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Are Quarterly Reviews Micromanagement? (Podcast)


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Your team is behind budget. Pipelines aren't exactly where you think they should be. So what do you do? Regular quarterly reviews give Sales Managers a chance to determine what mid-course corrections are needed. They are another opportunity to drive home the important message that top-line revenue growth is critical to the bank's success.

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

Are Quarterly Reviews Micromanagement?

Where Does the Prospecting Process Break Down for Bankers?


prospecting, banking sales70% of the prospecting calls made in this country begin with questions like these:

  • “Where are you banking?”
  • “What products are you using?”
  • “Do you have a loan at Wells Fargo?...Oh, no kidding, tell me about the price and structure on that loan.”
  • “What are two things Wells Fargo hasn’t done for you that you wish they had?”
  • “Can I have a copy of your statements to consider how we would handle your borrowing relationship?”

We are often leading with loans, but the client is not.

Many bankers are used to trying to lead with loans when prospecting. Bankers also lead with Treasury Services. They also lead with Institutional Trust.

We do surveys with all of our clients to help them analyze where they stand with their business prospects. Our conversations go something like this:

“Let’s look at your top prospects.”

  • “What was the source of that lead?”
  • “How many telephone attempts did it take you to get the first appointment?”
  • “Did you get the first appointment?”
  • “If you got the first meeting, did you get the second meeting?”
  • “Did you get a third meeting?”

When we asked those kinds of questions with thousands of bankers here is what we saw:

  1. The first place the process breaks down is getting that first meeting. That is certainly understandable.
  2. The second place it breaks down is after the second meeting.

Typically, we hear that the first meeting went pretty well. We did a good job on this conversation and found a way to get back in the door a second time. During the second meeting we found out that the prospect is happy with their current financial institution. The prospect really appreciated the conversations in the last two meetings.

However, they end up saying, “I’ll tell you what; we'll keep you in mind. You stay in touch and we'll see what happens. We may be buying some new equipment and we may be looking for some additional treasury services down the road and we would love to keep you in mind.”

At the end of the second meeting, the banker walks away and starts to wait for an event. They are not creating an event; they begin to wait for an event. And while they may "check in" periodically, nothing really materializes.

Note: This is an excerpt from a recently recorded Q&A on Prospecting webinar. To download this excerpt of the podcast, click on the link below.

Where does the Prospecting Process Break Down?

Next live webinar: “Q&A on Prospecting” with Buck Bierly on September 15, 2014 at 11 AM Eastern. To sign up go to or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.

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

Can Branch Managers Prospect Effectively?


branch manager calling, prospecting

Last week I received a call from a Training Manager at a community bank. She had been asked to put together a sales training program for their branch managers as part of the bank’s new small business initiative. Most had never had any formal training on how to call on businesses.

As more banks focus on the opportunities in the small business market, many line managers and training directors have been forced to rethink what skills and knowledge branch personnel need to be effective on outside calls. Where do you start? Is it just a training issue or is there more to it?

Based on our work with banks around the country, it’s clear that branch managers need training in three areas:  business products, credit and sales. The goal in product training is not to turn the managers into experts, but to help them identify possible opportunities. Credit training is about creating a similar level of proficiency; what you’re really looking for is conversational competence in basic concepts. That, coupled with an understanding of how credit requests are handled internally, is usually enough to get branch managers comfortable discussing loans and lines of credit for small businesses.

What banks intent on developing a proactive small business calling program need to do is design a process that gets their branch managers in front of the customer and prospects with an intelligent plan. Bank sales leaders need to agree on a number of things before launching a training program:

1.    What a good small business customer or prospect looks like from the bank’s perspective. Understanding which customers and prospects to pursue shouldn’t be left up to branch managers. A target profile that explains what you’re looking for can go a long way toward eliminating confusion and misunderstanding.

2.    What resources the bank will make available to the sales teams. Industry information is valuable but isn’t free. Will you supply prospect lists? How about sample letters?

3.    How much time you’d like the branch managers to devote to calling on small businesses. This may be when you decide whether to establish different expectations for different markets based on demographics, perceived potential, etc. It can also lead to a review of any potential infrastructure issues that may impede your bank’s overall progress.

4.    The approach you want branch salespeople to take when they call on businesses. Are you emphasizing products or relationships? How should a branch manager prepare for a first face-to-face meeting with a prospect?

