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.