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The novel Anna Karenina begins with the observation that “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own particular way.” That’s probably true of sales teams as well, whether they’re composed of bankers or pharmaceutical sales representatives.

Having spent time recently with both happy and unhappy bankers, though, I’ve been struck by how the mood of teams is determined to a large degree by their leaders.  Bank sales managers can have a huge impact on the morale and performance of front-line personnel.

What specifically do the best sales leaders do? What are the secrets to their success? Here’s a partial list:

  1. They show up. Managing remotely is tricky, but frequent visits interspersed with regular communication by phone and email make a difference.
  2. They’re engaged in the day-to-day activities of their team.  They know what calls people are going on this week. They stay on top of pipelines.  They’re always asking questions.
  3. They see themselves as coaches. They want to make everybody on their teams better, not just the people who are behind on their goals.  They have one-on- one coaching sessions on a regular basis with all team members, usually at least every two weeks.
  4. They’re big on strategy, particularly regarding lead generation. They devote time to analyzing how to pursue opportunities in a market and how to identify and approach prospects.
  5. They’re comfortable sharing their expertise. They are quick to tap into their own personal networks to help their teams acquire new clients.
  6. They’re consistent in their messaging. You always know what their priorities are.   
  7. They go on a lot of joint calls. You can coach them on what you want them to do and (usually) they do a pretty good job following your guidance. (Note to all Relationship Managers:  Make sure that you brief them in advance of the meeting. They don’t like to wing it. And be prepared to debrief every call you go on—it’s a chance to get some great coaching.)
  8. They’re always looking for ways to recognize good performance. They also know how to celebrate big and small victories at the individual and team level.
  9. They invest in people.  Providing training is one of their priorities.  They’re also constantly on the lookout for things that will enhance productivity.

10. They keep things in perspective. They know that their attitude has a huge impact on the success of their team. 

Post Script: I shared this list with two sales leaders who have been successful building what I would call happy (and successful) commercial teams. Here are their comments:

Bank Sales Leader #1: “I would add that joint calling lets the managers demonstrate that they are also using the sales tools which they profess are so important. Additionally, this simple activity can reinforce that the program works.  I also believe that this demonstrates that the manager is not afraid to get into the action, specifically if you are calling on prospects or customers with opportunities in the pipeline.  Sales teams need to know that we do what we preach as managers.

Lastly, if the manager demonstrates energy and positive attitude, this can “rub off” on the RM. I’ve found that the manager’s perspective becomes the RM’s perspective rather quickly. If the manger is down, the staff is down. If the manager believes “we can do it”, the staff generally responds in kind.”

Bank Sales Leader #2: “I absolutely agree with this article. One very key component that is missing and I would add is that the sales leader must always be positive. Even in difficult times, challenging credit criteria and demanding customers and prospects the leader needs to be a partial spin doctor and always see the light at the end of the tunnel for the team. The positive attitude and confidence of a leader are contagious.”

OK, sales leaders, what else would you add? Share your thoughts in the space provided below or email me at nmiller@mzbierlyconsulting.com.