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A Non-Disruptive Transformation for Community Banks

Posted by Jeni Wehrmeyer on Fri, Jan 19, 2024

For centuries, community banks have invested in their local communities and promoted relationship banking. They have been founded on the bank's knowledge of community families, their spending histories, or their small business's finances. Enter the world of high-speed tech, digital banks and AI, offering options never even dreamed about ten years back. Protection of those community bank roots is critical – to take care of the people in the community they serve. How do community banks offer a non-disruptive transformational approach to leverage all of these tech options yet still serve the client in a personal, relationship banking manner?

Drawing from this recent article in Inc., How to Revitalize Your Industry Without Needing to Disrupt It, “Non-disruptive transformation is a journey back to the roots, where the customer is not merely a transaction but the focal point of every endeavor. As industries evolve, this approach offers a blueprint for sustainable growth, ensuring that innovation serves the fundamental purpose of meeting customer needs and enhancing their experience.”

While all financial institutions are heavily investing in the technology necessary to stay competitive and viable in today’s virtual world, the community bank must not lose site of it's original mission to personally serve that client. At the other end of those tech systems and data are the frontline people in your bank and answering your customer service lines. Are they as skilled as they can be to have engaging conversations? Are they skilled enough to listen to learn, probe for deeper understanding, not pitch solutions too soon and become financial guides for their clients and prospects? That is the role of the new community bank. To leverage all of the information at their fingertips, provide seamless knowledge and advice in a holistic and personal manner for their local families and businesses.

To do this in a non-disruptive way, banks can focus on developing their people, their most important asset. As you hire and bring new people in the door, make certain that they have the skills to ask those courageous questions and delve deeper. It may require an investment to upgrade the skill levels of those who work in the local branch and operate in a business development role, developing them to a great level of advisory service.

Drawing from the Inc. article again; “In the ever-evolving landscape of industries, non-disruptive transformation emerges as a strategic and sustainable approach to innovation. Businesses can carve out a niche while maintaining continuity and stability by focusing on fundamental tasks, breaking the status quo, and returning to the industry's original concept.”

Success in the future for community banks lies in aligning and differentiating with the core values that have defined the industry's essence for centuries.


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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, banking sales training, sales training tips, sales coaching best practices

Strong Sales Performance Management Begins with Setting Standards

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jan 12, 2024

The sales performance management activities that we are performing today are creating the results we are achieving today. Many or few, consistent or irregular, planned or impromptu, the sales performance management activities that we, as sales managers, use to motivate, train and hold our sales team accountable are at least partly responsible for the success or lack of success of those we manage. You must ask yourself, what activities are you, or your sales manager, doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?

The old adage, “If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten” comes to mind. It is up to you as sales leader to set higher standards for the behaviors and activities and hold people accountable so that you get better results.

A characteristic of truly successful individuals is that they welcome the opportunity to explore and implement new ideas and practices. Even if some of the territory that we will explore does not seem to apply directly to what is going on in your company, recognize that you cannot achieve different results until you are receptive and welcoming of analysis. You may find some unexpected value in the following information that will positively affect your team’s sales as we focus on the most common issues. We will show you how to build a framework that will help you make a most dramatic difference in your business results.

Step One: Strong Performance Management begins with Setting Standards

Most companies set annual standards for sales teams and salespeople. Certainly goals are established and communicated and are probably tracked and inspected on a somewhat regular basis. Typically the process for setting goals is part of an annual business planning process, usually an arduous ordeal in which the sales team has little say. Thus, it is neither enjoyed nor embraced by those who are actually responsible for the goals and the activities that support the goals. 

However, if this process is approached with the right attitude and the goal of helping the relationship manager make more money, this annual business and goal planning process can be a positive experience that will truly motivate individual salespeople (See The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly) and bring sales teams together. See how this can happen for your company. 

The following exercise will help you develop an effective process for setting standards and upgrade your sales performance management. In this case you will use the table below to analyze and set standards for your entire team’s Annual Gross Sales Number, but you should use this exercise with individual sales people as well.


Step 1: Write your team’s current Annual Gross Sales Number goal in the box next to GOOD. This is what is expected this year. Achieving any number less than this will be considered poor performance. 

Step 2: Now pick the Annual Gross Sales number of an okay year from the past, but choose one when your team did not achieve its assigned goal. Choose a year when your team worked hard and put forth great effort, but did not quite reach the assigned number. Write the actual number achieved in the box next to POOR. Understand that this number is poor because your team did not reach goal. If you frame the year as pretty good, i.e. “we almost made it”, you have communicated that you will accept less than GOOD. You will have accepted mediocrity, thus eroding the new standards you are trying to set.

