The Most Undisciplined Sales People On The Planet

Did you know that relationship managers are the most undisciplined, unfocused sales people on the planet?  It’s true! 

Before choosing to work exclusively with banks 17 years ago, I trained, coached and mentored  sales teams in many different industries including insurance, financial planning, pharmaceutical, professional services, automotive, healthcare, start-ups, manufacturing just to name a few.

Granted, sales people in many industries, by their very nature tend to shoot-from-the-hip.  I’ll give you that.  I’ve seen it over and over again.  Their focus is purely on “puttin’ up numbers.”  Cold-calling, smiling and dialing, you name it but they’re always racing through their days, weeks and months looking for deals.  The truth is, a high percentage of sales people are undisciplined and unfocused.  No wonder only five out of ten sales people in this country hit their annual sales goals.

What Caused Bankers To Become Undisciplined Sales Professionals?

There are two fundamental reasons bankers have become undisciplined in their sales efforts:

  1. Abundance of Demand – The demand for all forms of real estate credit increased year over year for 15 years in a row.  From 1993 to the depression in 2008, every year the demand for real estate credit increased.  From 2002 to 2007, the demand exploded with 50% per year hyper-growth.  When demand increases year over year for 15 years, then explodes for five years, a relationship manager doesn’t need focus, discipline, or a strategy to be successful.  Portfolio growth was easy.  You and your bank needed a good reputation and you had to be able to deliver what you promised while providing good service.  But 15 years of an ever improving tailwind enabled a large percentage of lenders to be successful…without focus, strategy or discipline.  However, we are in a very different market cycle and the business development and sales weaknesses of lenders and relationship managers is now highly exposed.
  2. Banks Have Invested Very Little In Training – The “Big Banks” used to be the universities of the industry 20 years ago.  The big banks made massive investments in training and developing employees at all levels for decades.  Leadership, management, supervisory, sales, customer service, team building and communication training in addition to all of the technical and job specific training were delivered annually to help bank employees become competent, worthy of promotions and to stay sharp. For decades, regional, business and community banks have reaped the benefits of employing relationship and branch managers trained by larger institutions.  Can you imagine the ROI on that?  The problem is the industry has reinvested very little of its profits back into creating smarter bankers and honing their sales skills…and it shows!

If you look at the trends impacting the banking industry, one can’t deny that the banker is quickly becoming an unnecessary component in the attainment of a commercial loan.  Given the two points discussed above…combined with the growth of online lending platforms, the banker continues to be devalued in the sales process.  If the only value a bank and its lenders can deliver to the market is the ability to underwrite and close a loan, technology can facilitate the same transaction at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time.  What is an industry supposed to do when faced with a declining value proposition?

For the past seventeen years, we have worked hard to rebuild the reputation of the industry one banker at a time.  We have also bucked the many external and self-induced trends that have continued to devalue the role of the banker in the sales process.  The only way to fight these trends that continue to commoditize banking is to increase the value of the banker in the sales transaction and hone their sales strategies and skills.  Today’s banker has to become an authority in something other than banking, more well-rounded, more specialized, and better able to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

In short, today’s banker must become more focused, more disciplined and more strategic…about every aspect of the business development and sales processes.  The same level of discipline banks strive for in their credit decisions must be similarly be applied to their sales efforts.  The days of “winging-it” and being successful are long gone.  Using the same tired, old strategies to find new business opportunities as have been used for the past three decades by every other banker is not a recipe for success going forward.  We strongly believe in the future of banking and the role of the banker as an integral part of the sales process.  But we believe that to survive, bankers are going to have to be open to learning fresh ideas and new ways of thinking about and conducting the business of banking.

Your Competitor’s Marketing Plans Revealed!

Your Competitor’s Marketing Plans Revealed!

What if…

A healthy percentage of your lenders exceeded their annual production goals…by June 30th?

What if…

A healthy percentage of your lenders produced more than twice their annual sales goals annually without working any harder then they currently are working?

We’re not surprised by these results.  They are quite common for our clients.  We’re talking documented results! 

