Ask 50 bankers to define a bank’s sales culture and chances are you will get 50 different answers. There is not one definition for the phrase; it is a rather fuzzy concept that is often loosely defined as the latest sales fad or initiative. The descriptions will be varied from institution to institution ranging from competitive and intense, to merit-based and rewarding. While banks may not agree on the definition of a sales culture, most would agree that historically, these initiatives have been disappointing at best, yielding little to no success. As a banker, I’d like to propose that we finally drop the ambiguous moniker, culture, and instead shift our focus to more actionable results that will ultimately improve the overall sales environment.
There are three primary sales optimization areas on which organizations should focus their efforts: sales guidance, sales support and sales execution.
- Sales guidance includes effective communication, alignment and resource allocation of the company’s strategic business plan. Once that plan is established and communicated, the sales environment begins to evolve. Business objectives are identified. Those objectives will lead to a review of product and sales deployment. Gaps will be identified and resolved, leading to a more focused marketing effort and better territorial coverage. Incentive programs are revised to align sales success and company revenue growth. These cascading enhancements result in the sales team remaining customer-centric and avoiding unproductive work.
- Sales support is the process of refining operations and leveraging existing data. According to a recent study, improving an institution’s guidance efforts was 3 times more effective than improving the sales support. But with ever-improving computing and business intelligence systems, it is safe to assume the sales support factor has a larger impact today. These efforts include ensuring alignment and effective communications between frontline and back-office operations. Fully leveraging available data has numerous positive impacts including improved targeted marketing efforts, assistance and substance within the institutions’ coaching and performance review cycles, identify high-value customers, and detecting potential deposits at risk.
- Sales execution is paramount. As customer behaviors evolve and expectations increase, IT budgets need to focus on improving information system flexibility. Risk and IT managers need to research and establish comfort levels with the ever-expanding SaaS cloud solutions. These solutions are adapting quicker than core systems, offering greater access with low or no-code interfaces, expanding sales opportunities, and even provide cost savings as these solutions become more powerful.
To ensure long-term success, banks must focus on actionable deliverables. This requires strategically aligning an institution’s communications, product lines, decisions and business goals. It is critical for this process to be quick and agile, not beholden to a budget process or a required exam item.