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10 Secrets of Successful Bank Sales Leaders

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The novel Anna Karenina begins with the observation that “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own particular way.” That’s probably true of sales teams as well, whether they’re composed of bankers or pharmaceutical sales representatives.

Having spent time recently with both happy and unhappy bankers, though, I’ve been struck by how the mood of teams is determined to a large degree by their leaders.  Bank sales managers can have a huge impact on the morale and performance of front-line personnel.

What specifically do the best sales leaders do? What are the secrets to their success? Here’s a partial list:

  1. They show up. Managing remotely is tricky, but frequent visits interspersed with regular communication by phone and email make a difference.
  2. They’re engaged in the day-to-day activities of their team.  They know what calls people are going on this week. They stay on top of pipelines.  They’re always asking questions.
  3. They see themselves as coaches. They want to make everybody on their teams better, not just the people who are behind on their goals.  They have one-on- one coaching sessions on a regular basis with all team members, usually at least every two weeks.
  4. They’re big on strategy, particularly regarding lead generation. They devote time to analyzing how to pursue opportunities in a market and how to identify and approach prospects.
  5. They’re comfortable sharing their expertise. They are quick to tap into their own personal networks to help their teams acquire new clients.
  6. They’re consistent in their messaging. You always know what their priorities are.   
  7. They go on a lot of joint calls. You can coach them on what you want them to do and (usually) they do a pretty good job following your guidance. (Note to all Relationship Managers:  Make sure that you brief them in advance of the meeting. They don’t like to wing it. And be prepared to debrief every call you go on—it’s a chance to get some great coaching.)
  8. They’re always looking for ways to recognize good performance. They also know how to celebrate big and small victories at the individual and team level.
  9. They invest in people.  Providing training is one of their priorities.  They’re also constantly on the lookout for things that will enhance productivity.

10. They keep things in perspective. They know that their attitude has a huge impact on the success of their team. 

Post Script: I shared this list with two sales leaders who have been successful building what I would call happy (and successful) commercial teams. Here are their comments:

Bank Sales Leader #1: “I would add that joint calling lets the managers demonstrate that they are also using the sales tools which they profess are so important. Additionally, this simple activity can reinforce that the program works.  I also believe that this demonstrates that the manager is not afraid to get into the action, specifically if you are calling on prospects or customers with opportunities in the pipeline.  Sales teams need to know that we do what we preach as managers.

Lastly, if the manager demonstrates energy and positive attitude, this can “rub off” on the RM. I’ve found that the manager’s perspective becomes the RM’s perspective rather quickly. If the manger is down, the staff is down. If the manager believes “we can do it”, the staff generally responds in kind.”

Bank Sales Leader #2: “I absolutely agree with this article. One very key component that is missing and I would add is that the sales leader must always be positive. Even in difficult times, challenging credit criteria and demanding customers and prospects the leader needs to be a partial spin doctor and always see the light at the end of the tunnel for the team. The positive attitude and confidence of a leader are contagious.”

OK, sales leaders, what else would you add? Share your thoughts in the space provided below or email me at



Q&A on Networking Groups (mp3)



prospecting for bankers

Question: I am currently considering joining a networking group. This group limits members to one from each industry, however, when I attended the first introductory meeting there were three other bankers who wanted to join. I wonder how this group will approve applications if we all apply? The group appears to be a well-organized one and the leader seems genuine in getting referrals going.

To download a podcast with my answer--or a transcript of it--click on the link below.

Q&A on Networking Groups

Interested in a series of fast-paced refreshers on prospecting? Check out any of our 10 archived webinars on Prospecting Strategies:

Building a Good Prospect List

Leveraging Your Network to Get in the Door

How to Use Your LinkedIn Network in Prospecting

Preparing for First Calls on Prospects

Industry Research as a Differentiator

Business Operations Meetings: Building Strong Relationships with Business Owners

Delving into Financial Operations: Selling to Financial Change

The First 3 Calls on Prospects

Following Up on Proposal – Persistent or Pest?

