Bank Sales Corner

First Things First: Weekly 1 on 1 Coaching

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Jan 18, 2016 @ 03:34 PM





It’s easy to get distracted. Urgent requests crowd out things that are often more important. We find ourselves spending the day reacting. If we don’t schedule priority activities into our weeks, sometimes they just don’t get done.


What types of activities do Bank Sales Leaders need to keep front and center? While the answer really depends a lot on your particular situation, here are the ones that most Sales Leaders need to allocate time to:

  • Identifying and recruiting talent for your team

  • Training team members to improve their skill sets

  • Reviewing pipelines

  • Making joint calls to observe your bankers in front of customers

  • Coaching

Let’s take a look at coaching. Sales Leaders know that coaching can have a huge impact on the results of their teams. And yet, for a lot of reasons, many bankers complain that they don’t do enough of it. (See my recent blog post Tips for Time-Starved Bank Sales Leaders.)


And to complicate matters, what I’ve observed is that a lot of the coaching that does get done falls into the category of deal or transaction coaching. While it’s important, it’s not enough.


Your team members also need help in identifying the best opportunities in the market. They often struggle with building momentum with desirable prospects, starting in some cases with how to make an initial contact to get an appointment with a decision-maker.


While some coaching can take place in group settings like a weekly sales meeting or a post-mortem of a deal for the whole team, the most effective way to develop team members is 1 on 1 .


Some of this can be “in the moment” or spontaneous, on the fly coaching. Sauntering by and chatting with one of your reports about an upcoming call on a major client clearly can be of tremendous value. But coaching can’t be just walking around.


You need to schedule time with each of your bankers to address important performance issues. Our recommendation is that for most business and commercial banking teams, these 1 on 1s should be for 45 to 60 minutes every other week. They’re best done outside of prime calling time—early in the day or late, often on days when there are other meetings.


What can you cover? Plenty, including a more detailed review of pipelines, calling activity, strategies for upcoming calls and, most importantly, specific developmental issues that you and the banker have decided to work on. Here’s a sample agenda:


Possible Topics to cover:

  1. Calendar

  • Review of last week’s calls and other lead generation activities (e.g. networking events, meetings with LOB partners, etc.)

  • Upcoming calls including any with the Sales Manager or partners

  • Prospecting initiatives

  • Non-selling time activities (e.g. research, customer service, credit)

  1. Pipeline

  • Review of opportunities in each stage of the funnel

  • Strategies to move customer/ prospects to next stage

  • Review of any stalled deals

  • Discussion of lessons learned on lost deals

  1. Coaching

  • Review of action items from last meeting if not already discussed

  • Review of progress on banker’s individual development plan

  • Reinforcement of sales skills

  1. Next Steps/ Action Plan


Don’t forget the coaching component (#3). Sales success is the result of having an articulated process, holding people accountable and coaching. Amping up accountability alone isn’t enough.


So remember, first things first.

  • Commit to scheduled 1 on 1 coaching for each sales team member. The open door policy does not count.

  • Get the dates and times in everybody’s calendar for at least the next quarter. No cancellations.

  • Use a structured agenda for each session.

Let me know if you have questions or comments. You can email me at or share your thoughts in the space below.

Looking for more tips on coaching? Check out MZ Bierly Consulting Articles on Coaching

Topics: coaching, sales leaders, sales culture, bank sales managers

6 Common Coaching Errors on Prospecting

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Nov 09, 2015 @ 06:50 AM


Prospecting is one of the toughest things bankers do. If you’re a bank sales leader, your bankers need you to be on the top of your game as a coach. Here are 6 coaching mistakes you can’t afford to make:

  1. Not providing direction on which prospects to target. . . “Build a list of the prospects you want each of your team members to do business with.”
  2. Not coaching bankers on how to leverage their networks (and that includes customers, COIs, senior management, internal partners, directors, etc.). . . “Teach your team how to use client referrals and testimonials to get appointments and build momentum.”
  3. Not creating a process for your team on generating leads. . . “Coach the top of the funnel.”
  4. Seeing yourself as the Super-Rep and stepping in to clinch the deal for your bankers…. “Teach them all to fish.
  5. Not understanding your bankers’ default value propositions . . . “Coach to the value proposition that you believe in.”
  6. Defining success too narrowly… “Celebrate small victories (e.g. getting in the door with a hard to reach prospect, scoring a second (or third) appointment, making a proposal, etc.)”

