The Big Fat Pipeline

The ‘Big Fat Pipeline’ Syndrome Is Killing Your Sales

By Ron Buck


When it comes to closing pipeline opportunities, less is more.

The Big Fat Pipeline is a sales pipeline that is overflowing with opportunities in each stage that creates a false sense of security around monthly, quarterly or annual targets.   It continues to unknowingly frustrate sales leaders, embarrass sales people and cost banks millions of dollars in lost revenues every year.  Plus, the insidious sales costs created by The Big Fat Pipeline in terms of wasted sales effort, poor resource allocation, and misuse of sales management cannot even begin to be calculated.

Is the Big Fat Pipeline having an impact on your sales organization?  If you answer yes to one or more of the questions below, there is a high likelihood that it is.

  • Do you have sales opportunities that initially progress through the early stages (prospecting, qualification) of your pipeline, only to lose momentum, become stalled and eventually disappear in the later stages?
  • Do you have late stage (underwriting, terms presentation, doc prep) opportunities that shrinks in value or disappears from your forecast without warning or explanation?
  • Do you have sales pipelines that initially promise the world but fail to follow through on that promise?


There are two commonly accepted measures for assessing the health of a bank’s sales pipeline.

  • The number of opportunities in the pipeline.
  • The dollar value of deals in the pipeline.


While these two metrics are the ones most commonly used by sales organizations to measure pipeline strength, there is an underlying and damaging assumption with their use, which is ‘more is better’.  Sales leaders have been conditioned to believe that purely having more opportunities in their pipeline and having a larger dollar amount at each stage is a positive thing.

The Big Fat Pipeline syndrome is a result of this misplaced thinking.


How Do You Know What The Right Size of Your Pipeline Should Be?

Over the past decade of working with some of the best banks in the US, we have developed a few simple rules for boosting pipeline quality and accuracy.

  • The 3X Rule (Size)

The 3X Rule is the first rule that should be applied to your pipeline.  It simply states that the ratio of deals coming into your pipeline each month should not be greater than 3X the booked deals (deals leaving the pipeline) each month.   This is a simple but powerful calculation.  We have found that the best performers (top 20%) have 2X pipelines.  The middle 60% range from 3X to 6 X, and the bottom 20% range from 6X to 10X.   We have some clients who modify the rule and calculate the total number of deals in the pipeline should not exceed 3 times the deals closing each month.  Pipelines that exceed 3X waste valuable resources, defocus the entire sales team, raise false expectations and result in inaccurate forecasts.

  • The 150% Rule (Aging)

The 150% is another simple but powerful rule.  Many sales managers are too insecure to purge deals in the pipeline.  However, we have found that between 25% and 50% of deals in The Big Fat Pipeline should be purged and will never close if they have been in the pipeline 150% longer than your average-time-close.  Deals that have regressed or have had no scheduled activity in the past two weeks should be advanced or purged.   Purging requires courage and discipline.

Some of our clients also apply the 150% rule to each stage.  That is, if a deal has been in underwriting 150% longer than the time it takes winning deals in underwriting it should be flagged for discussion in the next pipeline meeting and if the problem cannot be resolved quickly it should be purged from the pipeline.

We have found that when sales managers apply the 150% rule they will typically reduce their pipelines from 5X (or 6X) to less than 3X.  As a result, their win rates improve and forecast accuracy dramatically improve.

  • The Momentum Rule

Momentum is calculated as a percent of deals in the pipeline advancing or closing each week, month or quarter.  Big Fat Pipelines have a momentum of 50% or less.  However, the top performers with 2X pipelines have a momentum greater than 80%.

If deals are not advancing or closing they are dying.

Qualification (or examining the quality of early stage opportunities before the progress through your pipeline) is an essential task if an organization is to avoid the trap of sinking time, costs and resources into deals that are never going to close.  Our research indicates that the best business bankers are 250% better at qualifying new opportunities before the advance in the pipeline.


The Real Pipeline

If sales managers begin to apply more rigor to understanding the quality of pipeline opportunities, not just quantity, they start to see The Real Pipeline emerge with the following characteristics:

  • Fewer opportunities in the earlier stages.
  • A 2X or 3X pipeline.
  • Fewer stalled or inactive deals – with momentum greater than 80%
  • Less projected revenue in the pipeline – with much greater forecast accuracy.

These are revelations that have traditionally made sales managers extremely nervous.  The notion of having less opportunities and dollars in the pipeline goes against every traditionally held sales paradigm.  We have found that about 30% of the deals in your pipeline will be won (no matter what), 30% of the deals in your pipeline will be lost (no matter what) and 40% can be won if your sales people have time to focus on them.  The Real Pipeline has a much higher percentage of deals that have a greater likelihood of closing with the following implications.

