Sales Culture Tune-Up

Sales Culture Tune-Up A to Z (Part 3 of 3)

The changes brought on by the pandemic and migration to digital channels has truly made sales and selling even more challenging. Sales teams cannot afford to be complacent as the country reopens and we collectively continue to adapt to our current circumstances.

This week we’re doing to dive even deeper by looking at the importance of having a clear marketing strategy and several considerations when considering how to best deploy sales training and sales coaching in your organization.

A Clear Marketing Strategy and Plan:

Have the leaders of your organization agreed on who your sales teams should be talking to and what they should be saying to get the biggest return on your investment in precious sales and marketing energy?

Does your sales team take more of a “shotgun” approach to the market or are they laser-focused on your target market?

All too often, the marketing and sales functions operate as separate entities never quite getting on the same page. There needs to be a clear marketing strategy and plan which includes four key components:

Target Market:

  • Is there clarity about the characteristics of your ideal prospect?
  • Does your sales team understand the demographic, geographic, and psychographic profile of the kinds of people and companies they should be laser-focused on selling to? If not, you’re wasting precious resources.

Three Unique’s:

  • What are the three differentiating characteristics that make your organization different or better than your competitors? Nearly every company touts their customer service, so you are going to have to come up with something more creative than that to set yourself apart.

Proven Process:

  • Does your sales team have a 1-page visual illustration of the way you take care of your customers, from the minute they become customers to the time they become long-term satisfied business partners? This is a powerful tool that “paints a picture” of what the customer can expect doing business with your company. It also will differentiate you from your competitors while making prospects feel more comfortable becoming customers.


  • Does your company offer a pledge or promise that reduces the fear of adoption? A guarantee eliminates objections encountered in the marketing and sales process.

There is a good chance that your marketing and sales functions are not working in unison and the above should give you some things to consider making them more aligned.

Sales Training and Sales Coaching:  Like sales cultures, sales training and coaching comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. If your sales team is like many, you have a gamut of experience from veterans with more than 25 years experience, seasoned personnel with 10 to 15 years experience and newer sales folks with less than seven years experience.

Below are a few considerations to help you make the best choice when it comes to deploying sales training in your company:

  1. Internal or External Resources: Many types of skill-based training can be taught by internal subject matter experts. However rarely does an internal sales trainer have as much credibility as an external sales trainer who has “seen it all.”
  2. Transactional or Relationship Sale: Make sure your sales training partner has expertise in the type of sales process used by your sales team to sell your product or service. Without philosophical alignment with your sales type, the sales training won’t resonate with your sales team.
  3. Assess Training Needs: To ensure your investment of time and financial resources is maximized, you can use a variety of means to accurately assess the sales training needs of your team. Focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one interviews with sales managers and sales personnel and reviewing prior activity and production reports will give you a good understanding of the training priorities of your sales team. This is the basis for the customization of your sales training.
  4. Delivery Process: Studies show that training that is focused both on content and duration is more easily internalized and utilized than training that spans one or more days. Remember the mind can only absorb what the butt can endure. Training that occurs in a cadence such as monthly webinars followed by group coaching calls enables teams to immediately “apply” what they’ve learned while sharing best practices as they proceed through the training.
  5. Sales Manager Engagement: This above every other factor discussed is the single biggest predictor of your ROI from sales training. Optimally, every sales manager would participate in the sales training as well as demonstrate usage of the tools and strategies presented in the training. This also leads to much more effective coaching and behavior reinforcement when sales managers know, understand, and utilize the content presented.
  6. Accountability: There is extraordinarily little application ─ let alone sustained sales improvement without accountability. If sales managers don’t properly set expectations concerning usage of the processes and tools provided, sales personnel will revert to their old habits of behavior within a week. A portion of weekly sales meetings should be dedicated to learning, sharing success stories and best practices.

In conclusion, improving your sales culture is simple, but not easy. Many factors serve as levers to drive sales behaviors and ultimately sales results. Too often, these variables are evaluated in a vacuum rather than holistically. The more aligned each of these variables, the more effective your sales organization becomes. If you start with a clear understanding of the type of sales and customer experience your company is trying to create and work backward, that process will lead you to see clear disconnects in your sales operation.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call me at 760-720-9270.

