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Thoughts on Pitching for Bankers


I’ve been thinking about pitching recently. Not products, baseballs. As a Phillies fan, I’ve lost all interest in the World Series, although for my friend Jim’s sake I hope the Cardinals win the final two games.

What’s had me thinking about our national pastime as November approaches is a book by sports psychologist H.A. Dorfman called “The Mental ABC’s of Pitching.” It has been read and reread by many of the best pitchers in baseball, including Roy Halliday and Tim Lincecum.

If I had had it as a 12 year old Little Leaguer, I probably would have been much more successful on the mound. It wouldn’t have done much to improve the velocity of my fastball, but it would have helped me conquer the mental side of pitching.

Dorfman tells pitchers that they should only worry about the things they can control. We’ve all heard that before. But he goes on to provide a framework for disciplining a pitcher’s thoughts that is applicable to those of us without big league baseball credentials.

Let’s start with the world that a pitcher inhabits. For Dorfman, a pitcher is either on the mound or off the mound. When he’s off the mound, he can get himself ready to compete, work on developing new pitches, and plan how he is going to handle certain batters. But to be successful on the mound a pitcher has to stay focused on three things: which pitch to throw, where to throw it and the catcher’s mitt as his target. Nothing else. 

For Dorfman, it’s almost as if the batters aren’t there. A pitcher can’t control whether a batter swings or not. He can’t afford to worry about who’s batting next. His job is to select a pitch from his repertoire and throw it well. If he does that consistently, he’s going to be effective.

How does this apply to bankers who are prospecting? Here are some of the things you can control :

  • Which prospects you target
  • How much preparation you do before important meetings
  • How you leverage your personal network to gain introductions and testimonials
  • What questions you ask on calls
  • How you follow-up

What you can’t control is also important: whether a prospect will return your call; whether a prospect will agree to meet; whether your prospect decides to stay with his current bank.

I was with a talented banker this week who was frustrated that she couldn’t convince one of her prospects to move. After talking with her for a few minutes, it was clear that she really had done everything possible. I encouraged her to think about what she’s going to do to keep the conversation alive with her prospect and maintain momentum.

While impatience is generally a virtue in salespeople, you can’t get upset about what you can’t control. Hall of Fame hurler Satchel Paige’s advice would also apply to relationship managers: “Don’t look back. Somebody might be gaining on you.”

Sales Leaders: Find out more about our next live webinar on November 21 on “Coaching Commercial RMs in Challenging Times” by going to

Can’t make the live session? All webinars are recorded and are available in our archive within 24 hours in the recorded sessions section of our website at  If you have questions about our webinars, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.






6 Mistakes Bankers Make in Prospecting (from 43 B.C.)


Growing up in Upstate New York I was dimly aware of the number of towns whose names sprang from Ancient Greece and Rome. Troy, Utica, Romulus, Homer and Ovid still sound much more exotic than Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Watertown and Glens Falls.

But without benefit of a true classical education—the Jesuits let me wiggle out of taking Latin in high school—I never learned much about Cicero, the orator, lawyer, philosopher and politician, not the hamlet outside Syracuse. Not until recently anyway, when I stumbled across Cicero’s “6 Mistakes of Man”, a list that still seems current some 2000 years after he wrote it.

I’ll spare you all the biographical details. Cicero lived from 106 B.C. to 43 B.C., when he was executed by his political enemies. Hailed by at least some of his fellow Romans as the “father of his country”, Cicero was a polished public speaker, a poet, and a statesman.

Reading his short summary of the mistakes we mortals often make, I was struck by how many of them are made by modern day bankers in their efforts to capture new business. See if you agree. Cicero’s mistakes are followed by my comments:

  1. The illusion that personal gain is made up by crushing others. [Don’t badmouth the competition. It doesn’t serve your cause to tear down others. If you’re going to be successful, you need to demonstrate what you can do to improve your prospect’s situation, not point out what the incumbent can’t do.]
  2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected. [Think about how many times you’ve heard others grouse about branch locations, marketing budgets, what the competition is doing, the economy, etc. What wasted energy!]
  3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it. [Examples abound: Getting in the door with a hard to corral prospect. Convincing a prospect to leave his current bank. Figuring out how to coach a veteran banker to try a different approach.]
  4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences. [“I can do this faster than I can explain it to my assistant” or “I prefer to do the write-ups myself” may keep you from focusing more time on priority projects.]
  5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind. [In a professional context, are you staying current? Are you taking advantage of professional development courses/ webinars/ conferences to improve your skills? What’s your reading list look like? Have you read everything on Jamie Dimon’s syllabus? (See the American Banker Special Report published September 27, 2011 or email me at for his suggestions.)]
  6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do. [This often trips up Sales Managers. Everybody is different. What works for you might not work for one of your subordinates. Admonishing someone to “just do what I do—it’s not rocket science” might not produce the desired result. You might have to break things down so that your less experienced colleague can figure out how to make progress.]

