Bank Sales Corner

Is Wells Fargo a Gift for Community Banks?

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 @ 01:25 PM


Wells Fargo Just Gave Small Banks a Big Gift (American Banker, September 15, 2016)

After reading the American Banker article the week after the Wells Fargo news hit I polled about 20 community bankers on the subject. Here are a number of the replies, some from banks that complete with Wells, some that don’t. These were initial reactions, before (now retired Wells CEO) John Stumpf made his visits to Washington to appear before Congressional committees and editorial writers and news anchors across the country opined on the bank's high-pressure sales practices.


The Wells Fargo news is so disturbing. We have and will continue with our message and have a big business campaign getting ready to launch soon.  It was already in the planning before the Wells news broke…We are more subtle in our approach. As an example, our COO did a beautiful job at a networking event sharing the bank’s culture, emphasizing family ownership and that “We are different.” I felt it really hit home. 
--EVP, Head of Retail, $3BN bank

I think it is bad for everyone, so not much of an opportunity. By the facts, it is overdone. So less than one percent of your people annually were doing something against your values and YOU FIRED THEM? This is presented as evil banks, slimy, and worse? Called before Congress for something that harmed consumers at most (as I expect this number was inflated) by $500,000 annually? Hatred of the bankers is truly unbelievable, which again, helps no one in the industry. And continuing the story that the big banks ruined the economy, with no recognition that the lack of regulation of the CDS market was the single largest contributor to the crash.
 –President & CEO, $10BN Bank

I agree it is an opportunity but have not had a chance to discuss with the team how to capitalize. We don’t do a lot of advertising and any message would need to be positive. It could be challenging to create a good buzz that is any louder or more effective than the media itself.

I sure wish we could turn this into a VW moment but am just not sure the public impression of big banks was high enough for the disappointment to be noticed.
 –President & CEO, $1BN bank

Definitely good for community banks, but gives more power and authority to CFPB.
 –President & CEO, $700MM bank

Unfortunately I am afraid this is bad for all of us, whether small or large. The after affect is going to be interesting--yet another hurdle for those of us in the banking industry.
—EVP, Head of Retail, $3BN bank

In my opinion, yes, it is an opportunity that we are currently trying to capitalize on. If you are familiar with “big” bank cultures, this comes as no surprise. Any of the larger, high pressure banks could be hit with similar suits. Quality of accounts does not matter at all. It is hit your targets any way possible. Many times incentive systems are not aligned with the best interests of the customer, and incentives drive behavior in that environment. 

I am not sure what overall impact this will have, but I am sure many Wells Fargo customers are checking their accounts more frequently. Overall, it does not look good for the industry, but it puts community banks in a more positive position than larger institutions.
–SVP, Head of Retail $1.8BN bank

We’ll stick to touting our model, instead of assessing others. We have always been a needs-based selling organization and non-commissioned shop on the retail sales platform. That never made a difference to customers in the past, but maybe it will now. We expect increased regulatory inspection and cost as a result of Wells’ actions. 
–EVP, Head of Retail $18BN bank

Wells Fargo is not in our market so we see no clear opportunity. On the other hand, we see additional regulatory scrutiny as another "Big Bank" exercises poor judgment. We fear we all will feel the impact.
 –EVP/ COO, $800MM bank

While the issue will not represent an opportunity for us because Wells Fargo has very little overlap with our market, Community Banks with overlap will harvest new customers. The marketing approach should focus on small businesses first, then consumer mass market. The real differentiation between large banks and community banks occurs with excellent service, access to key decision makers and our ability to be nimble when tailoring loan/deposit solutions.
–Director of Sales, $1BN Community Bank

We will continue to build relationships just like you all helped us with. I would rather talk about our bank with clients than discuss Wells Fargo. They know the reputation that we have built and they also read the news. I may be old school, but that's more my style. Wells Fargo can dig their own grave without us helping them.
–President, $1.5BN bank

Have I dropped everything and embarked on a strategy to seize this moment? No. There are plenty of rolled eyes when the subject comes up though.
–Market President and Commercial Banking Head, $9BN regional bank

This is an interesting situation and once again underscores why I have never been in favor of widget sales goals, but rather, for net deposit and/or loan growth of a given group, portfolio, office etc.
—Head of Retail, $3BN bank

This has potential to brush all banks with the same broad brush and can’t we all see Congressional finger pointing in the direction of Dodd-Frank hasn’t gone far enough. Good grief. We all knew this was happening – employees coming to us and others from Wells have spoken of that culture. As Wells was held up as a “model” retail bank, others have tried to emulate that model and actually have sought talent from Wells to assist so the model/thinking permeates the industry. I remember one our senior managers holding up the Wells annual report some years back barking the mantra “8 is GREAT” and pushing that we needed to be like that. We all have examples of unmonitored/managed bad behavior with some who behaved badly being held up as positive examples because of their “numbers”.

I agree with the notion of not throwing spears but promoting our strengths and let the market decide. Since the news, we have taken the opportunity to talk with our commercial and retail teams to:

--Reinforce that we are not Wells;
--Assure everyone we are focused on customer needs….not ours;
--Make sure we are all developing deep relationships and know our customers well.