  • Salespeople can focus their time and energies on better-qualified opportunities.
  • Managers can focus their coaching efforts on opportunities that have a higher likelihood of rewarding their efforts.
  • Forecasting will become more objective, accurate and rewarding.
  • Sales costs will decrease significantly.
  • More salespeople will achieve quota.
  • Profitability per sales person, client and organization will climb.

The Real Pipeline is built with a sales process that (1) purges stalled or inactive deals; (2) qualifies out those deals that have little likelihood of closing; and (3) focuses on the opportunities that are winnable.



Sales managers draw tremendous satisfaction from seeing a sales pipeline that surpasses revenue targets at each stage.  The feelings of achievement and anticipation that this brings can obscure the grey reality that these pipelines are sometimes being viewed through rose-colored glasses.  By applying qualitative rules (The 3X Rule; The 150% Rule; The Momentum Rule) at the early stages of the pipeline, and equipping salespeople with the necessary qualification skills, sales teams can quickly weed out the distractions and see dramatic improvements in their sales force’s focus, engagement, success and revenues.

20% Branch Growth Just By Changing One ‘Critical’ Conversation

High Performers are Winning 1

20% Branch Growth Just By Changing One ‘Critical’ Conversation

By Ron Buck


Branch conversations between a personal banker and customers have changed forever.  In fact, over 80% of customer conversations are now service-related.  Branches have become the service-hub of all delivery channels (mobile, Internet, ATM, call center and other interactive (or self-service) teller machines).  With less sales-related conversations, new account growth has steadily declined over the past decade.  Our research (300 banks and 10,000 branches) indicates that over 42 % of retail bank branches have negative account growth (i.e. they are closing more accounts than they are opening).

Most bank branches have 2 to 5 sales related-conversations per personal banker each day.  (Credit unions vary from 5 to 12 sales-related conversations per personal banker per day).  Cross-sell ratios vary from 1.0 to 1.5 with a national average across all sales-related conversations (the average of new and existing customers) of 1.18.  Despite many initiatives to improve cross-sell ratios, the national average has stayed almost constant for over a decade.

Figure 1.0 illustrates the new account relationship to face-to-face meetings and success ratio.  Success ratio is the new measure of sales effectiveness in retail banking.  Face-to-face meetings include both service-related and sales related.  Subsequently, the success ratio is a function of both cross-selling and the percentage of sales-related conversation.

High Performers are Winning 2

Figure 1.0

Traditionally, banks have tried to execute one or two different strategies with marginal success.

  • Increase The Number of Face-to-Face Meetings. This is the most common strategy to drive new account growth using referrals and other outbound calling initiatives.  If the personal bankers are currently having 5 face-to-face meetings each day (and 1 is sales-related) with a 1.2 cross-sell ratio, they are each opening 6 new accounts each week.  A typical goal is to add one more new sales-related conversation per week (resulting in 7.2 new accounts opened each week).  This is a good sales strategy to grow new accounts by 20% if well executed.
  • Increase The Cross-Sell Ratio. This is also a very common strategy to drive new account growth.  Increasing the cross-sell ratio proportionally increases the success ratio.  One additional cross-sell each week will grow new accounts by 20% if well executed.


Our research indicates there is an emerging group of high performing branches that are changing the conversation and winning with one well executed strategy.  These high performers have focused on cause-and-effects related to the success ratio.  They have found that about 65% of service-related conversations are driven by a life-event and if they can ‘transition’ one service-related conversation to a sales conversation each week they grow new accounts by at least 20%.  Here is an example:


  • Transition Service-Related Conversations To Sales-Related Conversations. If each personal banker is having 5 conversations per day (1 sales-related and 4 service-related) with a 1.2 cross-sell ratio, then each personal banker is opening 6 new accounts per week.  If each personal banker can ‘transition’ one service-related conversation to a sales-related conversation each week, then each personal banker opens 7.2 new accounts per week (20% growth).


Every sales strategy needs to be executed well or its objectives will not be achieved.  Sales execution requires a singular focus on just one goal; acting on the lead measures influencing the goal (face-to-face meetings; cross-sell ratio; or service-to-sales conversion ratio); a compelling scorecard; and a cadence of accountability.

The highest performing branches have a single focus on ‘net’ new account growth of 20%.  They have scorecards that track the service-to-sales conversion ratio on weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual intervals and have adopted a cadence of accountability. 

Figure 2.0 illustrates this new strategy and conversational model.

