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I recently asked a group of senior bankers what they wish they’d known before they assumed their first sales management role. You might be surprised at what some of them said.

“I wish I’d known a number of things.  First, most bankers are not natural sales people.  They need support and coaching and help developing a strategic and practical approach to their markets.  Secondly, pipeline management is critical to success.  It is so important to keep the funnel full with a variety of opportunities.  Lastly, having “lists” isn’t the key – having the right lists is the key.  Bankers must have the right COI’s, prospects and customers.”

–Scott E. Page, President and CEO, Colorado Business Bank and Arizona Business Bank, Denver and Phoenix

“I wish I knew that the reports showing the numbers are like showing how much one weighs when getting on the scale.  You can spend all your time talking about how you want the numbers to change, but unless you figure out HOW to get it done, nothing happens.  Personal coaching regarding the art of each cycle of sales is the only path to success, in my opinion.  Behavior and effort should be prioritized over Excel spreadsheets and software tracking.”

–Jeane Vidoni Coyle, President & CEO of Penn Community Bank, Yardley, PA

 
“Qualitatively assessing your people and how they each should be coached is way more important than your group’s business/game plan.”

–Harry Turton, Market President, Union Bank & Trust, Richmond, VA

 

“I wish I knew the importance of unity over uniformity. I mistakenly believed that everyone should have the same process, when what is really important is that everyone have a process.  I’ve seen many successful bankers with a good process buckle under the requirement to conform to a standard that does not suit them.  The important thing is that they have a discipline and a commitment to diligently work through their process, not mine.  I can have input into areas where they can get better.”

–Dianne Mercier, President New Hampshire, People’s United Bank, Manchester, NH

 

“The one thing I wished I had known before starting to manage a sales team was the extent of the vast differences you will find in the sales abilities of your team.  Sales comes naturally for some, but not everyone.”

–Jeffrey Hultman, President, Illinois Bank & Trust, Rockford, IL

“I realized when I became manager of sales team that it was important to create a positive environment and understand the chemistry of the team.  Each sales team member is unique, but I found that when I focused on the positive in our meetings, our chemistry was better and production became better.  We celebrate all wins from $1,000 deposit accounts to $10MM closed loans.  So far, this approach has helped more teammates achieve their established goal which helps me as manager achieve my overall goals!”
 
–Rodney West, Community Bank President, Simmons First Bank, Ft. Smith, AR

 

“The key to team sales success is always people. I wish I would have understood the importance of getting to know what motivates each individual team member. I thought their motivational drivers mirrored mine which was definitely not correct. I learned from my first management experience and have become more focused on people as opposed to process as I have developed teams.”
 
–Michael Olague, EVP, Chief Banking Officer, Bank of the Sierra, Bakersfield, CA

 

“I wish I knew how important discipline and routine were to providing consistent results.”
 
–Barry E. Miller, SVP, Chief Operating Officer, Ephrata National Bank, Ephrata, PA

 
“Early in my career, I used to get so frustrated and wonder why some folks on the team weren’t doing the right things consistently, or at all.  One day I’d had enough and let them have it.  “Here’s what we need to do!  Here’s what I expect every single time, no exceptions!!!”  Their response: ”Okay, sure” in the most agreeable, willing tone imaginable.  Immediately things improved.  It was a real epiphany for me.  I could have saved months, or probably a couple years even, of frustrating drives home.  I thought I could “effort” them into doing stuff well; even shame them in a way.  I thought they’d say, “Man, look at this guy working hard and doing all these things; we should do that, too.”  Yeah, right…Here’s what I’d say now: “Setting a pristine example for your team only establishes credibility; it does NOT, by itself, change behaviors.  Communicating expectations early and often is everything; and your team deserves it.””    

–Guy.Johnston, EVP, City National Bank, Charleston, WV

“The results are the reward or evidence of your efforts.  Coach to the specific activities to build up routines.  Work to make the complex simple.   Finally, everyone needs to have ownership and there is not just one way to do things.”

–Leonard Koch, SVP, Vectra Bank, Boulder, CO

 

“Have your bankers work with prospects and industries that they have a genuine interest in.  They become industry experts and that is a differentiator.”
 
–Jim Fullerton, EVP Sunflower Bank, Denver, CO

 

“I wish that I had known that coaching is more effective in changing behavior than “managing”.  Telling a team member what to do is never as effective as having them arrive at the conclusion themselves!”
 
–Jolene N. Wirth, Regional Retail Sales Manager, Synovus, Columbus, GA

 

“Being a “true” sales manager can take a lot of skill in time management, coaching, mentoring and motivating.  It is not something that you can just learn on the fly or you will get buried.  Have a clear understanding of the objectives and knowledge of the path to take to achieve these objectives.  Be careful of the daily distractions that can derail your mission.  It is important to keep your eye on the tasks at hand.  Your team counts on your ability to stay focused and sort through the things that can deter success.  Leadership is key.  A strong mentor can help you prepare for how to navigate your new role.  I would also add I would have loved to have had a better understanding of the attributes that made a high-performer successful and  what attributes could be learned and taught to others.”

–Kevin Nelson, Region President, Northwest Bank, Lorain, OH

 

“If you want your sales folks to be good listeners, they need to know how to ask “really good” questions. Why? Without “really good” questions, it doesn’t matter if you are a good listener because there’s not much to listen to.”

–Doug Miller, EVP (retired) State Street, Boston, MA

Comments? Feel free to share them in the space below. Be on the lookout for a second installment of advice for new Sales Managers in the next month.

Any new Sales Managers in your organization who would benefit from participating in a 10 week virtual bootcamp led by Ned Miller beginning early in 2018? Call Ned Miller at 484-433-2378 or email him for more more information.

How do you assess the sales skills of your team? 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

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