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How high-touch coaching drives banking sales excellence


Relationship management has changed. To succeed in today’s highly digitized world, relationship managers (that is, your sales staff) must cultivate the art of high-touch selling. This means that your people make meaningful human connections that focus on service instead of sales. The 2010 book “Go Givers Sell More” by Bob Burg and John David Mann tells us that “sell” derives from the Old English word “sellan,” which means “to give.” (Interestingly, it also means “to promise”) Good service is selling—to give customers what they need and honor your promises.

Moreover, high-touch selling fits well into what today’s relationship managers want, which is to:

  • Know their work matters
  • Make a difference
  • Collaborative with a team
  • Work remotely and independently

These desires go hand-in-hand with a distaste for an aggressive culture found in some corners of financial services that prize sales over service.

High-touch selling builds great interactions with clients, provides solutions that solve problems and creates revenue for the bank. Selling is not about the product or the relationship manager. It’s all about the client.

How do banks ensure that their relationship managers are competent in high-touch selling? The answer is high-touch coaching.

How managers can crank up their coaching game

Experience tells us that most banks hit the mark at setting sales goals and measuring results. But the statistics around coaching tell a different story. First, let’s examine facts about salespeople today, based on our work with Objective Management Group Sales evaluations:

  • 91 percent are too trusting of prospects.
  • 68 percent have difficulty recovering from rejection.
  • 90 percent lack a clearly defined and effective selling system.
  • 32 percent (less than a third) write down their goals.

As for their weaknesses, managers as coaches:

  • Do not consistently coach and debrief.
  • Are ineffective at joint sales calls.
  • Fail to ask questions.
  • Need approval from salespeople.
  • Rescue salespeople.
  • Lack a sales process.
  • Drop the ball on commitments.
  • Do not connect their beliefs to their coaching.
  • Lack goals and a plan.
  • Miss what motivates salespeople.

Less than two percent of managers are adept at coaching. Perhaps they weren’t coached or had a bad experience with coaching; were elevated to a team lead or manager position based on sales success versus coaching performance; or lacked any training in coaching, formal or informal.

Short of establishing a structured coaching program, managers can take simple, concrete steps to initiate high-touch coaching and selling. It begins when managers understand what motivates their salespeople. Less than seven percent of sales managers know the personal goals of their people. Most relationship managers today have intrinsic versus extrinsic motivations, which is key in both the manager-salesperson and manager-client relationships.

High-touch coaching occurs when a manager proactively asks questions of their team members, gives regular feedback and shows genuine interest in the development of the relationship manager.

Embarking on the high-touch path

To get started, managers should:

Set time aside for a personal goal discussion

This should be done in-person or via video conference to ensure eye contact. Relationship managers are motivated first by personal goals. Find out what drives them and what they consider important. Encourage them to dream big and free think about their life goals, including family and personal aspirations. No goal should be too big or too small. Translate the information into SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Based).

Set professional goals

Ask the relationship manager to outline how meeting professional goals can help them reach personal goals. Encourage them to set workplace targets for sales, cross-sell and retention.

While lines of business and institutional needs shape many goals, creating room for additional ones—set in consultation with the relationship manager—has benefits. If one life goal is to write the great American novel, then the relationship manager could identify volunteer opportunities at writing workshops, linked to your institution’s commitment to the community.

Set regular check-ins

Establish a rhythm for follow up. These check-ins should manage activities identified in the plan, hold relationship managers accountable and identify choke points. Coach how they do what they do and ask for the chance to observe sales calls and hold debriefs.

Putting it all together: In touch with high touch

High-touch coaching and selling ultimately foster meaningful human connections. This must transpire between the sales manager and relationship manager to grow the relationship manager-client relationship. Note: This isn’t a one-and-done proposition but an art that requires regular attention.

But once mastered, banks can use it to fashion a service-to-sales career path that leads to success for all. Relationship managers get in touch with what motivates them while managers touch on best coaching practices: both hallmarks of the magic touch.

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Tony Cole is the founder and chief learning officer of Anthony Cole Training Group. For more insights from Tony, visit his blog.