High Performers are Winning 3

Figure 2.0

Example Customer Conversation (Service to Sales)


Personal Banker (Melissa) Customer (Brian Walsh)
Establish Rapport (Standing, shaking hands.) “Good morning. My name is Melissa Green; I’m a Customer Service Representative here. And you are?”
“Brian Walsh.”
“Nice to meet you Mr. Walsh, please have a seat. What brings you in today?”
Acknowledge Direction “We just moved into a new house, so I need to change the address for our accounts.”
“Congratulations on your new home! I’d be happy to take care of that address change for you. May I please have your ID?”
Explore Needs (Related to Service Issue) “Is the address shown here the one for your new home?
  “And did any of your phone numbers change?”
  “No, we were able to keep those the same. Will you make the change for both of our accounts?”
Build Trust by Solving Immediate Need “Yes, I’ve changed our records for both your checking and savings account. Let me have you review what I’ve printed here to confirm it’s correct and then please sign right here for me…”
  “OK, everything is correct.”
Confirm Resolution “Thank you. Have I completely taken care of your immediate need today, Mr. Walsh?”
  “Yes, that was all.”
Transition to Sales Conversation & Explore Needs “I’m happy I was able to help. Moving always involves a lot of changes, and I’m sure you’re happy to have this one out of the way. Tell me, what else has changed for you recently, besides your address?”
“Well, my wife got a new job and they gave her a nice signing bonus. We were hoping to earn a better rate on that money when we put it in our savings account, so the balance would grow faster. But we can’t afford to tie it up for long, because we need it for landscaping improvements in the fall…”
“Of course. What amount will you be depositing?”
“A little over $4,000.”
Present Solutions “Actually, you can earn more on those funds and still have them available next fall. We have a short-term CD that pays a better rate than your savings account, but would still mature before you need it in the fall. How does that sound?”
“That sounds perfect! Of course I’ll have to discuss it with Denise first, but it sounds like just what we need.”
Obtain Commitment “We are open until 6 PM on Fridays. Would you be able to come in this Friday to open the CD—assuming Denise is on board of course?”
“Yes—we could come by around 5:30 after she gets home from work.”
“Great, I’ll call you Thursday night to confirm and then have everything ready for you when you come in on Friday.”
“Thanks for suggesting the CD.”
“You’re very welcome. I’ll see you Friday night. And congratulations again on your new house.”
“Thanks. Bye.”


Transition to a Sales Conversation

  • Mention need just resolved or customer comment
  • Ask a question related to this need



Service Issue: “I’m happy we were able to resolve your statement error/card failure/inappropriate charge. Our goal is to ensure your complete satisfaction. To ensure I have a good understanding of your needs and priorities, may I ask you a few questions about your banking arrangements?”

Account Change:  (such as address change/change to account type/new person added to account/IRA withdrawal): “Congratulations again on your recent wedding/birth of your (grand) child/retirement. A major life event like this often impacts many aspects of your financial situation. May I ask a few questions about your current situation and make sure we’re doing all we can to support your goals?”

Request for Help: “I’m glad I was able to help you set up your online banking/balance your checkbook/order new checks. To ensure all aspects of your banking relationship are working effectively for you, may I take a few minutes to ask you a few questions?”

General: “I’m glad you stopped in today because we haven’t met in a long time. My job is to make sure you’re financially successful by finding solutions to meet your financial needs and goals. Since these needs change throughout life, I’d like to get up-to-date on where you are today. May I ask a few questions about your current situation and take notes for future reference?” 


If you would like to learn more about this best practice and how you can integrate it with your existing training programs, contact:


  • Ron Buck
  • 480-212-6082


Sales Execution Trends Briefing

Sales Execution Trends Briefing

for Business, Commercial, Treasury, Wealth and Private Bankers

Sales Execution Trends 1

2016 Trends


Executive Summary

Over the past year, we have surveyed thousands of Sales Metrics That Matter newsletter readers – executives and sales leaders from small business lending, commercial, treasury, wealth and private banking.  We have created a comprehensive and ongoing study of sales execution at the frontline.

Not surprisingly, key priorities for sales executives in 2016 remain focused on increasing win rates (94%) and improving goal attainment (87%).  Interestingly, increasing win rates has risen in importance, while closing more business at a lower cost dropped, further validating that the majority of banks remain in a growth mode.

With increasing win rates being the most important to sales executives; it is especially noteworthy to see the leading reasons for not reaching goal attainment for banks this year.

Sales Execution Trends 2

As buyers are presented with more choices in an increasingly complicated and ever-changing landscape, Sales People Unable To Effectively Communicate Value as a reason for not reaching their goals is of little surprise.  To support this finding, Forrester’s research indicates that only 10% of business leaders who meet with a banker say they received anything of value from the meeting – and, subsequently, only 17% of bankers are able to get a second meeting.

To further add to the already complex environment the pressure to sell more effectively to an increasingly savvy buyer is at an all-time high.  Understandably, survey respondents indicated their objectives for optimizing revenues as (1) capturing new accounts (69%), (2) upselling / cross-selling existing accounts (48%), (3) retention (42%), (4) increasing sales effectiveness (39%), and (5) increasing win rates of forecasted deals (36%).

The Relentless Hurdle to Goal Attainment

Today’s selling environment is rapidly changing  from one day to the next as buyers and salespeople alike are inundated with what to buy and how to sell it.

