The Difference Between Micromanaging and Developmental Coaching

The intention behind the coaching is what distinguishes micro-managing from developmental coaching.

The intention of micro-managing is often driven either by an intention to catch an employee doing something wrong or discredit them and then be able to provide negative feedback, or to solidify a manager’s role, value (at least in their own eyes) and importance to a team or project.  The subconscious intent of micro-managing is punitive!  That’s a very important distinction.

Developmental coaching is entirely different because it’s collaborative and designed to give an employee more competence and confidence.  In short, developmental coaching is designed to build employees up!  Developmental coaching starts with an invitation to an employee which could sound like this, “I noticed how you were processing the ABC forms and I’d like to offer you a couple ideas that might save time and make your life a little easier, are you open to coaching?  Now let’s be clear, as a manager, you could also say “I noticed how you were processing the ABC forms and I’d like you to do them this way instead.”  The latter communication is very direct, which is not necessarily a problem depending on the tone of the communication.  But, it’s certainly not collaborative in nature.  In addition to strengthening an employee’s skills and knowledge, developmental coaching provides an opportunity to build and deepen your relationship with your employees which creates more trust and commitment.  All of which is positive.  The only possible downside is that developmental coaching requires a bit more time than a more direct approach of telling an employee how to correctly do something.  But the added time is well worth the investment.

Environment for Change

Whenever an organization feels the need to adapt, change or innovate, it must first create the right environment necessary for employees to feel comfortable and secure while they make the appropriate behavioral changes during the transition.

This and subsequent articles will focus on some of the most critical recommendations and “enlightened leadership qualities” necessary to help your team, department, and bank become more nimble and adaptive.

Enlightened Leaders Focus On Creating The Right Environment

Enlightened leaders know employees will be uneasy going through any change, be it a small internal process change or a large initiative such as a change of your core processor or implementing a new CRM.

During any change effort, employees get very primal in their needs and often quite insecure.  Employees want to know “What does this mean to me?” and “Is my job secure?”  Enlightened leaders know this and take specific steps to help nurture employees through the very predictable fear that is naturally associated with any change.

The following are a few simple, but impactful actions leaders can take to help create an empowering environment where change can happen in a timely and effective manner:

  • Acknowledge the obvious:  Executives and managers help defuse employee tension around change when they talk about it openly and often, especially in the early stages of the change process.  By talking about the change and the impact change can have on an organization, department or team, you are validating the feelings of employees while being empathetic.  This helps managers build trust and most importantly, begins to create an environment where employees feel comfortable coming to their manager to discuss their concerns and worries.
  • Lead by example: As a manager, your employees must see you change your behavior.  It has to be noticeable.  Furthermore, it’s not just enough for your employees to see you changing, they must also hear you talk about the impact these changes are having on you.  When a manager changes their behavior and then discusses it openly with their employees, this shows employees that while change is uncomfortable, their job security isn’t on the line.
  • Be vulnerable: The more transparent and real you can be as a manager about your own struggles and insecurities associated with change, the better.  Many changes in our lives, whether personal or professional, require us to go from a state of proficiency to a state of being a humble learner.  The fear is that being less than proficient in our jobs puts our jobs and our livelihood at risk because we’re being judged.  And if employees feel their livelihood is at risk, they likely will be highly resistant to change their behavior.  Having the courage as a leader and manager to be vulnerable is counter to the notion that good leaders are tough leaders.

The truth is that today’s fluid business landscape demands leaders be much more insightful and have a deeper understanding around what employees are really going through as you make change at your bank.

I will be sharing more leadership “gems” specific to how to become a 21st-century enlightened leader.

Developing 21st Century Enlightened Leadership In Your Bank

Look forward to a series of articles on enlightened leadership for organizational evolution. This first one will introduce change and inspire leadership.  Change starts with you.

Simply said, organizations don’t change.  Executives and employees are the ones who change, and as a result, organizations evolve.  All too often, executives and employees become comfortable in their habitual ways of doing things and rigid in their thought processes. However, as the pace of change continues to quicken, having an organization that can adapt, flex and evolve is essential to remaining successful.  At every level of a bank, supervisors, managers and executives must become a catalyst for the necessary changes and develop  their abilities to inspire employees to want to change.  To do this, you must be willing to be the first in your department to change.

Know What You’re Dealing With

When it comes to effective organizational change, think of a bell curve.  Imagine that the receptivity of employees to change in your bank were to be placed on the curve.  If there were 100 employees in your bank, here’s generally how your organization and employee population would break down:

  • 15% of your employees would be open and enthusiastic about a new direction or a new system.
  • 15% of your employees would be negative and resistant to change while preferring to keep doing things as they always had.
  • 70% of your employees representing that fat middle portion of the bell curve would neither be enthusiastically open nor negatively resistant to change.  They’re lukewarm about it and most likely trying to figure out “what does this mean to me?”.  This 70% would be somewhere between “cautiously optimistic” and “somewhat concerned” about the new direction.

