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Small Business: Notes on Branch Manager Calling


You’ve decided that becoming a significant player in small business is a priority. You know that you have to “engage” your branch network in the effort. (Engage is probably the wrong word; what you mean is that your branches are key to the success of the initiative or in biblical terms, they (not Moses) will be leading you to the Promised Land.)

How to get your branch managers from here to there is the big question. Here are some notes on what is involved in making the changes necessary in your branch delivery system.

What here may look like:

  • You’ve provided a lot of product training in a short period of time; people’s heads are crammed full of new terms, features and benefits, pricing, etc.
  • You may have made changes in your staffing model to free BMs to make outside calls but some long time managers may be skeptical about whether that can work.
  • Executive Management is very interested in “results”.
  • Credit is a big deal—the bank is hungry for earning assets to replace run-off/ paydowns in real estate.
  • Your Marketing Area is devising campaigns to promote your small business capabilities—mostly around products and promotional pricing.
  • Executive Management is very interested in “results”—soon.
  • Some BMs are not sure whether this is going to be fun, easy or even doable; some may be thinking “this too shall pass if I keep my head down.” (There also may be some Regional Managers with the same thoughts.)
  • Executive Management is very interested in “results”—this quarter or if you’re lucky, next quarter.

While in the marketplace as a whole:

  • Your competition in small business is growing—banks of every size and stripe, credit unions, and brokerage houses all want a piece of the action.
  • Small business owners are not enthralled with their primary banking relationships—according to some research studies conducted in 2010, 25-30% are considering changing banks in the next year (but only about 8% actually changed in the last 12 months).
  • Demand for business loans is weak—and some of the people who are looking for credit wouldn’t get approved anyway.
  • Executive Management at every financial institution you compete with is very interested in “results” also.

What there is may be a little fuzzy, but it probably includes the following:

  • Branch Managers are confidently calling on the best businesses in their markets.
  • You are able to differentiate yourself from the competition without giving away the bank.
  •  You are teaming effectively with your partners in other areas (e.g. Cash Management, Commercial Lending, etc.)
  • You are generating results—the kind that Senior Management is looking for.

Let’s pause and review some assumptions:

  • All the good small business prospects are taken (i.e. they all have banks that are doing at least an adequate job).
  • No business customer is going to leave his bank based on one call from you, no matter how brilliant you are. (If any prospect is prepared to do that, watch out.)
  • The relationships that businesses have with their banks have highs and lows, just like any relationship between two parties.
  • Today lots of small business customers are not enthralled with their banks.
  • It’s hard for small business owners to differentiate your products from those of your competitors.
  • Although price is important to business owners, it’s not the only thing that matters in selecting a bank.
  • Branch managers want to do a good job taking care of their business customers.
  • Executive Management is very interested in “results”—soon.

So what else do you need to consider? 

--This is not just about training. Most adults are hungry for how-tos that will help them do their job better.

--We owe our people certain things:

  1. What a good small business customer looks like
  2. How much time they should devote to this initiative
  3. How we’d like them to call on small businesses—our process if you will
  4. How we define “results”
  5. What support we are prepared to give them in the way of coaching
  6. What other resources we will be making available to them

 --This is really about sales leadership. If sales leaders want branch managers to change, they have to change too.

--Sales leaders have to make choices (see below).

Here are some of the choices that Sales Leaders face:

  1. Which markets to focus on
  2. How to prioritize which businesses to call on
  3. Whether to have different expectations for different branches based on demographics, perceived potential, etc.
  4. How fast to go in rolling out this initiative
  5. What ‘s negotiable and what’s not
  6. Whether to emphasize relationships or products
  7. What activities to monitor—and how to do it

 Things we have learned:

  • Quantity precedes quality (which means you can’t expect people who haven’t made many outside calls to become confident and even marginally competent until they have 75 to 100 face-to-face meetings under their belt.)
  • Relationships matter.
  • Your bankers have to be conversationally competent in key product areas; that is not the same as being experts.
  • People + Process = Results.
  • It takes a village (or at least the active participation and commitment of many parties.)

Agree or disagree? Email me your comments at

Listen to Buck Bierly’s thoughts on why the small business market presents opportunities, and what branch managers and small business bankers need to do to win market share.

Click here to listen to the file on  Are There Underserved Markets?







Q&A on Closing: Industry Standards on Prospecting for Bankers


Question: Is there an industry standard/rule of thumb for an average banker closing a deal after a prospect visit (i.e. 5 new customers/50 prospects visited)?

 Answer: The quick answer to the question is that for business bankers there is no industry standard based upon calling activity. That's not to say that this can not be analyzed. We look at several things:

* Is the banker initiating the prospecting effort or reacting to a defined opportunity? Proactive business development usually has a longer sales cycle from start to finish--we tell bankers to gear up for a 9 to 18 month effort that should include quarterly face-to-face meetings and monthly marketing touches.

* What is the source of the original lead? If it comes from a trusted professional referral source like a CPA, the chances of it closing are higher than if it's a referral from a branch manager. If the banker already has a relationship with the prospect--say it was a former customer at another bank--that can improve his close rate.

* Is the opportunity a pure transaction or is it about moving an entire banking relationship? Transactions--think a real estate loan--can happen more quickly and can lead to full blown relationships, but don't always.

* Does the prospect look like a good match for the bank's capabilities and credit requirements? You never know for sure until you kick the tires, but in targeted prospecting we try to get bankers to focus on the best matches. If they are reacting to prospects who are walking in the door, they're likely to encounter more price shoppers and credit problems.

Looking for more insights into prospecting? Sign up for the upcoming webinar on “The First Two Calls on a Prospect: 5 Proven Techniques for Building Momentum” on October 25 at 11 AM Eastern. You can register for the live webinar three ways: (1) Call Whit Midkiff at 727-741-0766 or (2) email him at  or (3) go to the upcoming webinars section of our Webex website at and pay the $225 fee (per line, not per person) by credit card.

If you can’t make the live webinar, you will be able to view the recorded version within 24 hours of the event. We do provide discounts for organizations that sign up for three or more lines for a live webinar. Call 727-741-0766 for details.

Assessing Your Own Sales Performance


I recently asked a group of business bankers to think about what I call the “mirror questions.” 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 mirror, well, it’s another story.

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 relationship managers 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 sales 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 situps, 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?  Where did those names come from?
  • Do I have the right mix of businesses on my prospect list?
  • Did I plan appropriately for each sales call?
  • Did I develop a follow-up plan for each sales call?  Did I execute it?
  • 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 for referrals this week?
  • Did I prioritize my time/resources appropriately?  How can I improve in managing my time?
  • Did anything unexpected happen this week? 
  • Did I learn something about my sales skills?
  • Do I know why all of the above are important to my success?

These are all good questions. But my bet is you could come up with a list that might be more appropriate for you. If you do, email them to me at

Our next live webinar is on October 25 at 11 AM Eastern on “The First Two Calls on a Prospect: 5 Proven Techniques for Building Momentum.” You can register by going to or by calling Whit Midkiff at 727-741-0766. If you can’t make the live webinar, a recorded version will be available roughly 24 hours after the presentation.







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