Bank Sales Corner

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

A Consultant Bares All: 20 Secrets for Bank Sales Leaders

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Jul 26, 2016 @ 09:59 PM

Perpetual motion with LED bulb and simple light bulbs

1. The future is clear for bank sales teams: Fewer salespeople with better support.
2. Make sure that you are having an impact on the business, not just reporting on it.
3. It’s not enough to know what to do; your people need help figuring out how to do it (which may include how to fit it into their weekly schedules.)
4. A sales process without tools and job aids isn’t going to get your team to the next level. (Can a plumber do his job without the right tools?)
5. Goals should be linked to market potential not just historical performance.
6. Learn how your team members sell. You need to know what their default value proposition is.
7. Sales training events without follow-up coaching don’t work and are a huge waste of time and money.
8. Many of your prospects and COIs are checking you and your bankers out on social media. Do you like what they’re seeing?
9. Don’t buy a CRM system until you have a clearly defined sales process.
10. Pay attention to what your compensation plan is really rewarding.
11. Your HR Department won’t help you identify “A” salespeople.
12. Hiring high-performers takes more than a 45 minute interview. Do you have a process for identifying and courting the best candidates in your market?
13. Onboarding new hires is one of the most important things you do.
14. It’s very hard for your people to differentiate themselves based on products.
15. Top sales leaders coach the top of the funnel, not just later stage deals.
16. Data matters: Garbage in, garbage out. (Make sure your salespeople are doing their part updating your CRM system.)
17. Make sure every sales call has clear objectives. No winging it.
18. Your job is not to be the Superbanker; if you have to close every deal, you have the wrong people.
19. Great Sales Process + Below Average Salespeople= Lousy Results
20. Sales Success = Great People in the right sales environment + Consistent Coaching

Agree or disagree?

Share your comments in the space below or email

If you’re interested in a free prospecting assessment coaching tool that you can use in developing your team’s prospecting skills, click here.

Want to talk about taking your team’s performance to another level? Call Ned Miller at 484-433-2378.

Topics: bank sales, sales leaders, sales culture

Don't Lose Your High-Performers

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 @ 11:30 PM

Can average performing bank Sales Leaders retain and develop high-performers?

When my client, the head of commercial banking for a regional bank, posed this question I knew he had already formulated an answer. Bill had lost some high- performing Relationship Managers recently to community banks. His real question was whether there was any way to prevent that going forward.

Let’s be clear. There are some offers that are impossible to refuse. Your high-performers (HPs) get calls from recruiters all the time. If somebody puts together an incredible package for one of your superstars, there may not be much you can do other than extend your congratulations and move on. [Note: This should not be a total fire drill. In much the same way that football coaches have to think about who is going to go in if a running back twists an ankle, Sales Leaders have to be thinking about their bench strength. They also have to have a short list of candidates whom they have been courting in the event that an opening occurs.]

My client’s question may have more to do with the fact that he has weak Sales Leaders in several key markets.   Some of them are probably in the wrong slots. They were effective as Relationship Managers—in some cases, they were legitimate “A” players—but have struggled in leading others. Some continue to manage significant commercial relationships, which usually means that they spend more time worrying about their own personal production than coaching their team members. (See Buck Bierly’s post on Why Producing Sales Managers Struggle.)

Commercial Team leaders often devote more time to running interference with credit requests than they do coaching sales. While this is obviously important, it may not help their teams develop the necessary skills and strategies to build relationships with key prospects and COIs.

Many bank Sales Leaders (and not just Producing Sales Leaders) believe that “A” players should be left alone, that they don’t want or need coaching, and that the best thing to do is spend all their time with their “B” and “C” players.

This is where the word “micromanagement” usually crops up. Sometimes the high- performers are even allowed to opt out of a bank’s sales process—“Andy doesn’t need to (fill in the blank—use the CRM system; update relationship plans on key clients and prospects; participate in regular sales meetings or 1 on 1 coaching sessions; etc.)

There are at least three problems with this approach:

  1. What got the “A” players there won’t keep them there forever. Things are changing too fast. If they’re not getting better, they will have problems staying on top.
  2. Your “B” and “C” players will start rebelling: “If Andy is given a pass on using the process, why do I have to follow it?”
  3. Without a consistent process throughout the bank, Sales Leaders can never understand what they did right or wrong. They have no way of making needed adjustments.

If your goal is to retain high-performers, you have to commit to spending time with them. That means that your strategy has to include:

  • Blocking out time to make more calls with them. Not just one call. Spend a full day calling with them at least once a quarter. You’ll learn a lot.
  • Coaching them on a regular basis. 1 on 1 biweekly coaching sessions are still critical for HPs. They think they don’t need you. They will tell you that everything is great. Don’t fall for it. All top performers crave attention. Strategize with them. Help them get the internal support they need. Open your network to them.
  • Having a development plan in place for your HPs. This is something you and your HPs need to develop together and review regularly. Find ways to make them better. (And keep your boss (and your boss’s boss) apprised of what you’re doing.)