Looking for more resources on prospecting? Check out the following:

How to Qualify Prospects Quickly

Leveraging Your Network in Prospecting

Keys to an Effective First Call on a Prospect

Go to for a complete list of our recorded webinars on prospecting.


Topics: prospecting, coaching, sales leaders

7 Minute Tasks for Bank Sales Leaders

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Nov 02, 2015 @ 07:03 AM

Business man with checkboxes


Sales leaders are always pressed for time. (See Tips for Time-Starved Bank Sales Leaders.) But if you do find yourself with 7 minutes at some point in the day, here are 7 things you can do to improve your team’s chances of success.*


  1. Tell one of your team 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.
  2. Call one of your bankers and ask him what you can do to help with any deals in his pipeline.
  3. 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 they share with you in advance their relationship plans for each customer/ prospect. (What, no relationship plans? Send me an email at and I’ll forward you one.)
  4. 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.
  5. Let your boss (or your boss’s boss) know which of your team members deserves special recognition.
  6. Assess how well your sales people are using the tools you have provided them with (e.g. Industry information from IBIS World, RMA, Vertical IQ or First Research, prospect information, call planning templates on your bank intranet, CRM, etc.) If you don’t like the answer, do something.
  7. Call up a prospect whose business one of your team members failed to land recently. Tell them 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.


*All of these assume that you have built a sales process that incorporates market management principles and guidance on building relationships with customers, prospects and COIs. If you haven’t, call me at 610-296-4772 or send me an email at We can get you started.

Are you interested in reprinting an article from our blog in an internal bank publication? You may do so provided you reprint the article in its entirety and indicate that it was originally published in Bank Sales Blog, a publication of MZ BIERLY CONSULTING ( If you would like to find out how to add members of your organization to our mailing list, contact Susan Lersch at with your request.



Topics: bank sales, coaching, sales leaders, bank sales managers

Tips for Time-Starved Bank Sales Leaders

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Oct 13, 2015 @ 11:06 PM

bank sales leader

All bankers today are pressed for time. Responding to the array of regulatory compliance, credit administration and other internal demands for information can eat up a large chunk of a banker’s day.

Sales Managers struggle too, and not just in the banking industry. In a report by The TAS Group on “The Key Role of the Sales Manager”, researchers estimated that managers send about a third of their time on the leadership activities that drive sales results:

  • Planning—15%
  • People development—11%
  • Proactive review of territory plans, relationship strategies, call plans, etc.—11%

The TAS study reported that managers spend the bulk of their time firefighting and reacting to urgent issues (23%); reporting to management (12%); administrative tasks (15%); and with customers (13%).

Most bank Sales Managers I know complain about spending their days reacting. (One senior banker described it colorfully as “running around with his hair on fire.”) They have way too much to focus on and feel like they’re never going to catch up with the torrent of emails that arrives daily. They uniformly feel they are spending too much time “in the weeds” and too little time coaching and developing their team members.

In their day to day activities bank Sales Managers end up focusing on accountability and administration, not on coaching and developing their Relationship Managers. They are plenty busy doing the following “urgent” things:

  1. Coaching “deals” and shepherding transactions through the credit process
  2. Managing the pipeline
  3. Informal coaching
  4. Holding the team accountable for calling goals

What gets left out? Here’s a partial list:

  • Periodic relationship reviews to identify all loan, deposit and fee opportunities in the customer base, not just loans
  • Updates on progress that team members are making with Key Prospects
  • Making joint calls to observe team member’s sales skills
  • Scheduled one on one coaching sessions every few weeks that go beyond discussions of pipeline

Why does this occur in many community and regional banks? Based on my experience working with hundreds of Sales Managers over the last 15 years, I’d suggest three possible reasons:

  1. Some bank sales managers get little formal guidance or specific training on how to manage their teams. Although most have been through some form of sales training, they are left pretty much on their own when it comes to how they lead and coach their teams.
  2. Some Team Leaders are basically Super-RMs who spend their time managing their own portfolios and generating new business. A few years ago a community bank Sales Manager told me that he devoted 100% of his time to developing business and the rest of his day to managing his team. Translation: “I get paid to book business, not to coach.”
  3. Some Sales Managers fall back on the “I have experienced bankers” defense. For them, requiring team members to complete relationship plans on key clients and prospects, for example, smacks of micromanagement. Formally reviewing a banker’s prospect list every quarter to check for progress and strategize is something that would be nice to do, but gets lost in the frenzied day to day activity.

What can bank management do?

  • Figure out what you can eliminate or simplify that would enable Sales Leaders to spend more time on the things that will have the biggest impact on revenue: coaching, planning, reviewing performance, riding with team members to observe their sales skills, getting in front of more prospects, etc. Be ruthless in pruning anything you can that will free up Sales Managers to do what only they can do. If you can find 2 hours a week for each Sales Manager that can be then allocated to any of the above activities, you will see significant improvement.
  • Invest in sales management training for your front-line managers. And if you do, don’t make it a one shot deal. Sales Managers need periodic refreshers.
  • Reward Sales Managers whose teams put numbers on the board and who succeed in developing their people.

Agree or disagree? What do you think? Please share your insights and experiences in the COMMENTS area below...

Topics: bank sales, coaching, sales leaders

30 Ways for Sales Leaders to Build Business Acumen

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Sep 08, 2015 @ 08:20 AM

light bulb

30 Ways for Sales Leaders to Build Business Acumen

How do successful bankers differentiate themselves? Products? No. Service? Yes, but with the understanding that it’s tough to do with many prospects. Pricing? Unlikely, because most bankers freely acknowledge that (a) their employer isn’t the low-cost provider and (b) some crazy competitor can always undercut them. (An aside: Not all the “crazies” are insane; some have better profitability metrics that enable them to price transactional business at a small profit but reap the benefits of other more lucrative products and services.)

So what’s the answer? High-performing business and commercial RMs have figured out that it’s about demonstrating business acumen. Business acumen is bringing business issue insights and unsolicited financial ideas to the table. It is a significant differentiator in a competitive marketplace and is highly effective in proactive situations.

Business acumen is conversational competence in business issues; it is not the same as being a “Business Expert” or “Industry Expert”. Business acumen, as we are discussing it, is conversational competence around the industry sector changes and potential business challenges affecting businesses within that industry.

Don’t misinterpret this. Product acumen is very important, particularly in reactive situations. But it is less of a differentiator in proactive situations.

So how can sales leaders develop the business acumen of their teams? Here are 30 ideas for you to consider. Pick a few that you want to implement. If you’re not getting the response you want, try something else.

  1. Establish a routine for pooling observations about the external environment as part of your sales meetings. Summarize 2-3 takeaways.

  1. Require bankers to read the WSJ, local business journals and one monthly business magazine (Fortune, INC, Forbes, etc.)

  1. Invest in Value Line and make your bankers read it and report on it at your meetings.

  1. Review the titles of the main articles in the e-newsletter of a different industry trade association each month.

  1. Discuss industry supplements from internal or external sources (e.g.The Economist.)

  1. Have bankers present summaries of industry research from VerticalIQ, IBIS World, First Research or Lexis Nexis.

  1. Stage field trips to clients’ businesses.

  1. Sponsor round tables for clients and prospects.

  1. Have bankers attend trade association events for key clients and prospects.

  1. Require bankers who attend outside seminars or conferences to make presentations on what they learned, emphasizing how this will help them build relationships with customers.

