recession preparation

Preparing to Win In Advance of a Recession

While our economy is still strong, most media outlets today are talking about a looming recession.  Maybe it will happen in 2020, 2021, or 2022––no one really knows for sure. However, whenever it happens, that is not the time for your relationship managers, BDOs, and lenders to employ new strategies and tactics in an effort to adapt to a recession.  That’s too late! Read more

Stellar Employees –Your Best Bet for Success

All the big successful companies––like Apple, Google, Starbucks and others––know that the key to success is having stellar front-line staff who can actively and positively engage with clients. First impressions are important and could mean the difference between success and failure in your business. To attract these key individuals, you’ll need to consider your culture, collaboration, and communication.

Create an Attractive Culture

Good salaries are important, but first employees must want to jump out of bed in the morning, eager to begin their day at the office. This is where the culture of your organization must be considered.

“If you’ve created an environment where employees are heard, valued, and respected, you’ve got a clear competitive advantage to tout. Go beyond vetting candidates to selling them on a genuine culture you’ve established,” says Peggy Shell, founder and CEO of Creative Alignments. Employees want to know their work matters. They want to be challenged and learn with a great team of collaborators who are passionate. They want to work for someone who cares and gives back.”

Effective Collaborations

It’s also important that you think of in terms of the whole. Each employee should be aware of the offerings in other departments. At Apple, it’s common place for everyone to be on the sales floor selling before they move into other positions such as training and technical repairs. The company also provides opportunities for employees to do short assignments in other positions within the stores (such as leadership) or even transfer short-term to other stores, even those in foreign countries. This provides the employees with an overarching knowledge of the company’s functions and renewed enthusiasm for working for the company. They are less likely to stagnate and feel isolated by knowing they are part of a greater whole.

Empower Your Team

Training is key to empowering your team. In the banking world, training and in-house universities have fallen by the wayside. While your older employees may have benefited initially from additional training, younger employees are often wandering around in the dark and hitting plateaus that might send them searching for adventure elsewhere. Employees need to be supported in growing and expanding their contribution to the organization. Stagnation and inertia lead to low morale, disillusionment, and eventually high levels of turnover. Training new people often is more costly than providing avenues of learning for your current employees.


Imperative above all else is communication. Leadership must be open to listening to the concerns and contributions of their entire team––especially those on the front lines. Customer relationships are formed here first. Very often those employees who interact with the customer initially may find solutions to customer service issues––or be able to enhance the relationship with that customer by providing solutions to their problems.

So if you and your leadership team wish to make even one small change that will ensure a brighter future for your organization, Stop, Look, and Listen.

  • Stop thinking that you know it all and that the way it’s been done is the way it should be done forever.
  • Look for opportunities to change the way your business is done.
  • Listen to your team. They may know more than you give them credit for.

Then be prepared to take action on suggestions that while they might be a little innovative, they might just mean setting the stage for your organization to stand out among others.

To your success!


If bringing in quality new deposit and C&I customers is a priority in 2019, call me at (760) 720-9270.  Let’s discuss your options and how to remain successful in a rising rate environment. Also click here to see my Sales Honing Academy website for more info.  

Are you Open to Change?

One of the things that can keep you from going away is an openness to change.
— Doug McMillon, CEO & President of Walmart

Almost everywhere I turn, successful CEOs from a wide variety of fields are spouting the same advice: If your business or organization is going to survive, you’ve got to be willing to change.

That calls for innovation. Read more

A Rising Rate Environment Isn’t All Bad!

Just four months after the Federal Reserve raised the target interest rate to above the rate of inflation, interest rates were hiked again. With three more rate hikes projected next year and more talk of a bear market mid-2019, the strong economic tailwinds that have made bank growth relatively easy seem to be subsiding.  As we’ve seen before, in a rising rate environment, the volume of deals declines as demand declines. Read more

change for banking

Making Way for Change

Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, once said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

It’s no secret there is a lot of change in the air for the banking industry from new regulations, a marketplace being squeezed by a bevy of online lenders, and the most recent Fed hikes (which I will address in subsequent blogs). Obviously, this is outside change. My observation is that even with recent changes, bankers are still playing the same game they’ve been playing for decades.

