2014 in the Rear View – Mostly from 37,000 Feet
Financial institutions need to execute more effectively so let's make 2015 the year of HOW.
What a year 2014 was. Family health was good all around, our clients continued to trust and advocate for us and our colleagues remained unrelenting in helping to bring the message of trust-based selling to our industry. Financial services professionals, trade associations and banking schools from 33 states welcomed me to teach, coach and discuss sales and sales management conversations. We can't cover every subject that came up last year but here are a few key ones.
We've made some progress
- Marketing is becoming more integrated into the sales process. This is a tribute to both executive management which recognizes the need to bring CMOs to the table and marketing professionals who have worked hard to up their knowledge of how financial firms work and make money. That has earned many more of them a seat at the table. As usual, ABA is in the forefront of this trend. In 2014 ABA renamed its monthly magazine The Bank Marketing and Sales Journal. More articles, anecdotes and columns about selling are in the publication and how to discussions are plentiful. (Thanks for letting me serve as Sales Editorial Advisor)
- Education is top of mind. Banking schools everywhere have experienced good growth both at the state and national level. Bankers that attended are serious about learning more to enhance their careers and the lives of their customers.
- Every organization of every size has a sense of urgency around the mobile wallet.
- Training budgets are up. We're seeing lots of interest to help associates improve their sales and sales management skills in retail, commercial and other areas.
- Executive Management is becoming more engaged. We are seeing a trend whereby instead of CEOs and executives introducing classes and leaving, they are staying and actively participating. This is paying dividends at many levels.
- We have begun to take a harder look at brick and mortar. We are closing branches that no longer work and those that are open we are employing Universal Bankers and technology to maximize staffing and many in the branch are becoming business development folks.
- We've gotten smarter around branch segmentation. Some have stratified branches based on the growth or lack thereof in each market combined with how much of the market they own. Then, they have paired the skills of the branch manager with the needs of that market.
- LinkedIn has become a vital part of the bank to business process. Financial services professionals are beginning to utilize LinkedIn to connect, add value and prospect. Many have taken advantage of the truly remarkable Sales Navigator for Financial Services. What an amazing tool.
- New tools continue to emerge and many are free. Smartbrief.com is an amazing resource. Gagein.com provides timely and relevant information about money and people in motion as does the free service, Newsle.com.
- Community bankers are having less pity parties and are beginning to understand that they CAN compete with larger organizations by flying under the radar and providing intimate service that the bigs many times cannot.
- Great books continue to be written about sales, leadership and marketing. They bring a provocative message to the table – especially around the customer buying habits and how to manage in an ever changing economy. Click here for a list of great sales books you should be reading. For my money, the best book in 2014 from a business perspective was Insight Selling by Mike Schultz and John Doerr. There's a review of the book in this newsletter.
Building a Sustainable Performance Culture is Still a Work in Progress
- Knowledge transfer from banking school to the real world significantly impacts the long term success of the investment of time and money. Many times the student goes right back to the office to become a firefighter or they take a "much needed" vacation. Both are foolish.
- We continue to miss opportunities to use some amazing tools available such as LinkedIn, Vertical IQ and so many others. Some organizations won't allow their bankers to access LinkedIn at the office for many reasons. Even those that can get to it, they are only on LinkedIn about 17 minutes a month where most high performing sales people are on two hours a day.
- Current statistics show that 2% of cold telephone calls result in an appointment. They also indicate a less than 2% close rate on cold calls. Despite those numbers cold calling and blitzes continue to be part of many cultures. Management is also still counting the number of calls made, putting meaningless call quotas into the culture and forcing widget counting for the sake of counting.
- We continue to see lack of systematic and forward thinking approaches to acquisition strategies. Rather we see sporadic use of letters and poor email strategies that don't take into account the importance of a dynamic subject line. There continues to be a mindset of "getting around" the gatekeeper versus collaborating with that important human. We see appointment conversations with the decision maker that focus on "we can save you money," "it's always good to get to know another banker" and other mind-numbing dialogue that keeps appointment rates at all-time lows. That doesn't even begin to touch on voice mails that get returned less than 10% of the time.
- Elevator speeches and memorized blather to be delivered networking events are still being taught versus the concept of net-giving and net-worthing. When we begin to understand that it's better to be interested than interesting, our time investing in community events and social activities will be maximized.
- I read recently where 94% of banks sponsor some type of sales training. That's the good news. The issue is that most people forget 88% of what they learn in 30 days without reinforcement and 92% of all sales training dollars end up going to waste. The reason? Nothing changes after the training and when our industry wakes up and understands that accountability and interweaving the training into a dynamic sales process, financial services will see an ROI on training.
- Lack of coaching continues to be our industry's greatest challenge. Lack of coaching is everywhere. Some would say that they hire adults and they don't need coaching. Peyton Manning is an adult. Professional actors are adults. Do they get coached? Others indicate they coach their people every day, every hour, every nano-second. We've seen some of that coaching and it's around deals, structure, operations and everything except sales conversations. We're talking about formal, regular one on one conversations that deal with behavioral improvement.