It’s been a good opportunity to be uplifting about who we are.

--SVP/ COO at $800MM bank

It is an embarrassment to the industry. If done right, I think you could gently use it to advantage. As a local community bank, our goal is to support the communities where we work and live. We have the luxury of looking our customers in the eye, not only at work but at the grocery store, church and on the ball field. Doing the right thing is a cultural standard we live by.
—SVP, Head of Retail $1BN bank

Not really. My personal feeling is that the big banks can survive a lot of things. As long as customers can bank easily (through technology) they don’t seem to be too sensitive to this bad press. I could be wrong; this could be the issue that drives people to make a change. Thus far it just hasn’t happened.
-–Director of Sales Performance Management at $6BN bank

It would be a good opportunity it we competed against Wells--we don't. We can try to link Wells to other similar-sized banks we compete with, but this news probably isn't enough to move their clients. I'm glad the ICBA will continue to distinguish Community Banks from banks, so we don't get punished due to Wells egregious actions!
–President & CEO, President of $300MM bank

We had a similar much smaller scale issue like this at my former employer. It’s the widget mentality that puts a lot of pressure on front-line sales folks. Community banks are less apt to do this. So on the margin it’s a plus for us.
—Senior Lending Officer, $700MM bank

I don’t think we’ve seen any opportunities from this fallout, but as a whole folks are getting tired of the “big bank” mentality and looking at community banks as a way to get away from the nickel and diming, and the forced sales mentality.
 –COO, $700MM bank

What do you think? Feel free to share your comments in the space below or email

Webinar Alert: We will be hosting a complimentary webinar on "Cross-Selling Post Wells Fargo: A Roadmap for Bank Management" on November 16 at 1 PM Eastern. Joining us will be Charles Wendel, the President of Financial Institutions Consulting. Go to and register. For more information call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773 or email her at


Topics: bank sales, Brand, sales culture

Identifying and Developing Bank Sales Leaders

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Oct 11, 2016 @ 11:39 AM

Rob Shuford


In the second in a series of interviews on identifying and developing bank sales leaders, Ned Miller interviews Rob Shuford, Jr., the President and CEO of Old Point National Bank in Hampton Roads, Virginia. What follows is an edited version of the interview.


Ned Miller: What are you looking for in a sales leader?

Rob Shuford: After understanding sales, the most important quality is being able to teach it to others.  And that is the huge differentiator between a great sales person and a great sales leader.  The best sales leaders aren’t necessarily your best sales people, but they are are people who have a solid understanding of selling techniques and methodology and know how to explain that to others. 

Ned: So how do you identify those people?

Rob: In the job interview I ask people to explain how they sell.  Some people say, “I’m not really sure how I do it, I’m just really good at it. “  Others can jump right into an explanation.

Ned: When you were looking at filling the retail sales leadership position at Old Point a few years back, you settled on a very strong candidate.  How did you find her and how did you finally decide that she was the one?

Rob: Well, she’d been in retail sales leadership already and had worked extensively in retail operations.  I knew she had management and operations experience as well as sales experience.  And because of some of the changes that were occurring at the large bank she was working for I knew she would be available. When we sat down and talked it was obvious she had a good, solid personality, that she had  experience in sales, and that she could break it down and explain the sales process.  It was  obvious from the first time I talked to her that she was going to be a great fit.

Ned: We see banks that use producing sales managers, who have responsibilities for not only managing a team, but also responsibilities for managing a portfolio themselves. Do you have that at Old Point?

Rob: We have sales leaders who are expected to generate new business, but they’re not measured on their own individual sales goals.  Their goals get added into the goals of their group.  In other words, if they’ve got a goal of $2MM in new production, that number gets added into the other $10MM for the group. Then their goal is $12MM and they get judged on that number. At the end of the day, I want them to be a sales manager, not a sales person. 

Ned: What kinds of things do you do to develop the skills of sales leaders?

Rob: The biggest area for development is usually data analytics and metrics, because that’s what they’re typically not going to have when they come to you.  Now, there are notable exceptions, chiefly people who’ve been in retail management for a long period of time, particularly in larger banks.

That’s usually the area that they need the most coaching in.  Understanding the numbers is not only useful to them but also useful to me as CEO, and at some level can roll up to a report for the Board of Directors.  

Ned: Are there other things you’ve tried to do to make them more effective in their sales leadership role?

Rob: No, just personal coaching and mentoring.  I try to keep it simple.  Let’s figure out what we want to measure, which is usually fairly obvious.  It can get a bit complicated, particularly if you have multiple lines of business and you’re measuring referral goals.  Loans and deposits are the basics.  Where it gets a little challenging is exactly which loan and deposit numbers you’re going to use.  Are you going to use actual numbers, monthly averages, or year to date averages? Sometimes that can get a bit confusing for the sales leaders. 

