What is the worst sales advice you have ever received?


bank sales adviceEditorial comment: I appreciate the candor of the 20 talented bankers who shared the worst sales advice they had ever received. Do not assume that the bad advice was offered at their current place of business–in most cases, it was not. And don’t forget that while there are people who might lead you astray with hackneyed recommendations, there are a lot of savvy bank sales leaders (and even a few consultants!) who can provide invalauble coaching that will help you develop relationships with business owners.

1. One thing I’ve encountered is the “give the client what they want and we will figure out how to do it later” approach. Doesn’t work very well when you can’t deliver and you have to back track on your commitment. Not very smart in my opinion. I think the proper approach is to understand the client needs and align your capabilities to determine what solutions and options are available. It’s about having a collaborative relationship with a client and not just appeasing them with promises that might be broken later on.

Victor W. Capozzolo First Niagara


2. Probably to make unannounced cold calls without being prepared. A former bank had quotas and we were encouraged to blanket an area and simply “drop in “on a prospect that in many cases were a terrible fit for our bank. No prep, just drop in. Stressful and highly ineffective and in many cases offensive.

Scott Page Colorado Business Bank and Arizona Business Bank


3. I know the owner he really doesn’t like to talk that much about the company’s financials. Besides these guys have been around forever so make sure you don’t get too deep into the financials–we need this deal.

Rick Webster Union Bank


4. I would say the dumbest thing I have done (not necessarily advice) is to “wing it” or “assume I earned a piece of business because……” In most of those situations I have left myself and the bank exposed to a competitor that took the opportunity WAY more seriously than I did and as such shined a lot brighter. This either caused me to lose the opportunity or scramble to get it and look like a fool in the process.

Mark Augustyn Mercantile Bank


5. Cold calling is the best way to generate new business and tied with that: cold calling blitzes in a certain geography.

Jeffrey Carstens Bank Leumi


6. At the top of my list is some advice that a manager once gave me. He told me that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time with my top performers, that they always have the drive to succeed and that my time was better spent on the mid- and low-performers. I learned the hard way that while top performers may not need the specific sales coaching that others do, you do need to spend quality time with them as a leader. Top performers not only want to be recognized and appreciated but you also have to make sure that you are helping to remove obstacles, having meaningful career discussions and checking in frequently to ensure they are engaged and motivated. As a leader you can also help them solidify existing relationships with customers and COIs and help convert prospects by demonstrating that senior leaders are local and available.

Rob Brown Citizens Bank


7. “We don’t have the time or resources as an industry to teach RM’s commercial credit. We just need to teach them to sell it.”

Jeffrey Orner Santander Bank


8. “If a customer doesn’t like you they are not going to do business with you, so determine that quickly and move on.”

I understand there are some situations where you determine quickly the fit isn’t there and continued discussions would be useless. However the context of the article ‎was from a very aggressive sales approach (bull in a china shop in my thinking) and the author suggests you go in on your terms without considering the customer and how they may react to such an aggressive sales approach. If they don’t like it, too bad. There are other deals to be had.

I feel this approach shows the customer you do not value them. I also believe you have to be respected in your market place, and this approach will quickly tarnish your credibility and reputation. Once you develop a reputation that it’s all about you and not about the customer you are done. Your chances of getting in the door of other prospects will be greatly diminished. ‎Customers in our market place talk, and this kind of information gets passed on quickly.

Jeffrey Stauffer Ephrata National Bank


9. Do not ask for the business but rather permit the prospect time to come to an understanding that the bank has “selected” them too. Once that understanding comes to the prospect they will more readily see the value, and be more drawn to the overtures. Sales come more often when both parties reflect on the fit. Asking for the business would sully the reputation of the bank. It came across like dating advice–play hard to get almost. I swear it is true.

David Swoyer Santander Bank


10. To ask for financial statements and bank statements on a cold call “calling blitz”.

Scott Sehnert Rocky Mountain Bank


11. “If you don’t have the prospects interest in 5 minutes then move on”

Everything I have learned tells me I WON’T have their interest in 5 minutes and if I have a buyer in 5 minutes, they will leave me in 5 minutes. This advice was never based upon relationship sales. It was based on the ABC (Always be closing) mentality. Never works.

