Catalytic Management Consulting
Accelerating Growth, Driving Performance

Creating a Results Driven Sales Culture in Today’s Community Banks

The new realities of diminishing fee revenue and the fiercely competitive banking environment require that to survive in today’s market, banks must create, support and sustain an effective results-driven sales culture bank-wide. But accomplishing such a goal requires more than mere sales training for your branch system. It demands a highly integrated approach within total bank-wide commitment, with several critical elements paving the way. This graph illustrates the critical elements necessary for truly achieving a results, driven sales culture in your bank.

The road to a results-driven sales culture begins with a clearly defined and articulated customer-driven sales strategy. Try training your branches to sell without a sales strategy that drives customers your way, offers solutions to your local business community and promotes your brand. It’s like building a car but forgetting to include an engine: You may know how to drive, but you’ll have no power to move ahead!

Instead, you need an “acquisition strategy” that will attract desirable customers and not just rate-chasers, as well as compelling solutions for commercial customers that add value to their businesses and not just to your bottom line. You also need a “retention strategy” that goes beyond welcome kits and 90-day on-boarding programs. Clearly defined and articulated cross-selling and up-selling programs will build a loyal, long-term clientele. Consistent “touch” programs that drive communication with your customers are critical too. Keep reminding your customers how you deliver value to them.

Transitioning to a sales culture means roles and responsibilities within your bank should and will change. Simply giving out a command that everyone from now on “must sell” is a sure-fire guarantee that no one will sell. Clearly defining and communicating who must now sell is crucial.

For example, who will be driving your outbound sales efforts? Who will be managing your new branch sales team? And how will jobs and branches be restructured to allow time for new selling roles?

The biggest mistake banks make in their quest for a sales-driven culture is assuming that everyone on staff can just add selling on top of their already overloaded routine. Running “lean and mean” is great when strictly operationally driven, but a successful selling culture takes time and extra effort. You’ll need to free up time on everyone’s schedule to adjust for this new and vital role.

Custom Sales Tools

Marketing brochures themselves do not sell your products and so they should not be viewed as effective sales tools. Developing selling tools that focus on the demographics and psychographics of your target customers will be what you need, as well as product matrix tools that provide the basis for “consultative selling.” This form of selling is driven by understanding your customer’s needs and then presenting solutions to those needs. Traditional product-list brochures, in contrast, will not effectively sell anything. So build “sales path” tools for cross-selling and up-selling to guide your branch staff as they learn to identify, and respond to, sales opportunities.

Sales training alone will not create a sales culture, but will be a critical component of building your new culture and driving desired new behaviors. Selecting the right sales training for your organization can result from careful examination of your goals and an honest appraisal of your staff’s current strengths and weaknesses. Sales training delivered in isolation of your bank’s goals and strategies will fail to deliver the desired results, but training customized to your bank’s goals will do the job.

Is your sales instructor an experienced sales professional, or just a good instructor? Does the sales training vendor have a core competency in banking? Has it offered you a strategy for sustaining results? What will your “new hire” sales training strategy be?

Be sure to also include in-the-field sales coaching. Training merely introduces new skills, while practicing skills in the field, and receiving “in the moment” coaching, will actively internalize the required new skills.

New job descriptions and performance appraisals will be required to reflect your new sales responsibilities and skills. And remember: What gets measured gets done! Clear, simple measurable goals must be built into your new performance system. Rewards programs that pay an employee per product, call, per visit, etc., can be complicated, difficult to track and personally frustrating. Instead, make rewards frequent, perhaps quarterly (at a minimum). Don’t be afraid to build annual compensation plans for managers with a percentage tied to their sales results.

Hiring your future sales stars also requires changes in how you recruit and interview. Your human resources team may not be skilled at interviewing and identifying really strong sales candidates. Interviewers must practice “behavior-based” interviewing that is different than looking for simply service- minded candidates. Consider utilizing third- party sales skills assessments to maximize your hiring success.

Support Systems

Effective sales professionals must employ systems that support long-term relationship building and track activities for a given client across departments within the bank. Customer relationship management and marketing management systems are vital to building and sustaining a true sales culture. Without them, you are flying blind. The investment in such systems will be more than offset by your ability to build “household” accounts and to cross-sell products across bank departments.

Ignoring the impact of transitioning to a proactive sales culture on your operations team is typically one of the worst mistakes a bank can make. Aligning your process, policies and procedures to rapidly respond to both external and internal customers will be critical to supporting a sales team continually striving to meet your customer’s needs. Slow turn-around time on account openings, un- integrated systems that require duplicate entry, lack of support for online customers—such weaknesses will quickly demoralize your sales staff and doom your sales efforts to utter failure. Process improvement must always be an integral component of building and sustaining an effective sales culture.

Creating a proactive, customer-driven sales culture will drive change throughout your entire bank. Concurrently developing a strategy to manage that change will minimize dissension and resistance to the new culture and drive your desired performances. Leadership must communicate reasons for all this change and draw a clear picture of what the new culture will look and feel like. Don’t be afraid of any attrition fallout either, as in many cases this will prove best for both outgoing employee and the bank. Create an early warning system to monitor organizational stress and reward desired new behaviors throughout the entire change process. Above all, ensure your bank’s leadership models all newly requisite behaviors, thus leading the team with energy, enthusiasm and commitment.

Creating a truly proactive, customer-driven bank sales culture is a process, not an event. It asks more than just telling people what to do and training them. For success, it also demands planning, strategies, commitment and time. Fast fixes fade quickly. In the long term, the cost of such failures is too high. By understanding the components of creating, supporting and sustaining a bank sales culture, and then executing each well, you will unlock the door to success, a newly solid customer base and a rising, more durable bottom line.

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