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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


Questions for Bank Sales Managers on Prospecting


When trying to develop your team's prospecting skills, it is also important to look at your own activities.  In this short video Ned Miller provides some ideas to help get you started.  Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

* Have you met recently to review the prospect lists of all your team members?

* Have you clarified your expectations regarding prospecting for each banker on your team? What percentage of their time should they allocate to new client acquistion?

* How much pre-call and post call coaching are you doing?

To listen to the full list of questions, click on the video link above.

Audioconference 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


Checklist for Bankers to Assess Mid-Year Sales Performance


You have six months to meet your goals for 2013. What do you need to do?

That's one of the questions that forces Bank Relationship Managers to think. Unfortunately, thinking consumes both time and energy so most of us tend to avoid it. (One of the things a teacher of mine used to say was that "Most people would rather die than think--and most do.")

So if you had to think about your sales prowess--as if your professional future really depended on it--what should you focus on? Here's a quick checklist for starters:

1. How is your performance year to date? How do you stack up vs. your peers? How are you doing in retaining and expanding relationships with your key and high potential customers? What does your pipeline look like now and 3 or 6 months down the road? Are you making progress with your key prospects? Where do you see the biggest opportunities for growth? What are the major challenges you face?

2. What do you need to work on to improve your results? Be honest. Is it better product knowledge? A more focused prospecting approach? Quality time to prepare for upcoming calls? A better working relationship with your administrative assistant? A consistent follow-up plan to stay top of mind with your COIs and prospects?

3. Who can help you get to the next level? The obvious answer is your sales manager, but think about where you might find other allies. Are there customers who could refer you to other businesses? Do you need to do a better job of networking internally with product partners in cash management or private banking or capital markets? Can the Executive Director of that trade association of manufacturers become a referral source?

4. What's your plan? Get specific. Write it down. Make sure that you get feedback from your personal board of advisors (e.g. your spouse, your boss, any of your good friends or coworkers who want you to succeed, etc.)

For most of us this is not a 20 minute exercise. But if you've only got 20 minutes to start the process today, do it. Your results in 2013 (and in 2014) may well hinge on it.

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, check out the Building Prospecting Momentum Workshop or call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 or email him at

Live Webinar Alert: Building Referral Relationships with CPAs, July 15 at 11 AM Eastern. To register call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or go to Building Referral Relationships with CPAs Webinar


10 Tips from Golf's Best Coaches for Bank Sales Leaders

golf coach

Are you watching the US Open from Merion? If you’re a real Golf Channel addict, you might know about the coaches that some of the top professionals turn to for advice. These aren’t household names like Coach K, Bill Belichick and Terry Francona; they’re more like Jack Lumpkin and Craig Harmon. Who?

Well, these guys are not exactly unknowns. They rank near the top of the Golf Digest list of top teaching professionals. They don’t give away advice for free—a week of lessons at Sea Island with Jack isn’t cheap—and they do count top PGA Tour types as students. (Not Tiger Woods, though: Craig’s brother Butch was one of Tiger’s coaches before his fall from grace.)

But most of the people these two teaching pros advise have a hard time breaking 90. They hack and slice their way around the golf course and if they have delusions of grandeur, it’s probably more likely about winning the sixth flight of a Member Guest Tournament than the U.S. Amateur.

Coaching average-performers (whether they’re golfers or salespeople) is clearly different from working with high-performers. What Jack and Craig know is the following:

  1. While not everybody will become great, everybody can get better—eventually. If better means consistently shooting in the mid-90s, great.
  2. There are certain things that you can’t coach (e.g. attitude, competitiveness, etc.)
  3. You shouldn’t try to change more than one or two things at once.
  4. You often have to review the basics with people.
  5. Breaking the process down into its component parts can help a lot. (As an aside, that’s why slow motion video is now routinely used in analyzing golf swings.)
  6. Small adjustments can produce significant improvement.
  7. You can only make so much progress in a lesson. For golfers it starts on the practice tee but has to move to the course.
  8. Once the basics are in place, it’s consistency that matters.
  9. Most average-performers are looking for how-tos and techniques, not theories or concepts. They want to develop confidence handling challenging situations.
  10. Even the best performers can benefit occasionally from objective, expert coaching.  (Phil Mickelson, who is leading the tournament after 54 holes as I write this, has coaches who help him with many different things--e.g. conditioning, diet, putting, sand shots, etc.)

So the next time you’re looking for coaching inspiration, think about Jack Lumpkin and Craig Harmon.  They know it’s about incremental improvement, consistency and confidence. And they know how to help average-performers progress.

For more coaching tips go to MZ Bierly Consulting Articles for Sales Leaders.

Live webinar alert: "Building Referral Relationships with CPAs" on July 15. To register go to or call 610-296-4771,

Why New Bank Sales Managers Struggle

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I had dinner recently with the head of corporate banking for a regional bank. He was concerned that several of his new sales managers weren’t getting the job done. As we talked, it became clear that the challenges they face are ones that impact all sales team leaders, including:

  1. No time: Almost every harried sales manager I know says, “I’d love to be coaching my people, but there just isn’t enough time.” Many new team leaders still manage accounts and have their own production goals, which makes it difficult to devote time to developing their teams.
  2. Never been trained adequately: Oh, they may have been through a one day crash course in coaching, which usually focuses on how to critique a face-to-face sales call. Not that such instruction isn’t useful, but most sales managers know a fair amount about making sales calls. What they’re not as conversant with are other aspects of the sales process (e.g. how to help their team analyze market opportunities; developing prospecting strategies that fit the skills and background of their team members; goal-setting; running productive sales meetings; recruiting, etc.)
  3. Never seen a good sales manager in action: The chances that a banker has worked for a first-rate sales manager are increasing, but let’s face it: sales management is still a new discipline in most banks. The absence of good role models is definitely a problem for a new sales manager.
  4. Too narrow a view of their job: This is obviously related to #3. Many “sales” managers in commercial and business banking are really deal jockeys who think that coaching is really about getting loans through the credit approval process. While important, that’s usually not enough to boost their team’s sales performance to the next level.
  5. Not enough team members:  This might surprise you, but having too few members on a team can be an impediment to a new sales manager’s development. Coaching one or two people doesn’t give a manager enough practice learning the tricks of the trade. The ideal number of direct reports varies based on a number of factors, but for most business and commercial banking teams 4 to 7 is probably optimal. 
  6. Banks don’t place enough value on sales management: Money talks. Unfortunately, it can send the wrong message. High-performing salespeople in banks are often told that the only way to make more money is by assuming managerial duties. That sometimes works out, but it often turns “A” players in one role into “C” players in another. (The skills and temperament of successful salespeople are often at odds with those of the best managers.) 

Here are steps you can take to improve your new sales managers’ chances of success:

* Make sure you have the right people in sales management slots—this is not a job for everybody. If it isn’t the right fit, sending a new sales manager back to a line RM role might be the best thing for everybody.

* Provide the tools and support new sales managers need to be successful.

* Institute ongoing training that addresses the major challenges sales managers face at different stages in their management careers.

* Coach all your sales managers, but especially the newbies. Allocate one hour every other week to 1 on 1s with them. 

Resources for New (and not so new) Sales Managers:

Tips for Sales Managers

MZ Bierly Consulting Articles on Sales Management

For a great short article that would help your new sales managers, go to Janet Spirer’s recent blog post New Sales Manager--Don't Lose a Chance to Make a Difference


10 Things Bank Sales Managers Can Do in 10 Minutes


If you find yourself with 10 minutes at some point in the day, here are 10 things you can do to improve your team’s chances of success. Pick one that will have the biggest impact.

1. Review the last 4 weeks of pipeline reports and weekly call planners for one of your average-performing team members. See what it tells you.

2. Tell one of your team members to schedule a day of calls with you in the next two weeks.  Be specific about the mix of customers and prospects you’d like to meet with.

3. Call one of your bankers and ask him what you can do to help with any deals in his pipeline.

4. Think about how to improve the quality of your weekly sales meetings. If you’re stumped about how to improve them, ask one of your peers to sit in (or listen in) on your next meeting.

5. Arrange time to sit down one-on-one with all of your direct reports to review where they stand with their top customers and prospects. Make sure you get in advance the relationship plans for each customer/ prospect you’ll be talking about.

6. Think about what additional training your team needs. If you’re not sure how to get it, call your Training Department or a banking trade association like RMA for help.

7. Let your boss (or your boss’s boss) know which of your team members deserves special recognition.

8. Assess how well your sales people are using the tools you have provided them with (e.g. Industry information from IBISWorld, RMA, Vertical IQ or First Research, prospect information, call planning templates on your bank intranet, etc.) If you don’t like the answer, do something.

9. Call up a prospect whose business one of your team members failed to land recently. Tell him you’d like to get some feedback on how your colleague could do better in the future. You may be surprised what you’ll learn.

10. Evaluate your own performance as a sales leader. If you’re interested in a checklist that you can use, go to Daily Checklist for Sales Managers.

Interested in more resources on coaching? Download our article on Driving the Prospecting Process: 7 Tips for Sales Managers.

Bonus Offer: Download your complimentary copy of our eBook Prospecting Pointers.

Webinar Alert: If you’re like many bankers, you may wonder whether you’re getting what you could out of LinkedIn. You built your profile, but haven’t updated it recently. You have more than 200 connections but there are things that you suspect LinkedIn might be able to do and you haven’t had the time to research them.

Join Greg Taylor and Ned Miller on June 10 for a fast-paced discussion of taking LinkedIn to the next level. Among the topics they’ll cover are:

* How to take advantage of LinkedIn's research capabilities

* Using LinkedIn to schedule appointments with prospects

* Tips on LinkedIn groups

* Leveraging LinkedIn as a communication tool

For more details and registration information go to:

LinkedIn on 60 Minutes a Week Session 2--June 10, 2013





5 Tips for Bank Sales Managers on Coaching Referrals (Video)


One of the mistakes that business bankers make in prospecting is not leveraging the full power of their networks.  One of the mistakes that Sales Managers make is assuming that everyone knows how to do this. Here are 5 things that you can do to encourage your team to use their connections to get information, introductions and referrals.  To view this video, click on the link below.

New Sales Leadership Workshops with Buck Bierly sponsored by Western Independent Bankers Association:

Looking for ways to improve your bank’s sales results? Buck Bierly will be leading two workshops sponsored by the Western Independent Bankers Association in the coming months. He’ll discuss how to:

  • Segment your market – focusing on the “right” relationships.
  • Develop a market model – proactively strengthening the business relationships on your retention, expansion and acquisition lists.
  • Build a relationship development processes – differentiating you and your bank in today’s increasingly competitive banking environment.
  • Develop strategies for key relationships – it’s not the value you want add, it’s aligning with the business owner’s “value drivers.” Take the next step to  learn more and register today! 


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