We’re accustom to seeing a $4M to $5M annual producer produce $8M to $10M with the same or less effort as it took to produce $5M.  We’ve watched $10M to $17M annual producers produce $25M, $30M or more with the same amount of energy as it took to produce $10M. 

They’ve doubled their production without working longer hours.

Here’s the honest truth, the sales activities of the majority of lenders are inefficient and moderately effective.  Your lenders are simply working way too hard for what they produce. 

And the problem isn’t interest rates, competition, or market conditions…it’s your lender’s outdated and antiquated marketing and sales approaches that are the problem!  They’ve been marketing bank products and services in exactly the same way for the past two to three decades.    

It’s that simple…and good news…it’s not that difficult, time consuming or costly to correct.  The cost of the solution is pennies in comparison to the cost “under-performing” lenders have on bank profits.  Yes, your “A-players” are under-performing. 

Your Competitor’s Marketing Plans Revealed!

In my last blog, I promised I would show you the exact marketing plan your competitors are using to source new business.  How valuable would that be?  Incredibly valuable.

For over 16 years, my partner Lisa and I have been modernizing and honing the sales strategies of commercial lenders and affecting positive cultural change by helping their banks become more market driven.

As you can imagine, we’ve witnessed first-hand, how thousands of commercial lenders across the country market, sell and speak about their bank’s products and services.  Before I share your competitor’s marketing plan, I want to share six of the more striking marketing similarities among commercial lenders in every State:

  1. They tend to be generalists – Most lenders know a little bit about a lot of different industries.  The old “jack of all trades…master of none” adage applies.  As a result, the “value-add” a lender brings to a prospective customer is greatly limited.  The typical lender’s marketing approach is “shallow and wide” as opposed to “narrow and deep” and accordingly they’ve positioned themselves as a commodity.  Now in rural and smaller markets, a narrow and deep marketing approach isn’t as feasible.  In those instances, differentiation can be created by a marketing approach that is more of a blended strategy we define as “narrower and deeper.”
  2. They sound alike – Lenders in every state use the same jargon, acronyms and buzz-words and make the same representations to prospects and customers as their competitors.  There are a ton of banks and bankers who still believe talking about their customer service makes them distinctive.  Take look at your own website and see if this is true about your bank.  As a result, your lenders sound like “talking brochures” when talking to prospects and customers and your bank has no discernable uniqueness.  And because of bullet #1 above, most lenders do little to tailor their conversations to their audience or to develop questions that are specific to the customer’s industry.  This results in further commoditization.
  3. They sell alike – 80% of lenders actually manage the sales process in exactly the same way as their competitors.  They behave the same way too.  The approach is very transaction-oriented and financial-package focused.  As a result, customer expectations of banks continues to decline because most every bank offers the same, traditional suite of personal and business credit, deposit and cash management solutions.  Practically every bank also touts their bankers as being “trusted advisors” and “consultants.”  It’s become similar to the customer service representation made by banks…but actual lender behaviors face-to-face with prospects and customers are anything but advisory or consultative.  This I promise!
  4. They limit their value to the customer – Most commercial lenders view themselves as experts in financing as if this makes them unique.  Just the opposite is true…being an expert in financing makes you a commodity.  This is the bare minimum expectation of lenders.  As a result, this gives your bank minimal if any competitive advantage.  Granted, on a one-off transaction where you can close quickly or structure a credit in a unique way to satisfy a borrower’s need does give your bank a competitive advantage.  But overall, being an “expert in financing” is part of a list of “standard” features expected of a bank.  Not many people are terribly interested in buying a car that only comes with the “standard” list of options.  But that’s the trend in banking.
  5. Over reliance on third party referrals – The primary way most bankers get new business is through referrals from commercial real estate brokers, CPAs and a few attorneys.  Customers have historically provided referrals too.  Essentially, most lenders want to be “dropped into” an already underway transaction where they can leverage already established relationships of other trusted advisors.  And, there’s nothing wrong with that with two exceptions, #1. Eight out of ten times, lenders are being dropped into a bidding war.  Bidding wars involving multiple banks competing for the same deal provide almost no opportunity to differentiate your bank from other banks competing for the same business, #2. Because of the newness of the relationship, the lender doesn’t have much of a connection with the borrower and no loyalty has been built.  The primary factor that distinguishes one bank from another in a bidding war is rates.  We call bidding wars a “red ocean” sales opportunity similar to the color of the ocean when frenzied sharks rip at a dead carcass.  What most bankers aren’t very good at is creating what we call “blue ocean” sales opportunities.  Blue ocean sales opportunities are opportunities where a prospective new loan or deposit customer selects their new bank without much if an interest in comparison shopping other banks and where rates aren’t in the top three considerations for choosing their next bank.  The bottom line is bankers rely predominantly on luck and the efforts of their “COIs” to fill their pipeline.  If that isn’t a scary proposition I don’t know what is?  If no referrals are received, a lender usually has a weak pipeline.  It’s that simple.
  6. Time wasted on poor quality prospects – As a result of point #5, a very high percentage of the referrals received by bankers are of poor to low quality.  This creates a whole host of ripple effects including:
    1. Time wasted driving to and meeting with prospects only to find out that they aren’t a match your bank’s credit and industry profile
    2. The awkwardness that is created when a banker has to tell his / her referral source that they can’t help the person who was referred
    3. Bankers who are behind on their goals and feeling pressure to produce will spend time on “long-shot” deals to pad their pipeline report and have something new to talk about at the Monday morning marketing meeting.  Now they’ve not only wasted their own time but also wasted the time of their credit analyst as well.