5.    How the bank will define results. Some banks have fallen into the trap of counting only things like accounts opened or products sold, without looking at the P&L implications of the effort. If the balances never materialize and the fees are waived, what have you accomplished?

6.    The role of the first-line sales managers. If you want your branch managers to change their behaviors, what adjustments will their sales managers have to make? Are they able to provide the ongoing direction, feedback and coaching the sales teams need? If not, what support and training will they require?

If you're interested in more of my thoughts on this topic, you can download the presentation I gave at a recent small business banking conference entitled “Can Branch Managers Prospect Effectively?” To get a copy of the presentation, go to




10 Things Bank Sales Leaders Can Do to Retain Top Performers

bank sales top performers

What are you doing to retain your top performers?

My friend Bill called this week to let me know that his star performer had just accepted a job offer at another bank. Headhunters had been wooing Andrea for the last several years. He wondered whether there was anything he could have done to retain her.

Losing an A player is serious—for you, your team and your bank. Although occasionally it’s about money, more often than not the reason top performing bankers leave is because they’re not getting enough attention from their sales manager.  They might create the impression that they don’t need you, but most actually want you around. Here are 10 things you can do to show some love to your high-performing bankers.

  1. Spend time strategizing with them about big deals in their pipeline

  2. Get in the trenches with them and help close deals

  3. Provide additional resources to help them generate leads—more administrative or credit support, for example

  4. Get your boss (or some other bigwig) to take them out to lunch

  5. Send them to a professional development event in a cool place

  6. Have them mentor a new hire

  7. Create a career development plan for them (and be sure to review it with them)

  8. Recognize them in the way the means the most to them

  9. Take them and their significant others out for a social event, dinner or game

  10. Assign them any plum referrals from Executive Management

In Bill’s case, I don’t know if any of these would have made a difference. If you’re worried about losing a top performer, though, and any of these ideas look promising, what are you waiting for?

Special webinar offer: You can receive a $100 discount when you use coupon code tm5tx8bg31 to sign up for any recorded webinar in the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series. To register for any webinar go to the recorded webinars section at

For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at

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? (Live session on June 2, 2014)

Getting the Most Out of Networking Events (Live session on June 16, 2014)



6 Questions for Bank Sales Leaders About Process

bank sales leaders


  1. Are you holding weekly sales meetings with your team?

    Comment: If you’re not running weekly meetings, you’re missing out on a wonderful chance to re-establish priorities, identify opportunities for coaching and recognize performance of team members in front of their peers. You can run the meetings face-to-face or by phone. In our experience, they should last no more than 30 minutes and should be first thing on Monday. Why Monday? To send a clear signal about the importance of sales to your team.


  2. Do you have scheduled 1 on 1 coaching sessions with each member of your team every two weeks?

    Comment: This is a cornerstone activity for all sales managers. Each session should be scheduled in advance—a best practice is to lock these in the calendar for the next two quarters. There’s lot to talk about: pipeline, calling activity, upcoming calls, and relationship strategy. Click here for a sample agenda for a biweekly 1 on 1 coaching session.


  3. Are you organizing strategy sessions for large opportunities with all appropriate business partners (e.g. Treasury Management, Trust and Investment Management, Credit, etc.)?

    Comment: Strategizing alone is rarely as effective as doing it with team members.


  4. Do you have a short list of candidates whom you would like to hire? If yes, are you meeting regularly with them?

    Comment: Top performers may not be ready to jump ship today, but you have to stay close to them if you want to attract them in the future. 


  5. Do you invest time in bringing new hires on board?

    Comment: Developing a plan is the first step. If you don’t have a plan, you’re not doing anyone a favor—you, the new RM, or your unit. Here’s an article that might be useful on Onboarding Your Next Star Performer.


  6. Do you have development plans in place for each RM who is on your team?

    Comment: If you do, are you making progress? If not, what’s stopping you? 


New program for Sales Leaders: Buck Bierly will be offering a fast-paced workshop for community bank sales leaders in San Francisco on June 25-26 under the auspices of the Western Independent Bankers Association. Learn the skills that high-performing leaders use to drive results. For more information go to Leading Sales Teams in Business Markets.


Special webinar offer: You can receive a $100 discount when you use coupon code tm5tx8bg31 to sign up for any recorded webinar in the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series. To register for any webinar go to the recorded webinars section at

For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at

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? (Live session on June 2, 2014)

Getting the Most Out of Networking Events (Live session on June 16, 2014)




Are Most Salespeople Clueless?

clueless banker

I read an article recently that said 3 out of 4 salespeople have no idea what they’re doing. That seems high, but as the author pointed out, most of the people who go into sales have no formal training before they begin. Architects study architecture. Doctors have lengthy training before they are allowed to work with patients. But many sales representatives think they can get by with their personal charm.