- CRM is worthless. Using it is priceless. Nearly 80% of all CRM implementations fail. The reasons are many and varied but one is NOT "we have too many things on our plate." Like selling, trust and WIIFM are two big challenges. Sales associates don't trust the data in the system and they see nothing in it for them. Since we don't sell CRM we get lots of calls as to the best. None of them are any good and all of them are outstanding. It's really a matter of whether they are a cultural fit and if they ever get actionized
- Relationship manager vs. resource manager. I am on a quest. I want the phrase "He Changed RM to Resource Manager" on my headstone. This is not a spin or one of those creative titles that someone can come up with (although I did like Chief Experience Officer in 2000 before it was popular. Google it now and you get 19 million hits). A Resource Manager is a proactive, value focused, go-to banker whose self-orientation is far lower than their desire to help the customer. The way they plan, execute and follow up on calls is different, better than the Relationship Manager. More on this throughout the year.
- We still talk about Consultative Selling as if it were the panacea. Many still teach the concept. Unfortunately the message of trust and transparency have not gotten through to many organizations that have adopted it. Rather many users focus on the questions to sell the product. In trust based selling its always better to sell what the customer needs than what you have
- Many are not recognizing the need to change retail training to a service to sales model is causing customer experience in the branches to tank. In our research nearly 8 of 10 customers that visit the branch are coming in for something other than wanting to be sold. They lost their debit card, they are changing their address, etc. Traditional training targets cross selling (gosh I hate that term) which not only tears down trust, it causes the customer to want to visit the location less.
- We have so many tools to use and sometimes our sales associates get confused as to what to use when. Add to that statistics that indicate bankers have only about 37% of their time to sell and it's easy to see why they need some ongoing guidance. Tools and training don't seem to be the issue. Maybe it's the sales manager who does not work hard enough to integrate everything into their sales management practices. Without help, sales associates many times see each job aid vertically instead of being able to integrate them seamlessly and horizontally
- Our industry continues to push back on the need for a disciplined sales process where routines, and accountabilities combine with technology enablement and behavioral scorecards and coaching to create a dynamic, sustainable sales ecosystem
- Team meetings in business banking continue to be liar's poker where we go around the room and listen to each other talk about something that will never close. Complete waste of time and dollars
- We hear continually about senior managers who wring their hands when someone leaves without have any candidates in the queue waiting in the wings. That causes portfolio shifting, customers having to retrain new RMs and general chaos inside the bank. We are also dismayed at how few financial services firms use hiring tools such as Predictive Index, SSAT and others. A small investment upfront saves tons of time, talent and customers on the back end.
Since 2015 is the Year of HOW, How About...
- When someone returns home from banking school they have two days off at home. They review notes from their classes and generate five workable strategies to help their organization going forward. These are presented at senior management meeting to discuss the viability and if any or all seem workable, have the student banker lead a team to get the improvements started.
- Stop the event driven training classes. Training to make a tick mark is a waste of everyone's time. Do some analysis about what skills are lacking. Find some companies that do what you need with a high level of engagement. Follow up with ongoing coaching to maximize the investment. Hiring motivational speakers and training your people only once a year when the bank happens to be closed on Veterans Day is not the answer.
- CRM starts with the C. Make yours about the C-Level as well as the Customer. When executives and senior managers know the system as well or better than producers, the sales associate has very few excuses as to why they don't use it. I know a manager who sits at the desk of the banker when he does his coaching and maneuvers around the CRM adroitly. Think his direct reports know and use the system?
- One way to make 2015 more client focused is to keep this mantra alive in your heart – every conversation will be about the bank and customer versus the problem, not about the banker versus the customer. It's not a game, a war, a manipulation. This is about trust and that is what will help your organization and our industry move forward
- Review how your retail training and sales management should be modified to take the service to sales mindset into account. Also consider whether the metrics you are reviewing have kept pace with the way your customers are buying and what they are needing at the branch or the call center
- Continue to review your training content, how it is being delivered, how engaging it is and how it is tailored to the audience. Are they learning or are you just providing training? Just because you have training materials left over from the 1970s or 1980s doesn't meant they are worthy of your people today. Recycle them.
- When your bankers are going out on sales calls make certain they are asking about other great bankers the customer/prospect/COI is seeing. Those names should be brought back and discuss with the team leader who may want to consider having lunch with one or two of the regularly heard names. Hiring professionals might consider formulating and executing better interview questions and blending in some behavioral role plays along the way. Hiring a new employee is a lot like making a loan. They don't go south on you until you put them on the books.
- Since 2015 is the year of HOW in my mind, here are five steps to better sales coaching:
- Isolate the behavior you want your associate to improve or get even better at
- Discriminate – you must know the difference between good and not so good behavior within that skill set
- Observe – it is vital that you see the skill in action whether that is on a joint call, listening on the telephone or reviewing call plans or prospecting letters and emails
- Communicate – you ask questions, they have answers. You talk 20%, they talk 80%
- Follow up – create a simple action plan that you hold your person accountable to do and then ask about how It's going within a week or two at the most
Widely known as the "Professor of Prospecting," Jack Hubbard has shared his passion for what it takes to build trust-based sales initiatives for more than three decades. He has helped build more than 100 Performance Management Cultures from Maine to Florida, Texas to California and all points in between. With more than 67,000 bankers personally trained and coached, Hubbard is one of America's most sought after facilitators. An author, lecturer and classroom instructor, Hubbard's expertise and out-of-the-box thinking put him in great demand when the subject matter is sales and sales management in business and commercial banking.