The marketing and sales behaviors described above have existed in banking for over 30 years!  So without further ado, I promised I would show you your competitor’s marketing plans so here they are!

This is a visual representation of the marketing plans used by your competitor’s lenders. 


Now this is not what their lender’s written marketing plans say they’ll do to develop business. Nor is it what your lender’s written marketing plans say.  But, it is what they do!

But make no bones about it, the above diagram accurately depicts exactly how eight out of ten commercial lenders approach their markets.  Their marketing efforts lack an intelligent strategy and focus, and their sales efforts lack discernment, discipline and preparation.

Are there repercussions from such an unfocused, “red-ocean” approach to sales that rely too heavily on the efforts of “COIs” that with the best of intentions provide a lot of low to poor quality referrals?  Absolutely including but not limited to:

  • Over 50% of today’s commercial lenders don’t hit their annual sales goals. 
  • Lender marketing efforts are very “hit or miss” wasting time that could be put to better use
  • Being buried in renewals of small, unprofitable relationships all of whom want service
  • Lenders who sound and sell alike which creates market commoditization, price sensitivity and margin pressure

The honest truth is that the sales activities of the majority of your lenders are incredibly inefficient and marginally ineffective.  Your lenders are simply working way too hard for what they produce.

We’ve spent the past sixteen years showing commercial lenders of all experience levels how to be much more productive.

Click Here To Learn How To Help Your Lenders Become Much More Productive

Here’s to your marketing and sales success!

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Have Your Lenders Become Sales Dinosaurs?

Have Your Lenders Become Sales Dinosaurs?

So what did the Sales Dinosaur Assessment for Bank CEOs in my last email reveal about your bank?  What new insights did you have about how your bank needs to evolve?  The bank-assessment in my last blog asked bank CEOs and Presidents twelve questions designed to expose a small portion of the antiquated thinking that currently exists in your bank. 

Why should you care about “antiquated thinking”?

Because nothing stifles progress, creativity and innovation faster than old, familiar habitual ways of thinking.  Wait a minute! Did I just suggest that our thinking is habitual?  Yes I did!  Just like our behaviors are habitual, the ways in which we think are also habitual.

Our habits of thought are like blinders.  They obstruct our peripheral vision and in doing so prevent us from discovering new ways to hone our organization.  As bank leaders, are you cultivating a culture that encourages and rewards new ideas?  Do your managers understand how valuable employee perspectives are in the quest to improve the customer experience?  Or are your executives, managers and employees comfortable with the “status quo?”

Has Your Bank Become a Sales Dinosaur?  Yes!  That is the best possible answer.  It means you’re not in denial about the fact that your lenders, relationship and branch managers are pretty much saying and selling the exact same way as your competitors.  It means you realize your sale teams continue to use the same, tired old approaches to finding and closing business as they have for the past two and three decades.  Every banker is approaching the same commercial real estate brokers, CPAs and attorneys for referrals.  What could be less original than that?