You have the version of the truth that’s in all the operational reports, you have the version of the truth that finance uses, and you have the version of the truth that’s most useful for sales metrics.  And they’re not always the same number or the same version of the same number.  There are a lot of different ways to represent the size of our loan portfolio. Seems simple, but it’s actually not. 

Our deposit numbers are the ones that jump all over the place, depending on how many days are in the month, and when pay day is, for example. When we dramatically increased our relationship deposits, one of the interesting side effects was our deposit numbers became a lot spikier, or lumpier, because they were moving around more. 

When a larger percentage of our deposits were time deposits they were pretty stable.  So, as part of our success, we’ve added some challenges with the data analytics, quite frankly. 

Ned:  Is there anything else you’d like to comment on?

Rob: In general, you’re looking for people who have a good blended personality.  If you’re using the Myers Briggs scale, they probably need to have a little more J than P and a little more T than F in them.  And even though a lot of sales people are extroverts, many of the best sales managers are not, they’re introverts. 

They go home at night and do a lot of thinking about how they can improve what’s going on.  They need to be empathetic, but they also need to have the ability to think through problems and not be scared of data analytics.  It’s a different type of job than just being a sales person.  They need to be pretty versatile.

Ned: When I work with sales leaders, one of the things I’m trying to gauge is whether they can reflect on what needs to be done. The intuitive sales leader who says, “Watch me, it’s not hard” doesn’t help most analytical sales people.

Rob: No, you’re exactly right.  There’s a place in the sales training process for role play.  There’s a place in the sales management process for joint calling.  But in the sales training process, nothing replaces being able to write it down, step by step, and say, this is one way, and maybe one of the best ways to be successful.  That’s invaluable because that’s the way most people are going to learn it.

Ned: The same thing applies to sales leaders.  There’s a certain percentage of people who have the patience and the ability to coach people effectively.

Rob: One of the things that we try to get across to some of those more intuitive or innate sales people is that it’s great that they’re really successful.  But if they are able to understand it in a way that could cause them to replicate their success more frequently, they could be so much better than they could even imagine.  And so, we don’t just cut people loose just because they’re really good at it, and say, okay, you get to go do what you want.  They still need to participate in the training and in the methods that we use because everybody can get better.

Here are some blog posts on sales leadership that you might have missed:

What CEOs Look for in a Bank Sales Leader

Don't Lose Your High-Performers

Will This Experienced Banker Be on a Performance Plan Next Year?

Consultant Bares All: 20 Secrets for Bank Sales Leaders

If you’re looking for a speaker for a sales conference in 2017, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773 or email her at Buck Bierly and Ned Miller can also work with you to provide day or half-day workshops for your teams on a variety of topics.

Webinar Alert: Ned Miller will be speaking in a webinar  sponsored by VerticalIQ on October 25 at 12 Noon Eastern on “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Relationship Managers”. For more information go to

Topics: coaching, sales leaders, bank sales managers

More Sales Training? Think Again

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Oct 03, 2016 @ 02:56 PM

Businessman offering a pen to sign a contract

So what if you allocated more of your sales training budget to your bank’s sales managers, taking some of what you currently spend on programs for your front-line sales team and investing more in their coaches?
It's not what most banks have done historically. When the Executive Team at a community or regional bank spots a revenue problem, their knee-jerk reaction is often to schedule more sales refreshers for salespeople. Sales management training is an afterthought, usually included  after the Training Director or outside consultants insist on a (very abbreviated) Executive Overview so that sales managers “know what’s being discussed” in the sales training sessions. 

Recent research from The Sales Management Association suggests that a better move would be to start with your sales managers. In a blog post entitled New Research Points to a Crazy Strategy: Stop Training Sales People ,  Jason Jordan, a partner at Vantage Point Performance and the lead consultant in the study, makes a strong case for investing in sales management training before embarking on additional sales workshops for the troops. The results of their study of 161 businesses were clear: the more money that companies spent on sales management training, the greater the likelihood that they met their sales goals.

Jordan acknowledges that salespeople still need to be trained on an organization’s sales process and products. But what the research reveals is that “that the sales manager is where organizations get the greatest return on investment. When managers are more skilled at coaching and developing their people, they can leverage that knowledge across their entire team.”

The economics of focusing on sales leaders are compelling. In most banks we work with the ratio of salespeople to sales managers ranges from 5 to 1 in commercial banking to 10 to 1 in small business banking and 15 to 1 in branch banking. The all in costs of creating a strong cadre of sales managers would be significantly lower than what it would take to develop all the sales team.

Again, nobody is suggesting that you jettison all sales training. Your bankers need to continue to develop their skills to remain competitive. But rather than an add-on module to a new sales program, sales management training deserves a bigger place in your talent development strategy. When coupled with ongoing coaching for sales leaders, the results can be impressive.

Bank sales leaders: Have you tried this somewhat counterintuitive approach? If yes, what has been the result? Make your comments in the space below or email me at

Interested in discussing how this strategy might fit in to your budget for 2017? Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773 or email her at

Here are other articles on developing sales leaders that might be of interest to you:
The First 60 Days for a New Bank Sales Manager
What CEOs Look for in a Bank Sales Leader
7 Sales Leadership Rituals that Matter

Topics: sales training, bank sales managers

Special Assignment

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 @ 06:12 PM


Imagine that you have been assigned to a special project that will take you away from your office for six weeks. You're not going to be able to make any face-to- face calls on current customers or prospects or COIs during that time. What can you do to stay top of mind with your best clients? How can you keep momentum with your prospects?