Bottom line for bank Sales Leaders: If you want to retain and develop high-performers, don’t leave them alone.

Agree or disagree? Share your comments in the space below or email me at


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

Don’t Lose Sales Momentum This Summer

Posted by Ned Miller on Fri, Jul 08, 2016 @ 03:47 PM

Geek Man at the beach


Are you heading to the beach for your vacation? Trying to get your golf handicap below 10? Finishing your family's genealogy?


Whatever you plan to do this summer outside of work, here are some ways to keep your sales momentum:


  1. Do something nice for your best customers. I’m not talking about sending them tickets to a baseball game or a concert, although that’s not a bad thing to do. Let them know you’re thinking about their business. If you have something specific in mind—maybe something that would improve the way they manage their cash—visit them. If you don’t, visit them anyway.


  1. Bone up on the competition. Mystery shopping is not just for branches. Use your network of customers and prospects and COIs to find out what your top competitors are doing with their business customers. Share your insights with your colleagues.


  1. Take a product partner to lunch. Get to know your Cash Management rep better. See if he knows anybody on your prospect list. Pick your Wealth Management contact’s brain about what she’s seeing in the market.


  1. Do some industry research. Not the VerticalIQ or RMA kind—everybody does that. Visit some trade association websites to see whether you can learn some things that will make you more knowledgeable about the issues facing your customers and prospects. You might discover a trade association meeting that would be worth attending.


  1. Meet some friendly accountants. Review all the financial statements you have received this year and see whether you know all the CPAs who prepared them. If you don’t, ask your customers to set up a lunch so you can meet them.


  1. Write an article for a local business publication on a topic that would be of interest to your prospects. Milk it for all it’s worth. Before mailing it to the editor, send it to your customers and prospects for comments. After it’s published, get a PDF of the file and share it with everybody you know who might be interested.


  1. Review your relationship plans with your Sales Manager. What, no relationship plans? Send me an email at and I’ll get you a template that you can use.


  1. Keep improving your skills. Be honest with yourself about what you need to work on. If you’re a credit wiz who struggles with selling, sign up for a webinar or buy a book on prospecting. If your product knowledge is sub-par, get some tutoring from one of your colleagues. Lousy at negotiating? Take a course.


  1. Show your prospect list to your satisfied customers. You might be surprised how inclined they are to help you with your business development efforts. According to a Greenwich survey a few years back, over 65% of business customers would be willing to refer their bankers to others. Most are never asked to do that. Be a banker who asks.


Summer is a time to recharge your batteries. But it’s also a time to refocus your energies on how to retain your best customers and acquire new ones.


Looking for a suggestion on how to jumpstart your prospecting efforts this summer? Check out our archive of recorded webinars on prospecting at or call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771.

Topics: prospecting, bank sales, professional skills

7 Sales Leadership Rituals that Matter

Posted by Ned Miller on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 @ 11:46 AM

Rituals are routines. At one level, a ritual pulls at you, as opposed to things which require discipline or conscious effort. Bank sales leaders have to design positive rituals to drive change.

Without rituals, team members often lose focus and honest attempts to change behavior fizzle.  In the time we have at work, we need to make intelligent decisions about where to spend our energy. The urgent— phone calls, email messages, interruptions of all types—is always going to force bankers into reacting. But particularly when the will is there but the discipline isn’t, new rituals provide a framework in which breakthroughs often take place. Rituals enable us to structure our lives in the face of competing demands.

The best sales rituals have certain common elements:
*They are very specific: “You must turn in your weekly call planner with all the calls you have scheduled for next week by the close of business on Friday.”
*They occur at a scheduled time: “Our weekly sales meetings are on Monday at 8:30 AM.”
*They are widely accepted by all as critical to sales success and become, in essence, non-negotiable: “We review our relationship plans on all of our Key Customers and Key Prospects with our Sales Managers twice a year.”

To change a behavior—eating too many cookies after dinner, something which I can relate to—requires that we substitute another behavior—perhaps drinking a glass of water or eating a piece of fruit when the craving for chocolate chips strikes.

What are some rituals that all Sales Managers should institute? Here are 7 to start with:
1. Holding Monday morning sales meetings
2. Reviewing your team’s pipeline and weekly call planner every Friday to prepare your key message for your weekly sales meeting
3. Establishing quarterly reviews of Key Lists with each banker to review progress on developing relationships with top customers, prospects and COIs
4. Scheduling 1 on 1 time every two weeks to coach each salesperson
5. Riding with team members at least once each quarter to observe their calls
6. Doing pre-call, post-call coaching with one team member each week
7. Holding some form of educational session at least once a quarter for the entire team

Changing habits is hard. Our capacity for self-control is limited. Over time rituals become a source of comfort to individuals, midwifing new behaviors that can become automatic and relatively painless.