An ongoing commitment to change is a necessary component of any successful onboarding initiative, without which new hire progress is doomed to stall and prolong an otherwise successful selling year.  At the same time, it takes a new sales rep an average of 7-9 months to be fully productive (and over a year for small business), slowing down time to revenue, and applying added pressure to sales leaders.

Regardless of bank size, sales organizations struggle with slow ramp up time for new salespeople with only 3% ramping up new salespeople in less than 3 months, and 71% taking longer than 6 months.  Small business teams struggle with onboarding and, ultimately, never adequately onboard 45% of their new employees.

The continuous struggle to ramp up (onboard) new hires faster is a serious detriment to a bank’s bottom line.

Eighty percent (80%) of banks that rate ‘ramping up new sales reps’ as very important to reaching their sales goals, report poor coaching and the lack of a specific onboarding plan as major obstacles.

Year after year, at least 60% of sales people fail to hit their goals.  What’s more, survey respondents report only 41% of forecasted pipeline opportunities actually result in wins.  Even among banks that report a high degree of confidence in goal attainment, the same applies – only 40% of forecasted to close opportunities result in actual wins.

Weak forecast predictability reveals the need for all banks, even those confident in goal attainment, to reassess their predictions and ask, ‘what about the remaining 60%’?   How will sales organizations reach their goals if the vast majority of deals are likely to result in stalled/no decision or losses?


When asked to assess the performance of key areas in the sales cycle, banks revealed the following top areas in need for improvement:

  • New sales people inability to identify and gain access to key decision makers (58%)
  • In ability to add-value to the sales conversation early in the sales cycle (56%)
  • Conduct a thorough needs analysis and translate those needs into a powerful value-proposition that clearly differentiates versus the competition (54%)
  • Close deals in the timeframe originally forecasted (43%)


The Disconnect Between What The Buyer Wants And How The Sales Person Articulates The Bank’s Value Proposition Is At The Crux Of A Persistent Problem.


We call this the Performance Gap – the gap between a bank’s sales strategy and its ability to execute that strategy. 

Increasing lack of sales alignment and focus on one or two wildly important goals and the inability to add value to the sales conversation and build trust both contribute to the cycle of inefficiency in sales organizations.

From our survey data, it is evident that pipeline management stands in the way of most bank sales organizations, with 28% of those surveyed reporting the inability to generate enough qualified leads (68% for small business) and 69% reporting inaccurate pipeline forecasts as top challenges to achieving sales objectives.

Overall, since 2015, the inability to generate enough qualified leads has dropped by 17% (except small business) but inaccurate pipeline forecasts have increased 23% – revealing that while the top of the funnel may be improving, the middle and end of the funnel continues to struggle.  However, 72% of banks indicated they have very little visibility into each stage of the pipeline – indicating a lack of important coaching insights.


It’s All About Efficiency

Today’s world moves faster than ever.  With competition on the rise and rate pressures, improving sales efficiency is critical to the bank’s bottom line.  But just how to do so is a whole other question

Our survey respondents indicated that one of their leading challenges is the inability (or unwillingness) of sales managers to coach effectively (48%).  This is a material jump for our 2015 survey (15%), revealing the growing need of real-time coaching and opportunity management.

As important, over 73% of all survey respondents indicate that a lack of interconnected systems (CRM, Loan Origination System, Core, etc.) may be exacerbating the coaching problems because they are unable to create reports (with a reliable frequency) that everyone trusts, with important insights that are designed for individual performance improvement.  A shocking 65% report their critical sales systems are not at all connected and spreadsheets are on the rise.

Spreadsheets waste valuable internal resources and contribute to data inaccuracy.

Of the banks that are confident in their sales teams achieving sales goals, over 77% stated their sales systems are totally connected through one interface that is streamlined for the frontline sales force.  Sales execution and achieving sales goals requires consistency, along with accurate and timely sales data that everyone trusts.

Sales analytics allow sales leaders to identify patterns and indicators of success – or failure.  Without visibility into the entire sales pipeline, forecasting is inaccurate, decisions are ad hoc in practice, and bottlenecks in sales processes are inadequately, if ever, addressed.  On average 68% of banks reported their current sales analytics do not meet their needs – or worse, they don’t have any at all.

Although virtually all banks create reports, 85% of bank sales teams use manually-prepared spreadsheets that are inaccurate, infrequent and very light on analytic depth (critical insights).

Although the lack of coaching is a critical performance barrier, 85% of banks do not have the trusted reporting necessary to support coaching. 

These themes all pivot on the fact that banks continue to struggle with sales execution.


Would You Like To Know More?

Our research revealed the critical issues to be addressed but it also revealed answers – exciting best practices related to sales skills, sales execution, onboarding, coaching, sales reporting and analytics, systems integration and process improvement.  We found banks that are aggressively addressing these critical issues and developing new best practices we call The Behaviors of High Performers.

Ron Buck has developed a two hour Sales Execution Trends Briefing that outlines the behaviors of high performers and provides your team with the full research study.  There is no fee for this onsite briefing.  If you would like to know more and receive a briefing, contact Ron Buck.

Ron Buck



Defining Your Sales Culture

How Strong is Your Sales Culture?

Defining Your Sales Culture 1

A few months ago I was interviewed by Forbes Magazine.  Forbes is doing some research and writing an article about sales cultures.  Although they were looking at a number of industries, they wanted my perspective on the banking industry.  In my client work, I have observed a handful of characteristics that stand out in the best sales cultures.  I was eager to learn more about Forbes’ research and exchange ideas.

Forbes Magazine“How do you define a sales culture?”

There are many definitions.  But the best definitions include things like beliefs, practices, ways of doing things, ways of selling, values, common behaviors, habits and disciplines.  However, it goes much deeper than that.  Developing a sales culture is a long-term process and you must constantly challenge your definition by asking questions like:

  • Does our sales culture attract and retain the best employees?
  • Does our sales culture add value to the lives of your employees? Are they engaged?
  • Does our sales culture attract and retain the best customers?
  • Does our sales culture add value to our customer’s lives and businesses?
  • What is the attitude of your employees toward their work environment? Are they truly engaged
  • How do you define selling? There are still some banks (and most credit unions) who are afraid to use the word ‘sales’.  It is almost impossible to develop a sales culture when the word ‘sales’ is forbidden.   However, in the best sales cultures, they understand that selling adds value to the lives and businesses of their clients.  This is what I refer to as ‘sales calls your customer would be willing to pay for’.  This turns out to be a very high hurdle.  Gallop’s recent research indicates that only 10% of business decision-makers say they received value from their initial conversation with a banker – and only 17% of those decision-makers give the banker a second meeting.
  • Does your sales culture give you a competitive advantage over other banks?


Forbes Magazine:  When you are working with a client, do you have a guideline for developing a sales culture?”

Every bank has a different starting point and a different way of thinking about their sales culture.  Some banks have not defined or cultivated a sales culture at all and others I have worked with have been partially successful but need some help.  I have a Socratic approach so I am asking questions like:

  • Do they manage sales as a process?

In a high performance sales organization the sales process is understood based on the expectations of the bank and clients at each stage of the decision-making process.  This enables sales organizations to decode and replicate a vital part of the success of their top performers and provides a roadmap for rapidly getting new hires up to speed and productive.

  • Is coaching an imperative?

Few (if any) actually go to school to get a degree in coaching.  Gallop’s recent research claims that only 20% of sales managers have the natural talent to fully succeed as a coach – and the others must have formal training.  Gallop’s research also indicates that sales performance of any sales team is a direct reflection of how the team is coached – 92% of sales executives believe that the amount sold by a group of sales people is a direct reflection on how well they are coached and not sales skills.  The better the coach, the higher the performance.  The sales culture must value coaching (people development) and understand how important coaching is.

  • Do they manage to the right metrics?

Do they focus on the metrics that matter?  While it is important to forecast performance as accurately as possible, doing so rarely (if ever) helps improve sales.  In fact, every minute spent reporting or inspecting results (outcome metrics), is a minute lost trying to improve them.  In the best sales cultures the best practice is to ‘act of lead measures’ and create some equilibrium between analyzing results (which cannot be managed), and coaching to key performance indicators (acting on lead measures) which are both influence-able and predictive of the outcome.

Think of it this way:  achieving your few important goals is like trying to move a giant rock.  Despite all the energy your sales team exerts, it doesn’t move.  It is not a question of effort.  If it was simply about effort, the sales team would have already moved the rock.  The problem is that effort alone is not enough.  Lead measures act like a lever, making it possible to move the rock.  Consider two primary characteristics of a lever.  First, unlike the rock, the lever is something you can move – it is influence-able.  Second, when the lever moves, the rock moves – it is predictive.

  • Do they focus on sales strategy or sales execution?

Banks like to promote their strategies.  However, sales success is 80% execution and 20% strategy.  Sales execution must be part of every bank’s sales culture.  It is the missing link between aspirations and results.  As such, execution is a major – indeed, the major – job of a sales leader.  If you don’t know how to execute, the whole of your efforts as a leader will always be less than the sum of its parts. Executing strategic goals is the greatest challenge facing sales cultures today.  Aligning the sales organization with sales objectives is a never-ending battle.  In addition, keeping sales teams engaged and focused on the most important goals is critical.  When we initially engage with a client, sales execution is almost totally broken-down in four ways:

  • People and teams don’t know their goals. There are too many goals or the goals are not clearly defined.
  • People and teams don’t know what to do to achieve their goals. They don’t track leading indicators of success and the goals are not translated into day-to-day activities.
  • People and teams don’t keep score. Few can tell at any moment if they are on track to achieve their critical sales goals.
  • People and teams are not held accountable for achieving their goals. For results, employees need a cadence of expectations, accountability and feedback – provided by the sales coach.