I don’t know why Cicero was put to death but I suspect he said some things that made his contemporaries uncomfortable. If any of his mistakes are ones you need to address as a modern banker, get some coaching.

One of the mistakes bankers make in prospecting is failing to leverage their existing network. Check out our recorded webinar on “Building an Effective Referral Network” by going to You can also get more information about our webinars by calling Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or emailing her at


Stop Training Bankers on Cold Calling



Peter Drucker once observed that we spend a lot time teaching people what to do but don’t devote nearly enough time to instructing people what to stop doing.

Training sessions on prospecting often focus on reviewing the best value statements a banker can offer up to get an appointment. Trainers tout “foolproof” scripts to pique a prospect’s curiosity and set up drills where bankers rehearse responses to the most common objections they get trying to woo gatekeepers.   

Here are two things I’d encourage anybody training bankers on prospecting to stop doing:

  1. Cut the segments on cold calling to a bare minimum. Tell them it’s an option, but that there are at least three more promising approaches. Listen to Buck Bierly’s recent blog post on the value of systematically leveraging a network of satisfied customers, line of business partners, COIs and others if you need ammunition (go to
  2. Stop creating the impression that small to medium-sized business prospects aren’t interested in talking to bankers. Yes, it’s true, most are satisfied with their current banks—depending on whose research you believe, 70% may fall in the satisfied (not necessarily ecstatic) category. But in my opinion a banker who approaches a business owner or CFO intelligently can probably get an initial meeting with even the most entrenched prospects.

The way for bankers to begin their prospecting efforts is not to anguish about stalking their prey over the phone. The best prospectors believe that they can get an appointment with any prospect if they leverage their network and are reasonably persistent.  (Note: In my experience many bankers fall short on both. If you know somebody who needs help in this area, encourage him to sign up for our webinars on “Building an Effective Referral Network” or “Asking Satisfied Customers for Referrals” at

The starting point is to have bankers ask themselves what they bring to the table that could conceivably help a prospect. Don’t start with products. The prospect already has those. Inventory instead what you know about the prospect’s industry. Are there any trends that are likely impacting his business model? If you don’t know, find out. (Note to Sales Leaders and Executive Management: There are plenty of resources out there—eMentor, First Research, IBIS World, and Vertical IQ are all great investments for a bank interested in improving the success rate of calling teams. Pick one.)

Analyze the prospect’s website. What can you learn about their strategy? Do you have a clear understanding of their business operations? What financial issues do you expect to them to be concerned about? What questions would you have to ask your prospect to demonstrate your business savvy?

Keep your thinking cap on. Have you—or any of your colleagues-- ever worked with similar businesses? How did you assist them? Would any one of them be prepared to provide a testimonial or a recommendation to you that you could use with your prospect?

The end game is getting a prospect to decide to do business with you. To do that usually requires a number of face-to-face meetings (the research suggests somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 or 8 with a prospect).  In order to get that much face time with a prospect, you have to have something to offer, something that the prospect values.

Message to trainers (and Sales Leaders): Coach people on how to build a strategy for key prospects that includes getting in the door, but goes far beyond that.

Find out more about our next live webinar on October 17 on “Building an Effective Referral Network” by going to

Can’t make the live session? All webinars are recorded and are available in our archive within 24 hours in the recorded sessions section of our website at  If you have questions about our webinars, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.





Buck Bierly mp3 on Why Bankers Struggle Getting in the Door with Prospects



describe the imageWhy do bankers struggle getting in the door with prospects? According to Buck Bierly, the main reason is that they don’t systematically leverage their network of satisfied customers,  line of business partners and COIs in prospecting.  Many commercial and business bankers resort to cold calling, which rarely produces the desired results.  

To listen to Buck’s comments go to

Find out more about our next live webinar on October 17 on “Building an Effective Referral Network” by going to

Can’t make the live session? All webinars are recorded and are available in our archive within 24 hours. If you have questions about any of our webinars, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.

If you’d like to download our new eBook “Q&A on Getting in the Door with Prospects” go to


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