Bank Sales Corner

Are Your Sales Managers in the Bottom Half of the Class?

Posted by Ned Miller on Wed, Feb 08, 2017 @ 08:00 AM

Bank presidents sometimes ask us to evaluate the effectiveness and skills of their sales leaders.  As a starting point we use a grid that lays out four stages in the progression of sales leadership. In our reviews, usually about 20% of the front line sales managers are operating in Stage 1 and between 40 and 60% are in Stage 2.

Here’s a quick summary of the characteristics of Stage 1 sales leaders in commercial and business banking teams:

  • They play primarily an administrative or technical role. Most are either bureaucrats or credit officers, not coaches.
  • There is a large span of control (more than 12 team members). In some cases, the sales leader is a producing manager.
  • They allow a wide variety of business development and relationship management processes within their teams. Frequently heard comment: “As long as you make your goals I leave you alone.”
  • The focus is on closed business, not on lead generation or other stages in the sales funnel.
  • They are not usually holding weekly sales meetings; they tend to have them monthly, quarterly or “when we need one.” Pipeline discussions predominate.
  • Coaching, when it occurs, is usually in a group setting, not 1 on 1. For commercial and business banking teams, most coaching begins and ends with credit, not with formulating a sales strategy.
  • Stage 1 sales leaders do not successfully institutionalize customer relationships. The RMs own the relationships, not the bank.

Here are some of the characteristics of Stage 2 bank sales managers:

  • They are beginning to articulate processes for building relationships.
  • “Best practices” are transmitted sporadically to team members.
  • Accountability is a major focus.
  • Coaching is reserved for low-performers, not the core of the team.
  • They track activities and activity levels (“How many calls did you make this week?”)
  • Sales meetings center on reviewing pipelines and closed business.
  • Joint calling is now part of the leadership process. . . but mostly to close business.

In an upcoming blog post we’ll talk more about the practices of High-Performing Sales Leaders (Stage 3 and Stage 4). For a preview, check out 7 Sales Leadership Rituals That Matter.

Special offer for Bank Sales Leaders: Sales specific assessments can be used to identify areas for improvement in an existing team. If you would like to see a sample assessment tool that was built for sales, go here


Topics: coaching, bank sales managers, bank sales leaders

Coaching Pointers for Sales Leaders (3 words max)

Posted by Ned Miller on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 @ 05:54 PM


It’s basketball season and coaches at all levels know that three word commands are easy to remember. See the ball. Slide your feet. Everybody box out.

If you want your sales team to be successful in 2017 you need to pay attention to your people, your process and your pipeline. Here are 7 things for bank sales leaders to focus on this year:

1. Don't lose high-performers

2. Observe sales rituals

3. Schedule coaching sessions

4. Develop business acumen

5. Manage your priorities

6. Use time well

7. Celebrate small victories

(Final pointer: Be sure to click on the hyperlinks for more details.)

Special offer to Sales Leaders: Do you have the right people in place? Can they significantly improve their sales results this year? What will it take? Banks that evaluate their sales teams benefit from the insights, predictions, and findings that come from the wealth of relevant information. If you would be interested in learning more about an evaluation of your sales team, click here or email Ned Miller at


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

Are You the Coach You Think You Are?

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 @ 09:50 AM

sales manager with clock.jpg

No doctor has ever graduated in the bottom half of the class. 90% of drivers think they are above average. Many (you fill in the blank) have an inflated opinion of their performance.

Some refer to this as the Lake Wobegon effect (“where all the children are above average.”) It’s what Dilbert spoofs regularly. There’s probably a psychological explanation for this usually benign delusional behavior that helps most of us cope with our jobs or golf games or ability in a foreign language.

In a May 2015 Harvard Business Review article entitled “Sales Teams Need More (and Better) Coaching,” Scott Edinger shared the results of a survey he conducted in an unnamed Fortune 500 telecom company. “Leaders reported that they spent a considerable amount of time coaching their direct reports and scored themselves high on their efforts—on average just shy of the 80th percentile. Direct reports responded by saying that they’d received little to no coaching and scored them low-- on average just around the 38th percentile.”

