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Small Business Strategy: Boosting Branch Manager Confidence


Question: Many of our branch managers haven’t had a lot of experience making outside calls on small business owners and professionals. How would you help them get more confident doing that?

Answer: Confidence comes with practice. The first step is to get the branch managers in front of business owners on a regular basis. In our experience your goal should be 4 or 5 scheduled calls a week. (That is not a typo. If you were thinking that springing Mary Ann to make 1 call a week is going to be all that’s possible, forget about her ever getting comfortable or competent.)

Which businesses should the branch manager focus on? Start with existing customers for two reasons:

  1. It’s easier to get in to see customers than to set up meetings with prospects.
  2. One objective for the calls on existing customers can be to check their pulse to make sure everything’s going fine from a customer service standpoint and to thank them for their business. Branch managers are usually comfortable doing that.

Depending on the size of the business customer base in a given branch, you could be looking at an initial list of as many as 75 to 100 customers. If some of the business customers are borrowers, the branch manager should huddle with the commercial lender or business banker to get an update before setting up an appointment.  (In many cases, a joint call—or maybe no call—could result.) The list should also be reviewed with the branch manager’s Sales Manager.

Ask your branch managers to build a client folder for each major customer relationship. This could include MCIF household reports, information from the company’s website, industry data from sources like RMA or First Research, and any material on the owners/ principals you can find online (check LinkedIn or Zoominfo).

You probably need to consider some sales training that focuses on outside sales calls. When we work with branch managers we start by differentiating between a marketing call and a relationship development call.  The former is really about the bank and its product capabilities while the latter is designed to identify, understand and develop the customer’s needs.

In order to be successful developing needs, we coach branch managers on two different approaches: the first focuses on learning as much about the history, current objectives and future plans  of the business as possible—what we call a “business operations call.” Once you understand that—which, if accompanied by a tour, could take an hour or more—you’re ready for a “financial operations call” that explores how a business manages its working capital. (If you’d like more information about how we do this, email me at and I’ll send you samples of the questions we use.)

If you’re the Sales Manager for a group of branches, you should do the following:

  • Keep track of calling activity. Make sure that the branch managers are calling on their targeted lists—at least 2/3 of the calls should be on them.
  • In your coaching sessions ask about what the branch managers learned on the calls. Can they talk intelligently about business operations? What did they discover about the business owner’s values? What are the next steps?


Don’t worry too much at first about the quality of the calls being made. To steal a sports analogy this is more about at bats than hits. Once your people have gotten some experience calling, you can begin to work on improving the quality of their efforts.


For ideas about coaching branch sales teams to generate more leads from outside calling, download an mp3 file with Buck Bierly’s comments by going to




10 Holiday Tips for Bankers


The Christmas holidays are almost here.  Nobody outside your immediate friends and family wants to see you between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  You tell yourself that it’s time for a well-deserved rest.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. On this planet savvy bankers need to use what’s left of the year to keep their momentum in business development. If you’re at a loss for ideas on how to do that, here are some suggestions:

  1. Keep scheduling appointments with your customers and prospects.   If your competitors are too busy attending holiday parties, it may be that much easier to get in to see some people on your list. And if somebody isn’t free before year end, get on their calendar in January 2011. Keep building relationships.
  2. Show your prospect list to some of your satisfied customers. (If you’re reluctant to do that, sign up for our archived webinar on “Asking Customers for Referrals” at
  3. Spend some quality 1 on 1 time with your current COIs. Meet with the CPAs of any of your customers whom you don’t know. (If you’re not sure who they are, add that to this list.)
  4. Go with a plan to any holiday functions you attend. That might include preparing in advance a list of people you want to talk to or making a commitment to meet 3 new people at the event. (For those of us trying to retain our figures, it could also include steering clear of the canapies.)
  5. Treat your most important line of business partners to lunch and swap ideas about how to help each other in 2011.
  6. Call your customers to thank them for their business. If appropriate, see #1 above.
  7. Schedule time to review your sales efforts in 2010. What specifically do you need to do differently next year?
  8. Do something nice for your Administrative Assistant.
  9. Review where you stand with your top prospects. If you’re at an impasse with any of them, set up a time to strategize with your boss on how to proceed. (You can also check out our article on “Getting in the Door: How to Work with Gatekeepers” at
  10. Think about your own professional skills. Are there any courses/ webinars/ books out there that would make you a better banker? Not sure? Ask your bank’s Training Department or send me an email at for some ideas.


Our next live webinar is on January 10 at 11 AM Eastern on “Leveraging LinkedIn for Business Development.” 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.




Have Business Bankers Lost Their Mojo?


Are too many of your colleagues whining about the soft economy? Are they blaming your bank’s more stringent credit requirements for their inability to close new business?  Have you heard them making comments about “when things get back to normal”?

A lot of bankers I know have lost their swagger in the last 24 months.  It’s not that surprising. Things are rougher than they’ve ever been in many parts of the country. Deteriorating credits have kept many lenders busier with problem loan reports than with taking care of healthy customers. Prospecting has ground to a halt. 

As Frank, a seasoned commercial lender from the West Coast, remarked recently, “It’s not a lot of fun being a banker any more.”

Nojo—the term Marshall Goldsmith uses to describe the opposite of mojo or “the positive spirit toward what we are doing that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside”—takes many forms among today’s bankers:

  • A cynicism about new business development: “We don’t know what we want.” “The only people who are interested in changing banks are people we wouldn’t want to do business with anyway.”
  • Moaning about the increased scrutiny they are getting from the Credit and Compliance areas of the bank.
  • Too many “If only…” statements: “If only they knew how short-sighted their new policies are…” or “If only we were prepared to lower our pricing x basis points…”
  • More talk than action: Lou Holtz was right when he observed that “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” Some bankers are just going through the motions, talking a good game for sure, but not working to make things happen.

What risk does this malaise pose to banks? Well, for starters, here’s a partial list:

  1. The possible loss of key customer relationships. A recent article in CFO Magazine suggested that compared to two years ago 46% of CFOs are more likely to actively explore changing some or all of their banking partners.
  2.  Difficulty restarting any prospecting effort when the economy rebounds. Many Relationship Managers are clearly out of shape when it comes to prospecting. Their lack of activity has made them too tentative.
  3. Conflicting messages to important COIs in the community.  If you’re open for business, that message needs to get communicated consistently to CPAs, attorneys and other influential members of the business community. If bankers are MIA, that speaks louder than what your Marketing Department is putting on billboards and in ads. 
  4. Defections of high-performing bankers. Headhunters in many areas are working overtime to lure the best talent away. Executive Management can’t assume that top RMs won’t be seduced if they’re unhappy with the current climate in your organization.

So what’s a banker battling nojo to do? If you’re in a leadership position, you can do a lot in your team meetings and one on one coaching sessions to counter any lingering negativity. Talk about what’s important in retaining the loyalty of your customers. Make the case for being proactive in business development. Go on more calls yourself. Stay upbeat. 

If you’re a banker who has lost your mojo, step back. Think about what you enjoy about banking. Strike a balance between handling the internal and external items on your to do list.  Take care of your customers. Expand your prospect list. Show it to the customers who love you. Let your COIs know that you’re looking for new business.

If you’re still having a hard time rebounding from the last two years, schedule time to talk to somebody you trust about it—a colleague, your boss, a friend, etc. You’ll benefit from another perspective.


Email me your comments at


How do your prospecting behaviors measure up? What are you doing well? Are there any areas you need to focus on to bring in more new business? To download a prospecting skills assessment go to






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