Building and Clouds

Challenger in Commercial Banking

The Profile of High-Performing Relationship Managers

Commercial Banks are losing client share of wallet: 70% of middle market clients and 39% of business owners now use 3 or more financial providers. To face this challenge, commercial banking organizations need to reconsidering how they drive greater productivity from their frontline sales force. 

CEB research has shown that a particular type of relationship manager (RM) outperforms the rest. As someone who always understands what is driving their customer’s business and brings a unique perspective, the Challenger RM is able to create a differentiated, highly valued sales experience that makes customers much more likely to buy. Challengers in Commercial Banking can be nearly 25% more productive than the average RM. Challengers produce more loans, deposits, fee income, and new customers than do non-Challengers.

Take the Challenger Skill Assessment and discover you or your team's Challenger capabilities.

Use this quick 5 minute mini-assessment to discover your Challenger capabilities and the questions you can use to strengthen your Challenger approach.


The 5 Profiles of Relationship Managers:

Woman looking upward


  • Always has a different view of the world 
  • Understands the customer's business
  • Loves to debate
  • Pushes the customer
Kayak on Lake

Hard Worker

  • Always goes the extra mile
  • Doesn't give up easily
  • Self-motivated
  • Interested in feedback and development
Balancing Feet

Lone Wolf

  • Follows own instincts
  • Self-assured
  • Independent
Hands Hanging Poster

Problem Solver

  • Reliably responds
  • Ensures that all problems are solved
  • Detail oriented
Baby and Parent

Relationship Builder

  • Builds strong customer advocates
  • Generous in giving time to help others
  • Gets along with everyone

Two Strategies in Pursuing Challengers

1. Hire Relationship Managers with Challenger Potential

Access our Challenger RM Hiring Guide sample to identify which potential RMs have the attributes to succeed, along with sample questions, potential answers, and red flags. Using the Challenger sales process, our hiring guide helps you identify potential RMs who can:

  • Detect new or unrealized opportunities in the face of new challenges,
  • Assess potential tradeoffs, including those that are not obvious, and
  • Leverage individual value drivers and offer new perspectives.

2. Turn your Relationship Manager into Challengers

CEB helps leading commercial banking organizations build seller skills and improve organizational capabilities to employ the Challenger Selling model. To fully realize the productivity and profit benefits, commercial banking leaders must first lay the groundwork to activate a competency-driven performance model: