Identifying and Developing Bank Sales Leaders

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.


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