Many bankers and board of directors appear to be digging in their heels and doing business as usual. To their credit, many are successful and have adopted the attitude of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That can only work for just so long.

My fear is that the banking industry is distracted by its own performance, driven in large part by demand. I believe this is a mistake ––one that could be costly on a number of levels. Read more

How Many More Sales Opportunities Are You Going To Miss?

Three Reasons to Build a Successful Touch Program

Have you ever called a prospect whom you met with 10 or 12 months prior only to discover that they already changed banks? Scratching your head, you remember the connection you had with that prospect. You wonder “why didn’t they call me, we had such a great meeting?” The truth is you were forgotten. And the reason you were forgotten and you missed a perfect sales opportunity is you lacked a disciplined follow-up process. One that enabled you to add value and would keep your name top of mind for the prospect until they were ready to switch banks.

Because it’s hard to know when the “buying window” will open and a prospect is considering switching banks, we need a process to help ensure we stop missing sales opportunities… Constructing a disciplined process for maintaining contact with prospects will minimize the very real risk of being forgotten. In your touch program, you must build a disciplined process for:

  • Build trust and name recognition. This can be achieved through repetitive “touches” or communications. We recommend you alternate between email, phone call and maybe a handwritten note. Mix it up a little. Consistency is key.
  • Add value. Adding value by being a facilitator of introductions as well as that of a consultant or advisor positions yourself uniquely in the marketplace while providing a wealth of contacts, and subsequently, value for your customer. We recommend you send a monthly email with an article attached for two consecutive months, then on the third month make a phone call to the prospect and invite them to a breakfast or lunch meeting. Repeat this process every quarter.
  • Establish yourself as an Expert: Finding and sharing quality business content is fast and easy, plus it makes you look more knowledgeable. Keep in mind, the article doesn’t have to be the “perfect”; just by sharing the knowledge you get credit.

Residential Realtors are some of the best at developing “touch programs” for consistent exposure. Realtors systematically leave reminders: a door hanger, a flyer on the front door, a flag with their business card on 4th of July. They’re disciplined with their communications (“touches”) because they never know when “the buying window” as a result of some event occurring and a homeowner is now ready to sell their home.

Stop missing sales opportunities due to disorganization, lack of discipline and not having a process. A touch program can be built in a couple hours time which isn’t much when weighed against the time required to create a quality sales appointment.

LinkedIn Tips

5 Steps to Leverage LinkedIn as a Warm Introduction Tool

CPAs, real estate brokers, and customers are a great source of referrals, but LinkedIn is a powerful tool that can help you create more quality introductions. A lot more!

Leverage LinkedInFor 17 years now of working with banks and bankers around the country.  One thing I’ve come to realize specifically about commercial lenders and relationship managers is that most aren’t utilizing LinkedIn anywhere near to the level they could.  The primary reason for this is that they don’t have a simple plan to follow that will help them better leverage this powerful tool.  I promise you if you take a little time each week, like me, you will be amazed at how you’re able to unlock the power that LinkedIn offers to create quality, targeted warm introductions. Read more

Culture Gets “Lip Service” In Most Banks

Culture Gets “Lip Service” In Most Banks

Conceptually, most banking executives have a pretty good understanding of their bank’s culture. At least conceptually! Maybe you’d describe your bank’s culture as feeling very much like a “family” where employees care for each other and have each other’s backs. Often, I’ll have banking executives refer to their bank’s culture as a “community bank culture” and while these are both accurate descriptions, they’re also very limited descriptions of their bank’s culture.