Assume that you do have time to alert all your key contacts that you’ll be gone for six weeks.  You will also be able to craft an out-of-office message that is both informative and worded in such a way that your customers and prospects know how to reach you in the event of a real emergency. (That’s why we have cell phones, right?)

Here are some things to consider:

1.) Encourage your colleagues to stay in contact with your best customers and prospects. Provide them with a scripted message that they can deliver by phone or email within 2 weeks of your departure. Where appropriate, ask them to make face to face calls on selected clients.

2.) Arrange to send something yourself--it could be a personalized note or an article that you thought might be of general interest. Email works, but be sure it includes a personal salutation. The important thing is that they know that you're thinking about them.

3.) If you can't find the time during your project to call them on the phone, you still might
be able to leave a voicemail message for some of your key contacts. This could be a personal
message or a generic voicemail blast message that again reiterates your interest in staying in touch. (If you go the latter route, make sure your call goes through far enough after normal business hours that there’s no likelihood of anyone picking it up. I have made that mistake before!)

4.) When you are within about two weeks of your return to the office, figure out a way through a phone call from one of your associates or through a specific email to set up appointments with your top clients to catch up on what you've missed during your absence. Once you’ve accomplished that, do the same thing with your key prospects. This is one of the most important things you can do as you plan your strategy.

5.) Plan on getting out to as many high-impact networking events as you can when you return to the office. If a lot of your clients are going to be there, don’t pass up the chance to connect. A quick conversation can go a long way.

Planning how to stay top of mind during a prolonged absence is critical. If you map out a process of touches and then schedule appointments on your return, you shouldn’t lose too much ground with your key relationship contacts.

What do you think? Anything else you’d do? Share your comments in the box below or send them to

Budgeting for 2017? Here are three things you might consider: 

* 1 on 1 coaching for your sales leaders

* Sales refreshers on prospecting

* Subscribing to our recorded webinar series on business development

For more details contact Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773 or by email at


Topics: bank relationship managers, building relationships

Sales Leaders: Are You Doing All You Can to Boost Prospecting Results?

Posted by Ned Miller on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 @ 11:30 AM

Checklist paper and pen.

If you’re trying to develop your team’s prospecting skills, you may need to assess your own activities. Here’s a quick list of questions to get you started:

1. Have you met recently to review the prospect lists of all your team members? If you haven’t done it within the last 3 months, schedule a time to do so.

2. Have you clarified your expectations regarding the amount of prospecting that’s appropriate for each banker on your team? If Amanda has recently inherited a big portfolio, the priority in the near term is probably to focus on that.  James may be in a totally different situation; with a small book of business, his calling should center on prospects and COIs. 

3. Are you using your weekly sales meetings to highlight the importance of new client acquisition? There are lots of messages competing for the attention of your bankers; if prospecting is near the top of your list of priorities, make sure you weave it into your meetings every chance you get.

4. Are you strategizing with your team about how they’re doing with the prospects you’ve identified? Strategy starts with how a banker is going to get in the door but includes what value proposition makes the most sense, who to involve, what competitive advantages you have, etc. The best coaches get involved early in the prospecting process.

5. How much pre-call, post-call coaching are you doing? If you’re not building this into your one on one coaching sessions, you’re missing a chance to have a big impact on the quality of the prospect calls being made. 

6. Are you making joint calls with all of your team members? Some sales managers have a tendency to take over joint calls (surprise!).  In some situations that may be appropriate, but if it always happens, you need to reassess your approach. Joint calls are a great way to observe the skills of your team and provide immediate feedback and coaching.

7. Are there things that could improve your team’s chances of success in prospecting? Access to better industry data? More competitive intelligence? Sales refreshers on key elements of the prospecting process? If you’re not sure what’s out there, arrange to sit down and chat with one of your recent hires.

8. Are you celebrating progress? Remember that in prospecting, small advances can be considered victories, so don’t just highlight closed business. Recognize team members who are doing the right things to generate and develop leads as well.

If you found this post valuable, share it with others in your network via email or social media.
Bank Sales Managers: If you’d like to arrange a 30 minute conversation to discuss how we can help you improve your team’s prospecting results, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773 or email her at

Topics: prospecting, sales results, bank sales managers

Are Your Small Business Efforts Succeeding?

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 @ 06:26 PM

Confused embarrassed young businessman holding copyspace on both palms

Ready for a quick assessment of your small business sales effort? Here’s a chance to reflect on where you are.

  1. Are your branches actively involved in the small business effort? Good branch managers are knowledgeable about what’s happening in the market, have a wealth of contacts in the local community, and know the value of small business relationships.

