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At the Podium with Novantas | Managing the Sales Force in a Time of Disruption

Such is the state of the banking industry, where changes in customer behavior and intense scrutiny from regulators are throwing the old playbooks out the window.

Those were two of the topics unleashed at a Novantas sales force symposium in September called “Sales Force Reset: Catching up to the Customer.” Roughly 20 industry executives participated in the New York event, representing national, regional and community banks.

Novantas has long believed that the banking industry’s workforce needs a serious overhaul amid our expectations that banks will see a personnel turnover of up to 80% over the next four years. The disruption is happening on all sides: from customers who are increasingly comfortable with opening an account online to industry partnerships with fintech firms that provide faster and better solutions for small-business lending.

Much of this overhaul is naturally taking place in the branch. Novantas estimates that half of all branches will rack up fewer than 40 sales a month. That means bank employees must overhaul the ways they communicate with customers — both inside and out of the branch.

Symposium participants expressed a wide range of priorities as they assess their workforces, from figuring out how to appropriately compensate employees for contributions that don’t directly lead to a sale to providing training that will help employees establish relationships with digital-only customers.

Indeed, customers who open accounts outside of the branch — whether online, at the workplace or at an event like a music festival — are creating a challenge for bank employees.

“We don’t know how or whether these customers even want to be communicated with,” said one bank executive.

“Every little nuance of technology is a stumbling block,” said another, referring to required disclosures and e-signatures.

They also discussed the challenges of onboarding customers in a digital environment compared with a branch, where it may be far easier to help customers set up automatic bill payment or encourage them to opt in to overdraft protection.

“The customer who opened an account online obviously doesn’t want to talk on the phone or come in to a branch to talk to you,” one banker said.
Other participants said they are trying to overcome such challenges by instituting “push” communications in which a customer will receive an email or alert that may say something like, “Here’s how to set up automatic utility payments on your new account.”

In a session called “Build a Championship Team: How to Attract and Motivate Talent in a Competitive Digital Age,” one attendee noted success in recruiting employees from charities and not-for-profit agencies. Such people are typically community-oriented and can create emotional ties with clients, he said.

Inside the branch, banks can adopt new technology that will help guide employees through the process of customer engagement. This is especially important as reductions in branch staffing means that the remaining employees need to know more about the wide array of products that are available to customers.

“If you, the banker, don’t discover what these needs are, someone else will,” said George Noga, chief executive of Ignite Sales, a company that provides white-label, digitally-guided conversations that help bank employees engage with customers.

But how do you inspire employees in an era when regulators are paying more attention than ever to goaling and other types of incentives? The answer: give them tools to help them do a better job and build loyalty by showing interest in their careers, ambitions and lives. Indeed, such attention can be bigger motivators for some employees than just money.

“You’re still allowed to have goals and you’re still allowed to have incentives. You just have to be smart about it,” said Darryl Demos, Novantas executive vice president.

Bankers also noted the value of setting up checks and balances to ensure integrity with account openings, such as establishing a sales integrity council or developing a centralized system to provide customer follow-up with an employee who is different than the one who opened the account.

They also discussed the importance of training sessions to address difficult personal issues that could occur in a branch, from unconscious bias to the appropriate response to a customer who uses an electronic cigarette on the teller line.

Robin Sidel
Director, New York

For more information, contact Novantas Marketing

+1 (212) 953-4444

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