Are there any sales leadership rituals that you would add to this list? If so, include them in the comments section below or email them to me at

Topics: sales training, coaching, sales leaders, sales culture

How to Build a Business Network

Posted by Ned Miller on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 @ 11:51 PM

Are you looking for ways to expand your network? How are you going about it? This ebook was designed to help you identify and cultivate potential referral sources. There are also tips on what you can do to get the most out of networking events.  

To download this ebook, click on the link below.

How to Build a Business Network (ebook)


Looking for more insights into leveraging your network? Check out these articles:

Q&A on Customer Referrals

Getting Referrals from CPAs: 10 Thought-Provoking Questions


Topics: business development, networking

Developing Bank Sales Leaders

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 @ 09:18 PM

Leadership Development Dark Colorful Elements

Top-performing Bank Sales Leaders are skilled at:

  1. Building a Bench: Everybody loses people.  But the best sales leaders are able to recover quicker because they are always recruiting. It translates into less time without key slots filled. (The very best also occasionally hire a top performer when they don’t have an opening.) 

  2. Spending more than 50% of their time coaching: They make lots of joint calls. But they also allocate time to 1 on 1 meetings with their team members. And the conversations aren’t just about deals. Top Bank Sales Leaders view every conversation with one of their people as a coaching opportunity.  They have figured out how to balance administrative, internal meetings and (here I editorialize) the really important stuff (See #1, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.)

  1. Developing team members: The best are committed to developing their people. That means improving their bankers’ skills and enhancing their chances for success. It invariably begins with creating an annual Development Plan for each RM. 

  2. Finding their successor: The best know who is going to succeed them, in large part because of all the coaching they’re doing.  Needless to say, it makes them highly promotable. And this often helps them attract high-performers to their teams.

  1. Strategizing on the best opportunities: They help their RMs think through opportunities. They also are adept at relationship planning—essentially, what to do when there is no immediate transaction with a top client or prospect.  They are master teachers, who take advantage of strategy sessions to reinforce the bank’s sales process and best practices.

  2. Eliminating obstacles: The best Sales Managers are ruthless in removing obstacles to free up people’s time. They’re also quick to identify anything—tools, training, market movements—that could give their team an edge.  

Important message for Bank Management: Developing your Sales Managers means that you have to:

  1. Commit to their ongoing development. This means investing both time and money. Your time matters—as does the time spent coaching and mentoring by other bank members of your leadership team. But so does footing the bill for professional development, which could include training, experiential learning and outside coaching.

  2. Find ways to coach your Sales Managers. There are lots of opportunities: 1 on 1s, sales meetings, quarterly business plan reviews and joint calls should all be built into your plan.

  3. Create together an Individual Development Plan for each Sales Manager. You will need to agree on two to three areas to focus on for improvement in the next 12 months. The regular 1 on 1s you have will provide ample time to review progress and make any mid-course coaching corrections needed.


What do you think? What can bank management do to develop the next generation of top-performing sales leaders? Please share your advice, insights, and experiences in the COMMENTS area below.

In a future blog post we'll publish comments from successful Sales Leaders on this article.

Looking for a coach to coach your Sales Leaders? Contact Ned Miller at 484-433-2378 or email him at



Topics: Sales Manager, business development, coaching

A Checklist for Bank Sales Leaders

Posted by Ned Miller on Wed, Apr 06, 2016 @ 09:38 PM

As a Sales Manager you need to assess the behaviors of your sales team periodically. This checklist will help you determine what specific things you are currently doing to improve the results of your team and highlight areas that you may need to work on to take your coaching to the next level.

To download a copy of the Bank Sales Leader Self-Assessment, click on this link.



Looking for more resources on prospecting?

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

Check out these articles:

How to Qualify Prospects Quickly

Keys to an Effective First Call on a Prospect

Questions about any of our onsite consulting services? Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or email her at



























Topics: prospecting, coaching, bank sales managers

Are You Making Enough Sales Calls?

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 @ 10:11 PM

Are you making enough face-to-face calls? If you are, great. If you're not, here's why you need to get out from behind your desk.

To view the video, click on the link below.

If you would like to download a written transcription of this video, click on the link below.

Download Transcription


Resources from MZ Bierly Consulting, Inc.

Webinars: If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to provide quality sales and sales leadership materials to your team, check out our recorded webinars. From refreshers on face-to-face calls to in-depth discussions on prospecting we have topical programs for experienced bankers and new hires alike. Find out how you can use our recorded webinars in sales meetings or training sessions by calling Susan Lersch at 610-296-4771 or emailing her at You can also find out more about our webinars at

Sales Conferences: Buck Bierly and Ned Miller 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. For more information about how we may be able to assist you at an upcoming sales meeting or conference, call Ned Miller at 484-433-2378 or email him at

Onsite Training and Consulting: That’s what we’ve been doing for more than 25 years. Call 610-296-4771 to discuss your bank’s specific situation.

Topics: prospecting, bank sales