Research conducted by the Objective Management Group over the last quarter century reveals that about 6% of all salespeople are great at selling. Another 20% perform at an acceptable level but could do better with additional support. The remaining 74% are failing by objective standards.

Sales training and coaching can address some of the gaps in the last group, but according to an OMG spokesman, the bottom 25% “should be doing something else.” He pointed out that in most companies he has worked with, the mix usually holds true. Out of every 20 salespeople, 2 are stars, 5 are pretty competent, 10 could get better with a lot of help and 3 are mismatches.

Does that approximate what I have seen in the banking industry? Yes, and it raises 4 questions for bank management:

  1. Have you assessed the individual skill sets of each of your team members?

  2. What are you doing to develop your core or average performers?

  3. How quickly are you going to be able to replace the chronic low-performers and mismatches with top quartile performers?

  4. What specific strategies are you putting in place to improve the coaching and leadership skills of your front-line sales leaders?

The last one may be the biggie. A bank’s success depends on its sales leaders.

Why do some sales leaders get better results than others? Nothing in this list will surprise you:

  • They work hard at communicating effectively. They keep the messages simple. They don’t leave any doubts about what’s important.

  • They recruit top talent. They are always on the lookout for ways to upgrade their team.

  • They manage their time well. That means fitting in all the big stuff—client calls, 1 on 1s with team members, deal reviews, etc. They typically start early and end late, and have mastered all forms of mobile technology.

  • They are always learning.

  • They look for ways to eliminate any obstacles that are holding their associates back. They know that improving the infrastructure can pay big dividends.

  • They are often the beneficiaries of the coaching/ mentoring of other sales leaders.

Simple? Not really, but take 10 minutes out of your day to think about what you need to work on to help your team members improve. If you need a prompt, check out our recent blog posts on Sales Leadership.


Special webinar offer: You can receive a $100 discount when you use coupon code tm5tx8bg31 to sign up for the recorded webinar on “Building a Good Prospect List.” To register for the webinar go to the recorded webinars section at

For more information on the Prospecting Strategies Webinar Series, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at

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? (Live session on June 2, 2014)

Getting the Most Out of Networking Events (Live session on June 16, 2014)






3 Things Sales Leaders Can Do to Help RMs Succeed

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In a recent audioconference on Winning Strategies in Middle Market Banking, Dave Swoyer, EVP and Commercial Banking Executive for Santander Bank, discussed the three things he focuses on to help his team succeed. Here is an excerpt of his comments.

If I do three things well my people will be successful.  The first is remove obstacles.  That would be anything that keeps Relationship Managers (RMs) in the office.

We could spend an hour listing what they are. It’s what I hear from RMs who don't have a significant pipeline or who aren't moving as fast as I'd like.  Invariably they give me a list of the reasons why they are stuck.  “Well Dave, I have to do this and don't forget that project we’re working on…” 

Because I have more leverage in the organization I have to step in because whoever assigned those things must think they’re important.  As an industry we don't do a good job of helping folks navigate through a list of priorities that exceed the time they have to complete them. So that is my job to remove those obstacles. 

When you eliminate the excuses and the person says “I’m not doing as well as I want to” then you can start working seriously on the real issues. 

The second big thing I do is internal advocacy.  It is just tougher now-a-days to guide an opportunity through the pipeline, from the first sales call to when revenue gets booked. It gets in the door and then it loses momentum.

Whether it is because the credit underwriting people are really tied up or it’s a busy time of year and we have renewals or the product people are all in training and they can't get their part of the pitch book complete, I need to be the internal advocate to make sure that our sense of urgency is sufficient to win. 

Part of that is consensus building, building bridges, getting deals unstuck.  I have to be able to say “Yes, I understand your view point but we also need to think about this.”  It’s the sales leader’s job to do that. 

Third would be to lead the pipeline management process.  I look at my group’s pipeline and try to make sure I understand what the big opportunities are.  If I do a good job then I keep folks from wasting their time.

Recently I saw an opportunity in the pipeline and had a short conversation with one of my RMs about it. It just didn't feel like the kind of thing that would work. He said one day that he was planning to talk to the prospect and encouraged me to listen in. After about 45 minutes I realized that I had made a mistake. 