  1. Invite local business leaders to meet with your team.

  1. Encourage bankers to keep asking clients and prospects “What’s New?” and report back to the team (see #1 above).

  1. Read and discuss What the CEO Wants You to Know by Ram Charan.

  1. Have bankers set up Google alerts on companies they're interested in.

  1. Encourage bankers to introduce COIs to COIs.

  1. Conduct post-mortems of major wins/ losses.

  1. Establish an internal Continuing Education requirement for all team members to build business acumen.

  1. Set up monthly or quarterly meetings on topical issues led by a banker and an outside expert.

  1. Discuss analyst commentary on major companies (e.g. Apple, Amazon, JP Morgan Chase).

  1. Discuss Fed minutes (particularly as they apply to interest rates) and unemployment reports.

  1. Invite your Special Assets Group to lead educational programs focusing on lessons learned with problem loans.

  1. Encourage bankers to participate in local and regional organizations involved in business incubation/ economic development (e.g. Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Authority, etc.)

  1. Make sure bankers know how your bank makes money.

  1. Require bankers to prepare at least 3 questions for every call they make to (a) demonstrate industry knowledge and (b) show they have done their homework.

  1. Have High-Performers present their approach to common challenges. Have HPs role play with others on team.

  1. Involve your Board of Directors or Advisory Board in discussions about business development/ market conditions, etc.

  1. Follow a few good business bloggers. Encourage bankers to listen to podcasts.

  1. Have bankers write an article for a business publication. (The preparation work alone will be worth it.)

  1. Review an M&A transaction. Ask the CEO the following:
    * What did you buy?
    * Why did you buy?
    * What were you seeking?
    * How did you value this?
    * How did this impact your value?
    (Note from a Senior Manager in a mid-sized regional bank: “Driving shareholder value is the primary responsibility of the CEO and if my RMs are to be effective they need to understand what that means. They need to understand how value is created, what the components of value are, how CEOs are setting strategies and objectives that drive those components. To identify the constraints, the market requirements and environmental challenges to executing those strategies, tactics and objectives would be my expectation to say we have business acumen. As commercial bankers we tend not to connect sales growth, margin improvement, new product development, etc. with shareholder value and by not recognizing this connection gets us stuck in tactical discussions. Tactical focus keeps us from the table where strategic discussions occur and often relegate us to filling the order and seldom to crafting the order.”)

  1. Keep thinking about what your team needs every day. Don’t assume your job is ever done.

Special thanks to the following for their comments on various drafts of this article: Dave Durham, Jeff Orner, Kevin Meade, Jim Donovan, Gerald Deetz, Kelly Condon, Kyle Kennedy, Bill McSweeney, Rob Nichols, Mark Augustyn, Jeff Judy, Bill Perotti, John Rock, Dave Hammer, Jeff Hultman, Jeff Carstens, Rick Kuci, Paul LeTourneau, Jeff Stauffer, Mike Olague, Doug Byers, Joe Witt, Harry Turton, Dianne Mercier, Glenn Wilson and John Barlow.

What do you think? What has worked for you? How have your best bankers developed business acumen? Please share your insights and experiences in the COMMENTS area below.

Webinar Alert: Trends in Healthcare

The ACA has had a major impact on the healthcare industry. How can you make sense of what’s happening to medical professionals in these turbulent times? Join Ned Miller and health care investment banker/consultant/ author Jim Unland for a live webinar on Monday, September 21 at 11 AM Eastern for a fast-paced discussion of the issues impacting physicians. In addition to providing insights into the direction of the industry, they’ll discuss where the opportunities are for bankers working with medical practices and how to exploit them. 

To Register: You can register for the live webinar three ways:

(1) Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or

(2) Email her at


(3) go to the Training Center section of our secure Webex website at  and pay the $29 fee by credit card.

If you can’t make the live webinar on September 21, you can still sign up for the recorded version, which will be available within 24 hours of the live presentation.  


Topics: bank sales, Sales Manager, coaching, sales leaders

Knowing What Makes Entrepreneurs Tick Will Boost Your Sales Results

Posted by Bobby Martin on Mon, Aug 17, 2015 @ 06:40 AM

Guest Blog Post by Bobby Martin


As a calling officer, you’ve already noticed that many of your business customers are a little offbeat, maybe even a little crazy. Having been a bank calling officer for seven years and a wacko-entrepreneur for 15 years, I can shed some light on how to relate to those crazy business owners—and maybe win more of their business.