Step 3: Select a number that would be completely unacceptable for your team and write this in the FAILING box.

Step 4: Select a number that would make an extremely good year, one in which your team exceeded goal. Write this number next to the EXCELLENT box. 

Step 5: Select a number that would make a truly amazing year, a year that would go beyond expectations, far surpassing the current sales goal. Write this number in the box beside EXTRAORDINARY. 

As you can see, you have clearly identified and raised the standards. This newly defined level of standards will become your communication platform for setting extraordinary expectations with your team, one by one. Next step, take each of your salespeople through this exercise to establish their extraordinary sales goal, then have regular accountability meetings to keep them on track.


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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, banking sales training, sales training tips, sales coaching best practices

Are Your Salespeople ATMs?

Posted by Tony Cole on Fri, Jan 05, 2024

Bank ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) have been around for a while. According to Investopedia, Barclays Bank of London in 1967 was the first to have an ATM in use. I remember using my first ATM – Jeanie Machine – in Cincinnati in 1979. But the ‘ATMs’ I’m referring to have been around, well a long, long, long time.

I’m talking about ‘Automatic Talking Machines’ – also known as salespeople. This bothersome but necessary part of every economy has been in use since trade began over 15,000 years ago. You may remember a cartoon of a general with a sword telling his staff that he doesn’t have time to talk to a “pesky salesperson” (who was selling a gatling gun). He had a battle to fight. And so, that is the story of salespeople and selling. Salespeople are defined as being pesky, and potential buyers are always too busy. But to my point…

So why do I call them ATMs? Well, because they operate in pretty much the same way. When using a banking ATM, you provide a code, and the ATM gives you money. 

A suspect, prospect, or potential buyer provides one of many codes to get salespeople to give them information, and salespeople just start talking. Automatic Talking Machines. Don’t believe me? Give it a try with your sales team in your next one-on-one coaching session or sales meeting. Here are some of the codes that prospects use and you can use them to test your ATMS:

  • Why should I do business with you?
  • What makes your company different?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Your competitor is cheaper, I can get it for less?
  • What happens if I want to exchange for a different…?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have any references I can call?
  • Tell me about your product and how it could help me?
  • What is the service model? Does it have a guarantee?
  • What is your unfair advantage against your competitors?
  • Why should I change companies?

I promise you most of your sales team will start talking with an answer to the question. You can expect perhaps 10% to 15% of your salespeople to not give up the information. So, with a team of 40 or so about 5 of your people will respond ‘better.’

‘Better’ is anything that is like: “That’s a great question. Before I get into that can I ask you something?” If your salespeople are not taking control of the conversation by asking a question, then you have ATMs.

Give a shot!

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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, banking sales training, sales training tips, sales coaching best practices

What to Keep Doing, Start Doing, and Stop Doing in 2024

Posted by Tony Cole on Tue, Jan 02, 2024

As we begin the New Year of 2024, with volatile world events all around us, it is a perfect time to think about and focus on what you can affect and act on, in your personal and professional life to improve your relationships and results. This idea of reviewing what you should keep doing, start doing, and stop doing is borrowed from a past client of ours so we must give them credit. The process is worthy of your time to consider so please read on…

Keep Doing
An important distinction in the financial advisory world is that when you “sell” something to your clients, you are, in fact, helping them reach their financial goals and financial security. This is a motivating and positive mindset that helps advisors do the necessary sales activities on a consistent basis, and in turn, helps them grow their business. But we need to make sure our salespeople stay on top of their priorities and activities. This is not always easy, and it sometimes takes courage.  To execute as sales managers, we must be keep having fierce conversations with our reps when activities aren't being performed. We must continue to manage our own activities and yet be strong and flexible enough to function as a team. We must keep encouraging each other when we have fallen behind. We must have the endurance to do this day in and day out. 

It’s easy to get discouraged and frustrated when sales activities don't lead to results immediately.  But, if your business plan is solid, your sales activity success formula is based on real data, and you review and manage these sales behaviors regularly, these good business practices will lead to the accomplishment of your goals. Keep doing them!