I didn't see this for what it was and after a fair amount of work we booked a very large deal: in addition to a big credit facility, we got a large fee, cash management and did an interest rate swap on which we earned a lot of money. So it will be a very profitable relationship and I almost missed it. I’d like to think I would have caught it sooner or later but that’s why pipeline management is so important.

Editor’s note: To listen to Dave Swoyer’s comments and those of the other participants go to MZ Bierly Consulting Middle Market Audioconference. 

Interested in more ideas to help your team? Here are some prospecting resources from MZ Bierly Consulting.

1.    How to Build a Business Network eBook

2.    Prospecting Pointers eBook

3.    Recorded and Live Webinars on Prospecting

If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your team’s prospecting efforts in 2014, check out the Building Prospecting Momentum Workshop or call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 or email him at





Managing Remotely: 6 Tips for Bank Sales Leaders

managing remote teams

Many of the Sales Managers I have worked with struggle with managing remotely. Outside of
weekly sales meetings by phone, what can long distance managers do to provide the level of coaching that their remote staffers need? Here are six things to focus on: 

  1. Schedule your visits to each market well in advance. These trips can involve more than just customer calls. Each time you’re together is a chance to review progress on key customer relationships and top prospects. If you’re going to drive four hours round trip, think about spending the night. That might give you an opportunity to spend some additional 1 on 1 time with your colleague. That can translate into more time to get to know him better, to answer questions, to boost his confidence, etc. 
  2. Do more pre-call, post-call coaching over the phone. If you’re not able to spend as much time making joint calls with a subordinate, set up a time to strategize about his upcoming calls. If it’s a prospect you don’t know, have your colleague send you background material in advance. Be sure to close the loop within 24 to 48 hours to debrief the call. (Note: This is not just for bankers who are struggling; high performers can benefit from this as well for different reasons.)
  3. Schedule 1 on 1 time. Schedule 60 minutes each for people every other week to review what’s going on. This phone call may not last the full hour, but it gives you a chance to get into more detailed conversations. While this is designed to give your colleagues a chance to talk about what’s on their minds, plan what you’d like to say.     
  4. Use every chance to recognize people.  Remote employees need strokes too. Quick emails recognizing performance can pick people up—particularly if you copy the right people up the chain of command.
  5. Don’t let headquarters products specialists and senior managers forget about your remote staff. Make sure they get in front of your people (and more importantly, their customers and prospects) as needed—which is always more than head office types believe.
  6. Spend money on team meetings. Don’t let anybody talk you out of eliminating the budget for the quarterly sales meeting. (It’s possible you might cancel the meeting yourself but let that be your decision, not your CFO’s.) 

For a remote Sales Manager, out of sight does not have to be out of mind. If you apply these
principles in your ongoing communication with your team, everyone will be more effective.


Looking for ways to energize your team? If you’re planning a sales meeting or refresher workshop, contact Ned Miller at 610-296-4771 to discuss how we might help.  Check out our popular prospecting workshop on “Building Prospect Momentum” by clicking here.


Improving Call Quality: Why Training Isn't Enough

bank sales training

“In the last six months we’ve increased our calls by 50%. But we’re not seeing significant increases in our pipeline or closed business. I’m concerned about the quality of our calls.”

The bank CEO’s comment came at the end of an executive management meeting that reviewed last quarter’s closed business reports, current pipeline numbers and call activity summaries. Activity levels are higher than ever — his bankers are on the streets. But so are his competitors.

So,how do you win against tough competition? Apparently, making more and more calls isn’t the answer. (Although a certain level of calling is critical. In the best performing sales teams, commercial bankers are making 20 to 25 sales calls per month, branch managers 15 to 20 calls, and small business bankers 25 to 35.)

Winning in a competitive environment goes beyond just being on the streets and picking the “low- hanging fruit.” Competing to win means focusing on the right targets, using the right value proposition, working with the true decision maker, thinking like a business owner, and developing clear and effective strategies based on these factors. So the CEO’s question about whether his people were making quality calls was on target.

Isn’t the Quality of Sales Calls a Sales Training Issue?

Most banks today have built the foundations of a sales leadership process: they have established goals, introduced monetary incentives, and hold regular sales meetings to discuss pipelines and closed business. These extrinsic motivators are a part of all successful sales organizations. In addition, most banks have invested significant sums of money in providing sales training for their teams. But, as many of these same banks have discovered, sales training combined only with extrinsic motivators produces limited results (except with high performers, who probably didn’t need the training in the first place!)