Forbes Magazine:  “Do you recommend a formal framework for high performing sales cultures?”

As I mentioned previously, developing a sales culture is a long-term process.  Great sales leaders don’t set out to create a sales culture from scratch.  They build upon, improve or change specific elements of the existing sales culture.  ‘Change’ is the operative word.  A new incentive plan, sales training, process improvement or installing new technology are all cultural ‘change’ initiatives.

With that said, high performing banks focus on five building blocks of a sales culture.  It is my observation that these building blocks are present (and refined) in all great sales cultures. The foundation of every great sales culture is people and leadership.  Processes enable and sustain change.  Your sales culture needs to include technology but it should not be about technology.  Sales execution (not strategy) is the keystone of every great sales culture.

Defining Your Sales Culture 2

The Building Blocks of a Sales Culture

In conclusion, I would like to talk about change.  By far the biggest mistake leaders make when trying to improve (change) the sales culture is to plunge ahead without establishing a positive sense of urgency that change is necessary.  Leadership must constantly set priorities and lead specific change initiatives to change the sales culture.   John Kotter is the guru of cultural change.  I always recommend his book ‘Leading Change’.   You asked about a framework.  I always use John’s eight-stage framework for creating cultural change with my client engagements.  We don’t have time for a lot of detail but here is the eight-stage framework.


  • Establishing a sense of urgency.
  • Creating a guiding coalition.
  • Developing a vision and strategy.
  • Communicating the change vision.
  • Empowering broad-based action by removing cultural obstacles to change.
  • Generating short-term wins.
  • Consolidating gains and producing more cultural change.
  • Anchoring new approaches in the sales culture.


Please contact Ron Buck if you would like to read the full interview or learn more about building high performing sales cultures, the five building blocks or the eight-stage framework for cultural change.

Ron Buck


The Hidden Costs of Manual Reporting with Excel Spreadsheets

Hidden Costs of Manual Reporting 1

By Ron Buck

Excel spreadsheets are ubiquitous and one of the most common tools used in banking. However, there are hidden costs associated with manual reporting with Excel spreadsheets.  The hidden costs are associated with the valuable resources manually developing and distributing the spreadsheets, the inaccurate nature of spreadsheets and the poor utilization of spreadsheet reports.

This paper will define the problem, identify a solution to the problem and show the benefits (and ROI) of the solution.


The Problem

The primary problem is that Excel spreadsheets can cost an organization a lot of wasted time, resources and money.

Excel is spreadsheet software.  It was never designed for reporting and it is not a complete reporting solution by itself.  In fact, Excel is just one part of a manual reporting solution.  The entire solution requires a design process of developing metric definitions (glossary); gathering and verifying data from multiple systems; building a data model that can support the application; constructing formulas, filters and pivot tables; user-support and data quality control; and distribution.  Most banks have a lot of inefficient and unstructured processes that are part of the entire solution.

Manual reporting in Excel can introduce significant hidden costs into an organization.  These hidden costs can have a significant impact on the bottom line by reducing productivity, causing late or bad decisions and wasting valuable resources.  The problem is defined as follows:

  • Many Hours of Wasted Resources Manual spreadsheet reporting involves manually gathering and verifying data from multiple disparate systems, manually constructing formulas, manually building charts and graphs and manually distributing the final spreadsheet to different colleagues in various groups.  If these steps are not automated then employees are taking time to manually create, adjust, support, change, refine and share – a process that is error-prone, time consuming and expensive.
  • Errors Due to Poorly Defined Standards and Simple Mistakes Manual spreadsheet reporting can be complicated by a lack of corporate standards that define metric definitions across the organization; centralized data access; and frequency.  The lack of a data glossary and dictionary creates conflicts between reports.  For example, the sales department may define application approval rate one way and underwriting has a different definition.  Sales may define a loan based on the ‘committed’ amount of the loan while finance defines a loan based on the actual ‘funded’ amount of the loan.  Within a bank, many groups use different formulas to reflect the same concept.
  • Every Group Has a Spreadsheet Expert But what happens when that expert is out sick, on vacation, or (worse) leaves the bank?
  • Duplication of Effort  It is not uncommon for different groups within a bank to create very similar, even identical, manual spreadsheet reports.  As already mentioned, this duplication of effort presents a risk of errors due to a lack of standards.  Even more simply, though, this duplication of effort is a waste of resources.  Most often this duplication of effort does not happen simultaneously.  More likely, one person creates a spreadsheet for sales at a specific point in time.  Then, months later, someone in underwriting needs a similar report and does not agree with the sales spreadsheet so they build a similar spreadsheet.  About the same time someone in HR is developing an incentive program and builds a new spreadsheet.  All three have most of the same data with different formulas for a different purpose.  This common scenario results in a duplication of effort and conflicts over whose data is right.
  • Loss of Confidence and Delayed Decisions Because Reports are Not Available at the Right Time Creating complex spreadsheets, especially when the input data has to be gathered manually from multiple systems (in multiple formats), can take a lot of time.  Gathering and verifying the input data can be a very time-consuming task.  The longer it takes to gather the data and create the spreadsheet manually, the longer it will be before they are available to the intended users.  Manual spreadsheets reports are typically produced monthly or quarterly.  In today’s competitive environment decisions are made in real-time.  Delayed decisions can mean lost sales revenues and higher costs.  These hidden costs of manual reporting in Excel are often overlooked by most organizations.  Sometimes there is pressure to make a decision even when the data is not available in time.  In these cases, managers often make their best guess or hastily gather input data without verifying it.  A hastily created spreadsheet can contain countless formulaic errors as well.  The results can be disastrous.  A bad decision made because of bad data can cost the bank lost opportunities in the pipeline and sales revenues.
  • Opportunity Costs – The Time Spent Fine-Tuning Spreadsheets Rather Than Analyzing and Understanding The Data   Reports should be used to improve the bank’s performance.  Users should be focused on what’s important instead of whose data is right.

