Developing New Bank Sales Leaders: A Modest Proposal


Andy (who did not want his real name published) heads up a commercial lending team for a large community bank in a metro area. When I asked him what advice he would give to a high-performing commercial or business banking RM who is considering accepting a team leader role, his answer was clear: “Don’t take the job!” In his own words, here’s why.

“I’ve no idea what the actual success or failure rate for new bank sales team leaders is.   However, I believe that I can accurately state that their “struggle rate” is pretty high.  Primary reasons?  I offer three:

1) Wrong skill set. A good sales person is not necessarily a sales leader.

2) Lack of training. Banks are generally poor at providing new sales team leaders with upfront training, ongoing training and mentoring assistance (not from their managers).

3) Wrong situation.  Banks rarely place their new sales managers into the “right” first sales leadership situation.

To expand upon reason #3 a bit, I’ve routinely seen brand new bank sales managers thrust into one of three difficult roles:

They’re “promoted” into player/coach roles.  Perhaps the assumption is since they were good individual producers, this hybrid role will make for an easy transition to sales team leader.  But this producing sales manager role is actually very difficult, and should generally be “for experts only”.  Yet, this is probably the most common first leadership role for a new bank sales team leader. 

They’re given a “junior” or inexperienced team.  Perhaps the questionable assumption is that with a junior team, they’ll learn together. Maybe, but not likely.

They’re given an underperforming team.  Perhaps the dubious rationale is that with this type of team, expectations are already low, so therefore, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Here’s my hypothesis:  Many banks have their sales team leaders in the wrong roles. What I would propose is the following:
1) New Sales Team Leaders should lead historically high-performing teams. The long-term success and ongoing effectiveness of new bank sales team leaders would be significantly enhanced if their first leadership role was one where they stood a reasonable chance of actually being successful. 

Banks would do well to remember that with new sales team leaders, it isn’t only about leading a successful team (production), it’s also about developing future leaders!  So banks, instead of giving new sales team leaders a tough first assignment, give your new sales team leaders a high-performing or well established team as their first assignment.  Let them observe, learn and develop their skills without the added pressure and challenge of fixing an underperforming team. 

An added benefit: The individual producers on the high-performing team will actually help do a lot of the new team leader training for you.  These high performers will keep the new sales team leader in line, will train them and will help them grow.  Besides, they’ll do it cheaper and probably more effectively than the new sales team leader training (or lack thereof) that’s occurring now.

2) Experienced, highly effective bank sales team leaders should lead the poorer performing teams. Take your most experienced and most effective sales team leaders and place them in charge of the junior teams and the underperforming teams to either manage team member performance up or manage the under performers out.  (Then as the commercial says, “Lather, rinse and repeat!”)”

Let us know if you agree or disagree with Andy’s assessment and recommendations. Share your comments in the space below or email with your observations. We’ll publish responses in a future article.

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

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