As a manager, it is important to assess and “read” your team prior to, and during, a change initiative.. Getting employees bought-in and receptive to change is a crucial, difficult and a fluid job.  At different times, employees can become more positive or more negative. This will largely depend on what they’re being asked to do and how difficult or easy the change is for them. Employees often need to be managed and coached differently in order for them to feel comfortable changing their behavior.

In October’s blog, we’ll be discussing how enlightened leaders create an environment that’s conducive for change to occur.

Behind On Your 2017 Sales Goals?

Behind On Your 2017 Sales Goals?
Here’s what to do to salvage your year.

With Labor Day and the end of summer just around the corner, a sickening feeling is beginning to develop in the pit of their stomachs for a large percentage of relationship managers.

Do you know that feeling? The feeling of being behind in your 2017 production. Possibly way behind.

Lisa and I hear this every year at the end of summer. “My production seemed to be on track coming into June and my pipeline was pretty strong. A couple deals I thought were going to happen didn’t. And a couple other deals I was counting on aren’t going to happen until next year. Now I am way behind on my production goals.”

We’ve all been there. We all hate those sleepless nights, tossing and turning wondering where we’re going to find a few deals that will close quickly so we can salvage our year. And the pressure only gets worse as we move into September and the year marches on.

Here are five actions you can take immediately to salvage your year:

  1. Adjust your priorities – In order to find deals that have a possibility of closing this year, you must adjust your priorities from trying to develop new relationships to cultivating existing relationships. The probability of meeting with a prospective new customer for the first time in September and having that prospect turn into a new customer this year is remote. It can happen, but it is unlikely. In the time you have weekly to devote to business development, a disproportionate amount of time must be dedicated to reconnecting with those prospects you’ve already met.
  2. Leverage existing relationshipsMake a list of every prospect you’ve met with or spoken to in the past 18 months, but haven’t talked to or met with in the past two months. Consider even going back 24 months. You already have some type of relationship with these people…that’s what you need to build on and leverage if your hopes are to pull out a decent 2017. Leveraging existing relationships holds a much greater probability for new business this year, than initial prospect calls with new prospects. Remember, the business you close today is the by-product of your collective activities over the past 12 to 24 months. The relationships you initiate today are more likely to become closed transactions 12 to 24 months in the future. If it’s September and you’re behind on your production, at least 75% of your calling activities need to be focused on cultivating existing relationships.
  3. Don’t overlook turn-downs and lost deals – Circumstances change. Sometimes we forget that. Review every deal you turned down or lost to another bank in the past 18 months. Make a list of those borrowers and give them a call to check in and see how things are coming. With a reasonably high degree of frequency, the lenders and RMs we coach uncover a borrower whom they had written off where circumstances had changed and they were able to close a piece of new business. That happened with an RM last week where he called a borrower that “decided to go with another bank.” Well, the borrower didn’t switch banks as represented and, in addition, their circumstances had changed. Making them much more receptive to the structure offered by our client and the RM picked up a new $500,000 relationship. At this time of the year, you can’t afford to limit your possibilities as to where new business can come from. Turn-downs and lost deals represent another source of new business in 2017.
  4. Make more calls and schedule more appointments – When it’s September and you’re behind in your production, it is imperative you increase the number of phone calls made and appointments set every week. Again, the bulk of your time is spent calling prospects where you already have a relationship and trying to schedule an appointment where it makes sense to do so. You must be willing to suspend judgment and simply “make the call” when you’re looking for new business opportunities.
  5. Block time in your calendar – Most RMs make sales calls in between all of their other work as opposed to blocking time in their calendar to make phone calls. This lack of consistency in an RMs calling efforts creates a lack of consistency in their pipeline. It’s just that simple. Let me say that again…weak, inconsistent calling efforts usually create weak, inconsistent pipelines and mediocre production. One of the first disciplines Lisa and I develop with our coaching clients is how to develop a disciplined calling effort which starts with having a disciplined calendar and systematic time and priority management process. Hint: A “to-do” list is not what we’re talking about here. We recommend blocking at least one hour, four days a week (Tuesday through Friday) dedicated to calling prospects. And it needs to be the 1st task or project completed of your day. Period! By blocking the first hour of your day, you ensure the likelihood of actually doing the work. When we don’t schedule calling time or try to fit it in later in the day, the chances are much greater than you won’t make the calls. In fact, most RMs in this situation are behind in their production in large part because they haven’t made enough quality calls throughout the year.

In summary, a lot of business can get closed in the last four months of the year. If you are behind on your 2017 production, then a disciplined calling effort that is focused on prospects you’ve already met with or given proposals to is required through the remainder of the year. Even if all these efforts don’t translate into closed deals in 2017, your efforts will ensure a much stronger pipeline going into 2018 which also isn’t a bad thing.

If I can help you end 2017 on a stronger note, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 760-720-9270.

