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:

Surveys consistently show between 50% to 60% of commercial lenders and relationship managers in this country don’t hit their annual sales goals.

That’s substantial! And while there are many reasons for this ─ this blog will focus on both the role of the sales manager in the equation as well as the effectiveness of the typical bank pipeline report as a sales management tool.

Airplanes are off course most of the time

An airplane leaving LAX just two degrees at takeoff will miss the Hawaiian Islands by over 400 miles if it doesn’t course correct. That’s a great analogy for thinking about how commercial bankers approach their production activities each and every year. I have witnessed hundreds of times where a lender or relationship manager feels confident about their pipeline and production in April or May yet feels completely the opposite in September. How is it that a banker can feel like their production in Q2 is “on course” to hit their annual sales goals, yet in Q3 their production is “off-course” and they’re behind on their production?

We’re going to drill down into and discuss why the pipeline report, the primary way bank’s track production, is an incredibly poor “sales management” tool. In addition, I’ll introduce a new sales management tool to better help sales managers predict which of their RMs is on-course to meet or exceed their annual sales goals and which ones aren’t. Armed with this knowledge and clarity, as a sales manager you’re in a better position to coach your folks on what it’s going to take to get “back on track” production-wise. The earlier in the year you can detect when one of your folks is off course, the more time in the year they have to make up ground and get back on track. That’s common sense. 

Pipeline Report vs Sales Funnel Report

I’m going to make a bold statement:  the traditional pipeline report that banks use to manage sales is a horrible sales management tool. It provides little, if any, data about the business development activities that created a piece of business. The pipeline report however is an excellent tool for monitoring the underwriting, funding, and closing processes. The pipeline report allows a sales manager to supervise the “back half” of the sales process but does nothing to help that manager manage the “front half” of the sales process. A primary reason (not the exclusive reason) relationship managers don’t hit their annual sales goals has to do with how they’re managing their time and their business development activities.

For that, you need a sales funnel report.

If you’re in sales, you have a sales funnel. Everyone in sales does. The question is are you using this tool to gain rich insights into the efficiency and effectiveness of your commercial banking team?

A sales funnel looks at and tracks the relationship between three key ratios:

  1. The ratio between appointments to packages received
  2. The ratio between packages received and proposals or letters of interest issued
  3. The ratio between proposals issued and deals closed

Each one of these ratios provides meaningful information to sales managers about the strengths and weaknesses of each lender’s business development strategies and sales / negotiation skills. Any discussion of tracking activities makes community bankers nervous and harkens questions of “are we becoming like Wells Fargo?” And the answer is unequivocally no! We’re not becoming like Wells Fargo. A sales funnel report and the tracking of activities is a learning and developmental process (as opposed to a punitive process) designed to help each commercial lender gain the necessary clarity on how best to focus their time and understand the number of meetings, proposals and average deal size needed to meet and exceed their production goals. Once you understand the relationship between activities and ratios, you can build an annual marketing plan that if followed, will ensure with greater probability that you’ll meet your sales goals. In essence, your production becomes more predictable.

There are five solid reasons you want a sales funnel report along with your pipeline report to manage your team:

  1. Provides meaningful insight into how each one of your commercial lenders is managing their time
  2. Pinpoints areas of skill weakness throughout the sales process
  3. Validates strategy effectiveness
  4. Improves sales manager effectiveness
  5. Promotes continuous learning and improvement

Utilizing a Predictive Approach To Sales Management in 2021

Famed author and business coach Peter Drucker said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” As a sales manager, one of your key functions is a developer of people. Your role is to train, develop, and coach each member of your team to greater productivity. If you have lenders and RMs who aren’t hitting their sales goals, the bulk of that burden rests on you ─ the sales manager’s shoulders. Likewise, with those on your team who are hitting their sales goals, they too certainly have room for improvement in efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity. But the opportunities to pinpoint areas for improvement won’t be revealed in a traditional pipeline report. One thing you can be assured of, everyone on your team wants to work smarter, not harder. Everyone wants to meet and exceed their sales goals and earn the largest bonus possible.

Case study

In 2018, a relationship manager in a metropolitan market was struggling to boost his production. He was great with clients, very professional and a decent marketer. However, his 2018 production was well below his $8,000,000 annual sales goal.

I had him complete our Sales Funnel Worksheet on his 2018 business development activities. To complete the diagnosis process, I had him evaluate and quantify the following business development activities for all of 2018:

  • Number of In-Person Sales Calls (New Customers)
  • Number of In-Personal Sales Calls (Existing)
  • Number of Packages Received
  • Number of Proposals/Term Sheets Issued
  • Number of Closed Deals
  • Dollar Value of Closed Deals
  • Average Dollar of Closed Deals

Once we understood his conversion ratios, we asked the question; If nothing changed, what activity level would Ed (fictious name) need to hit his $8,000,000 loan goal in 2019? By using Ed’s 2018 conversion ratios, the activity levels needed to hit the identical production goal in 2019, were as follows. Ed would need:

  • 9 New customers
  • 13 Proposals
  • 39 New prospect calls or approximately 3+ new calls per month

The bottom line: it was easy to see from the analysis that if Ed didn’t make some adjustments to his business development strategies and activity levels, the likelihood was that he wasn’t going to hit his 2019 sales goals either.

We made a few small changes to Ed’s business development focus, strategy, and activity levels. He tracked his progress and leveraged his sales manager’s experience. As a result, predictably his 2019 production was $10,500,000 or $2,500,000 above his annual sales goal. Ed was working smarter, not harder.

There is power in clarity. Ed had a much better understanding of what business was worth his time to pursue and what business wasn’t, and his results speak for themselves.


The pipeline report found in most banks is essential and should not be discarded. It is an excellent tool for monitoring the underwriting, funding, and closing processes. That said, if your bank is serious about helping your relationship managers, commercial lenders, and branch managers work smarter, not harder, then you’ll want to begin utilizing a sales funnel report in 2021.

A couple of key take-a-ways to remember, activities are managed, processes are supervised. Sales activities need to be managed. Underwriting, funding, and closing processes need to be supervised. The pipeline is supervised, the sales funnel is managed. Managing requires more engagement than supervising.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “a moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” The sales funnel report provides sales managers and every member of the sales team with the valuable insight needed to make the slight adjustments necessary to work smarter, not harder.

To download a complimentary copy of our 2020 Sales Funnel Worksheet, click here.

Got questions about this blog, contact Ray Adler at or call at 760-720-9270.

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