Is A Performance Plan in Your Future? [Podcast]

July 31, 2017 Maria Abbe

Struggling to develop new business and match your previous sales performances? There may be several reasons why you're not on your A-game anymore. 

In this episode, Jim Young chats with Ned Miller, SVP at MZ Bierly Consulting, about the reasons why some experienced bankers are falling short and how they can regain the confidence in selling that they once had.



Helpful Information

Ned Miller LinkedIn

Ned Miller Twitter

Will This Experienced Banker Be On A Performance Plan Next Year?

MZ Bierly Consulting Inc.

Podcast Transcript

Jim Young: Hi, and welcome to the Purposeful Banker. The podcast brought to you by PrecisionLender. Where we discuss the big topics on the minds of today's best bankers. I'm your host Jim Young, director of communications at PrecisionLender. My guest today is Ned Miller, senior vice president at MZ Bierly Consulting. Which works with commercial banks to improve their sales processes and performance. I'm a sucker for a good headline, which is why I was immediately interested in one of Ned's recent articles, when my colleague Maria Abby sent it my way. It was titled, "Will This Experienced Banker be on a Performance Plan Next Year?"
That piece is going to be the focus of our conversation today. But first, Ned, tell us a little bit more about your company.
Ned Miller: MZ Bierly Consulting was founded in 1989. It was from the get go, focusing on helping bankers build relationships with business owners and professionals, with the added try to increase top line revenue. We work with bank teams, bank sales leaders, and their bankers to improve their overall results. With the sales leaders, the focus is on improving the consistency of the messaging that they deliver, the coaching that they give their teams, and help them think through organizational and infrastructure issues that impact bankers performance.
I got into this after having been a banker. I started my banking career with City Bank, and then I moved to the Philadelphia National Bank where I was involved really for the first time, managing sales teams. I left banking after a decade, and got into consulting. Then spent almost another 10 years working for the Risk Management Association, RMA where I was involved in developing conferences, and training programs on a variety of topics, including small business, and real estate, and private banking, and the like. I've been doing this with MZ Bierly Consulting since 2001. On any given day I'm standing in front of either commercial lenders, small business bankers, occasionally branch managers who are involved with small business efforts, or their managers talking about what I think are real issues.
Jim Young: Okay, great. That is a ... I'm glad I asked you because you did MZ Bierly much more justice than I did in my description on that. Well let's go back to the article. I'm curious what inspired you to write it?
Ned Miller: Well, I think like a lot of things that I write, it was prompted by a real person. I masked the name, and I hoped that nobody who sees the picture that I've used in the blog post comes forward at some point and accuses me of hijacking his identity. It was not the person that I was looking for. I was looking to try to tell a story, which I thought was representative of what I see a lot of bankers dealing with.
Now, the particular individual I was writing about had actually been somebody that I was coaching. He talked to me about where he was at a certain point in time in the not too distant past. This is a guy who's been very successful in his role, middle market, CNI banker in a metro market working, it's a competitive environment. He had always done well, and he was struggling, and he was looking into his future pipeline and he wasn't seeing some of the opportunities that he used to see.
I think there are some reasons for it, but he was struggling generating new business. Like a lot of people I talk to, particularly the CNI side, winning over new prospects is difficult. It's difficult for reasons that go back years and years, and it's difficult for some new reasons. One of the big issues for this particular individual was he had a big portfolio, and managing a complex portfolio, a lot of accredited administration, took a lot of time. A second issue I think for him is that he had grown up in an environment where he latched himself to some businesses as they were growing, who were borrowing a fair amount of money. The network he developed among accountants for example in the community was people that were starting to age a little bit. Age in the sense that they weren't necessarily as business owners, borrowing as much money as their businesses matured. The CPA's as an example weren't necessarily counseling a lot of new companies that were in startup mode. That was an issue that forced him to think about who he was targeting.
I think the other thing that was interesting about this particular individual is that he is kind of reflective. He's introspective. He was trying to figure out what he needed to do to change the results he was getting. This is, in my mind Jim, a characteristic of top performers in all fields. They're trying to figure out if somethings not quite right, what they have to do to right themself.
Jim Young: Gotcha. What I'm curious about though is this type, or this person, the hypothetical Dave in this situation as he's called in the story. Would this person have existed in banking 10 years ago? In other words, is this experienced banker existential crisis? Is this what every experienced banker goes through when they're around 55, and their relationships, as you mentioned, matured to the point where they're not necessarily as fruitful? Or is this a product of being an experienced banker in 2017?
Ned Miller: That's a really good question. I think one, it's not a question of age. In fact, I was called to the carpet by a few people who read the article who thought I was slamming 55 year old males, and being accused of some sort of ageist conspiracy. I don't think it's as much about that as getting into a routine that isn't working. When it comes to the prospecting environment, surely there actually are some interesting parallels between what was going on in the banking industry 10 years ago, and what's going on today.
I think it's different in the sense that, for example, this particular individual was thinking that he needed to develop greater expertise in certain industries in order to be credible. It wasn't good enough to be a generalist. He was thinking that part of his plan had to be to get a little more focus, a little more targeted. I'm not sure people thought as much about that 10 years ago, particularly as a prospecting strategy. I think we're seeing more of it. We certainly encourage bankers who are so inclined to begin to target certain niches where they think they can begin to differentiate themselves based on their insights, their expertise in a particular area.
