Systematic Selling

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Successful selling requires a sales culture, proper training and regular call programs

By James B. “Jim” Bexley

As a former CEO of a community bank, it was most interesting to see what factors affected the selling process in a positive way and, of course, those that had a negative impact. One overriding influence that became apparent was the absolute necessity of direct involvement by the CEO in the selling process. The value of the CEO’s involvement cannot be overlooked. However, the absence of the CEO being involved is usually excused by being too busy with management oversight, not something that he or she should be involved with, and other things that can be time consuming.

Reasons for sales failure

Besides the lack of involvement by the CEO, there are some additional reasons for selling failures that are important to avoid. Four of the major failures are as follows:

  • A lack of market discipline has caused bankers to meet the competition with the same old products because “we’ve always done it that way.”
  • Attempting to sell products and services to potential customers without telling them how their products and services will benefit them.
  • Lack of knowledge of the bank’s products and services.
  • Failure to know competitor’s products and services and being able to tell prospects why they should buy their products and services rather than the competitor’s.

Build a sales culture

What can the CEO do to energize the selling effort of his or her community bank? First, and most critical, establish a sales culture, which is nothing more than making selling a constant focus of the organization. The following actions will get a sales culture
operational in any bank:

  • Set the tone by having the CEO declare to officers and staff that sales are what drive the organization.
  • Have each selling officer develop a list of potential prospects to contact, keeping a minimum of 10 to 20 prospects at all times.
  • Train the entire bank on the full array of products and services that the bank has to offer, and train all of the selling officers on good sales techniques.
  • Establish an officer-calling program that is monitored by management that has all officers (including the CEO) making five to eight calls per week in person outside the bank premises.
  • CEO should make calls with selling officers—coach them and evaluate them.
    Reward with incentives only those who perform.

Sales training

Let’s look in detail at some of the more important aspects of building the sales culture. For a community bank’s staff members to do an effective job, they need to be trained in the sales methods that the bank chooses to employ. Many banks hire an outside firm that specializes in sales training. If your community bank needs to hire a training firm, remember two things—get references before you hire and be sure that they know banking. Minimum requirements that a training program should cover include these:

  • How to overcome the fear of selling. Most people do not want to sell for fear of rejection.
  • How to overcome sales resistance.
  • Product and service knowledge.
  • Prospect development techniques.
  • Mock sales exercises.

Successful call programs

Most officer call programs start off with breakfast or lunch where there is a “pep rally” environment led by management of the community bank. This is usually followed by turning the program over to someone outside of management, which many times results in a basic abandonment of the standards set to be followed in the program because the person in charge has no enforcement authority.

Successful sales development programs have regular meetings and are goal-oriented. For example, the minimum necessary to ensure success involves the following:

  • Set goals and expect results—if you have no goals, you have no expectations, hence no results.
  • In addition to bankwide goals, set goals for each selling staff member.
  • Meet weekly to discuss success with goals and discuss results.
  • Provide a mentor for those who are having difficulty meeting their goals.
  • Recognize and reward those who perform and meet their goals.

Blend sales and quality service

Delivering quality service to a bank’s customer is the constant to the retention of business. There can be nothing worse than bringing business in the “front door” and have it leave by the “back door” due to poor service delivery. Therefore, it is important as part of the training effort to have the entire bank staff recognize that sales and service quality go hand-in-hand to be a quality banking organization. Consistent service quality in an organization requires buy-in by the entire staff. In addition to the sales goals, it is important to inspect the service levels being provided by the bank on a regular basis.


James B. “Jim” Bexley (jbbexley@shsu.edu) is chair of the Smith-Hutson Endowed Chair of Banking at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. He is a director of the Federal Reserve Bank for the 11th District in Dallas. He is a former community bank CEO who implemented a sales process that grew the bank’s assets by more than 30 percent per year for four years.

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