Best of luck,

Are Your Lenders “Completely Typical and Unmemorable” – Part Three

In this final blog in my three-part blog series on effective customer messaging strategies, I’m going to focus in on five steps you can do to tailor your message so that it resonates with each prospect and customer. Our goal is to create as much affinity as possible with each and every prospect with which we meet. As you may recall from Part Two of this blog series, affinity is a natural attraction that is formed between two parties due to their similarities. Also discussed in Part Two was narrow-casting which is the art of tailoring your message to your audience. By narrow-casting the messages we deliver to our prospects, we create affinity.

Differentiating ourselves from our competitors is one of the toughest things to do today, especially for banks as most offer nearly identical products and services. Narrow-casting is a powerful strategy that helps guard against sounding and selling like every other banker by developing a unique ability to communicate with customers in ways that resonate with each one.

Here are five steps you can take to make sure your communication strategy is honed for every sales call you go on be it with a prospect or an existing customer.

#1. Thoroughly read your prospect’s website – As you likely know, a company’s website is a carefully crafted expression of that company’s philosophy, values and service offerings. It’s like their company “fingerprint” in that it is extremely personal to them. A quality sales call deserves careful pre-call preparation which includes reading your prospect’s website. Don’t skim your prospect’s website! Read it! Ideally, you want to demonstrate deep industry and company knowledge in your sales call as a means of differentiating yourself from your competitors. The foundation of being able to do that is truly reading the prospect’s website.


#2. Learn your prospect’s positioning strategy – The development of a company website is usually quite a lengthy process. The layout of the pages, the images selected and the copy are all carefully crafted to make the right impression to their prospective customer. If you skim your prospect’s website, you will miss a lot of important information that will help you craft a communication strategy that will position you and your bank as the ideal choice. Notice the images used throughout the website. Do these images show an organization that is stable and traditional? Maybe the images show an organization that is innovative and progressive. Remember the old adage “a picture is worth a 1,000 words?” The images used on your prospect’s website starts the process of honing your communication strategy.

#3. Their positioning strategy becomes your positioning strategy – The copy used throughout your prospect’s website may have been written by a professional copywriter or possibly an internal marketing person. Regardless of who wrote the website copy, rest assured that a lot of people read, edited and honed that copy before it went live on their website. Notice the words and phrases used throughout the website. Likely you’ll see certain words and phrases used consistently throughout the website. When you find those words and phrases, you’ve hit pay dirt because those words and phrases give you the clues you need to really dial in how you position your bank and its products and services.

#4. Their words become your words – When a company makes references about the history of the company, the values and philosophies that they adhere to or commit to while delivering quality products and services with the utmost of integrity…THOSE are the exact words you want to use when describing your bank.

Real World Example:

The following words and phrases are taken verbatim from the “About” section of a very successful company’s website:

“Service has been the cornerstone of our historic growth and successful operation for the past fifty years.”

We pride ourselves on:

  • Partnership reputation
  • Understanding our customer’s culture
  • 24/7/365 availability
  • Ability to adapt and grow with our customer’s business trends

We have grown steadily during this time by following our motto… “exceeding expectations…together!” This philosophy represents not only our internal teams working together, but our associates working with customers to find creative and unique business solutions that will provide a more efficient and cost effective business model.”

The Key:

These words were carefully developed to tell a story that differentiates their company to their customers. Again, they are like corporate “fingerprints.” The words on your prospect’s website provide you with a clear customer messaging strategy. They tell you what’s important to them! Let your competitors describe their bank in generic terms over and over again. You now have a highly effective strategy to describe your bank in unique terms that will create affinity and that resonate with every prospect!
There is a very simple communication format for weaving those phrases called positioning statements into your conversations. Again, the goal of this strategy is to position your bank to be very similar in many ways to your prospect’s business.

How To Do It: Your positioning statement gets linked to a statement about your bank, product, service, culture, values and philosophies.

Your positioning statement: “Today, service really needs to be the driver of company growth and successful operation.

Statement about your bank: “Since the beginning, the founders have worked hard to instill a partnership mindset and culture in the bank. We strive to be available to our customers on a 24/7/365 basis which allows us to grow and adapt with our customers business trends.”

Expressed this way, this statement would create affinity and resonance with the owner of a company that espouses these virtues. It would also differentiate you powerfully from any other bankers the owner may be considering doing business with. You would be positioned as the ideal choice! That’s how powerful this strategy is.

#5. Integrity above all

The final point is the most important strategy of the bunch. With very little creativity and a high degree of integrity, it’s pretty easy to utilize a large percentage of positioning statements found on the website of your prospects when describing your bank and its products and services. However, the representations we make about our banks must be accurate.

If you work for an extremely conservative bank and you’re calling on a company that prides itself on being innovative and progressive, then it would be completely out of integrity to represent your bank as innovative and progressive.

In conclusion – In any highly commoditized industry, it is imperative sales people are able to utilize advanced customer messaging strategies to create affinity with prospects and successfully differentiate your bank from the six others that are competing for the business. Effective customer messaging takes time to develop. But if you’re calling on high quality prospects, why wouldn’t you take the time to give yourself a competitive advantage.

