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7 Rules for Building a Proactive Bank Sales Culture

sales culture, bank sales

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?

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

banker sales assessment

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

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