Have a great rest of your week,


Sales Culture Tune-Up

Sales Culture Tune-Up A to Z (Part 2 of 3)

This week we’re doing to dive deeper into the subject starting with another crucial sales culture component, performance management.

Performance Management:  Another key component of your sales culture is how sales performance is managed. Some companies have a low-pressure sales culture where sales performance is loosely managed. In these companies, sales managers act more like sales supervisors than sales managers and sales leaders. Little attention is paid to hitting quarterly milestones and there are very few consequences if any for not hitting annual sales goals.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have companies with high-pressure sales cultures. In these companies, weekly sales activities are tracked and measured against minimum activity standards. Sales managers track sales team activities closely via a dashboard. If a sales rep’s activities fall below minimums for two weeks in a row, the rep meets with their sales manager to diagnose and correct the situation.

Hitting quarterly milestones is important and provides real-time objective performance feedback. When weighed against a rep’s pipeline, sales managers move quickly to get a sales rep on a “performance plan.” If annual goals are not met, the sales rep is terminated at the end of the year if not before.

While I have briefly painted a picture of two sales culture extremes, the trick is to decide exactly how diligent your company is going to be concerning setting activities standards, tracking activities, goal setting, hitting quarterly milestones, and how frequent sales managers sit down with sales reps to review their year-to-date activities. My personal belief is sales managers should meet quarterly at a minimum with their most seasoned salespeople to review YTD production, pipeline, and business development activities and more frequently with all other sales personnel depending on production levels. A key function of any sales manager is as a developer of people and it is in these one-on-one meetings where sales managers can develop their people.

Most companies fall somewhere in between the two extremes presented. The key though is to decide what is the right balance of sales oversite for your organization then have a performance management system that is aligned with that approach to managing sales.

Hiring and On-Boarding:  Many employment problems can be prevented with strong and consistent hiring and onboarding process.

  • What are the criteria being used to evaluate, hire, and onboard salespeople?
  • Does your onboarding process proudly present the history of your company and the values that have driven your success?
  • Are performance expectations defined clearly upfront before an employment offer is presented so that a prospective employee understands fully all aspects of your sales culture?

Past performance does not always predict future sales success. Salespeople by nature are good at selling themselves. All too often, salespeople interview well and make impressive claims of past sales performance. I am still surprised at how rarely a hiring company follows up with a candidate’s prior employer to verify past sales performance. Seems common sense, but verification of past performance is essential. Your core values also play a critical role in the screening process, to help you identify salespeople with the habits, skills, and industry knowledge to be successful and who also fit your culture. You must have both!

Incentive Compensation:  Incentive plans are another key tool in your sales culture toolbox. Done effectively, incentive plans can increase employee productivity, cultivate employee engagement, and maximize profits. Many incentive plans just do not work. Some pay out too much (wasted money), some too little (not motivating), and some just come to be expected (an entitlement).

To design a proper incentive plan, before thinking about sales outcomes like revenue growth and increase in the number of new customers, you first better ask yourself what are the sales behaviors you are trying to drive? When a company incents for growth, salespeople focus on closing transactions, not relationships. If your company touts being “relationship-focused” as does the banking industry, yet your company incents for closing deals, there is a disconnect between what your company said it’s about and the behaviors of your sales personnel. Incenting for growth does not drive the behaviors needed to improve relationship profitability.

A balanced scorecard approach “weights” a myriad of desired outcomes such as fee income, revenue growth, portfolio growth, individual customer profitability, referrals to internal partners, referrals to external partners and links them to key sales behaviors is required.

If customer retention and improving the profitability of each customer are important, you’ll need a “balance of behaviors” reinforced by your incentives.

Have a great rest of your week,


Sales Culture Tune-Up

Sales Culture Tune-Up A to Z (Part 1 of 3)

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic-induced twilight zone of the past year, now is the perfect time to evaluate the weaknesses and strengths in your sales culture. Just as your engine is what powers your car, the sales and marketing efforts are what power the revenue growth of your business.