Are Your Lenders “Completely Typical and Unmemorable?” Part 2


Welcome to the second blog in a three-part series dedicated to the art and science of effective customer messaging.  As we discussed in my last blog, the common banking jargon and buzzwords used by most Lenders and Relationship Managers, position them as a commodity.  Sometimes good customer service, competitive rates, and broad selection of financial products are not enough to differentiate a bank from their competitors in today’s highly competitive business landscape.

23In this blog, I’ll be discussing the role of the following aspects that lead to more effective customer messaging:

  • Affinity – A powerful force used to differentiate and attract new customers
  • Narrow-casting – The art of tailoring your message to your audience
  • Thinking differently about what a company website represents

Well-Known Brands with Effective Customer Messaging Strategies

In my last blog, I referenced the following five companies who are exceptional at branding and messaging customers.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 7.15.41 AM

As we delve deeper into the subject of customer messaging, let’s briefly look at these five companies and their customer messaging strategies.

Two factors strongly contribute the effectiveness of their customer messaging strategy.

1. They know who is their ideal customer

In today’s saturated market, generalized, “one-size-fits-all” messaging that is designed for a broad audience  simply is not heard.  It’s just more noise in an already noisy marketplace.  Effective marketers target very specific types of customers —  ones they know from their experience are the “ideal customers.”

They do this for two reasons:

  • They don’t have the budget sufficient to effectively mass-market
  • Capturing the attention of new customers isn’t easy

2. Their marketing messages are crafted to resonate with their ideal customer

22This is called “narrow-casting” which is a fancy word for focusing your marketing messages such that they resonate with your ideal customer.  Just like a dog-whistle can only be heard by a dog, to create effective marketing messages, they must be designed and crafted to speak directly to the hearts and minds of a company’s ideal (most profitable and loyal) customer.  When done effectively, a marketing message creates an affinity or attraction between a company and their ideal customer.  That attraction causes a customer (new or prospective) to be interested in what a company is offering.  

Who are the ideal customers for the five companies identified above and what is their customer messaging strategy?

  • Harley Davidson’s ideal customers are men ages 35 to 65 who are either somewhat rebellious by nature or who want to break from convention and take to the freedom of the open road.
  • Gucci’s ideal customers are mostly wealthy or upper-middle class women primarily, but also men.  When you wear Gucci, you tell the world you’re sophisticated, successful and that “you’ve arrived.”
  • Starbucks ideal customers are hipsters of every age.  Starbuck’s is an experience and their locations have become extensions of our living rooms where people hangout for hours and offices where people meet to discuss business.
  • Disney’s ideal customers are kids who want to go to the “happiest place on earth.”  Disney’s brand speaks to all parent’s desire to create lasting family memories.
  • Southwest Airlines is “the fun airline” whose ideal customers are friendly, fun and like low fares.

What do you notice about all five of these well-known brands?  Their messaging is carefully designed to speak and resonate with their ideal customers.  These companies craft marketing messages that create affinity between the company and their ideal customers.

21What Is Affinity?

Advertisers have been using affinity to attract their ideal customers for centuries!

Affinity – Noun

  1. an attractive force
  2. a natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, or idea
  3. a person, thing or idea for which such a natural attraction is felt.

When Lisa and I work with Relationship Managers and Lenders on improving their customer messaging, we guide them through an evaluation process that helps begin to define their target market and their ideal customer.  If you’re going to improve how you message customers, you must abandon the notion that saying the same things you’ve always said to different customers is effective.  It’s marginally effective at best.  You want to communicate in a way that creates affinity between you and your prospective customer.

There are many benefits to creating affinity with your ideal customer.  It helps you and your team:

  • Focus your marketing efforts and make you more efficient
  • Leverage your strengths
  • Become more effective at differentiating yourself from your competitors
  • Bring more value to your customers by better leveraging your knowledge, expertise and experience
  • Become better able to put yourself in situations where you’re most attractive to your ideal prospect

If your desire is to work smarter, not harder, you must become more strategic and disciplined about your marketing efforts.

Thinking Differently About Company Websites

Lisa and I are huge believers in having a disciplined and in-depth, pre-call planning process.  If you’re preparing for an in-person sales call with a potential ideal customer, why wouldn’t you thoroughly prepare?  After all, ideal customers are your bank’s most profitable and loyal customers.

Unfortunately, the pre-call planning process of the majority of Relationship Managers is anything but disciplined, and it certainly isn’t “in-depth.” All too often, pre-call planning happens in the car while driving to the sales call.

Part of a thorough pre-call planning process involves reading (not skimming) and studying, (you heard me right) “studying” a company’s website.

A company’s website is far more than just a presentation of facts, history, products and services offered by a company.

A Website Is Like a Fingerprint

Everything on a company’s website is designed with a purpose and every sentence and paragraph is carefully crafted.  So much time and energy goes into the development of a website because it is usually the hub of a company’s marketing platform.  It is an individual and unique expression of a company much like a fingerprint is unique to each individual.