Authors of Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture, Kim S. Cameron and Robert Quinn have this to say about what truly forms an organization’s culture: “The reason organizational culture was ignored as an important factor in accounting for organizational performance is that it refers to the taken-for-granted values, underlying assumptions, expectations, collective memories, and definitions present in an organization.  It represents “how things are around here.  It reflects the prevailing ideology that people carry inside their heads.  It conveys a sense of identity to employees, provides unwritten, and often, unspoken guidelines for how to get along in the organization, and enhances the stability of the social system that they experience.”

The truth is, most of what actually forms a bank’s culture is taken-for-granted assumptions, unwritten and often unspoken guidelines for shaping employee behaviors. Wow! In such a highly-commoditized industry like banking, why would you ever allow one of the rare things that do differentiate one bank from another to be left in such a conceptual framework of understanding?

Starbucks Culture Is Very Clearly Defined

How is it that we can go into a Starbucks in any state — be it in a hotel lobby, airport or retail shopping center — and have the identical customer experience? How did they do that? Certainly, wasn’t luck! The reality is that Starbucks culture was designed and built over time to align with the founder’s vision for the brand. The culture is exactly the type of culture needed to attract and retain Starbucks loyal customers. It’s also the culture needed to differentiate Starbucks from its competitors.

Many executives don’t have the depth of understanding about what actually forms an organization’s culture. They also don’t realize there are four distinctly different types of cultures that exist in companies today:

The Clan Culture: This is a very family-like culture.

The Hierarchy Culture: This is a traditional corporate culture.

The Market Culture: This is a culture able to respond to changing market conditions.

The Adhocracy Culture: This is a culture that supports innovation.

Within each of these four types of cultures, there are a number of distinctly different behaviors. Every bank has employee behaviors that fall within each of these four different types of cultures.

Culture Trumps Strategy Every Time!

The fact is any competitor in your market can easily and quickly replicate your product mix and marketing strategies. So that’s not going to give you a competitive advantage. Clearly, service levels do differ among banks however the fact that three out of four bankers refer to themselves as “a relationship bank” only serves to further commoditize the industry.

One of the few things your competitors can’t readily replicate is your culture! That alone makes it something worth serious attention. The following are a couple examples of how we’ve helped banks define their current and ideal cultures. Once these have been defined, a bank has a clear roadmap of how the organization needs to evolve. On-boarding, performance management, and incentive compensation structures can all be evolved to help a bank preserve the part of their culture that has gotten them to their current level of success while making the changes needed to better ensure the bank’s success in the future. The same holds true for banks acquiring or merging.

Well-known brands like Disney, Southwest Airlines, Harley Davidson, Ritz Carlton and Starbucks know exactly how important their cultures are to their positioning in the market and their ability to attract and retain loyal customers.

Isn’t it time banks start taking steps to define and align their cultures too?

Leveraging Your Expertise

In November’s edition of The Evolutionary Banker, I addressed a few trends that are changing the ways in which business owners and corporate decision-makers are making buy decisions. It’s imperative we understand these trends so we can adapt accordingly. One of the takeaways from November’s blog was that decision-makers are looking for their vendors and service providers to have more knowledge and expertise in their industry and with their types of businesses. The value proposition of today’s “generalist” salesperson continues to decline. The same holds true for the generalist relationship manager. Having a little knowledge about a lot of industries practically ensures you’ll position yourself as a commodity in the market.

In this edition of The Evolutionary Banker, I’ll walk you through the process of evaluating your professional and personal background in a way that will help you to better leverage your collective body of knowledge and professional expertise such that it will help you to focus your 2018 business development activities.

The process I will lay out for you is exactly the process I went through personally in 1999 when I transitioned from being a generalist business trainer, coach, consultant to one who developed deep industry expertise such that I am a sales culture expert for banks.

Now the value of “positioning” yourself and your bank as having industry expertise applies regardless whether your bank is in a rural market or a metropolitan market. However, what does differ is the execution of the strategy.

In rural markets, we coach relationship managers to tailor their presentation so that they highlight their years of experience and expertise with businesses similar to the business they’re calling on. As you meet with business owners in different types of businesses, your story has to change in order to highlight your expertise working with businesses similar to the one you’re calling on. That’s what “positioning” means — to consciously and ethically shape perceptions.

