The number one issue in the bank peer data on improving banker sales performance is coaching. Most banks today have a reasonable level of accountability (goals, incentives, reporting) but are behind other industries in sales coaching.
The majority of commercial and business bankers still see themselves as “loan officers” and when they make the time to coach they primarily coach the credit process (getting the deal approved and closed). Sustainable growth in sales performance begins with the front end of the sales process (focusing on the right businesses, not wasting time with the wrong opportunities, using effective value propositions rather than price and structure, etc.). These skills take time, energy, and coaching to develop. A higher level of coaching significantly decreases the amount of time it takes a banker to become competent in these key skills.
Many community and regional banks use a Producing Manager sales leadership model. A Producing Manager typically carries a loan portfolio of between $40 and $70 million and manages 2 to 5 sales team members. A promotion from Commercial Lender to Producing Manager is often a clear signal that the bank values the individual’s credit and sales skills and can often lead to greater management opportunities in the organization.
The rationale for having them continue to manage their portfolios (“We have to take excellent care of the customers and you’re the best person to do that”) makes sense to the Producing Managers on another level; while it may be in the best interests of their customers, it’s also often perceived to be in their interest to hold on to their “meal ticket.” Many lenders see their customer relationships as a form of equity so they’re not averse to holding on to their book of business.
This model is common in banks where sales goals are relatively modest and where real estate-related transactions predominate. In banks where the sales performance expectations are higher the Producing Manager model can have a long-term negative effect on the sales performance of sales team members. Here are several of the problems:
- When Producing Managers carry more than a $10 million portfolio, the amount of time they spend coaching the front end of the sales process (lead generation and qualifying) is generally limited.
- They spend most of their time working their own portfolios and coaching credit (not sales) issues with their team members.
- They can compensate for the lack of sales coaching (growing team members’ sales skills) by “feeding” them deals and consequently helping them to make their goals.
- Producing Managers continue to build their own reputations in the community while their team members are less visible and less prepared for building their own network and customer following.
- Since Producing Managers spend less time coaching sales process (specifically the front end of the sales process) they don’t fully develop competency in their skills as coaches and sales managers. This is especially true when they only manage 1 or 2 team members.
- The Producing Manager model is tenable in some situations but it significantly affects sales results when the number of sales team members reaches 4 or more. (If, however, the portfolio is reduced to less than $10 million and fewer than 5 relationships there is some increase in sales coaching.)
- Sales team members in Producing Manager teams grow their sales skills more slowly than those team members with “full-time” Sales Managers.
A common use of Producing Managers is in geographically dispersed teams (sales team members are 50 to 100 miles away). Yet there are many banks that have been able to build effective coaching processes with sales team members who are not in the same location. Sales Managers learn to use the phone, make regularly scheduled visits, and provide electronic delivery of reports and data (sales reports, underwriting information, etc.) to provide the coaching that team members need.
How do banks deal with the need for credit coaching in smaller or more remote markets? In some organizations, senior lenders take on a mentoring role for credit only, acting as advisors on deal structuring. The mentor is not the Sales Manager, though, and is not asked to coach on anything but credit. Regional Senior Credit Officers can also provide the needed guidance on complicated credit matters.
The data show that “full-time” Sales Managers with 6 to 12 sales team members (not including support staff) produce better long-term sales performance. (The number is lower [6 to 8] in commercial banking and higher in business banking and branch teams selling to businesses [8-12].)
It takes time and effort to build sustainable sales performance. Coaching is the key and full-time Sales Managers flat out are better coaches.
Do you agree or disagree? Send me your thoughts at email@example.com.
Interested in more insights on sales leadership? Check out our Sales Leadership Blog Posts.