Consider what else beyond the surface level information you can glean from a company’s website:

  • What the owner’s values are and what the company values
  • What it takes to build a successful company
  • The vision and mission of the company
  • What differentiates them from their competitors
  • What is their philosophy on customer service
  • What they are committed to
  • Are they a charitable company and if so, what charities do they support
  • How they present and position their products and services to their prospective customers

This information is the critical content every Relationship Manager and Lender should be using to craft much more effective marketing messages.  

In my final blog post on this subject, I’ll be focusing on the development of a true customer messaging strategy that is unique and specific to each of your team’s sales calls.


Are Your Lenders “Completely Typical and Unmemorable?”


The following is part one of three for a series of posts that will help you develop a clear and unique “message strategy” for every sales call.  By utilizing the following tools and prompts, your sales calls will make a stronger connection with your customer and therefore be more effective.

The messaging and positioning strategies I’ll be discussing are very advanced sales strategies.  Few commercial lenders even know about them, let alone know how to utilize them.  They are without a doubt incredibly useful in helping you differentiate yourself from your competitors.  The reality is advertisers have been using these highly effective messaging and positioning techniques and strategies for decades to sell billions of dollars’ worth of products and services.

Why it is important to have a strong message.

Approximately a decade ago, I was in Line A (remember Southwest’s old boarding system?).  I was chatting with a very smartly dressed business woman. We discussed business and when I told her of my new client, she replied, “Interesting. I had a couple of their lenders come out and meet with me a few months back.  Then again, I’ve been contacted by at the lenders from five different banks in the last six months.”

Intrigued, I asked her, “So, what was your experience meeting with these lenders?”  To which she replied, “The experience was completely typical and unmemorable.”  Then she added, “Don’t get me wrong, they were nice, knowledgeable friendly bankers.”

OUCH!  “Completely typical and unmemorable.”  Sometimes the truth hurts.  It is common for most sales people in any industry to make similar claims and statements when speaking to customers, but all the more reason for you to develop a strong message that will break through this monotony and make yourself memorable.  

19Messaging Rule #1: Differentiation Occurs By Behaving and Communicating Differently

Most every banker touts their bank’s customer service, responsiveness, and competitive rates as differentiators.  The problem is, so does every other banker, which only further commoditizes an already commoditized industry.  The first step you can take in the journey of learning how to message customers effectively is to become aware of the fact that much of what you’re saying to customers at the present time isn’t helping you differentiate yourself…it is actually hurting you!

We have some bank clients who developed almost story-like presentations about their bank.  These stories include statements such as “we’re family owned” or “we’ve been around for over 100 years” and the assumption is that these statements matter or are meaningful to the customer.  Notice I said the assumption is that the message is meaningful to or resonates with the recipient.  Now, if you’re calling on the owner of a family run business, stating that your bank is family-owned will very likely “resonate” with the prospect and position you favorably.  Likewise, if you’re calling on a company that has been in existence for over 100 years, stating your bank has been in existence for over 100 years will likely also position your favorably.  In these scenarios, the “messaging strategies” will likely be on point.  But to use that message with any other prospect other than the owner of a family run business or a 100 year old company, the message will likely have no value because it doesn’t resonate.  Said another way, the statement is just more noise in an already noisy market!  It’s the wrong messaging strategy for THAT prospect.  The lender’s positioning strategy was not aligned with the recipient of the message.

Since we’re not selling to robots, why would we think that by making the same claims and representations over and over and over to individuals would be an effective way to position ourselves as unique?   Why would we wing-it and make all sorts of assumptions about what will resonate to a prospect?  Lisa and I call this “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” customer messaging for obvious reasons. Are you ready to take the blindfold off?

20Messaging Rule #2:  You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression

Messaging customers effectively is both an art and a science.  It’s crucial to do it effectively, especially on an initial prospect call (your first in-person sales call) because it only takes a few minutes before a prospect forms an impression about you and your bank.  We’ve all heard the adage, “you never get a second chance to form a first impression.”   This couldn’t be more true than on an initial sales call.

To learn how to message customers effectively, we first must learn, understand and begin to utilize certain terminology:

Positioning – “Positioning” is a term and powerful strategy born out of the advertising industry. The definition and intent behind positioning is:

  • To make a positive and distinctive first impression based upon saying or doing things differently from how your competitors communicate or behave on an initial prospect call.
  • A marketing and communication strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position in a market, and in the mind of the customer relative to competing brands.
  • How you differentiate your product or service from that of your competitors and then determine which market niche to fill. Positioning helps establish your product’s or service’s identity within the eyes of the customer.
  • Positioning defines where your product or service stands in relation to others offering similar products and services in the marketplace.