Jim Young: Okay, what about, and this may have been the way I was sort of thinly veiling it. To what extent is technology the issue for this type, for this Dave character?
Ned Miller: You know, in this guys case it wasn't that big a deal. He was perfectly comfortable with some of the technology that the bank was making available to him. I think it can be an issue for others, but he was a pretty comfortable using some of the tools that the bank provided. Now, these are tools like CRM systems, databases that he could use to tap into industry information. He was somebody that recognized the value in that. For some 50 somethings and older, that could be challenging. But that wasn't a big issue for him.
I think more of the issue was that as he looked at what he was doing, it wasn't clicking the way it used to. That if you stepped back and you'd look at how, for example, community bankers have historically tried to position themselves in the marketplace. A lot of them emphasize their community engagement.
Jim Young: Okay.
Ned Miller: Being involved in local boards, and things like that. It is a ... It's something that can work, but it doesn't always work when it comes to generating new business. Getting close to CPA's is something that's not just a community bank strategy, but is certainly something that a lot of bankers try to do. If you don't continue to build out your network of CPA's, again, you sort of run the risk that you're ... Particularly if you're looking for opportunities to finance growing companies, you may not be talking to somebody that's actually adding to that, to his mix, or her mix of those companies. Thinking about those things, thinking about ... Even an approach that is pretty common, or historically have been common, focusing on the credit.
There are a lot of bankers who say that in essence because business owners are credit driven, they don't lead with credit. Well, a lot of the best businesses in a marketplace may not be looking to borrow money at this stage. Prospectors who lead with loans may find themselves in more difficult positions than their colleagues who are looking broadly at where they might make an impact. It may be more desirable in some respects for a banker to look at a cash rich mature business and say, "Wow, there's a lot of opportunities on the treasury management side." Or, "We could be doing something to help the owner on the wealth side."
Jim Young: Gotcha.
Ned Miller: All these things that, again, you have to revisit your principles, and try to make some sense out of what's working.
Jim Young: Okay, and now you go in this article, you go through some of the potential reasons for why this experienced banker could be in trouble in a general sense, not necessarily the Dave person, but just in a general sense. One of the ones you mentioned was suspicious of the sales process. It probably, coming from where I come from, I interpreted some of that as suspicious of sales technology. Are these two different things, are they intertwined?
Ned Miller: Well certainly technology is part of most banks sales procesees. I think it's more about something that's not unique to banking. There are studies that have been conducted by people like Berry Trailer of CSO Insights that cut across industries. The studies say something very similar, that the magic pill that people are always looking for, what differentiates high performing organizations from the rest, often times based on research that people like CSO Insights has done, is more about having a sales process and adhering to it.
Historically in a lot of community banks, if people were making their numbers, whether the bank had a process or not, was irrelevant. People sort of gave them a pass on following the process that the bank had outlined. There's some organizations who don't allow a lot of deviation. I tend to think that those are ones who have figured out that if there is a path that has proven to work, it's probably something that people need to pay attention to. An experienced lender like Dave, particularly if he's struggling, has to look and see is he using the tools that the bank is providing? Is he following the recommendations that the bank has regarding things like preparation? Preparation for calls.
We think that high performers tend to do things in a somewhat predictable way. They're thinking about how they provide value. They're thinking about trying to understand sort of the strategic direction of a customer or prospects business as opposed to going in there and pushing products. There are certain things that, again, are built into most banks procesees. At least the ones we work with, that are there for a reason. Teamwork, I made the comment earlier that sometimes it's not all about using the lending skills that a seasoned banker like Dave might have, it's more about trying to bring in your wealth management partner to talk about long term personal financial needs.
Jim Young: Yeah, that's interesting. It felt like, and I think you mentioned this in the article that you were describing in some ways, guys that have spent a lot of their career acting in the lone wolf sort of persona, that CBE and their challenger sell mentions. That sort of person, which is, again, it's one of the things you say. It's great, it works until it doesn't I guess. Then when it doesn't you've got to, like you said, pull out and maybe swallow a little bit of pride and take a look at the sales process that's in place, and that it's in place for a reason.
Other item that you had put on there was this experienced banker that's struggling thinks social media is for kids. I'm not surprised that you don't find many bankers active on, say Twitter. It's not necessarily a conducive ... It's a media news hub, that sort of thing. But I have been struck by how often I find bankers either without a LinkedIn profile, or with one that's got just the silhouette, and it's clearly someones executive assistant setup, and never went anywhere. Why do you think that is? That something that can be as fertile for prospecting as LinkedIn is still not, in some bankers, utilized?
Ned Miller: I ask myself that Jim. I think part of it is that they haven't really been shown how this ties into their real world. I think part of that is because at least from some of the banks I've worked with, the marketing department ... I'm not trying to say bad things about my friend marketing. But the marketing department has tended to take this on. There's a difference between how marketers are using LinkedIn, and how first line sales people are using it. I think some of it has been that. I think they just need a little more coaching and guidance, and maybe some direction on some very basic things.