OK, maybe you are in the top quartile. But now’s a good time to get a reality check. If you think you’re doing a good job coaching, here are four suggestions:

  • Get some feedback from your team members. It may be hard to get some bankers to be candid critiquing your efforts. A suggestion: Ask them what you could do differently going forward.
  • Invite a colleague to sit in on one of your sales meetings or coaching sessions. See if you could watch her in action. Take time to debrief everything in nauseating detail.
  • Ask your boss to be brutally objective with you about your coaching. And if your manager hasn’t watched you in action, make sure he gets it on his calendar.
  • Review some of these posts from the MZ Bierly Consulting archive:

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

7 Sales Leadership Rituals That Matter

First Things First: Weekly 1 on 1 Coaching

And here’s one final thought, courtesy of coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith: “I have personally worked with several of the world’s leading CEOs. One reason that they are so effective in leading people is that they are always trying to improve themselves – not just asking everyone else to improve. Our best coaching clients are dedicated to be great role models in consistently working to improve themselves.”

What are you doing to improve your coaching in 2017? Contact me at to find out about individual and small group coaching for bank sales leaders.





Topics: bank sales managers

Business Bankers: Two Questions to Start Your Year

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Jan 05, 2017 @ 04:05 PM

In a recent blog post Lisa Wicklman suggests that there are really only two questions salespeople need to ask themselves:

  1. Do I need to find more opportunities to put into my pipeline?
  2. Do I need to win more of the opportunities that are already in my pipeline?

The first addresses what you need to do to fill the top of the funnel and the second the challenge of pipeline pull-through.funnel mzbc.png

In assessing your own situation at the start of another year, you might benefit from a look back at some recent articles from the MZ Bierly Consulting archive:

Are You Making Enough Sales Calls?

A Cautionary Tale: CEOs Want Substance Not Sports Talk

Q&A on Gatekeepers

How to Make More Calls: Try 2 Before 10

7 Ways to Build Your Business Acumen

Bank Sales Leaders: Are you looking for more coaching for your team? Contact Susan Lersch at to arrange for a 15 minute consultation.

Live Webinar Alert: Getting in the Door with Prospects

Presenter: Ned Miller

Date/Time: January 9 at 11 AM Eastern, 10 AM Central, 9 AM Mountain, 8 AM Pacific

Audience: Commercial and Business Bankers, Branch Managers, specialists in areas like Treasury Management and Wealth Management who are calling on businesses and professionals and their Sales Managers

Overview: Are you looking for help getting in the door with prospects? Join Ned Miller for a fast-paced tour of the strategies that high-performing bankers are using to schedule first meetings with targeted prospects.

Registration: You can register for the live session by going to the Training Center section of our secure Webex website at and paying the fee for the webinar by credit card.

Price: $39 (Yes, that’s not a typo!)

Questions: Call Susan Lersch at 610-296-4773.




Topics: prospecting, bank sales, business development, business acumen, pipeline;, sales funnel

Finding and Mentoring Sales Leaders

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Dec 08, 2016 @ 02:57 PM


In this week's blog Steve Ward, President of Centennial Bank and Trust in Denver, Colorado, talks about what's involved in identifying bank sales leaders, the challenges facing producing sales managers, and what Senior Management can do to help new sales leaders succeed.  

Ned Miller: I would be interested in is your perspective on identifying good sales leaders for different banking roles. 

Steve Ward: The first step is finding a person who wants to lead.  I know that’s easier said than done.  But it’s got to be somebody who wants to help people achieve their results, and knowing that it’s about the other person, and not themselves.  When it comes to a sales leader, it’s got to be someone who has had past successes in sales.  I would dive deeper into that to find out if how they approach sales is similar to your bank’s approach.  You can have success in sales by lowering price on a regular basis, but that ultimately doesn’t achieve the profitability that you want so you’ve got to make sure the person shares your philosophy and can accomplish what you and your organization want to have happen. 

Ned: There are some people who are really good sales people, who have a hard time making a transition to a sales management role.  What have you seen in your banking career?

Steve: Many people who are successful in sales automatically think they should be promoted to management and be the sales leader.  Using a sports analogy, it’s the same as saying “Well, he was a great wide receiver, he’ll be a great coach.”  And they’re poor coaches for various reasons: they’re not good communicators; they’re worried about their individual record, as opposed to helping develop their team.  When you’re contemplating making a successful banker the sales leader, recognize that there’s work involved and a lot of mentoring and coaching required.  You have to ask:  Why do you want this position? 