  1. Are your branch managers comfortable talking about your core small business products? If they’re not at least “conversationally competent” in your deposit, cash management, business credit and investment products, they probably won’t bring them up in conversation.

  1. How successful are you selling to both the small business owner and the business? One important measure is the percentage of your business customers who have their personal accounts with you. (And if you don’t know where you stand, you need to find out; many banks are surprised at how low their wallet share is.)

  1. Can your branch salespeople explain why a business prospect should switch to your bank? If all they talk about is “service” you might have a problem.

  1. Do your branch managers make outside sales calls? Not the “I’d like to stop by and drop off donuts” marketing calls that often masquerade as sales calls. We’re talking about substantive conversations that focus on ways to help the business owners grow their business. These typically are scheduled calls with a defined business agenda—a plan in other words.

  1. If the answer to question 5 is no, why not? Is it a sales training issue? Or does it have more to do with infrastructure—not the right people, not enough people, etc.?

  1. If the answer is yes, how would you rate the quantity and quality of the calls? In our experience if a manager is making fewer than 4 or 5 calls a week, the chances are that he’ll never get very good at outside calling. There are many ways to gauge call quality but the only way to know for sure is by going on a joint call.

  1. Are any silos standing in the way of success? How well do your branch managers team with their product partners from Cash Management, Commercial Lending, Business Banking, Trust and Investments, etc.?

  1. How effective are your sales managers as coaches? Be honest now. Are they administering a process or leading one? Putting out administrative fires or training their teams?

  1. Are you satisfied with your results? If you’re not, what do you plan to do about it?

If you’d like to discuss ways other banks have addressed these and other sales and sales leadership issues, call Ned Miller at 484-433-2378.

Here are some blog posts on sales leadership that you might have missed:  

Don't Lose Your High-Performers

Will This Experienced Banker Be on a Performance Plan Next Year?

Consultant Bares All: 20 Secrets for Bank Sales Leaders

If you’re looking for a speaker for a sales conference in 2017, call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773 or email her at Buck Bierly and Ned Miller can also work with you to provide day or half-day workshops for your teams on a variety of topics.

Topics: bank sales, Branch Manager, small business

What CEOs Look for in a Bank Sales Leader

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Sep 08, 2016 @ 06:38 PM

Leader of Teamwork Background # Vector


In the first of a series of interviews with CEOs on sales leadership, Ned Miller talks with Scott Page, the President and CEO of CoBiz Bank, a $3.3 billion business bank headquartered in Denver that also has significant operations in Arizona.


Ned Miller: How do you go about identifying sales leaders?

Scott Page: I consider that the most important position within our organization. Coaching starts at the top, and if we want to maintain that coaching and build performance discipline we have to make sure we have the right people in place to coach on a regular, day-to-day basis. We need people who coach the right behaviors.

Ned: Tell me more about the “right behaviors.”

Scott: In our organization, we need people who have the right collaboration skills, good communication skills and a level of grit and determination that allows them to consistently be out front, looking for new business and managing current relationships. Are they self-aware? Are they coachable?

We put all of our new hires and all of our current bankers through a skills assessment that we’ve created within our organization. We know what skills our high performers possess that make them successful year over year, quarter over quarter. When we hire, we hire to that standard. Every new applicant takes a 20 minute skills assessment on line, so that we can compare their performance against the gold standard. We want to know if they have the skills to be successful at CoBiz. And we’ve found that to be correlated almost directly with performance. That’s for new hires. We asked all our current bankers to take the skills assessment test. We’ve created coaching programs for every one of these people. It’s still fairly new—we’ve been doing it since the end of last year--but we’re starting to see results.

But for us to be successful we had to coach the coaches. And each of our sales leaders has to spend an extensive period of time with every one of their bankers, talking through their score cards, talking through their behaviors, discussing the “how tos” they need to be successful in meeting their goals. And then I have a pretty serious conversation with the sales leaders about what their team members need to do differently from a behavioral perspective to hit their goals.

Ned: Is the assessment something that helps you identify somebody who would be a good sales leader?

Scott: Yes, absolutely. I took it as the CEO, all my senior management team took it, and every one of our bankers has taken it. We’re also thinking about doing it for treasury management and some other positions, too. It does help you identify certain skills; communication, collaboration, self-awareness, self- blame, things like that. There are probably a hundred measures to look at.

Sometimes great sales people don’t make great sales leaders. But we’ve identified some traits or skills that allow them to be more effective at communicating and coaching. Persistence is another thing that gets measured. And you put all those in a cauldron and you stir it around and you get a pretty good profile for a successful sales leader.


Ned: Are there some specific things that your top sales leaders do?

Scott: Our top people have the patience to coach the “how tos”; they go on calls and insist on pre-call planning before going on the call. They ask for background data on the prospect or the current client before they’ll go on a call. And when they de-brief after the call they talk about the good, the bad and the ugly. They also communicate clearly what it takes to be successful. You know, it’s too easy for really successful sales people who become coaches just to say, “Well, you just need to make a lot of calls”.


Ned: Or say, ”Just watch how I do it.”