Start Doing
As a sales manager, you need to help your people start doing what they must do to be more successful at selling. Here are some activities that can lead to success in selling and to which you should start doing if you are not already:

  • Determine specific goals and include personal as well as professional goals. Start with 100 goals, boil that down to the top 10 and then filter out the top 3 non-negotiable goals.  Remember, people achieve sales goals to reach personal aims, not company targets. Download our 100 Personal Goals Worksheet Here
  • Advisors should have a specific plan to reach their goals. If they don’t have a plan, help them create one. The plan should include specific activities required for success and set “standards” for each of these activities and you must keep them accountable to those standards.
  • Have a process of reporting activities and results; we suggest a weekly sales huddle as the venue. There is nothing as powerful as being part of a group. Peer pressure is hugely motivating.
  • Be a life-long learner. Being in the business 20 years is not good enough. You and your advisors have to be better and more knowledgeable today than you were last year.
  • Adjust to the marketplace. This goes beyond dealing with the volatile economic climate.  Today technology has changed how many people receive information and buy. There was a time when consumers relied on the salesperson to provide virtually all the information to make a decision. Now, most of the information (as well as the ability to make a purchase) is available online. Today’s manager role is to help clients identify their financial goals, make the right choices to reach them, and then implement the appropriate steps.

If you take the time to help your advisors analyze their business practices to identify what they need to do in order to be successful, you will have taken an important step toward accomplishing your goals.  So, start now. 

Stop Doing
Several years ago, I heard Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, speak. As part of his presentation on the “1-Page Business Plan”, he challenged the crowd with the following question: “What will you stop doing?” Typically, when companies (or individuals) create a business plan, they focus on the things they are going to start doing when what they really need is to focus on what they will stop doing. 

I know that you can relate to this. We have worked with thousands of sales managers over the last 30 years, and the number one reason given for not spending sufficient time coaching their people is time. Their time is eaten up with other priorities, such as operations, paperwork, or meetings.  However, you have to rise above this. You must determine what you will stop doing.

To help you get started, here are some potential “stop doing” activities you should consider:

  • Stop allowing your salespeople to make excuses for their lack of activity. Discontinue those lengthy conversations and refocus them on getting the activity done.
  • Stop getting so immersed in operations and finance. Find the right people in your organization with the perspective to understand what they must do and what you must do to get the whole job done.
  • Stop dropping and doing everything for your salespeople. Schedule a specific time for discussions with your reps and avoid those interruptive drop-ins. By doing that, you will help them to solve many of their own issues. Your door cannot always be open.

It’s your turn now to determine what you need to “Keep Doing, Start Doing and Stop Doing” in 2024!


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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, banking sales training, sales training tips, sales coaching best practices

Sales Success in the C-Suite

Posted by Mark Trinkle on Thu, Dec 21, 2023

I am enjoying reading the book Selling to the C-Suite by Nicholas A.C. Read and Stephen J. Bistritz. The book is an excellent summary of how selling to C-Suite executives is so dramatically different from selling in the lower levels of a company. As always, I hope you have developed the habit of reading as it allows you to share fellowship with great minds.

One of the more interesting principles upon which the book is based is the idea that when the economy is down, decisions go up. This means that decisions that were made at lower levels of the company in a good economy are now likely to be made at more senior levels of the company when the economy is challenging. No doubt that risk aversion plays a role in this trend.  And have you checked out the economy lately? It is not very good.

Objective Management Group has a considerable amount of data that shows the importance of sales skills as compared to the difficulty of the sales assignment.  In short, your skills do not matter nearly as much if you are selling a product that people are coming to you to buy as opposed to a conceptual sales context where you are selling a service to a person you had to go find.  Here is a sports analogy – you might be an excellent basketball player in high school in Small Town USA…but what happens when you are faced with the increase in competition at UCLA, Duke, Kentucky, or Kansas?

It is no different in selling. If you want to venture in the C-Suite, you will want to remember the following keys.

4 Keys to Selling to the C-Suite

  1. You better get referred or better yet introduced by someone in the senior executive’s network. Several studies have shown that senior level executives do not engage with salespeople that have not been referred to them.  One study went as far to conclude that only 1 in 5 senior executives will even talk to a salesperson they don’t know.
  2. You better get there early. By that I mean early in the sales process.  If you get there late and the ship has already sailed, you will likely find your path to the C-Suite blocked by lower-level executives who are not interested in returning the boat to the dock so you can board.
  3. You better think like senior executives think. They think big picture and they think about opportunities for growth, and they think about the threats that could interfere with that growth.
  4. And finally, you better have your sales game in order. You must be confident, and you must be consultative.  If you act like a traditional salesperson, you have no chance.

Ask yourself one question – if you were a senior level executive, and you called on yourself…would you take the call? As Socrates once said, the unexamined life is not worth living.


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Topics: Sales Training, motivating sales people, achieving sales success, banking sales training, sales training tips, sales coaching best practices


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    Anthony Cole Training Group has been working with financial firms for close to 30 years helping them become more effective in their markets and closing their sales opportunity gap.  ACTG has mastered the art of using science-based data and finely honed coaching strategies to help build effective sales teams.  Don’t miss our weekly sales management blog insights from our team of expert contributors.


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