Getting the Most Out of Networking Events

Go to or contact Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 for more information and team discounts.

Getting Referrals: Are you wasting time on CPAs? (Video)


Tax season is over. It is probably OK to start calling on CPAs again in search of referrals. But before you do, here are 6 reasons why you ought to be asking some of your clients for introductions too:

  1. If you believe the research from national firms like Barlow and Greenwich, most of your  business clients would be delighted to assist you.
  2. Most CPAs feel obligated to refer at least two other bankers when asked for a recommendation; your satisfied clients don’t.
  3. Your customers probably won’t be in a position to critique any proposals you make to the people they refer you to.  That’s often how accountants “add value.”
  4. Customers often give glowing testimonials; circumspect accountants are usually reluctant to do so.
  5. Established CPAs may be asked for referrals by scores of lenders. Many business owners are never asked.
  6. Your clients usually don’t make a big deal out of “reciprocity.”

For more thoughts on why you ought to be spending more time with your satisfied clients, check out this video.

Looking for specific tips on how to ask for referrals? Check out this article How to Ask Customers for Referrals

You might also be interested in signing up for one of our recorded webinars on the topic at

If you liked this post, share it with your colleagues via email or on LinkedIn.

7 Habits of Highly Unproductive RMs


Editor's note: This blog post is one of our most read. It may be a stretch to compare it to a classic Mustang, but that's a chance we'll take.

Image result for mustang 60s

With apologies to Stephen Covey, here are my “7 Habits of Highly Unproductive Salespeople (banker version)”:
1.    Be reactive. Wait for what walks in the door. Don’t ask your satisfied customers for referrals—they know you provide great service and will send you any leads they have.

2.    Put (anything other than customers) first. Problem loan reports. Compliance issues. Operational matters. No experienced banker gets canned for failing to make his sales goals.

3.    Don’t worry about preparing for calls. Industry research--who has time for that? Developing specific questions for a first meeting with a prospect? Just ask ‘em to tell you about their business.

4.    Strategize alone. Your Sales Manager (a) doesn’t know your customers/ prospects well; (b) doesn’t have time; and/ or (c) probably wouldn’t add much value if you talked about your strategy.

5.    Think about what you need to sell first, not what your customers and prospects need. You’ve got goals to make.

6.    Don’t make time for professional development. Training is for “junior” people, not veterans like you. Heck, if you’re like most commercial bankers, you believe that you’re in the top 20% of your peer group when it comes to business development skills. This is known in some circles as the Lake Wobegon effect—where all the children are above average. (Special offer: If you’d like to assess which stage your relationship building skills are in, go to The Progression of Relationship Development Skills )

7.    Keep reminding yourself that knowing how to do something (like prospecting, say) is the same thing as doing it. And, if anybody questions your current results, you can come up with any number of excuses (“Our credit policy is too restrictive.” “We’re not even close to market pricing today.” “We need to do more advertising/ build more branches/get more creative on structuring deals, etc.”)

To read more articles on sales leadership topics visit our blog at Bank Sales Corner Blog

Feel free to share this post with others in your organization who might benefit or via LinkedIn. 

Would Your Prospects Pay for your Next Call?


A few years ago Greenwich Research reported that almost half of all business customers couldn’t recall any calls in which their bankers had furnished a new idea. When asked what the most memorable topics discussed were in their meetings with bankers, the most common response was “nothing.”

What then would business owners like to talk about? To find out the answers, watch this brief video.

To download a transcription of this video, click on the link below.

Would Your Prospects Pay for your Next Call?



More resources--Check out these mp3s on:

Acquiring New Relationships

Building Your Personal Brand

Q&A on Preparing for a Prospect Call


Question: What’s the best way to get up to speed quickly on a prospect before a call?

Answer: If it’s a first call and you have built a prospect folder (or gotten your AA or a credit analyst or a management trainee to do it for you), the best sources are probably at you fingertips. If not, here’s the list, in order of importance:

• Relevant material from the company’s website;

• Industry information from First Research, RMA, IBISWorld, Vertical IQ, Lexis Nexis or a trade or professional association;

• Articles about the company or the principals from searches of local business publications or other online sources like LinkedIn;  and

• Credit write-ups about any bank customers in the same industry or niche, which might give you some talking points about “how we work with other companies like yours.”