Scott: We know that most bankers really aren’t natural sales people, so having really good coaches who are consistent and can communicate effectively is invaluable. And fortunately, we’ve developed some really good ones here and it’s really helping us.

But we still have a challenge. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that it starts at the top in the organization. In the past I made the mistake of focusing all my coaching on the Relationship Managers. But if it’s not reinforced and supported by their sales leaders, it’s totally ineffective. Because people will do what you expect if you constantly reinforce it. And so, we’re getting much better at reinforcing that, and it’s helping us get much more consistent deposit and loan growth.


Ned: One of your primary responsibilities is to make the sales leaders better. What kinds of things are important to you in terms of developing sales leaders?

Scott: Well, we use you guys a lot!

Ned: Thanks for the plug!

Scott: We have really amped up our coaching at the leadership level. I have to do all the things I expect from them. I also use a lot of data analytics. We’re getting much better dashboard reports and pipeline reports.

There’s no substitute for blocking and tackling but we’ve also brought in someone who has helped me coach my leaders on how to coach to specific behaviors. We’ve done a lot of leadership coaching. We talk a lot about what you have to do to be successful.

And we’ve done what a lot of people hate to do, we’ve done a lot of role playing. And the role playing we’re doing is at the senior level. So, we’ll have one of my senior managers role play coaching his four or five senior regional heads. And then we’ll have our healthcare guy coach the head of Treasury Management. We literally did that for an entire day, trying to focus on the key behavioral questions. What are your short term goals or aspirations? How much do you want to make this year? What could you work on now that would make the biggest difference in your job or in your life? It’s not a quick fix. It takes a long time to go through this coaching. But if you really invest the time it pays off.

If I went to a banker and said, “How much do you want to make this year? “ and he said, “Well, I just want to make my base salary” we’’ve got the wrong guy, right? We pay them a bonus for growth, quality growth. And if they’re content with just their salary, they’ve become a portfolio manager, not a relationship manager. So, we spend a lot of time coaching to the questions. We don’t say to every banker, “You’ve got to make 5 calls a week, and you’ve got to have a certain number of this and a certain number of calls on COI’s.” Those are all really valuable, but if they don’t really understand how to win and how to bring in business, and if our coaches don’t understand their people, and what their hot buttons are, we’re in trouble.


Ned: Do you have a formal leadership development program in your organization?

Scott: We have a leadership development program that we put in place two years ago. It was designed to take people whom we’ve identified to be high potentials within our organization, and we put six through the first year and then this year we’re running 9 people through the program. And out of the 6 people last year, 5 of them moved into sales management roles. We’re trying to develop the next level down. And so, there’s a fair amount of strategic planning that goes through this leadership program, but we do put them through a really intense public speaking course and a certain amount of sales training. We also give them active learning programs where they work together. It isn’t really only to create sales leaders, because we are developing some people who are in our finance and insurance and operations group. But about half of the people in this program are being groomed to be sales leaders.

Ned: Is there anything else you want to comment on?

Scott: We’re viewed as a growth company and we’re also a conservative institution, so we have to grow the old fashioned way by adding relationships. When we re-did the goals this year for sales leaders and for the bankers, we went to incremental revenue as one of the goals. That’s new revenue from existing relationships, and new relationships. That’s because we have to acquire new relationships to meet the goals that our investors expect from us. We can’t just do it by milking current relationships. Plus, there’s a certain amount of attrition that you have to fight all the time anyway.

So we measure the number of new relationships and we measure revenue from new and existing relationships. That’s a mindset change. In that past people would say, “Just get revenue and get loans and deposits any way you can.” Now it’s like, no, no, you need to add some new relationships, lots of new relationships. And I think that has made a difference.

It takes a coach to sit down and be patient, and really go through a pretty in depth behavioral discussion about generating business. Do you make calls in between annual reviews? Or have you blocked out two days a week to generate new business? How are they thinking about it?


Interested in more articles on sales leadership? Here are several recent pieces that appeared on our blog:

The First 60 Days for a Bank Sales Leader

A Consultant Bares All: 20 Secrets for Bank Sales Leaders

Don't Lose Your High-Performers

For more information call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773.

Topics: bank sales, sales leaders, bank sales managers

Team Selling Works If You Do

Posted by Buck Bierly on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 @ 09:41 PM

The Team. Business illustration.

What do successful Relationship Managers know about team selling? For starters, it's work!

The Relationship Manager (RM) is the quarterback but not the only person involved in developing a relationship with a customer or prospect. The RM can’t be the sole strategist—a team almost always does a better job identifying opportunities.

The first task for the RM is to assemble the right team. When in doubt about whether to include someone, it’s probably best to consult with your Sales Manager or directly with the individual.

The next step is planning. To develop a workable plan, relationship teams should do the following:

1. As a team, review the industry information and trends, the company’s website and available financial data on the client or prospect.

2. Anticipate the current and future business objectives, adjustments in business operations, and possible adjustments in working capital processes (looking for possible tangible and intangible needs).

3. Discuss as a group your experience with the key decision makers and influencers (traits, background, familiarity with your institution, and your products).