The sales skills that are taught in most sales training programs are based on research that has studied the sales behaviors of high-performing salespeople. These “best practices” are broken down into components that can be taught in a classroom setting — things like account management, sales call communication skills, rapport building, priority management, etc.

But classroom learning does not ensure sales success in the real world. In most instances, salespeople leave sales training programs with a good understanding of the skills required for success. In order to become competent using the new sales techniques, they must practice the skills many times in real-life situations.

Unfortunately, when average-performing salespeople first start using new sales skills with real customers and prospects, their attempts feel awkward and unnatural. They may try the skills a
few times and if they don’t work, they abandon them and revert to their old, more comfortable behaviors.

Properly designed extrinsic motivators can help. For example raising call targets and creating highly visible call reporting can drive practicing the new skills by creating an emphasis on making more calls. Of course the underlying assumption is that practice makes perfect.

But in reality, effective sales calls require so many skill sets to be fine-tuned that accountability alone gets you primarily quantity, not quality. Just practice is not enough. Mastering all the skill sets will take the ongoing support and guidance of a sales manager.

 The Impact of Pre-call, Post-call Coaching

The research on highly successful salespeople shows a high correlation between planning a call and effectively developing needs and between developing needs and success in advancing a sale. A better job of planning produces better sales results. So, how do you get your salespeople to see the need and value in call preparation? To see that it’s time well spent?

It takes pre-call, post-call coaching, a key component of on-going guidance. When sales managers make the time to meet with salespeople one-on-one to strategize an upcoming sales call and then to formally debrief the same call, more needs are developed, more sales are advanced. And when a bank CEO or head of commercial banking asks for a call plan and then discusses call strategies the day before a call, call planning becomes “the way we do business.”

When salespeople begin to see a correlation between call planning and improved results, when they see everyone from the top of the bank down is making the time to plan their important calls, call planning increases dramatically. When call planning becomes a part of day-to-day selling, call quality and sales results go up. In the end making more calls is good practice but coaching drives call quality.

Sales managers who make time to coach new skills, who integrate pre- and post-call coaching into their weekly routine, and who spend time coaching sales strategies (not just credit strategies!) consistently see results improve.

Bank Sales Leaders: For more tips check out our  recent blog posts on coaching. Feel free to share this information with other sales leaders in your organization.

Q&A on High-Performers: Tips for Bank Sales Managers

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Question: Could you offer some suggestions on how to coach and challenge a high-performer to ensure I'm adding value?

Answer: Here are some ideas on managing high-performers:

(1) Sit down periodically to strategize about their long-term business development efforts.
Many high-performers are consummate strategists, who plan 12 to 18 months down
the road. Ask how you can help. High-performers will let you know.

(2) Recognize and applaud their frequent successes. Ask, “What miracles have you
accomplished today
?” Make sure that your boss and your boss’s boss know what your HPs are up to and are doing their part to acknowledge outstanding contributions. 

(3) Make sure your compensation plan is taking care of your high-performers. Money isn’t
everything, but don’t kid yourself: It’s the way many star salespeople keep score.

(4)Talk to them about their careers. Provide them with opportunities to develop their
skills and further their careers. Training courses, conferences and high-profile assignments are all ways to help high performers hone their craft.

Research shows that most high-performers leave for two reasons: they don’t like their bosses and they don’t feel appreciated. If you position yourself as a “coach” rather than a “boss”—asking questions rather than telling the high-performer what to do—you’ll solve the
first problem. If you’re able to provide psychic rewards in addition to appropriate financial compensation, you’ll go a long way toward helping with the second issue.


Teleconference Alert: Join us for a special complimentary teleconference on Friday August 9th, 2013 at 11 AM Eastern on how to compete in the Middle Market. Lines are limited for
this one hour session with Scott Page, President, Colorado Business Bank, Dave Swoyer, EVP, Sovereign Bank and Dave Durham, SEVP, StellarOne Bank, so sign up today.

Some of the topics they’ll discuss include:

  • How has the market changed?
  • Are companies less loyal than in the past?
  • What are some things that high-performing RMs do to differentiate themselves?
  • What can Sales Leaders do to improve the chances of success of their RMs?
  • What tactics are most effective in coaching bankers on business development?

To register for this free session, click here: 

Winning Strategies for Competing in Middle Market Audioconference

If you have questions, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at


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