Working with clients, we notice two distinct types of sales organizations:

  • Sales teams that are hitting on all cylinders and the rest of the departments are struggling to keep up.
  • Sales teams that are not hitting on all cylinders ─ there are stress factors that need to be addressed.

This three-part blog was created by studying those high-functioning sales teams vs. those that are struggling. Regardless of your industry, banking, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, transportation, or telecommunications, many companies are still grappling with the magnitude of the impact the pandemic has had on their company. The reality is for many companies to survive and prosper, their sales efforts must improve! Read more

optimize bank

Finding Profits Among Increasing Margin Pressure

If you’re like most companies, making money off your spreads has only gotten tougher. Cutting expenses can only get you so far before you truly start limiting future growth. Pulling on the same ol’ tried and true financial levers only gets you so far as to improve your financial picture. To strengthen the financial outlook and future of your organization, you’ll want to look at how your organization optimizes and synchronizes all of the moving parts of your business.

Let’s Dig A Little Deeper…
If your company is like most, your managers, supervisors, and employees wrestle with the 136 issues simultaneously. For the organization not fine-tuned, “fire-fighting” and undue stress are often the organization’s modus operandi. These reoccurring issues fatigue employees, drain company resources, and chew up profit. Read more

Your Pipeline Report

Three Reasons Your Pipeline Report Is A Poor Sales Management Tool

95% of banks use a pipeline report as the primary means of managing sales. The only problem is your pipeline report provides important data on where a deal is in the underwriting, documentation, and funding processes…but tells absolutely nothing about the marketing and business development activities that created the deal. Said another way, your pipeline report is an excellent funding tool, but a poor sales management tool.

If you’re still using a pipeline report as the sole sales management tool, then your bank’s sales culture is stuck in the 20th century and is in desperate need of modernization. In this blog, I’ll provide three reasons why it’s imperative to address modernizing your sales culture in 2021. Read more

Is Your Bank Ready For Predictive Sales Management?

How Sales Managers Can Better Assist Commercial Lenders To Achieve Their Annual Sales Goals

On January 1st of every year, we in sales face the same dilemma, how are we going to meet or exceed our sales goals for the year? It all comes down to how are we going to invest our time and which path will provide the most direct route to sales goal attainment? It’s easy to become unfocused as we look for and pursue various sales opportunities. This point is reinforced by the following data: Read more

To Grow Loans In 2021 (And Preserve NIM), You’ll Need “Blue Ocean” Sales Strategies

Which would you prefer ─ to compete against 3 to 5 other financial institutions or compete against only one other bank?

Now it’s not a trick question. But why do commercial lenders consistently put themselves in an unenviable position of having to compete against 3 to 5 other institutions to close a transaction? Why do commercial lenders consistently pursue sales opportunities where at best they are positioned as a commodity where rates are a primary differentiator? Read more

Bank PPP strategies

It Takes More Than Deposits To Create A Banking “Relationship” With PPP Customers

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it hundreds of times. Over the recent months, when discussing a bank’s experience facilitating PPP loans, the banking executive I’d be talking to would say, “when we made a PPP loan to a non-customer, we required them to bring over their deposits.” And what was so interesting about this very predictable reoccurring response was the tone each banker used when saying the words “we required them to bring over their deposits.” There was almost a victorious tone to their communication as if to say, “we achieved the goal of creating a banking relationship”.
Read more

Banking Pandemic

Three Things Your Bank Can Do To Convert PPP Customers Into Full Banking Relationships

If your bank is like a lot of banks, you did more business in a few weeks, than you did in the past 5 to 10 years because of the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program.  Congratulations, the value proposition of being a community bank has never been stronger! Hundreds of thousands of smaller businesses learned very quickly that having a relationship with a banker who cares about them has real value.

So now what? Successfully on-boarded PPP customers offer an excellent opportunity to improve bank performance on several levels. Read more

Efficiency Throughout Your Sales Process

Driving Efficiency Throughout Your Sales Process

By Ray Adler, CEO BTI Growth Advisors, Inc. This blog shines a light not just on the inefficiencies in your bank’s sales efforts but also why banks are having such difficulties evolving with the times. To better understand the difficulty banks are experiencing in their efforts to evolve and improve performance, we don’t need to […]