4. Determine the objectives for the next two or three calls.

5. Select the calling “team” for the next call. (Note: Don’t take more people than you need to accomplish your objectives.)

6. Map out the roles of each of your team members on the call.

7. Agree on who is responsible for preparing materials for the call.

Bottom line: Relationship teams and team selling can work but don't fool yourself: They’re extra work, particularly for the Relationship Manager.

Looking for more ideas on teamwork? Check out our complimentary webinar Is Cross-Selling the Secret Sauce? with Buck Bierly and Charles Wendel at

Buck Bierly can be reached at or at 610-296-4771.

Topics: bank sales, bank relationship managers, sales calls, Buck Bierly

The First 60 Days for a Bank Sales Manager

Posted by Ned Miller on Mon, Aug 08, 2016 @ 12:31 PM


Remember back when you would start a new position, not have that much to do at first, and everyone was willing to cut you some slack? Neither do I. But it’s grown even more intense, and the “honeymoon period” for new managers is all but a myth today. With the heightened expectations that stakeholders have today for immediate results, it’s clear that the first few months on the job are critical for leaders at any level.

In their book You’re in Charge—Now What? Thomas J. Neff and James M. Citrin provide useful advice for new CEOs. Many of the rules they lay down in their book, however, can apply to a bank’s new sales managers as well:

*Listen—really listen—to what your new colleagues are saying; resist the temptation to lay out your grand strategy to reshape things.
*If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s OK to say you’ll get back to them.
*Look for things you can fix quickly to build some momentum and garner a reputation as somebody who gets things done.

Listening implies you’re willing to take time before laying out the grand strategy. So how do you balance the urgent—growing the pipeline, making this quarter’s numbers—with the important considerations of building a team capable of sustaining success over the long haul? What are the critical components of your first 30 to 60 days on the job?

If you’re lucky, maybe everything is clicking with your new team. You’re impressed with their energy, enthusiasm, and experience. Their pipeline reports bring a smile to your face. But things may not be so rosy. Perhaps the team you inherited hasn’t been making its numbers. It’s obvious that several experienced hands are going through the motions. Others appear to have the right stuff but are definitely green. The sales management system your predecessor put in place—well, let’s just say it needs some work. The first step is to get a handle on three key elements: pipeline, people, and process. Let’s tackle each in turn, recognizing that they are obviously intertwined.

You’re looking for several things when reviewing the pipeline, from the obvious to the subtle:
--Is there anything there?
--Where do the leads come from—customers, centers- of-influence (COIs), prospecting activity?
--Have we been adding anything recently?
--How are the deals moving through the pipeline? Is there any mold in the pipeline?
--Are there any obvious sticking points? How successful is your team at closing business?

What does the pipeline tell you about your team’s sales process? For example, if you see opportunities only from existing customers, it might suggest that acquiring new clients may be an issue. If your commercial lending team is responsible for generating loans, deposits, and fees, do you see deposit opportunities and referrals to other lines of business like capital markets and trust highlighted or just loans?

Somebody once said that your first months in a new job entitle you to ask dumb questions. (It may be the only time you can.) But while these questions about the pipeline are basic, they are not dumb.

One other thought: Resist the urge to redo all the sales reports immediately. There may be good reason to trash the existing pipeline and closed business reports, but you have more important things to focus on in the first 60 days.

As a new sales manager, you need to figure out who’s focused and producing and who’s not. Among the things to find out are the following:
--Who is generating business? Some sales managers think that if their team is making the numbers, everything is great. But all too often, the “team” is really one or two stars whose Herculean efforts are producing 80-90% of the sales.

--What obstacles are the sales team members facing? Some of the impediments can be relatively easy to deal with. I recall one banker who learned that his relationship managers spent roughly three hours each Monday driving to a one-hour sales meeting. Changing to a teleconference— which later was shrunk to 30 minutes—made him an instant hero and sent a strong message that he was interested in people spending time on business development, not tied up commuting to internal meetings.

--If your group includes producing sales team leaders, how are they allocating their time between personal production and working with their teams? In our experience, producing sales maangers often don’t spend much time coaching, and what little they do tends to focus on credit, not sales.

Many bank compensation systems tend to reward individual production over people development. I once had a sales manager tell me that he spends 100% of his time developing his own book of business and “whatever time I have left over, I give to my four lenders.” Honest? Yes, and unfortunate, if you had the chance to see the anemic sales results of two of his lenders.

Your first question should be whether there is a defined sales process in place. Many teams have as many sales processes as they have salespeople—in essence, everybody doing his and her own thing. What you want to discern includes these areas:

--Is there a model for business development or do people freelance? For example, there are vastly different approaches to market management in teams. A simple question about how different business bankers allocate their time between calling on customers, prospects, and COIs can be revealing.
--Is there agreement on what an ideal prospect looks like within the group? All too often the absence of a rudimentary target profile keeps bankers spinning their wheels, pursuing anything that walks in the door.

--What are the non-negotiable sales activities for the team? If the sales model calls for developing detailed sales strategies or account plans for key relationships, you need to see examples.