Chris Martin Northwest Savings Bank

12. ABC Always Be Closing. Courtesy of Glenngary, Glen Ross.

Susan Eick Right Management


13. “If you lose a piece of business you wanted, tell the prospect how stupid they are.”

Frank E. Walter Heartland Financial


14. I think the dumbest sales advice I got was that if I just played the pure numbers game I could ultimately land a big deal. If I make 100 cold calls, I get a 10% response rate, and then get a 10% hit rate on those, I get one deal. Of course, that assumes that the deal is the kind that I want, if not, then I start all over again. I equate it to the concept that if you put enough primates in a room with typewriters, sooner or later you will get War and Peace (bound and ready to sell).

In commercial lending you simply cannot continue to just bang and bang on doors with no solid plan. Stupid, dumb, blind luck simply does not work. Clients and prospects are too smart to not see it coming. By the way, one of the smartest pieces of advice centers around the concept that the only true way to win the business is to provide something that the customer needs or wants. If they don’t need it, or they don’t want it, it is going to be pretty difficult to do anything except compete on price.

Chris Caldwell Mutual Bank

15. Worst advice – stay in the office…how else will you be available to your customers?

William Newell Burke and Herbert Bank


16. A product specialist (Investment Bankers are notorious for this) telling a Relationship Manager “just get me in the door.” In essence, you don’t need to know my product or how I will sell or how I might damage your relationship, you just need to set up the appointment. I think this attitude has made the integration between Commercial and Investment Banking a real struggle for most banks. It goes to other product lines as well.

“You just need to make more calls.” Sales managers tell junior people and some more senior people that they are not on the street enough. Then we do the training that centers on making an impactful call. What the junior banker may be asking is how do I set up appointments? I think sales managers overlook this aspect of calling and training here seems much more limited.

Dave Durham Fulton Bank


17. The best thing that comes to mind is related to “Cold Calling”. You know the comment about “The more cold calls you make, the more chances to get a deal”. I just believe that “cold calls” should NEVER have to be made. In today’s times of social media, there are so many ways to connect with a business (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Avention/One Source and many more.) With all of the possible connections, make calls to companies where you have someone in common. There are too many of these “low-hanging fruit” opportunities.

Gerald J. Deetz Jr. Arizona Business Bank

18. I overheard a manager tell his younger new employee to pick a nice place to eat for lunch and go there every day and eat the same thing. That way when you bring a customer there, you will be recognized as an important person and the server will simply say “the usual, Joe?”.

Robert Lenihan Vectra Bank


19. One of my greatest frustrations is the lack of advice. For example, at my last job, when I would ask my manager for ideas on how to develop business in the market, he would turn it back on me and say, “Well, that is what I hired you for.” His business development skills were based on his age and time in market that lead to his ability to poach a few pieces of business away from his former employers. I have not had very many managers who knew how to develop new business.

Lathem Scott First National Bank


20. Well, if by advice you mean in a formal setting from a manager, trainer or consultant, I’m not sure there is anything really stupid.  Most of what I recall would probably just be a different philosophy but not necessarily wrong. 

I had a participant in a networking workshop proudly proclaim he didn’t have time to waste on any “soft” questions or conversations to connect with the individual.  That his goal was to find out immediately if the person he had just met had investible assets worth his time (he was an investment rep).  I did a role play with him in front of the class and literally his second question after “How are you doing?” was “So, about how much do you have in your savings or investment accounts?” 

His feeling was that if they weren’t willing to share it, he would just move on because it was a numbers game.  That he was “hard core sales” and “touchy feely” stuff was not for him.  What he didn’t realize obviously is that hard core sales is having the guts to put in the work. 

While it isn’t “advice” per se, it absolutely is a recurring theme and something that a lot of people believe on some level.  And it isn’t just networking, it’s all conversations.  But they’ll continue to wear it like a badge.

Guy Johnston City National Bank


If you’re interested in getting some good advice, check out the following blog posts:

What’s the best sales advice you ever received? (Part 1)

What’s the best sales advice you ever received? (Part 2)

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