I experienced some wild meetings with entrepreneurs as a banker. Once, when heading to a meeting with an entrepreneur to get some paperwork signed, I got a call to meet him at his recently renovated house. For the next two hours, he sipped vodka, told jokes and gave me a tour of the house with his much younger girlfriend. 

“You’ll need to come back sometime and hang out with us in the hot tub. But Bobby, no one wears clothes in my hot tub. So, Bobby Martin, we’ll find out how bad you really are.” (In case you're wondering, I didn't take him up on his offer.) 

While writing The Hockey Stick Principles, a book about how good ideas become successful companies, I’ve learned a lot about entrepreneurs’ unique personalities. Manfred E.R. Kets de Vries, a clinical professor of leadership at INSEAD, one of the world’s finest business schools, is the author, co-author, or editor of more than 30 books and 300 papers on the psychology of entrepreneurship.

In “The Entrepreneurial Personality: A Person at the Crossroads,” he writes that, “Economists have always looked at entrepreneurs with a great deal of ambivalence. The often-unpredictable, irrational actions of entrepreneurs do not fit the economists’ rational, logical schemes; they tend to disturb the implicit harmony of their models.” 

It’s true. Entrepreneurs often are unpredictable. You can either roll your eyes at their odd personalities, or try to relate to them. The hot-tub loving CEO was one of the savviest businessmen I’ve ever met. He once borrowed $1 million from my bank to buy a machine, and paid the bank back six months later using the cash the machine generated. No, it wasn't a printing press–although for the next 10 years, his machine was like an ATM, generating millions for his company. 

Here are some suggestions on how to become a great banker of entrepreneurs:

1. Give them your time: If an entrepreneur likes you, they’ll waste your time. That’s a compliment to you, so you should roll with it. They’ll tell you their startup stories, vent about the banking system or the economy, provide you a tour of their house and hot tub, take you fishing, or walk you through their newest business idea. Most entrepreneurs are interesting people, so enjoy this time. 

2. But never take their time: Most entrepreneurs aren’t interested in small talk or what your bank is up to. If you’re not listening or learning about them or their business (or doing something they consider fun), you’re probably boring them. (Translation: Don’t regale them with 20-minute stories about your kid’s latest soccer game.)

3. Never BS an entrepreneur: If you are about to tell an entrepreneur what he doesn’t want to hear, just tell the truth. Don’t try to tip-toe around the facts or sugar coat the message. 

4. Meet your business customers on their turf: For the most part, don’t ask an entrepreneur to meet at your branch office unless it’s truly a necessity or it's a great place to spend time. (Hint: Outside of a few Starbucks-inspired branches, most aren’t.) Meet anywhere else. Entrepreneurs often appreciate cool settings. 

5. Try to help the entrepreneur’s business: I once went on a call with Jim McColl, son of former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl. Jim asked my prospect, “Who are the top five companies you don’t do business with that you’d like to do business with? And how can I help you get those customers?" My prospect was impressed. Always, always, always ask entrepreneurs how you can help them. 

6. Have big picture meetings: Try to meet with entrepreneurs at least twice a year to “talk big picture.” Ask them about their vision. Examples: Where do you think your company will be in five years? 10 years? 

7. Do constant checks on workflow processes: Entrepreneurs are often control freaks. If you’re working through a loan application succinctly explain to them how the process could work best and ask them, “Does this process work for you? Is there a better way to go about it?”

8. Dress like a venture capitalist: I think bankers wearing suits while I’m wearing a golf shirt is strange. Unless your CEO is going to go into cardiac arrest if you’re out of uniform, think business casual. 

9. Pick their brains: Ask lots of questions—like a detective. Listen very carefully to their answers. Try to learn about things they enjoy. Help them think through their business and personal challenges. 

10.Be yourself : Never compromise your ethics, or what you stand for. If you don’t drink, be honest and tell them why you don’t want to go out carousing. 95% of entrepreneurs will love your confidence. 