If you’re making a second (or third or fourth or fifth) call, you should definitely have a prospect folder and in it your notes from previous meetings along with a written account plan. It still would make sense to skim the entire file before your meeting. And if you’re taking a product specialist or your Sales Manager on the call, you have to make sure that the individual gets copies of everything that’s relevant and that you have time to go over your plan for the call before you hit the elevator button to the second floor.

Check out our archived webinar on “Preparing for the First Call on a Prospect” at

Bonus offer for Relationship Managers: To download our  complimentary Pre-Call Checklist, click on the image below.

Prospecting Checklist March 17 2015

March Madness 1964: More Mistakes = More Wins?


Bobby Wanzer

March Madness always gives me a chance to quote the late John Wooden, the college basketball coaching legend. During his tenure at UCLA, the Bruins won ten national championships in twelve years, establishing a record for excellence that will probably never be rivaled in college basketball.

As a skinny sixth grader competing in the CYO leagues of Upstate New York (not exactly the same as New York or Philadelphia basketball to be sure) I played for a grizzled former NBA player named Bobby Wanzer. Mr. Wanzer was also the basketball coach and Athletic Director at a local college, which made me wonder then what he was doing spending Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons with us. I can only guess that Father Maloney must have twisted his arm after Mass and so for a year the Our Lady of Lourdes basketball team benefited from the wisdom of a man who was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. (No, I’m not making that up; you can check it out at

I don’t remember much about Mr. Wanzer’s coaching philosophy. It’s probably because we didn’t have that many practices (his paying job often took him on the road during the basketball season) and most of our games were routs. I recall losing one of the first games of the season by the score of 44 to 9 to perennial power Sacred Heart, but the details of that and other defeats have vanished (thankfully) from my memory.

What I do remember was a comment that Mr. Wanzer made to my Dad about all the mistakes we made on the court. He said that he expected us to make bad passes and take bad shots and that it was OK as long as we kept trying. Now, that might have been Dad’s spin, but I don’t ever recall Mr. Wanzer scolding us for a basketball blunder.

Which brings me to Coach Wooden. It was about that time that I read an article about Coach Wooden in Look Magazine.  He said that his college coach at Purdue, Ward “Piggy” Lambert (no, I’m not making that up either), constantly reminded players that, “The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win.”piggy lambert

That sounded bizarre to me—we made lots of mistakes and we never won—but Coach Wooden went on to explain that “mistakes come from doing, but so does success.” If you didn’t make mistakes, you probably weren’t trying hard enough.

That bit of coaching wisdom helped me through a long basketball season in 1964-65. And when I read it now in a compilation of Coach Wooden’s thoughts on basketball I have to think that both he and Bobby Wanzer were sending a profound message to all of us on what it takes to succeed.

John Wooden 1960See whether any of Coach Wooden’s “Eight Suggestions for Succeeding” apply to your team’s current sales efforts:

1.    Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.
2.    Remember, it’s the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.
3.    Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.
4.    Be more interested in character than reputation.
5.    Be quick, but don’t hurry.
6.    Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will have.
7.    Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.
8.    Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Want more of my recent thoughts on March Madness? Check out:

March Madness 2015: What You Can Learn from Larry Brown

March Madness 1983: More 3 Pointers on Winning at Sales

I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to share it with others. If you would like to read my regular posts on bank sales and sales leadership then please sign up at Bank Sales Corner Blog.

March Madness 2015: What You Can Learn from Larry Brown

coaching sales leaders

My wife does not like Larry Brown. When he was the coach of the New Jersey Nets and decided to depart for a coaching position at UCLA in 1983, leaving Buck Williams and the rest of the Nets in the lurch, Carol developed a lasting dislike for him.