I don't know that most of the bankers I deal with have thought about how they use it. There are obviously tremendous capabilities to explore a lot of information about both individuals that you may be targeting, that the people in their organizations that LinkedIn enables you to do. As a research tool, it's phenomenal. I just don't know that people have been given the direct kind of coaching in how to do that.
I'm going to put a plug in for a friend who I think has done an excellent job of writing about this, if people are looking for a guru on LinkedIn they ought to check out Brynne Tillman, who's written a couple of very practical, tactical guides to using LinkedIn. Brynne Tillman to me, if you look her up on LinkedIn, is trying to demystify for sales people what some of the things are that LinkedIn offers. Part of it is that it does require some work. One of the people I know that has spoken at your conferences, Jack Hubbard, has stated, and I believe this to be directionally true if not totally accurate. That the average banker spends about 17 minutes a month using LinkedIn, where if you're a professional sales person in any other organization, you probably will be spending upwards of 90 minutes a day as part of your routine. Both researching, and communicating using the tool.
I guess long winded answer, I don't think people have been given enough direction on it.
Jim Young: Okay, all right. There are several other really good, I don't want to give away your entire piece because I encourage people to go and read it at We've gone through a few of these, and there's other challenges you list. I'm curious then, you lay these challenges out. If you're Dave's sales manager, what do you do to help him out?
Ned Miller: Well a couple things. This is, in this spirit of trying to help somebody who may not be as successful as Dave.
Jim Young: Right.
Ned Miller: In terms of being introspective, and maybe being sort of process oriented. A good sales manager has to make sure that his team is targeting the right industries and the companies within those industries. It's surprising to me when I'm in front of a group of bankers. I'll say, "Do you think you have a good prospect list? Give me a show of hands." And a lot of people don't. I think that's something that is more an indictment of management. Management needs to give people direction about what the sweet spot is in a particular line of business, as well as make available some tools that will help them come up with a good list. It's not a foreground conclusion that people know who to target, so that's number one.
Number two, I think they have to coach people to build a long term plan with most prospects. There's no question about the fact that in the middle market as an example, or in the business banking space, the mere fact that somebody shows up doesn't mean they're going to get the business. You have to think about, in essence, a long term kind of campaign. We tell our clients, "Hey, you gotta think about six to eight touches over the course of a period of time." Sometimes just to get into the initial meeting, sometimes if you're trying to get a real good chance of the business, they may be five or six face to face meetings splayed out over 18 to 24 months. Long term perspective on this.
The third thing I would highlight is that you need to help people stand out. Standing out is more than just being persistent, it's having something of value. You have written and had some discussions with people about what a good value proposition is. I think part of it is crafting with each and every banker, the right approach. It starts with how are you going to position yourself really from the very first contact with a business customer, all the way through how do you keep the conversation going. Assuming that it's going to take multiple visits.
Those three things, Jim. Make sure people are focused on the right people. Coach a long term process. Then really help people come up with something that's going to help them differentiate themselves. Those to me are the things that good sales managers do, and those are the things that people really need.
Jim Young: That's great information Ned, and I'm actually going to backtrack just a second because one of the things, when we were talking about that process thing. It was ... I'm curious, if you run across this, which is ... You know, CRM's, when they first came out and were supposed to be the be all end all were actually kind of a royal pain for a lot of people, and caused some scar tissue there. I can sometimes understand why people are suspicious the next time someone rolls out the latest, greatest technology that's going to help you with your sales process.
Do you ever run across that? Kind of telling people, "Hey look, I know you've been burned before, but you gotta still be open to some of this new stuff."
Ned Miller: Yes. I do think that there's some skepticism about some things that are new. That may explain why some people aren't as excited about LinkedIn as a tool as I am.
Jim Young: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Ned Miller: Or don't see the benefit of some of the things that really have improved the ability of bankers to help their customers. I think the tools that you guys are developing to help people come up with better options when they're negotiating, with borrowers, are very valuable. It doesn't replace the fundamental issue of how do you communicate with people. Technology doesn't solve that, but it can help you reach a different level. I do think that some of the resistance is stuff that any vendor has to be ready for, but I think when you demonstrate how this can be applied in real situations, it can lead to some light bulbs going off in peoples minds.
Jim Young: Well great. Again, I encourage you to check out some of the stuff that Ned is writing over on the Bank Sales Corner Blog over at That'll do it for today, thanks for listening. If you'd like to learn more, visit our resource page If you like what you've been hearing, make sure to subscribe to the feed on iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Play, or Stitcher. We love to get ratings and feedback on any of those platforms. Thanks for listening. Until next time, this has been Jim Young with Ned Miller, and you've been listening to the Purposeful Banker.

About the Author

Maria Abbe

As a Content Manager here at PrecisionLender, Maria develops the messaging, stories and content pieces for prospects and current clients – showing them the value in PrecisionLender. Her passion for serving others is evident as she leads the volunteer program here at PrecisionLender. Maria’s ability to be organized and constructive, along with her ability to be practical makes her an exceptional addition to our team.

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