Manual spreadsheet reports are error-prone, full of hidden costs, generally inconsistent and infrequent.  Data errors erode management’s confidence to use them to make critical decisions.

. . . while it is incredibly easy to get started making spreadsheets, it’s also incredibly easy to make mistakes that cost banks millions of dollars  .  .  .


The Solution – my Performance Navigator

my Performance Navigator delivers all the data needed to manage, coach and make critical decisions in ‘right-time’ on a single easy-to-use platform that can be used on a desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone.   my Performance Navigator automatically gathers data from multiple systems and automates all reporting.


Hidden Costs of Manual Reporting 2

my Performance Navigator

my Performance Navigator is a cloud-based system (SaaS) that gathers data from any CRM system, core processor, loan origination system, incentive system and dozens of other systems and completely automates sales, underwriting, HR, finance and risk reporting, scorecards, visual dashboards and analytics.

my Performance Navigator is supported by a world-class group of data specialist that understand bank processes and the metrics that matter to sales, finance, underwriting and HR.  This dedicated group provides customer support during all business hours – to provide data quality assurance, make report changes and support all user needs.

my Performance Navigator prints executive and board report packages along with interactive and cascaded reporting and analytics for every level of the organization – from a single source of the truth.

With a single click, or finger tap on any mobile device, users can drill down into the organization, change the time frame and navigate between reports, scorecards, dashboards and analytical tools.

All reports are customized for the unique needs of each customer – interactive ‘right-time’ reports designed to improve coaching, sales management, underwriting and sales processes, pipeline management and forecasting.  my Performance Navigator options include:

  • Loan Tracker Tracks loans from prospect to booking as it passes through each sales system (CRM, LOS, Core) and instantaneously alerts the sales person and customer of the loan’s status.
  • Auto-Correct Reconciles data in each system and auto-corrects the data as it moves from system to system.
  • Executive & Board Package (print PowerPoint) Visual dashboards of graphs, charts and trending lines delivered in a printed PowerPoint deck.
  • Print Functionality Various modes of printing.
  • Tools for the Sales Coach Embedded calculators, ‘what-if’ scenario planning tools and automated action planning.
  • Training  my Performance Navigator training is integrated with existing sales training programs.

. . . my Performance Navigator can be installed quickly for a price that is, generally, less than the cost of existing resources manually producing spreadsheet reports . . .


The Benefits of the Solution 

  • Cost Benefits  my Performance Navigator can be installed quickly for a price that is, generally, less than the cost of existing resources manually producing spreadsheet reports (the initial investment is immediately off-set by cost-savings).
  • Performance Benefits When designed with the Metrics that Matter and integrated with training for the coach, my Performance Navigator helps generate a 5% increase in sales revenue in the first year (minimum).
  • Efficiency Ratio The combination of reducing the cost of spreadsheets, reallocating resources,  and improving performance will typically result in a 10 percentage point improvement of the efficiency ratio in the first year.
  • ROI  my Performance Navigator is installed with a goal to generate at least 200% to 400% ROI (assuming a ROA of 1%) over first three years of initiative (and break-even in the first year of installation).
  • Intangible Benefits
    • Smarter, more confident management decisions.
    • An improved organization anchored on trusted data from the frontline to the board room across every group in the bank.
    • More time to focus on what’s important and less time spent arguing who’s right.
    • A dedicated full-time team focused on data quality assurance, process improvement, and customer service (changes, updates and new reports).
    • Improved forecasting, pipeline management and processes.
    • Anywhere, anytime access to critical reports.
    • No software or hardware to purchase.
    • Complete sales cycle visibility and reconciliation across all systems and departments within the bank.
    • Protection for training and incentive investments.
    • Reallocation of resources and budgets to more important initiatives.