This, the second, follow-on blog is a “self-assessment” for lenders and relationship managers to help them determine if they’ve also become sales dinosaurs.  You likely will find this assessment to be very revealing.

Have Your Lenders Become Sales Dinosaurs?

Sales-Assessment for Lenders and Relationship Managers

You have likely become a sales dinosaur if…

  1. You’re still working the same types of COIs as you have for the past 10 to 30+ years
  2. When you think of a COI, you think of a “high profile” person
  3. Half or more of your deal flow are referrals from real estate brokers, CPAs and attorneys
  4. Your pre-call planning consists of discussing your call in the car on the way to the sales call
  5. You rely on your years of experience and “wing-it” on sales calls
  6. You consider yourself a “generalist”
  7. You believe specializing in an industry limits your opportunities
  8. Your goal on an initial prospect call is to get a package
  9. You receive far more referrals than you give
  10. You look for and like “deals with hair” on them
  11. You bring in more real estate deals than C&I business
  12. You often find yourself competing with 3 to 5 other banks for a deal
  13. You use phrases like “relationship banking,” “personal relationships”, “customized solutions,” “we’re dedicated to the community” and “excellent customer service” when talking to prospects and customers

Looking in the mirror isn’t easy.  Confronting the truth is uncomfortable.  The more “yes” or “possibly” you had as answers to the questions above, the more likely it is that you’ve become a sales dinosaur.  If more than 50% of your answers were yes, you’re among a dying breed.

What’s the point of the sales assessment for lenders and relationship managers?  Awareness!  To make you aware that you and your bank are undifferentiated, commoditized and antiquated in your approach to marketing and sales!

Einstein said “you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.” 

As lenders, relationship and branch managers, it is imperative we understand and acknowledge we’ve commoditized yourselves due to lack of originality, lack of a defined strategy and lack of discipline.  As a result, every banker sounds and sells like every other banker in the market.

We all know the game is changing in banking; the

question is how are you going to change with the times?

Check out BTI Growth Advisors evolutionary, new website and resources.

Would it be valuable to see your competitor’s marketing plans?  Keep an eye out for my next blog in a couple weeks!  I am going to show you the exact marketing plan of all your competitors.

Best regards,

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Has Your Bank Become a Sales Dinosaur?

As you’ve seen from past blogs, the consistent theme of the blog content we produce focuses on helping bankers and banks evolve and become more progressive, innovative institutions.

The theme of my next two blogs is Has Your Bank Become a Sales Dinosaur?  This first blog is a “bank-assessment” designed to assist bank CEOs and Presidents to determine if their bank has become a sales dinosaur.

The second, follow-on blog in June will also be a “self-assessment” for lenders to help them determine if they’ve become a sales dinosaur.  You may find this assessment to be very revealing.


Has Your Bank Become a Sales Dinosaur?
Bank-Assessment for CEOs & Presidents

Your bank has likely become a sales dinosaur if…

  1. You still believe hiring seasoned lenders who promise to “bring over their book of business” works out favorably for your bank
  2. You believe the past production of a lender is a predictor of future production
  3. You believe a seasoned banker is an effective banker
  4. You believe a seasoned banker doesn’t need further training and development
  5. You believe your lenders are unique in the market
  6. You believe your lenders communicate and sell differently than your competitors
  7. You have lenders who met their sales goals their first year being employed at your bank but haven’t met their sales goals in their second and third years
  8. Your lenders rely heavily on referrals from real estate brokers, CPAs and attorneys for most of their deal flow
  9. Your lenders are still using the same strategies to find and close business as they have for the past decade or more
  10. Your lenders negotiate harder with your credit committee or credit administrator than they do with their customers
  11. Your bank has merged in the last several years and you believe you have a united and aligned sales culture
  12. You believe your bank has a united sales culture that’s consistently deployed in all regions and all offices

Looking in the mirror isn’t easy.  Confronting the truth is uncomfortable.  The more “yeses” or “possibly” you had as answers to the questions above, the more likely it is that your bank has become a sales dinosaur.  If more than 50% of your answers were “yeses,” you’re bank is among a dying breed.