Good positioning makes a product unique, forms an emotional connection with the customer literally within 30 seconds to a couple minutes of first contact with the prospect.  Good positioning also makes prospective customers strongly consider doing business with your company as a distinct benefit to them.  In a cluttered and noisy marketplace with lots of products and brands offering similar benefits, effective positioning:

  • Makes a brand or product stand out from the competition
  • Helps a company command higher pricing
  • Creates an emotional bond between a company and its customers
  • Creates affinity or attraction which helps draw customers to a particular company
  • Allows a product and its company to ride out bad times more easily

Well-known brands with effective customer messaging strategies:

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 1.27.33 PM

As it relates to messaging customers, it is critical to understand that a company’s positioning strategy is to design messages that will resonate and be interesting to a specific demographic of the market.  Said another way, a company’s messages are designed to attract the attention of the company’s ideal customer.

Action Item:

In preparation for my next blog, I want you to consider the following questions:

  1. Who are the ideal customers for the five companies identified above and what is their customer messaging strategy?
  2. What is the intent of your current messaging strategy?  
  3. Who is your ideal customer?
  4. Do you find yourself describing the bank in nearly identical ways to different people?
  5. Look at your bank’s website.  What message are customers receiving and is it distinctive?  (Look at your competitors’ sites to find out.)

For part 2 of our Effective Message Development series, we will address:

  • How to create affinity (an attractive force) that causes customers to want to do business with you
  • How to do research prior to a sales call that helps you design a customer messaging strategy
  • How to develop a customer messaging strategy that is unique for every sales call

Ray Adler

Ray Adler
CEO & President
BTI Growth Advisors, Inc.

Your 30 Year Old Marketing Practices

Your Car Isn’t Thirty Years Old, Why Are Your Lenders Utilizing Marketing Strategies That Are?

4It’s probably a safe bet that the car you’re currently driving wasn’t made in 1987.  In the past 30 years, cars have improved a lot.  Fuel efficiency, emission reduction, technological advancements and safety features have improved dramatically.

However, when it comes to how lenders market and sell bank products and services, there has been little if any change over the past thirty years.  Let’s examine various trends that support the need for banks and lenders to evolve their thinking and strategies as it relates to marketing.

#1.  Technology Continues to Devalue the Role of the Sales Person

It’s like this in every highly commoditized industry.  Customers have grown very comfortable doing their own product and company research and making their own buying decision without the need for interacting with a sales person.  Cars, appliances, furniture, insurance policies and thousands of other commodity products can be purchased from the convenience of our homes.  And with services like Amazon Prime, your purchases arrive often within 18 to 24 hours.  The cold hard fact is that the internet, massive advancements in data mining, credit scoring and loan processing technologies continues to devalue the role of sales people.  Simply said, lenders like branches are becoming obsolete.

5Now, we’re not saying that there won’t be a role for lenders in the future of banking.  But we are saying that if steps aren’t taken adjust to this trend, customers will continue to favor pricing as the primary differentiator when all other factors are similar.  Part of the solution to combat this trend is to take steps to increase the value your lenders are able to deliver to customers by increasing their knowledge and expertise.  Lenders must become more knowledgeable on a much broader array of subjects beyond lending.  Developing niche industry expertise is one powerful way to raise the value you’re able to provide your customers as well as improve their ability to differentiate themselves from your competitors.

#2.  Your Competitors Are No Longer Just Banks

Online lending platforms are growing rapidly and gobbling market share at a feverish clip.  Your competitors are no longer the other 15 to 20 banks in your market.  Recent research documents that C&I lending tanked from a 9.0% annual rate in Q2 of 2016 to only 3.5% in Q3.  While the pending election likely played a factor is that decrease, the fact remains that nonbank lending sources are capturing your market share at an alarming rate.  These online lending platforms are growing in their sophistication as well as increasing the loan size they’re able to facilitate.

6To provide a bit more context to this issue, eCommerce has been steadily growing over the past five years. Total transaction volume hit $327 billion in 2016, up from $202 billion in 2011. More brick-and-mortar-focused retailers are stepping up their online game and increasing the percentage of their sales that come from online channels, and Web-only retailers have been growing at an impressive clip, too.  Retailers have spent these years honing the shopping experience on their websites. But just when they thought they knew their consumers, things are changing again.

One of the biggest impediments to changing and evolving with the times is the herd mentality or “group think” that exists in companies.  As an industry we must place a high value on and encourage divergent and disruptive ideas.  Senior executives who have been in banking thirty and forty years must tap into the insights that younger bank employees have to offer.  When was the last time your bank conducted an employee engagement survey or any type of survey?  It’s short-sighted to believe that financial performance means your bank is running smoothly.  Employees are an incredible untapped resource that can help your bank evolve and improve in order to stay relevant and competitive.  The ability to embrace change is giving certain banks a true competitive advantage.  The inability to change or to be in denial about the need to change is becoming more and more risky.  

