Installing a disciplined sales process is your competitive tool against marketing-savvy organizations such as credit card companies, mortgage companies, and megabanks. If you build a competent sales force and execute a local market strategy, you will be able to retain customers, establish strong relationships, and expand relationships per household to reduce the likelihood of defection.

It is important to note that sales is no longer a dirty word in the banking business. Further, when we say sales, we do not mean a wire-house broker mentality.

Super community banks need to execute consultative sales that are needs driven and have a long-term orientation. Increasing share of wallet by meeting customer needs is fully consistent with the super community bank concept and offers a win-win situation to the customer and to the bank.

Tracking and monitoring are integral to the process. Inspect with constant, tenacious monitoring and feedback, accompanied by coaching for high performance.

Everyone in the company from the CEO down needs to pay attention to results on a regular basis. Once people know you mean business, they will execute for you. The key to the strategy is execution.

Effective performance needs to be reinforced and rewarded. Incentive compensation is a big part of the reward but not the only one. It's all right to put branch managers on 40% incentive compensation if they exceed profitability goals. Our highest producers should be able to make more money than the chairman of the board. It is a vital part of a sales culture.

However, contrary to common belief, effective salespeople are not motivated solely by money. Public recognition is at least as important. You may consider establishing a sales club to recognize and motivate your best salespeople.

At Roosevelt Financial Group, we have a star: Nadia Cavner. She sells more mutual funds and annuities than most people in the country. We are lucky to have her.

Nadia is located in Springfield, Mo., by no means a major metropolitan center, yet her results are among the top 1% nationwide. She does it by being a highly effective consultative salesperson, by offering inimitable service, and by focusing exclusively on the customer.

When the president calls, Nadia often does not have time to answer the call. She's too busy with customers. These are the right priorities, but how many people in our companies do we have like that?

We must highlight the executive role in effective sales management. Without leadership from the top, without you walking the walk and talking the talk, you will not have an integrated sales culture.

I find customers in our lobby from time to time and cross-sell them something, like loan banking or a money market account, not only to refresh my own skills but also to demonstrate to everyone that sales is not a dirty word.

The customer comes first, and senior management must believe that. Senior executives in super community banks must be involved in monitoring and rewarding sales performance. This is nonnegotiable.

Just launching the sales effort is not enough. Participating on an ongoing basis in recognition programs, sending notes to contest winners and top producers, and recognizing in writing or by phone your best branches and banks, are integral parts of the job.

These actions not only inspire your troops, they also tell them that you are watching and that you consider their activities important. Winning local markets will be a critical success factor for super community banks in the future. An effective, disciplined sales process is a key part of the success formula. Understanding the customer base in each local market and customizing product and service levels to different segments is another.

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