Bank Sales Corner

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.

Who is your favorite in this year’s NCAA basketball tourney? Root for your favorite in the space below.

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Check out our blog for tips for coaching sales performance in banks.









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

4 Weekly Tasks for Bank Sales Managers (Video)

Posted by Buck Bierly on Fri, Nov 28, 2014 @ 10:17 AM

4 Weekly Tasks for Bank Sales Managers

Quick summary for those of you who don't like watching videos:

1. Start every Monday off with a 20-30 minute sales meeting. Focus on lead generation and pipeline "pull-through".

2. On Friday have sales team members update their pipeline reports. Identify any things that you need to ask about in the coming week.

3. Get a list by close of business on Friday of the calls your team has scheduled for the coming week. See if you like the quantity and quality of the activity. Decide if there are any calls you would like to go on.

4. Repeat the process each week.

Bonus: If you would like to download a copy of a Relationship Planning Guide, click on the link below. It will help your team members identify opportunities with both clients and prospects and develop approrpriate strategies for targeted businesses. You can use it in your 1 on 1 coaching sessions and quarterly client reviews.

Download Relationship Planning Guide

relationship development w




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

Help Your Team Get the Most Out of Networking Events

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 @ 12:48 PM


The first holiday gift basket just arrived (Thanks, Bobby!) and I can’t wait to dive in to the goodies. There are other things (many) to look forward to in the next month and half. One of them is holiday parties sponsored by your clients and organizations in your community.

Most bankers I know buy in to the importance of attending networking events. Maybe as a result, sales managers don’t place as much emphasis on it as they should in their coaching.

I think they’re making a mistake. They need to help bankers learn how to work a room better, to become better networkers.

Here are five specific things sales managers can do:

  • Get people to go to the right events. What might be right for Jill may not be the best use of Jack’s time.
  • Make sure that people have a plan for each networking event. Maybe it’s a list of customers to talk to. Perhaps the goal is to connect with a particular prospect. Having clear objectives matters. 
  • Follow-up immediately afterward to see what your people got out of the event. Be curious about whom they talked to.
  • Go to some events with them and observe how they operate. You’ll probably have some more things to talk about when you debrief the session.
  • Ask people periodically whether the events they’re attending regularly are providing an appropriate ROI.

You don’t have to be a great networker yourself. But if you believe being active and visible at client functions and community and trade association events is important, you have to walk the talk.  Enjoy the holiday season!

Planning a Sales Conference or offsite meeting in 2015? Our consultants are frequent speakers at banking conferences and bank sales meetings. They have a reputation for delivering sales and sales management "how-to's" in a dynamic, engaging manner. Offering a range of keynote, half-day and full-day programs, their approach helps salespeople and sales managers gain a competitive advantage in every step of the sales process. For more information about how we may be able to assist you at an upcoming sales meeting or conference, call Ned Miller at 610-296-4772 or email him at

Topics: networking, coaching, sales leaders

Bank Sales Managers Need Coaching Too (Podcast)

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 @ 05:44 AM

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 the ones that impact all sales team leaders.

To hear six challenges they face, click on the link below.

Sales Managers Need Coaching Too


coaching sales leaders

Our next 3 live webinars are complimentary:

* “Q&A on Prospecting” with Buck Bierly on October 27, 2014

* "Is Cross-selling the Secret Sauce?" with Charles Wendel on November 3, 2014

* "What Small Business Bankers Can Learn from Moneyball" with Ted Triplett on November 24, 2014.

All webinars begin at 11 AM Eastern. To sign up go to or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771. Space is limited to the first 100 participants. (If you can't make the live webinar, register now and we'll send you the link to the recorded versions.)

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

8 Reasons Why Branch Managers Should Call on Small Businesses

Posted by Ned Miller on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 @ 01:55 PM

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  1. Many Branch Managers know their communities and can find opportunities.
  2. Feet on the street matter.
  3. Some Branch Managers are pretty good at this. Others can be too.
  4. They don’t need to become commercial lenders to call on small businesses. You want your Branch Managers to become “conversationally competent” discussing credit and other business products.
  5. This isn’t just about identifying business loans and deposits—you’re trying to find consumer loans (and deposits and investments, etc.)
  6. You can get a lot of traction by coaching your coaches; if your Branch Managers get consistently good feedback and guidance from their Sales Managers, big things can happen.
  7. Small business owners want to talk to bankers.
  8. With all the revenue challenges you’re facing, what do you have to lose?
Looking for more ideas on how to engage your branch team in calling on businesses? Download a copy of a presentation on “Building Momentum with Small Businesses” by clicking here. You might also be interested in checking out our webinars on coaching branch managers. For more information email



Topics: Branch Manager, small business, coaching

Are Quarterly Reviews Micromanagement? (Podcast)

Posted by Ned Miller on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

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Your team is behind budget. Pipelines aren't exactly where you think they should be. So what do you do? Regular quarterly reviews give Sales Managers a chance to determine what mid-course corrections are needed. They are another opportunity to drive home the important message that top-line revenue growth is critical to the bank's success.

To download the full mp3 or a transcript of the recording, click on the link below.

Are Quarterly Reviews Micromanagement?

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