When he ended up in Philadelphia in 1997, my wife's opinion did not change. Even after his success leading the Sixers to the NBA finals in 2001 he was still in Carol's dog house.  And when the sportswriters in Philly began speculating in 2010 that Larry might return to lead the Sixers again Carol rolled her eyes in disgust.

I don’t think she knows that Larry Brown is back in the tourney hunt this year as head coach of the SMU Mustangs. The Mustangs are a number 6 seed in the NCAA South Regional and do battle with UCLA today at 3:15 PM EDT.

Now after being married for 37 years I am smart enough not to pick fights with my long-suffering spouse over stuff like March Madness. But I do really like Larry Brown and believe that he deserves his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach. (For what it’s worth, Allen Iversen—remember him? The “We’re talking about practice, man” NBA great-- agrees with me: he called Brown “the best coach in the world.”)

 There are many things that bank sales leaders can learn from him. Here’s my list:

  1. Get the right players. Brown's last NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, was an unlikely combination of NBA castoffs and aging veterans. In the first year he made trades involving over 20 players. While generally perceived to be a player's coach, Brown wants his kind of players, and isn't reluctant to make changes to get them.
  2. Start with the basics. One of the first things that Brown realized when he took over the Bobcats in 2009 was that they did not know how to play team defense. Even the pros can learn new things. Coach Brown does not assume that professionals know it all.
  3. Don't look back. Brown's success with Charlotte—he took the team to the playoffs in 2010-- followed a disastrous stint with the New York Knicks in 2005-2006. If your team isn't performing well, it may not be entirely your fault. Brown was able to move on after his experience with the Knicks.
  4. Balance perfectionism and realism. Brown is known as a master teacher, capable of taking his players to a higher level. He stresses playing the game the right way, and attaches great significance to developing the right skills and habits in practice. His biggest fear is:  “I haven't done enough as a coach where these guys encounter something I haven't prepared them for."


This last point is something all sales managers should consider. What kinds of things do you have to prepare your team for? What's the best way to do that? In our busy schedules when can we run the practices that will make our bankers better?

One last favor: Don’t show this piece to my wife.

Who is your favorite in this year’s NCAA basketball tourney? Root for your favorite in the space below.

If you liked this post, share it with other sales leaders.

Check out our blog for tips for coaching sales performance in banks.









March Madness 1983: More 3 Pointers on Winning at Sales



March Madness bankers

I recently saw the ESPN 30 by 30 documentary "Survive and Advance" about North Carolina State’s improbable road to the 1983 NCAA mens' basketball championship. I had forgotten how many last minute comebacks the Wolfpack made en route to the title. (Sports Illustrated magazine called the championship game the greatest moment in college basketball history.)

The film has many unforgettable scenes as players, coaches and fans reminisce about their opponents, the games themselves and their late coach, Jim Valvano. Footage from post-game interviews and press conferences provides ample evidence of how engaging Jimmy V was in front of an audience. (If you’ve never seen his ESPY speech, stop reading now and go to

At the end of the documentary, his wife recalls how he wrote short, motivational messages to himself on 3x5 cards, which he carried around with him. “Win NCAA Championship.” “Never give up.” “Beat cancer.”

With March Madness upon us once again and in memory of Jimmy V, here are some things that you might consider as you tackle this week’s business development challenges. (The fact that they are in fortune cookie 3 word messages—what I’ll call 3 pointers for those who perfected  their outside shot before there was such a thing—is of no real importance.)3 point sales tips

• Ask for referrals
• Do relationship reviews
• Share prospect lists
• Learn new techniques
• Follow financial press
• Build deeper relationships
• Join trade associations
• Assess your COIs
• Network with purpose
• Introduce your partners
• Leverage senior management
• Get a coach
• Attend training sessions
• Schedule prospecting time

Any you would like to add? Fill them in the space below.

Looking for something to jumpstart your team's business development efforts? Check out our recorded webinars on prospecting, COI development and referrals. You can sign up for sessions three ways: (1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or (2) email her at or (3) go to the Training Center section of our secure Webex website at

What's your LinkedIn strategy to generate opportunities?