Are you willing to let other people have the success?  It’s easy for you as the successful sales person to just do it yourself.  That is usually the wrong thing to do—you have to help your team members do it and let them get the glory and all the accolades.  That will help build their confidence and position them for success in the future. You also have to see how they interact with their teammates currently.  A lot of successful sales people are independent and that’s okay.  But, will they be able to make the switch to developing and supporting the team, taking a second seat if you will and putting the current sales person in the first seat? 

Ned: What have you seen with people on the commercial side, who are promoted into a sales management position and are still asked to manage their own accounts--what we call producing sales managers?

Steve: That’s a difficult position to be in because your priorities are going to be in conflict.  Are you going to take care of your clients? They're saying to themselves, "I’ve got to get this done, I’ve got these sales goals.  Oh!  I’ve got Julie over here who needs help with this deal, I’ve got to mentor her, I’ve got to do this, this, and this."  Most people gravitate to their clients and their own book of business.  People development takes a back seat. 

Now, producing sales managers can be very beneficial in one regard.  You can use it as a developmental practice for your sales team.  If a junior RM helps me with my book, in addition to his own book, and takes care of my clients, I can develop and mentor him and over time they can become the junior RM’s relationships.  But a producing sales leader’s book of business cannot be that big.  They can’t have a $100 million loan portfolio and be an effective sales leader. 

Ned: A number of my clients are trying to diversify their revenue streams by moving away from commercial real estate toward more C&I business.  Is there a difference in leading a real estate team versus a C&I team? 

Steve: I don’t know if there’s a big difference.  There is certainly a difference in focus, and a difference in sales cycle.  In both segments you’re going to identify those companies in the market place that you want to do business with.  Then, you’re going to develop your calling strategies and you’re going to work those prospects until they become customers.

Ned: I was talking to a pretty talented banker who I’ve known for awhile who’s being asked to grow his C&I portfolio, who said, “I know what I’m doing, but the CEO of the bank wants it now.”  It’s almost as if the CEO thinks he could turn a spigot on. 

Steve: It’s just a longer sales process, because if you’re in the C&I world, you’re focusing on the holistic approach of loans, deposits, treasury management, etc. Commercial real estate is more credit-centric than C&I.

Ned: Once you’ve got somebody in place, what kinds of things do you think a bank CEO ought to be doing to try to develop the skills of a first-line sales leader?

Steve: It’s the same things that you should be doing to help develop commercial bankers.  It’s having the standard one-on-one meetings with them about what the expectations are and where you can help them. It’s about knocking down any barriers to their success.  It would be periodically attending their sales meetings, not to run them, but to just observe and then set time aside to provide coaching, as to what can be improved. It’s important to go on joint calls with the sales leader and the RM, watch the whole interaction and then afterwards debrief with the sales leader, coaching him on how he interacted with the banker. 

Ned:   The other thing that we encourage is to have people occasionally sit in on coaching sessions that sales leaders are having with their bankers.

Steve: I would agree. When we do our relationship reviews, I sit in on those with the team leaders and the bankers.  It’s a great way to watch them interact with the bankers as they develop strategies.  I am usually an active participant in it, but a lot of times it is just reinforcing exactly what the team leader is saying.

Here are some of the popular blog posts on sales leadership in 2016 that you might have missed: 

Identifying and Developing Bank Sales Leaders

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

7 Sales Leadership Rituals That Matter

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, sales leaders, bank sales managers

10 Tips on Finishing Strong

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 @ 01:04 AM


With 6 weeks to go in the year, here are 10 things bankers can do to lay the groundwork for a fast start in 2017:
1. Don’t stop scheduling appointments. If you have clients and prospects who are too busy to meet before year end, get them on the calendar in January. It will be harder to fill your calendar if you wait until after New Year’s.

2. Be nice to your customers, particularly the 10% who probably represent 80% of your profit. Tell them how much you value their business. Schedule time to meet with them (see #1).

3. Show your (short) prospect lists to the VIPs in your network to get introductions and testimonial referrals, starting with some of the satisfied clients referenced in #2.

4. If you haven’t done it recently, review your customers’ accounts receivable and accounts payable lists. They could be great additions to your prospect list (and remember to ask for nice introductions from your customers too!)

5. Ask customers about their capital expenditure plans for the coming year. You might actually find a loan opportunity you didn’t know about.

6. Update relationship plans for your Key and High Potential clients—those could be your best opportunities in 2017. (Cross-selling starts with a plan, not a prayer.)

