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The 5 Myths That Tank a Bank Sales Culture

by | Workplace Culture


Let’s face facts. You know it is true. Banks stink at sales culture.

Most say they’re working on it…but most have been “working on it” for three decades now, and they still stink at it. Why? Because you are repeating the mistakes of the past. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes that are common to every failed bank sales culture. (That would be around 99 percent of them.)

Myth number 1: Officer call programs are the answer

Not only are they not the answer, but they are also often the problem.

Think about it. You have lenders rushing up and down the street, not knowing who to call on, not knowing what to say to control the sales process to get the relationship to get premium pricing.

Then they bring the deals (most of which you should never touch) into the credit committee, and you have the “we can do the deal if we match the rate” conversation.

It gets worse. Then they’re so busy cleaning up the bad loans they talked you into that you have to hire more people to hit the streets, repeating that same exact pattern. Soon your efficiency ratio is slammed, and your bad loans are keeping you up at night. Now they are begging for more “help,” which ultimately means there will be more people creating this pattern of craziness.

Before long, you’re in the bottom half of your peer group in profitability, and you’re flooded in bad loans. And you’re scapegoating it all with an excuse of “the economy.”

Pardon my abruptness, but it’s NOT the economy. If it was, why are hundreds of your competitors having record profitability and decreased delinquency?

You don’t need a calling program. You need a targeted calling integrated system focused on the 100 to 200 safest and most profitable next prospects assuring you get all of them and all of their business — and you get it at premium pricing.

Myth number 2: Measure the number of calls made per officer

Again, you get what you measure. When you measure the numbers of calls, you get activity but not the RIGHT activities — and certainly not the right results.

What if instead, you measured the number of aces received on top 100 prospects, the cross-sales to existing top 100 customers, the aces received on top 1000 prospects…to mention a few? NOW we’re talking!

Myth number 3: Cold calling is good

The minute a banker cold calls, they immediately lose reputational equity. They are now positioned as a vendor and are treated as such. Canceled appointments. Negotiations to match the rates of your competitors. Asking you to put together a package for them where you bring your creativity and do all the work, then they have the incumbent bank match it, so THEY get paid for YOUR work. You know the scene.

What that means is that if you have the best rates, you can have the deal. Perfect. A guarantee of failure no matter the result. That dog don’t hunt.

The name of the game is reputational equity. Building a relationship of being a sought-out expert is what you want. Establishing credibility to justify premium pricing and an expectation of valuing your time is mandatory if you don’t want to ruin your chances of gaining the entire relationship at premium pricing. Now wouldn’t that be better than being the ‘kickin’ boy?

Myth number 4: A sales culture means setting goals, getting training, and building an incentive program

Actually, that worn-out threesome is a guarantee it won’t work. That’s right. It will make things worse.

Goals aren’t too bad, except that you don’t have great mechanisms to track them, and you’re not looking at critical drivers, so by the time you are looking at results, you’re too late.

Training is never the answer. Education is. Especially when you are educating them on how to hold respect in the process and to get the prospect to tell you the substantial money they save or earn with your clearly-defined Unique Selling Proposition.

In 23 years, I’ve asked thousands of bank executives if they could name one organization that did “sales training” and had any meaningful and sustainable result.

Still haven’t heard of a one.

It’s all about culture, systems, marketing, strategy, and execution. Without a holistic system, the result is never pretty. Now your people feel like losers because they were trained and they STILL aren’t effective.

And incentive programs…well, that deserves its own piece. Let’s just say that most banks are at least 90 percent wrong with the structure of their incentive plans, and as a result, they get the wrong behaviors and the wrong results — and they breed greed and an “it’s all about me” mentality into the culture.

Myth 5: All we need is someone to be in charge of this

In fact, that is the best way of all to guarantee failure. This is NOT a one-person job. It is an integrated system. Tied to strategy. Tied to culture. With focused measurements and celebrations and recognition tied to them, team contents, incessant coaching and teaching, learning plans, and integration with marketing. Many people have to be in charge and know their “hat” to know how to deliver on what they are to do so that the entire “system” can flow.



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