I hope some of these ideas will improve your efforts at building lasting, profitable relationships with wackos like me.   

Bobby Martin is the founder of The Hockey Stick Principles, a research project to figure out how good ideas become successful firms. He is also president and co-founder of Vertical IQ, a leading provider of sales research insight for banks. Martin also co-founded and served as president of First Research, a leader in sales intelligence.

Upcoming Sales Leadership Workshop October 8-9, 2015 in San Diego, CA

We have an alliance with the Western Independent Bankers and in conjunction with WIB we are offering a 2-Day “Next-Level” Sales Leadership Workshop in San Diego on October 8-9, 2015. This session will focus on Business Banking Sales Team Success! 

This workshop in San Diego will drill down to the primary leadership elements that drive consistent sales team execution. We will be going way beyond sales reporting, accountability and tic mark management. Using examples from your own market and your own team[s], we will work together to build a solid base for advancing to the next level of leadership and sales team performance.

Comments from the 2014 WIB Sales Leadership Workshop:

  • “Great workshop that gives sales leaders the tools, ideas and best practices that they can put into place as soon as they return to the bank. Highly recommended.
  • “This is a course that will make you re-think how you focus your sales team and their efforts to build and retain quality relationships.”
  • “This workshop provided an effective way to move myself and my team towards quality relationships between community bankers and their clients.”

If you or anyone on your team would like to take the next step in Business Banking Sales Leadership, take a minute to visit the WIB website to get a closer look at the work we will be doing together.

WIB Conference: Building Top-Performing Sales Teams



Topics: prospecting, bank sales, coaching

10 Mistakes Bank Sales Leaders Should Never Make

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Jun 15, 2015 @ 07:35 AM

bank sales leader

Many senior bank executives question whether their sales leaders have what it takes to get the job done. Some banks are redoubling their efforts to train and coach their first-line sales leaders on how to develop their commercial and small business teams. Others are actively recruiting management talent. The smart ones are doing both.

If you’re a sales leader, here are 10 mistakes you don’t want to make:

  1. Managing everybody the same way.
  2. Administering your bank’s sales process rather than leading it.
  3. Thinking that you can be successful from behind your desk.
  4. Forgetting about coaching the top of the sales funnel while helping your Relationship Managers close business. 
  5. Failing to provide ongoing refresher training to your teams.
  6. Letting average-performers develop their own prospect list.
  7. Not strategizing with people about their top customers and prospects.
  8. Assuming that because you’re always available for quick informal coaching, you don’t need to schedule 1 on 1 coaching sessions.
  9. Not coordinating with your line of business partners to keep conversations moving forward on non-credit products and services (e.g. Treasury Management,  Trust and Investments, Capital Markets, etc.)
  10. Not maintaining contact with bankers whom you would like to hire, even if they’re happy where they are.

What do you think? What can banks do to improve the performance of sales leaders? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below...

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Topics: bank sales, bank relationship managers, coaching, sales leaders

March Madness 1964: More Mistakes = More Wins?

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 @ 07:33 AM

Bobby Wanzer

March Madness always gives me a chance to quote the late John Wooden, the college basketball coaching legend. During his tenure at UCLA, the Bruins won ten national championships in twelve years, establishing a record for excellence that will probably never be rivaled in college basketball.

As a skinny sixth grader competing in the CYO leagues of Upstate New York (not exactly the same as New York or Philadelphia basketball to be sure) I played for a grizzled former NBA player named Bobby Wanzer. Mr. Wanzer was also the basketball coach and Athletic Director at a local college, which made me wonder then what he was doing spending Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons with us. I can only guess that Father Maloney must have twisted his arm after Mass and so for a year the Our Lady of Lourdes basketball team benefited from the wisdom of a man who was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. (No, I’m not making that up; you can check it out at

I don’t remember much about Mr. Wanzer’s coaching philosophy. It’s probably because we didn’t have that many practices (his paying job often took him on the road during the basketball season) and most of our games were routs. I recall losing one of the first games of the season by the score of 44 to 9 to perennial power Sacred Heart, but the details of that and other defeats have vanished (thankfully) from my memory.