A quick but related side note, too many bankers call on businesses in different industries and say the very same things and represent their bank in identical ways. I call that “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” positioning. The relationship manager is hoping to hit the bulls-eye and say something that he or she hopes will resonate as unique with the prospect. Given that 3 out of 4 bankers present themselves in an identical way, the approach used by most RMs has the opposite effect of achieving differentiation — it positions them as a commodity.  

Back to the discussion of execution… in metropolitan markets, we’re seeing more and more relationship managers focus their outbound business development activities on one or two niches/segments as a means of boosting their productivity.

Our goal of my three recommendations below is to help you establish your market “sweet-spot.” Your sweet-spot is defined as that segment of the market where your talents, expertise, experience, track-record, and contacts are highly desirable and highly valued. Aligning all of these “assets” will make your business development activities far more productive in 2018. The following are the steps and evaluation process necessary to determine your sweet-spot:

#1. Realize you’ve already developed industry-specific knowledge: As a result of being a relationship manager for ten or twenty years or more, you have naturally developed deeper pockets of industry-specific knowledge based on the business you’ve conducted in the past.

Questions to help you assess your existing expertise include:

  • Are there certain industries where you’re naturally more comfortable talking to those types of business owners and decision makers?
  • Are there industries where you have a deeper knowledge of the industry, and a greater grasp of industry jargon and acronyms?
  • In what two or three industries have you done more business than other industries?
  • What industry concentrations exist in your existing portfolio?

These may represent industries that would be fruitful to focus on in 2018. But more analysis and reflection are required.

#2. Evaluate your upbringing: Without even realizing it, we may have been exposed to and learned about certain businesses either through our parents or the various jobs you may have held growing up. For example, if one of your parents was a doctor, likely you were exposed to numerous discussions throughout your childhood related to the medical field and being a doctor. If your market has a fair number of medical groups and hospitals, your upbringing will be very useful when calling on doctors, medical groups, and hospitals. If your parents owned an auto-parts business, likely you learned a lot about the automotive industry growing up. If your bank has banked companies in the automotive industry, the knowledge and stories you were exposed to growing up will be extremely useful when calling on automotive-related businesses in 2018.

Questions to help you assess your upbringing include:

  • What profession were/are your parents in?
  • What professions interested you growing up?
  • What were or are your hobbies?

These questions can help you assess whether or not any knowledge gained while growing up may be of use and leverage as you strive to determine your sweet-spot for 2018.

#3. In which industries do you have the most contacts? We say frequently in the Sales Honing Academy, “like fish, business people swim in schools.” We recommend assessing your database of contacts to determine where you have concentrations of contacts in the same industry. These concentrations of contacts represent an excellent and completely overlooked source of referrals and warm introductions. I recommend organizing all of your contacts by industry type. For example, group all of the doctors you know together, likewise list all of the contractors you know in another list. Keep working your way through your database until you get everyone (customers, colleagues, vendors, salespeople, friends and even family members) segmented by industry type.

Currently, your contacts are likely listed in alphabetical order. This makes them easy to find, but not easy to leverage. That’s a huge distinction. When you take the time to classify your contacts by industry type, your marketing productivity and the value you’re able to provide others will skyrocket.

The question you want to ask yourself when assessing your database is: In which two or three industries do I have the most industry contacts?

To summarize:

The world is changing. What we did in the past to be successful, likely isn’t going to sustain our success in the future. Knowing this, we need to start the process of changing the ways in which we market and sell the services offered by our bank. Your prospects and customers are looking for more knowledge, advice, and counsel from their vendors and service providers. Let’s make sure we adapt to the times! The recommendations above will move you a long way towards leveraging your experience, expertise, and your contacts.

What You Need To Know About The Changing World of Sales

The entire world is changing, so too is the world of sales. Astute bank leaders and relationship managers decipher these signs and adapt. Remember, extinction is what occurs when a species is unable to adapt to environmental changes. Many banks will face extinction over the next five years, but those that adapt will continue to thrive in this new era of selling.