#3 Not Changing Is Riskier Than Changing

7The rise of social media is shaking up things in surprising ways across the board. The emergence of mobile as a major shopping channel is putting new power into consumers’ hands. Customers expect to use all channels as though they are a single experience, requiring tight integration across those channels. And big data now makes it possible to gain deeper insight into consumers more than has ever before.  Other industries such as airlines, hospitality and retailers have been utilizing big data to drive tailored product and service offerings and revenues for over twenty years.  With few exceptions, the banking industry has only recently (within the last five years) started venturing into the world of big data and data mining.  Regional, business and community banks must explore these new technologies as they represent significant cost and time savings which translates into faster response times.

What does this mean for banks? Everything. It means the competition, which has already been fierce, won’t get any easier. It means there’s a huge opportunity to capture new market share—and a substantial risk of losing customers and market share to banks who can’t execute effective strategies that address social, mobile, and big data in addition to increasing the value proposition offered to business owners and corporate decision makers .

8#4. Changing Business-to-Business (B2B) Sales Trends

The era of selling in which we’ve long operated is dying. Significant shifts in the business-to-business (B2B) buying process have transformed selling as we know it. No longer will the “jack-of-all, master-of-none” shotgun marketing approach and a bloated database of COIs be enough for lenders to succeed.  One of your weightiest responsibilities as CEO, President or EVP of Commercial or Branch banking will be not only planning for the future but also anticipating it. 

The following are a couple of the sales trends affecting B2B sales.  Your bank and lenders need to understand these and begin to implement new strategies if you intend to remain competitive in the next three to five years:

  • Decision Makers Want More.  Competitive rates, responsiveness and excellent customer service used to provide companies with a competitive advantage.  That’s no longer the case.  These attributes are now a given and the bare minimum to compete.  Touting these to prospects no longer differentiates you from your competitors, it commoditizes you.  Your lenders must say and do things differently going forward if you hope to set your bank apart from your competitors.  Simply said, business owners and corporate decision makers are starting to look for “authorities” and “specialists” to provide a higher caliber of advisory services beyond the ability to facilitate a loan transaction.  The value proposition of the “generalist” is declining quickly.  Having a little knowledge on many different industries insures you’re positioned as a commodity.
  • It’s Only Getting Tougher To Get In Front of Decision Makers  If your lenders are having difficulty gaining access to decision-makers now, beware. It’s only going to get tougher to gain access to these key people in the foreseeable future. Time constraints mean prospects and customers are showing less interest in attending traditional face-to-face meetings with lenders. In addition, the buying process at many organizations is being standardized through the use of requests for proposals (RFPs) virtually making a “personal relationship” with key executives nearly impossible.  Customers are also increasingly choosing to use technology to manage purchase transactions rather than working with sales people directly. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their purchasing transactions without talking to a human. 

Lenders will have to utilize new and unique ways to get their name in front of decision makers while positioning themselves as an authority.  Those opportunities do exist through writing articles, giving presentations and by raising your visibility and authority in market niches that play to the individual strengths of each lender.

The world of banking and sales does not change in a vacuum. There are signs of this change all around us.  Astute bank executives decipher these signs and adapt instead of clinging to what worked in the past but will no longer be successful in the future.  

Banks can no longer afford to rely primarily on the traditional COI referrals from real estate brokers, CPAs, insurance brokers and attorney for deal flow as they have for the past thirty years.  Telling customers your customer service is what sets you apart as most banks websites still tout only serves to commoditize your bank and the industry.  Ten years ago the claim was effective, today it’s just noise.

Extinction is what happens when an organism, organization or industry clings to what worked in the past beyond the point of needing to adapt. Many companies in every industry will face extinction over the next five years, but those that adapt will thrive in this new and evolving business and sales environment.

Ray Adler and his partner Lisa Bashor are transformational leaders in the banking industry.  With over 17 years and over 100 banks as clients, Ray and Lisa bring deep industry experience and valuable insights that help banks leaders, managers and employees adapt and break from tradition marketing and sales strategies.  The #1 reason banks engage Ray and Lisa is to help them develop and implement strategic, choreographed out-bound marketing and sales programs that work in conjunction with and greatly enhance a bank’s existing in-bound marketing efforts.

To learn about developing an out-bound marketing and sales program in your bank, contact Ray Adler at 760-720-9270 or email at

Ray Adler

Ray Adler
CEO & President
BTI Growth Advisors, Inc.

What If CPAs and Real Estate Brokers Stopped Referring Deals To Your Lenders?

What Would Happen To The Growth of Your Bank If Real Estate Brokers and CPAs Stopped Feeding Your Lenders Deals?

7After 17 years and over 100 banks as clients, my partner Lisa and I continue to review dozens and dozens of lender marketing plans every year.  95% of these marketing plans have a section in them that reads as follows:

Referral Sources

Focus on those who can refer quality deals such as:

  • CPAs (With a few names listed)
  • Real Estate Brokers (With a few more names listed)
  • Attorneys (More names listed)
  • Insurance Brokers (More Names Listed)

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cultivating referrals sources.  We all like referrals.  The problem is lenders have become too reliant on the actions of others for deal flow.  Furthermore, the business development strategies utilized by your lenders earlier in their careers to develop new business have gotten dull and in-effective.  This one factor, being overly reliant on third party referral sources, is one of the biggest (but not the only) reasons approximately 50% of all lenders fail to hit their annual sales goals.