What I do remember was a comment that Mr. Wanzer made to my Dad about all the mistakes we made on the court. He said that he expected us to make bad passes and take bad shots and that it was OK as long as we kept trying. Now, that might have been Dad’s spin, but I don’t ever recall Mr. Wanzer scolding us for a basketball blunder.

Which brings me to Coach Wooden. It was about that time that I read an article about Coach Wooden in Look Magazine.  He said that his college coach at Purdue, Ward “Piggy” Lambert (no, I’m not making that up either), constantly reminded players that, “The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win.”piggy lambert

That sounded bizarre to me—we made lots of mistakes and we never won—but Coach Wooden went on to explain that “mistakes come from doing, but so does success.” If you didn’t make mistakes, you probably weren’t trying hard enough.

That bit of coaching wisdom helped me through a long basketball season in 1964-65. And when I read it now in a compilation of Coach Wooden’s thoughts on basketball I have to think that both he and Bobby Wanzer were sending a profound message to all of us on what it takes to succeed.

John Wooden 1960See whether any of Coach Wooden’s “Eight Suggestions for Succeeding” apply to your team’s current sales efforts:

1.    Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.
2.    Remember, it’s the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.
3.    Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.
4.    Be more interested in character than reputation.
5.    Be quick, but don’t hurry.
6.    Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will have.
7.    Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.
8.    Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Want more of my recent thoughts on March Madness? Check out:

March Madness 2015: What You Can Learn from Larry Brown

March Madness 1983: More 3 Pointers on Winning at Sales

I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to share it with others. If you would like to read my regular posts on bank sales and sales leadership then please sign up at Bank Sales Corner Blog.

Topics: bank sales, Sales Manager, coaching, sales leaders

March Madness 2015: What You Can Learn from Larry Brown

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 @ 06:16 AM

coaching sales leaders

My wife does not like Larry Brown. When he was the coach of the New Jersey Nets and decided to depart for a coaching position at UCLA in 1983, leaving Buck Williams and the rest of the Nets in the lurch, Carol developed a lasting dislike for him.

When he ended up in Philadelphia in 1997, my wife's opinion did not change. Even after his success leading the Sixers to the NBA finals in 2001 he was still in Carol's dog house.  And when the sportswriters in Philly began speculating in 2010 that Larry might return to lead the Sixers again Carol rolled her eyes in disgust.

I don’t think she knows that Larry Brown is back in the tourney hunt this year as head coach of the SMU Mustangs. The Mustangs are a number 6 seed in the NCAA South Regional and do battle with UCLA today at 3:15 PM EDT.

Now after being married for 37 years I am smart enough not to pick fights with my long-suffering spouse over stuff like March Madness. But I do really like Larry Brown and believe that he deserves his place in the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach. (For what it’s worth, Allen Iversen—remember him? The “We’re talking about practice, man” NBA great-- agrees with me: he called Brown “the best coach in the world.”)

 There are many things that bank sales leaders can learn from him. Here’s my list:

  1. Get the right players. Brown's last NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats, was an unlikely combination of NBA castoffs and aging veterans. In the first year he made trades involving over 20 players. While generally perceived to be a player's coach, Brown wants his kind of players, and isn't reluctant to make changes to get them.
  2. Start with the basics. One of the first things that Brown realized when he took over the Bobcats in 2009 was that they did not know how to play team defense. Even the pros can learn new things. Coach Brown does not assume that professionals know it all.
  3. Don't look back. Brown's success with Charlotte—he took the team to the playoffs in 2010-- followed a disastrous stint with the New York Knicks in 2005-2006. If your team isn't performing well, it may not be entirely your fault. Brown was able to move on after his experience with the Knicks.
  4. Balance perfectionism and realism. Brown is known as a master teacher, capable of taking his players to a higher level. He stresses playing the game the right way, and attaches great significance to developing the right skills and habits in practice. His biggest fear is:  “I haven't done enough as a coach where these guys encounter something I haven't prepared them for."


This last point is something all sales managers should consider. What kinds of things do you have to prepare your team for? What's the best way to do that? In our busy schedules when can we run the practices that will make our bankers better?