What’s the point of the CEO / President bank assessment?  Awareness!  To make you aware that your bank and your lending teams are undifferentiated, commoditized and antiquated in your approach to marketing, sales and hiring!

Hall of Fame hockey player Wayne Gretzky said “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”

As leaders in your bank (you can be a leader without having the title) it is imperative we understand where the proverbial “puck” is going in banking and skate in that direction.  We all know the game is changing in banking, the question is how are your employees and executives going to change with the times?

Keep an eye out for my next blog entitled, “Have Your Lenders Become Sales Dinosaurs?

Best regards,

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Evolutionary Business Planning For Lenders – Part Four – Final

Which Would You Prefer, To Be Uninspired or Inspired?

Confident businessman runs a successful business project. Business icons and growing arrow on the background.

Confident businessman runs a successful business project. Business icons and growing arrow on the background.

Its 8:51 Saturday morning and I just sat down with a hot cup of tea to write the final blog in the Taking an Evolutionary Approach to Business Planning.  I am feeling very peaceful and grateful for my life.  Before I get into the subject of business plans, I want to discuss how important it is these days for us to find ways to feel grateful in our lives.  Our world today is filled with threats, chaos, turmoil and injustices.  Our lives are pressure packed and exhausting.  There are so many things in life that deplete us emotionally, physically, spiritually and energetically, it is imperative we find ways to fill ourselves and to feel grateful.  Any activity that is connected to a personal passion brings us joy and gratitude.  When was the last time you allowed yourself the time to enjoy something you are passionate about?  Sometimes we can connect to our gratitude with the smallest, simplest act such as when we look at our children sleeping soundly in their beds, or when we take a moment to really take in the beauty of nature just outside our window.

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Evolutionary Business Planning For Lenders – Part Three

In this, the third blog in our educational series, Taking an Evolutionary Approach to Business Planning, our intent is to help your lenders modify their 2016 business plans, based on what they have learned from the analysis of their 2015 activities and results.

Plan Your Work; Work Your Plan…Why Don’t More Lenders Do This?

Production Process on the Mechanism of Metal Gears.

Production Process on the Mechanism of Metal Gears.

At the start of every year, an extremely high percentage of business plan conversations take place between sales managers and lenders beginning exactly the same way.  The conversation begins with the lender telling their sales manager, ”I want to bring in $ X,000,000 of loans” or “My goal this year is to bring in $X,000,000 of loans and deposits.”  Wanting to produce a result is great, having a goal is important.  The real question becomes how are your lenders going to produce the specified result?  For many lenders there is a vast difference between what they say they are going to do in their business plan and what they actually do blog in and blog out.  Why is that?  Why don’t more lenders follow their plans?  The answer is fairly obvious, no accountability to the business plan by either the lender or their sales manager.  Much of the responsibility for lenders not following their business plans falls on the shoulders of their sales managers.

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Evolutionary Business Planning For Lenders – Part Two

If you’ve been reading our blogs you’re beginning to recognize that we advocate taking a more thoughtful and strategic approach to every facet of sales.  In this, the second blog in our educational series, Taking an Evolutionary Approach to Business Planning, our intent is to leverage the insights learned from the recommended actions laid out in our last blog.

What Insights Were Gleaned from Last Week’s Analysis?

arrowOliver Wendell Holmes said, “A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.”  Wow, that quote certainly sheds light on the value of reflecting.

In last our last blog we laid out a process designed to help your lenders discover insights on how to be more efficient and effective in their sales efforts.  The goal of this process is to develop stronger 2016 business plans and stronger 2016 results.  The steps we discussed were:

  1. Be Intentional
  2. Discover Your Numbers and Closing Ratios

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Evolutionary Business Planning for Lenders – Part One

We’re excited to begin discussing lender business plans as part of our four-part blog series on Taking an Evolutionary Approach to Business Planning.

It doesn’t matter if your lenders have completed their annual business plans or are in the process.  I promise that the things we will be shedding light on over these next four weeks will measurably improve the quality of your lender’s business plans and dramatically increase the odds of them hitting their annual production goals.

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