estate, and dental practices. Would you mind sending me some ideas?


Answer: I applaud you for taking the initiative to reach out. Quick thoughts:

  1. Explore some LinkedIn groups in the areas you are interested in. Look for ones that have some of the prospects you are targeting.

  2. Subscribe to some blogs or publications sponsored by industry associations or “thought leaders.” (There are consultants to all those industries who are churning out relevant information on a regular basis.)

  3. Use industry research. Most of the providers offer updates when they publish something new.

  4. Use Google alerts to track specific prospects.

  5. For dentists, check out the material on the website of a bank you have never heard of but may have lost business to—Live Oak Bank in Wilmington, NC. They are a niche player and major SBA lender that caters to—among others—dentists. Pay attention to the articles they have for dentists.

  6. Talk to your Sales Manager about what internal or external courses he might suggest to help you beef up your credit skills. RMA is a great resource.

Think about your own professional development. Are there any courses/ webinars/ books out there that would make you a better banker? Do you need to get smarter about LinkedIn? Not sure what to focus on? Ask your bank’s Training Department or send me an email at for some ideas.




Top 10 Blog Posts of the Year


Here is a list of our most popular blog posts of 2014. Feel free to share it with your colleagues. For the latest updates and new content, you can subscribe to our Youtube channel or follow us on Linkedin.

  1. 25 Questions to Assess Your Prospecting Process
  2. In Search of the Magic Prospect List
  3. Prospecting Q&A: What's the Best Way to Follow Up?
  4. Q&A for Bankers on Targeting the Health Care Niche
  5. A Quick Sales Fitness Test for Bankers
  6. 6 Secrets of Star Prospectors: Tips for Bankers
  7. Prospecting Pointers for Bankers: Celebrate Small Victories
  8. 10 Tips for Bankers on Finishing Strong in 2014
  9. The Case for More Sales Calls
  10. A Checklist for Evaluating a Prospect: 20 Questions for Bankers



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?

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