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95% of the bankers I know don't have a clear idea of how to integrate LinkedIn into their overall business development strategy.  Here are some people who do.

1.) In the last 6 months since joining my new employer, I positioned my summary to demonstrate my "consultative approach" to helping commercial business owners and why the TowneBank  culture and value proposition make for a great combination to deliver financial solutions to my friends and neighbors in my hometown of Richmond. This has led to numerous connection requests from COIs, some business owners, and a wealth of banking talent at other banks obviously looking for an employment opportunity.

Patrick Collins TowneBank Richmond


2.) My LinkedIn strategy to generate opportunities is to build my connections (I have over 1200) so I have a wide ranging network of contacts to tap into for warm introductions to prospects. I also use InMails to contact prospects directly and find they have a higher response rate than regular messages.

Roberta Bastow First Niagara Bank


3.) One way to generate opportunities that I recently discussed with others was to be visible and engaged with prospects when there aren't any apparent near term opportunities. You will always be aware of potential developments on a more timely basis and have a better understanding. The prospect will also think of you as a potential partner since calling efforts were consistent. I think it means a lot to a prospect to have someone genuinely interested in them when there isn't a near term opportunity and takes that into consideration when something becomes available. Show interest at all times and you will set yourself apart from the "fair weather" bankers.

Victor W. Capozzolo First Niagara Bank


4.)Connect to everyone I know and then work 2nd level connections. I use LinkedIn as a virtual Rolodex to easily reach people I want to contact. I find folks are pretty willing to connect with a banker, especially those who lend money and manage a team of lenders. It's also useful to connect with various groups and key people - Jack Welch for example - and read their pearls of wisdom.

Jeffrey Carstens Bank Leumi USA


5.) To share meaningful and "what's it in for me" articles that not only are beneficial for people but generate awareness of who I am. It gives me another tool to keep my name out there for banking opportunites.

Lisa DeCoste Fulton Bank


6.) When I meet someone at an event or am interested in an industry, I simply do a search on LinkedIn to see if I know anyone and I try to connect via that avenue. It isn't rocket science.

Vic Calonder Colorado Business Bank


7.) I saw Jill Rowley speak at the LinkedIn Sales Connect conference in September last year. She has 5 pillars of social selling and I have been using those (nothing original - just copying!).

Bob Newman Chatham Financial


8.) Knowing the industries to call in yields targeted prospects. LinkedIn means you never have to cold call again.

Talley Clower Regions Financial Corporation


9.) My LinkedIn strategy is to post once a week on the newsfeed a business item or some other topic of interest.  I post to my tagged groups at least once every other week a specific topic related to the industry or to the bank.

Kelly Condon Colorado Business Bank


10.) I use LinkedIn as a branding tool. Visitors can learn my areas of specialty, read testimonial letters of recommendation written by current clients, and learn which industry groups I’ve been active with and what speaking engagements I've had. The goal is to enhance my professional credibility in the eyes of the viewer.

Doug Holtrop Mercantile Bank of Michigan


11.) The simplest and most effective way of getting in with clients is to compliment them on a work anniversary, remember their birthday or (yes!) a new profile photo. We are all, after all, vain creatures in need of acceptance by our peers.

Susan Eick Right Management (former Head of Retail Banking at community bank)

12.) I use LinkedIn to see who is connected to people I am targeting. I do use it to follow up as connections change positions and prompt meetings, congratulations, etc. I also use it to follow company pages. I am increasingly using it to keep up to date on industry trends.

Jeff Hultman, Illinois Bank& Trust


13.) LinkedIn has helped me with clients, prospects, and COI's. I use it as a tool for my credibility statement. With the banker turnover in our industry and clients getting a new RM every year, it helps build some trust early in the relationship and creates a sense of stability. It also gives them some confidence that they working with a true banking professional.

Ted Mossman Wells Fargo

What's your strategy? Share it in the space below along with any questions you have about getting more out of LinkedIn in prospecting.

Bonus: Here’s a link to more information on our website about LinkedIn.


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