7. Know what your objectives are at each holiday networking event you attend—and it better include some combination of checking the pulse of current customers, planting seeds with COIs, and meeting new people (prospects, potential COIs, etc.)

8. Think about revising your personal marketing plan. Does your LinkedIn profile need a facelift?  Do you need to get more testimonials from happy customers? How about joining a trade association or two to penetrate a niche that you’re targeting?

9. Figure out how to better leverage Senior Managers and product partners in the coming year. It could start with enlisting their support in crafting strategies for some of your key prospects.

10. Discuss with your boss what specific areas you need to focus on in 2017 to improve your selling skills and business acumen.  Options could include: signing up for a course; reading business publications like INC. Magazine, Fortune and any others that help you better understand the day-to-day challenges of your customers and prospects; spending more time with product specialists in your bank (e.g. Wealth Management, Treasury Management, Capital Markets); and delving into one or more industries that hold particular promise.

Bonus tip: Remember the important personal stuff. Spend quality time with loved ones of all ages. Go to the gym, don’t talk about it. Reflect. Count your blessings.

Special Complimentary Webinar: The climate for banking has changed dramatically over the last decade. How do you differentiate yourself from other bankers when everyone is selling the same products? For insights into what the best Relationship Managers are doing to stand out from the competition check out Ned Miller’s recent webinar sponsored by VerticalIQ on the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Relationship Managers

Topics: prospecting, bank relationship managers, referrals, networking

Cross-Selling Post Wells Fargo: A Road Map for Bank Management Webinar

Posted by Ned Miller on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 @ 11:48 AM


Live Webinar with Charles Wendel and Ned Miller

When:  1 PM Eastern, Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Length:  60 minutes
Audience:  Bank Senior Management and Commercial and Retail Sales Team Leaders


With the recent Wells Fargo headlines exposing cross selling deception, special guest Charles Wendel, President of Financial Institutions Consulting Inc., will examine what has changed and highlight what banks must do to address the concerns of regulators, board members, and customers while building cross-sell income. Among the topics he will discuss are:

     •Guiding principles in the new environment
     •Meeting increased regulatory oversight
     •Building a successful cross-sell effort
     •The role of first-line sales leaders

To register for the live webinar on Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 1 pm Eastern, go to the live webinar section of  Space is limited to the first 100 participants. If you cannot make the live session, register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording.

If you have any questions, please contact or call 610-296-4773.

Topics: Board Members, Bank Directors, sales culture, bank sales managers

A Cautionary Tale: CEOs Want Substance not Sports Talk

Posted by Ned Miller on Tue, Nov 01, 2016 @ 04:21 PM


Andy is the CEO of a fast-growing service business in the Southeast. A serial entrepreneur, he is active in the business community, teaches in a major university’s business school program, and has published a book on building successful businesses.

I asked him about his current banking relationship. He paused before answering and said that his current bank, which had been recommended to him by his private equity investor, had done OK when it came to credit.

But he went on to say that the last meeting that he had had with bank representatives had left him, well, underwhelmed. His bankers had spent almost the entire 90 minute meeting bantering about the local sports scene. In Andy’s opinion, it was "pathetic."

I was puzzled and thought perhaps he was being called on by junior bankers or others who were not familiar with the relationship with his $20 million in sales company. No, he told me. The group included the head of the commercial banking team for this regional bank, a senior credit officer, and his bank relationship manager. Andy said that he would never meet with this group again and would direct them to his CFO for all future conversations.

What would Andy have wanted to hear from his bankers? His list was not surprising:
* Perhaps an idea about what's going on in his industry based on research they had done;
* An introduction to one of the bank’s many commercial clients who would fit his niche in business services; * Questions about his growth strategy, which includes a number of acquisitions over the next five years.

Sadly, he got none of these.

So what's the moral for bankers calling on CEOs? Do your homework. Bring something of value. Ask intelligent questions. Remember that sports is usually not something that will hold a C-level executive’s attention for very long.

Looking for more insights and sales tips into effective business development calls? Check out Would your prospects pay for your next sales call?

If you found this post valuable, feel free to share it with others via LinkedIn or Twitter. If you have questions about how I can help you improve your sales teams' business acumen and grow your bank’s revenues, email me at or call me on 484-433-2378.

Topics: bank sales, bank relationship managers, sales calls

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