Will this Experienced Banker Be on a Performance Plan Next Year?

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“I feel like I’m running on fumes.”

Dave (not his real name) is a veteran commercial lender in a community bank in a major metro area. Through the course of his 25 year career he has always been in the top quartile in terms of production. He has a loyal customer base, composed mostly of middle market manufacturing and services companies. He has forged relationships with a number of CPAs, who are now in senior positions in their firms.

So why is it that at age 55 he’s not as confident as he once was about his ability to generate new business? Why is his long-term loan pipeline not as robust as he’d like it to be? Why does he feel, well, uneasy about his business development efforts?

Some years ago coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith wrote a wonderful business book with a provocative title: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  He points out that many of the successful behaviors that produced results for high-performers in the past may not serve them well today.

How might that apply to Dave and others like him? Here are some of the warning signs of banker obsolescence that I see in the aging “A” players:

Same old same old when it comes to prospecting: They can rationalize their weak results in several ways: “I have the biggest/ most complicated/most profitable portfolio in the bank.” “My job is to defend my major client relationships.” “I get a lot of referrals from my existing network.” (Really?) They go to the same networking events, take the same COIs out to lunch, and recycle the same stories.

Not team players: While lone wolves can be successful business developers (Remember The Challenger Sale?) many veterans are slow to draw in product partners from areas like Wealth Management, Treasury Services or Insurance.

Suspicious of sales process: Maybe it would be more appropriate to say that they’re often skeptical of your bank’s sales process. They often dismiss bank-supplied tools designed to generate leads (things like industry information from VerticalIQ and RMA/IBISWorld, market and company data from Hoovers or InfoUSA, client profiles, pre-calling planning templates, etc.). And, although no one ever admits it, sometimes their intransigence is aided and abetted by their Sales Managers. “I don’t expect Bill to do that—that’s more for our less experienced RMs.”

No interest in additional sales training: They almost always find an excuse to miss scheduled sessions. “Heck, I could write a book on that.” (Consultant perspective: If you wrote it before 2015 it won’t work today.)

Social Media is for kids: Although they have a LinkedIn profile they really don’t have a real strategy when it comes to using it for prospecting.

My client Dave did actually realize that he was not well positioned for the next 10 years as a commercial Relationship Manager. He has made a series of changes with the support of his Sales Manager. A big part of Dave’s strategy is to become more targeted in his prospecting, playing off his experience in several specialized areas that have significant growth potential for his bank’s credit and non-credit offerings. Dave has also begun to reinvent his COI network and has already forged partnerships with other professionals active in the industry niches he’s cultivating.

Time will tell whether Dave is making the right moves. For now he’s energized again, insanely focused, and confident about the value he can bring to the market. My bet is that he won’t be on a performance improvement plan anytime soon.

Question for Sales Managers: The real issue is what to do with bankers exhibiting any of these signs. I’d welcome your thoughts and am prepared to share them in future articles.

Question for Bankers: What are you doing to reinvent yourselves to succeed?

Want more tips on developing niches? Check out these articles:
Prospecting Tips for Bankers on Developing a Niche
25 Questions to Assess Your Prospecting Process
Q&A for Bankers on Targeting the Health Care Niche

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