Fantastic!  Your In-bound Marketing Efforts are Working…Sort Of!

“In-bound” marketing efforts are defined as the opportunities your network feeds you.  The deal flow from traditional COIs is the by-product of developing relationships with professional colleagues in your market.

We’ve worked with and coached many savvy lenders who have cultivated extraordinary relationships with extremely well-connected centers of influence (COIs).  These lenders are the envy of all the other lenders in your bank because of the quality and quantity of deal flow that their COIs provide.  These lenders produce, $15M to $20M or more like clockwork every year and the bulk of those deals usually come from four or five high profile, well-connected COIs.  These lenders should be congratulated because they have done a fantastic job identifying and developing mutually satisfying relationships with quality professionals who have a client base that matches well with their bank’s credit appetite and ideal customer profile.  This didn’t just happen.  It was developed over years.

The problem is this isn’t the way it works for most lenders.  For the majority of lenders, their “COIs” are a collection of professional colleagues and acquaintances most of whom have very diverse clientele.  Every lender has a few high quality COIs and then a number of COIs that are less ideal.  Because of that, the referrals these COIs provide are also a hodge-podge array of opportunities.  The consequences of having to sift through this mixed bag of referrals include:

  • Wasted time and energy meeting with poor quality prospects
  • Wasted internal resources when lenders work on, spread and submit marginal deals
  • Working on deals that are too small or are marginally profitable
  • Frustration when our efforts don’t convert to closed deals
  • Embarrassment of having  to turn down the prospect and then, having to tell your COI of the news
  • Not hitting sales goals as a result of investing too much time on low to poor quality prospects
  • Not receiving an annual bonus because of poor production

But What About Your Out-bound Marketing Efforts?

5“Out-bound” marketing efforts are defined as the new business opportunities your lenders create directly with the owners and senior executives of targeted companies in your market.

The majority of banks that we’ve worked with over the past 17 years have utilized varying types of out-bound marketing such as being an event sponsor, sponsoring a booth at an industry trade show or annual conference or advertising in a trade publication.  But that’s usually where most of a bank’s out-bound marketing efforts end.  There exists no choreographed, highly focused out-bound marketing where the bank’s marketing efforts and the sales efforts of lenders are working in unison to build market share.

This isn’t a discussion of good or bad, meaning referrals are bad and creating your own new business opportunities is good.  This is a discussion of how to make your bank’s out-bound business development efforts more productive, strategic and focused.

The business landscape continues to change, yet lenders continue to approach today’s rapidly evolving market with business development and sales strategies used for the past twenty to thirty years.  Most of us are not driving a car built in 1987 because technology and safety features have advanced significantly in the past thirty years.  Why as an industry would we rely so heavily on the outdated sales approached utilized well over thirty years ago?

How Does A Lender Produce $3.5M in 2015 and $10.5M By July 2016?

This is just one of dozens of real life examples where we’ve helped lenders become much more productive.  This is what can happen when a lender learns how to work smart, “play to their strengths” and apply more contemporary marketing and differentiation strategies.  Working harder gets you incremental productivity gains.  Working smarter gets you exponential gains in productivity.  Gains in productivity aren’t difficult to achieve provided you look at your market and your sales efforts with a different set of lenses.  There is nothing more valuable than the value of a “fresh perspective” to create viable new opportunities.

The biggest impediment to helping lenders and sales managers become more productive is their outdated thinking.  Nearly every lender in every State targets real estate brokers and CPAs as their primary source of deal flow.  How unoriginal!  The second impediment to improving lender productivity are senior executives don’t see the value in developing the single biggest asset any company has…its employees.  Talk about outdated thinking given today’s war for talent.  Your employees and the manner in which they advise your customers is the only thing that differentiates your bank from the twenty five other banks competing in your market.  

Ready to Hone Your Out-Bound Business Development Efforts?

For 17 years, Lisa and I have been dedicated to rebuilding the reputation of the banking industry, one banker at a time and one conversation at a time.  We enjoy sharing contemporary ideas, resources and tools that are consistent with today’s help bankers to perform better.

Help your lenders get a strong start by [wp_colorbox_media url=”#inline_content” type=”inline” hyperlink=”downloading my newest ebook”], Taking An Evolutionary Approach To Lender Marketing Plans – Leading Edge Strategies For Sharpening Lender Production.

It’s only 16 pages, but packed with modern insights, exercises and fresh perspectives designed to help lenders and their sales managers to work smarter and to learn how to become more productive.

If you’d like to discuss your bank’s current out-bound marketing efforts, please call me at 760-720-9270 or email me at

Lisa and I wish you much success in 2017!

Happy New Year!

Ray Adler

Ray Adler
CEO & President
BTI Growth Advisors, Inc.


The Most Undisciplined Sales People On The Planet

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.