One last favor: Don’t show this piece to my wife.

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Topics: coaching, sales leaders, Larry Brown, March Madness

Why Producing Bank Sales Managers Struggle

Posted by Buck Bierly on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 @ 02:44 PM

bank sales manager

The number one issue in the bank peer data on improving banker sales performance is coaching. Most banks today have a reasonable level of accountability (goals, incentives, reporting) but are behind other industries in sales coaching.
The majority of commercial and business bankers still see themselves as "loan officers" and when they make the time to coach they primarily coach the credit process (getting the deal approved and closed). Sustainable growth in sales performance begins with the front end of the sales process (focusing on the right businesses, not wasting time with the wrong opportunities, using effective value propositions rather than price and structure, etc.). These skills take time, energy, and coaching to develop. A higher level of coaching significantly decreases the amount of time it takes a banker to become competent in these key skills.
Many community and regional banks use a Producing Manager sales leadership model. A Producing Manager typically carries a loan portfolio of between $40 and $70 million and manages 2 to 5 sales team members. A promotion from Commercial Lender to Producing Manager is often a clear signal that the bank values the individual’s credit and sales skills and can often lead to greater management opportunities in the organization.
The rationale for having them continue to manage their portfolios (“We have to take excellent care of the customers and you’re the best person to do that”) makes sense to the Producing Managers on another level; while it may be in the best interests of their customers, it’s also often perceived to be in their interest to hold on to their “meal ticket.” Many lenders see their customer relationships as a form of equity so they’re not averse to holding on to their book of business.
This model is common in banks where sales goals are relatively modest and where real estate-related transactions predominate. In banks where the sales performance expectations are higher the Producing Manager model can have a long-term negative effect on the sales performance of sales team members. Here are several of the problems:

  1. When Producing Managers carry more than a $10 million portfolio, the amount of time they spend coaching the front end of the sales process (lead generation and qualifying) is generally limited.
  2. They spend most of their time working their own portfolios and coaching credit (not sales) issues with their team members.
  3. They can compensate for the lack of sales coaching (growing team members’ sales skills) by "feeding" them deals and consequently helping them to make their goals.
  4. Producing Managers continue to build their own reputations in the community while their team members are less visible and less prepared for building their own network and customer following.
  5. Since Producing Managers spend less time coaching sales process (specifically the front end of the sales process) they don't fully develop competency in their skills as coaches and sales managers. This is especially true when they only manage 1 or 2 team members.
  6. The Producing Manager model is tenable in some situations but it significantly affects sales results when the number of sales team members reaches 4 or more. (If, however, the portfolio is reduced to less than $10 million and fewer than 5 relationships there is some increase in sales coaching.)
  7. Sales team members in Producing Manager teams grow their sales skills more slowly than those team members with "full-time" Sales Managers.

A common use of Producing Managers is in geographically dispersed teams (sales team members are 50 to 100 miles away). Yet there are many banks that have been able to build effective coaching processes with sales team members who are not in the same location. Sales Managers learn to use the phone, make regularly scheduled visits, and provide electronic delivery of reports and data (sales reports, underwriting information, etc.) to provide the coaching that team members need.
How do banks deal with the need for credit coaching in smaller or more remote markets? In some organizations, senior lenders take on a mentoring role for credit only, acting as advisors on deal structuring. The mentor is not the Sales Manager, though, and is not asked to coach on anything but credit. Regional Senior Credit Officers can also provide the needed guidance on complicated credit matters.
The data show that “full-time” Sales Managers with 6 to 12 sales team members (not including support staff) produce better long-term sales performance. (The number is lower [6 to 8] in commercial banking and higher in business banking and branch teams selling to businesses [8-12].)
It takes time and effort to build sustainable sales performance. Coaching is the key and full-time Sales Managers flat out are better coaches.
Do you agree or disagree? Send me your thoughts at
Interested in more insights on sales leadership? Check out our Sales Leadership Blog Posts.


Topics: bank sales, Sales Manager, coaching, sales leaders, Buck Bierly