The following are three trends that are affecting how we will develop new business:

  1. Direct access to decision-makers will diminish.
    If your relationship managers are having trouble getting in front of decision makers now, beware, it’s only going to get tougher. A lot tougher. CEOs and business owners alike are buried in assessing and trying stay ahead of all of the changes driven by technology, regulation, consolidation, and innovation. This means there will be less interest and time available for face-to-face meetings with bankers.
  2. Standardizing of the buying process.
    Buyers will continue to leverage technology in every area of business to drive up efficiency and drive down costs. Gartner estimates that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their purchase transactions without talking to a human. Going directly to the source and by-passing the traditional sales process and sales people all together is already being seeing in manufacturing, distribution and dealers. It’s only a matter of time till we’ll see it in banking.
  3. Decision-Makers are demanding more.
    The old needs-based selling model developed by IBM and Xerox is not entirely dead. But it’s close. The consultative sales model still offers a competitive advantage in slower evolving industries such as banking. But a new era of selling is emerging which calls for salespeople to have more expertise and industry specific knowledge. As markets become more crowded and business in general becomes more complex, business owners and corporate decision- makers are looking for more insights, recommendations and strategic advice from their vendors and partners. Your relationship managers must learn how to deliver value outside of the standard promises made by every banker of responsiveness, service and pricing. The new style of selling is called “authoritative selling.” Authority selling is the approach that will help you stand head and shoulders above  your competitors in a side-by-side comparison. Authorities have more than a surface level understanding of an industry. They have deep insight that becomes readily available to a prospect when relationship managers use industry specific terms and are able to refer to specific equipment used by their prospect by name. Authorities understand the industries pain points, not just the pain points of a specific company and that is a true competitive advantage. Relationship managers will be called on to bring more to the table if they hope to retain their long-time clients and remain successful in the future.

Simple Steps to Becoming an Authority and Expert

Relationship managers are typically fearful of seeing and defining themselves as authorities and experts in anything other than banking. Part of what it means to evolve means being open to redefining ourselves and our value proposition. The following are some simple steps you can take to better position yourself as more of an authority and expert.

  • Leverage your existing experience: Review your entire banking career; are there a couple industries where you’ve had more clients than other industries? Are there a couple industries where you’ve done significantly more transactions than other industries? Not that this is the sole criteria for choosing to focus a percentage of your business development time on one or two industries, but it is a consideration.
  • Consider the depth of the market: In rural markets, relationship managers don’t have the luxury of focusing on a particular industry. That said, for community banks in rural markets, your relationship managers still need to demonstrate industry specific knowledge and present themselves and their bank as having deep expertise in that industry. In metropolitan markets, relationship managers need to research and assess the size of various vertical niches in which they’re considering pursuing. Is the niche large enough with enough companies and businesses that match well with your banks credit appetite and product offering? As an example, in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, there are 4,228 “professional services” firms with revenues of $3M to $50M. That niche is more than large enough to focus some of your business development activities on becoming an expert at and known for working with professional services firms.
  • Leverage Online Platforms: Conducting industry research has gotten very easy. Googleand other search engines represent very powerful ways to search the internet for industry specific resources. In working with hundreds of relationship managers in rural and metropolitan markets helping them to implement a segmentation approach, we have found tons of useful resources that are free. Of course there are the “tried and true” resources such as D&B and advanced data platforms from Vertical IQ, Nielsen and Resonate.

The value proposition of today’s “generalist” banker is declining. Decision makers are expecting more insights and recommendations from their relationship managers that can positively impact the business. Simply providing a commercial loan or line of credit isn’t likely to sustain banks in the near future. Developing industry expertise that helps you differentiate yourself is crucial for on-going success.

The 2018 Sales Honing Academy is a great way for Relationship Managers to move away from generalists and start building value and relationships with prospects. We’re offering two programs in 2018 allowing you to pick the best option for your team. Learn more.