You also need to ask how the plans are updated and what, if anything, people do with them. Frequently, relationship managers dismiss account planning as too time-consuming and of marginal benefit because their sales managers have not taken the time to discuss the plans in any meaningful way.

Until RMs see value in planning, the best you can hope for is grudging compliance; until sales managers review sales plans elbow-to-elbow with their teams, that won’t change.

--What training have people received? How was it received by the front line? If people laugh about the last time they went through a “sales refresher,” find out why. Chances are the problem was more with what went on before the training (maybe too little up-front assessment of the group’s needs and questionable relevance to the unit’s business priorities) or after the event (no follow-up by sales managers) than with the training itself.

--How do people respond when you tell them you’d like to go out with them to meet some of their customers and prospects? This alone can speak volumes. In addition to giving you an opportunity to ask to see their key customer and key prospect lists (What? You don’t have one?), your request will likely give you a chance to see three things:
1) Whether they are good at articulating a relationship strategy;
2) How they prepare for calls;
3) And how they do face-to-face with customers and prospects.

Do go out on two or three calls with each banker, not just one. And be sure to clarify in advance the purpose of the call and your role, which could be different depending on the objectives the salesperson has set. (Note: Initially, this may create some level of unnecessary anxiety among the troops, but you can do much to minimize that with good communication before and after. But do get some feedback from insiders about what the word is on the grapevine after your initial calls.)

Summary: New sales managers who spend their first 60 days focusing on pipeline, people, and process aren’t home free. Most will need to make some changes if they’re going to succeed. But armed with answers to these questions, they’ll have a much better chance.

Looking for coaching for a new sales manager? Contact Ned Miller at or at 484-433-2378 to discuss how we might be able to assist you.

Topics: bank sales, Sales Manager, sales culture

Will this Experienced Banker Be on a Performance Plan Next Year?

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Aug 02, 2016 @ 06:06 AM

Senior lawyer portrait


“I feel like I’m running on fumes.”

Dave (not his real name) is a veteran commercial lender in a community bank in a major metro area. Through the course of his 25 year career he has always been in the top quartile in terms of production. He has a loyal customer base, composed mostly of middle market manufacturing and services companies. He has forged relationships with a number of CPAs, who are now in senior positions in their firms.

So why is it that at age 55 he’s not as confident as he once was about his ability to generate new business? Why is his long-term loan pipeline not as robust as he’d like it to be? Why does he feel, well, uneasy about his business development efforts?

Some years ago coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith wrote a wonderful business book with a provocative title: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  He points out that many of the successful behaviors that produced results for high-performers in the past may not serve them well today.

How might that apply to Dave and others like him? Here are some of the warning signs of banker obsolescence that I see in the aging “A” players:

Same old same old when it comes to prospecting: They can rationalize their weak results in several ways: “I have the biggest/ most complicated/most profitable portfolio in the bank.” “My job is to defend my major client relationships.” “I get a lot of referrals from my existing network.” (Really?) They go to the same networking events, take the same COIs out to lunch, and recycle the same stories.

Not team players: While lone wolves can be successful business developers (Remember The Challenger Sale?) many veterans are slow to draw in product partners from areas like Wealth Management, Treasury Services or Insurance.

Suspicious of sales process: Maybe it would be more appropriate to say that they’re often skeptical of your bank’s sales process. They often dismiss bank-supplied tools designed to generate leads (things like industry information from VerticalIQ and RMA/IBISWorld, market and company data from Hoovers or InfoUSA, client profiles, pre-calling planning templates, etc.). And, although no one ever admits it, sometimes their intransigence is aided and abetted by their Sales Managers. “I don’t expect Bill to do that—that’s more for our less experienced RMs.”

No interest in additional sales training: They almost always find an excuse to miss scheduled sessions. “Heck, I could write a book on that.” (Consultant perspective: If you wrote it before 2015 it won’t work today.)

Social Media is for kids: Although they have a LinkedIn profile they really don’t have a real strategy when it comes to using it for prospecting.

My client Dave did actually realize that he was not well positioned for the next 10 years as a commercial Relationship Manager. He has made a series of changes with the support of his Sales Manager. A big part of Dave’s strategy is to become more targeted in his prospecting, playing off his experience in several specialized areas that have significant growth potential for his bank’s credit and non-credit offerings. Dave has also begun to reinvent his COI network and has already forged partnerships with other professionals active in the industry niches he’s cultivating.

Time will tell whether Dave is making the right moves. For now he’s energized again, insanely focused, and confident about the value he can bring to the market. My bet is that he won’t be on a performance improvement plan anytime soon.

Question for Sales Managers: The real issue is what to do with bankers exhibiting any of these signs. I’d welcome your thoughts and am prepared to share them in future articles.

Question for Bankers: What are you doing to reinvent yourselves to succeed?

Want more tips on developing niches? Check out these articles:
Prospecting Tips for Bankers on Developing a Niche
25 Questions to Assess Your Prospecting Process
Q&A for Bankers on Targeting the Health Care Niche

Topics: bank sales, sales results, sales culture