Next Steps

If you are interested in knowing more, seeing a demo of my Performance Navigator or getting a free (no obligation) assessment of your current spreadsheets and how my Performance Navigator can save you money, improve your coaching, sustaining your sales training and ultimately improving sales performance contact Ron Buck at:

  • 480-212-6082



Balancing Branch Performance in an Era of Branch Transformation

Balancing Branch Performance

By Ron Buck

Today, every bank and credit union is in some stage of branch transformation.  They are re-designing branches, re-staffing branches, re-sizing branches, re-purposing branches and introducing new technology to provide more services in support of the digital channels.  These initiatives constantly require the balance of cost (expense) reduction and sales performance improvement (revenue growth).

Any bank executive who has been involved in this balancing act knows that reducing costs too much (or too little) will have serious ramifications on branch profitability or branch efficiency.  After all, there are only two levers in this balancing act.

Branch Profitability = Revenue – Cost

                Branch Efficiency Ratio = Cost/Revenue

Reducing staff through attrition or scheduling can have a negative impact on revenue if your models are not dynamically driven by sales metrics.  On the other hand, adding staff to increase sales can be tricky as well.  Branch performance in an era of transformation certainly requires a more balanced approach.

Figure 1.0 illustrates the traditional approach to branch staffing – the relationship between your Staffing Efficiency Ratio (cost/face-to-face meeting) and Face-to-Face Meeting/FTE/Day.


Balancing Branch Performance 2

Figure 1.0

The fully-burdened cost of a personal banker in a rural market may be less than $25/hour, $30/hour in a suburban market and $35/hour in an urban competitive market for more senior staff.  Reducing head count increases the number of Face-to-Face Meeting/FTE/Day and improves the Staffing Efficiency Ratio (cost/face-to-face meetings).

Figure 1.0 illustrates the traditional approach to branch staffing that is focused on getting the right number of people at the right place at the right time’.   Our experience has helped us develop a new model that improves both branch profitability and the branch efficiency ratio by getting the right number of people and the right people at the right place at the right time’.  This is a subtle but important difference.

Figure 2.0 illustrates that branch metrics that matter. Balancing Branch Performance 3

Figure 2.0

This simple equation states that ‘Net Accounts’ equals ‘New Accounts’ minus ‘Closed Accounts’.  It also illustrates the two drivers of new accounts – Face-to-Face Meetings and Success Ratio (new accounts per face-to-face meetings).  This is a very simple but very powerful equation.

In an era of transformation, over 80% of face-to-face meetings are service-related and less than 20% are sales-related.  With a cross-sell of 1.25 (national average), a typical Success Ratio is about 0.25 new accounts/face-to-face meeting (0.65 for high performers).

Figure 3.0 illustrates the relationship of Success Ratio and Face-to-Face Meetings.  Every personal banker has a ‘workload capacity’ – the point when a personal banker is having so many face-to-face meetings each day that the success ratio begins to decrease.  Our research indicates that optimized ‘workload capacities’ range from 5 to 8 Face-to-Face Meetings/FTE/Day.

Figure 3.0 also illustrates the impact of ‘workload capacity’ on the Branch Efficiency Ratio – the cost to generate revenue divided by the revenue generated.

Balancing Branch Performance 4

Figure 3.0

Figure 4.0 illustrates the ‘workload capacity’ curves for four different branches all staffed at 7 Face-to-Face Meeting/FTE/Day.  On the surface, it may seem that staffing has been optimized but a closer look shows that the four Branch Efficiency Ratios vary from 51.5% (admirable performance) to 88.7% (poor performance).

Branch 2 should be staffed at 5 Face-to-Face Meetings/FTE/Day and Branch 3 should be staffed at 6 Face-to-Face Meetings/FTE/Day.

Balancing Branch Performance 5

Figure 4.0

Figure 5.0 illustrates St. Meyer & Hubbard’s ‘branch scorecard’ that our clients use for a more balanced approach to branch performance – where staffing models are dynamically driven by the branch Success Ratio to simultaneously optimize branch revenue and the branch efficiency ratio.

The ‘branch scorecard’ is part of the Branch Optimization Playbook that is used for a more balanced approach to branch performance.  The ‘branch scorecard’ includes national benchmarks from over 10,000 branches and can be filtered by region of the US, market, branch size and branch age.  The ‘branch scorecard’ includes interactive ‘what-if’ scenario planning tools that can be used to balance cost and revenue.  The Branch Optimization Playbook includes the best practices of high performing banks – as measured by branch profitability and branch efficiency ratio.

Balancing Branch Performance 6

Figure 5.0

If you are interested in learning more about St. Meyer & Hubbard’s Branch Scorecard and their Branch Optimization Playbook’ contact Ron Buck at:

Inquiry:  Branch Optimization Playbook