20 Credit Union Sales Myths Debunked Part 2

Recently we published the first ten myths of this “Twenty Credit Union Sales Myths Debunked” series. I received some great reviews of the article along with a few questions. One of those questions was this:

“Nick, we have employees who have definitely bought into
many of these myths. How do we address them?”

This is an excellent question. It is one of the main motivations for writing this two-part article. I aim to expose the myths that are holding you back as individuals and hindering the credit union’s success as an organization. I also intend to reveal the truths behind the myths so they can be debunked.

Naturally there will be different myths for each individual and organization. However, knowing that these myths exist should provide valuable insight into how they are impacting the success of your sales efforts and help you to see that they need to be addressed. In many situations, these myths create beliefs that are perpetuated. These beliefs cause ineffective processes and approaches which favor the avoidance of selling. I have specifically addressed some of these in previous articles but allow me to share one example in an effort to show how this article can answer the question asked.

One of the myths addressed in the previous article was the idea that it takes ten “noes” to get a “yes.” This myth supports the belief that selling is hard and requires many objections before you are able to make a sale. When this belief exists, front-line staff, sales leaders, and training teams continue to support the use of sales approaches that are ineffective and create objections. The truth is, effective selling efforts create greater member engagement. When you understand and know that selling efforts should result in more “yeses” than “noes,” you see objections as an opportunity to change and improve the selling approach and to never be satisfied with mediocrity

With that said, I am excited to present the top ten myths your credit union may have bought into as an organization and the truths behind them to help you move forward.

MYTHS COMMON TO ORGANIZATIONS

11. We love our current culture, and sales training will ruin that.

While this is a myth, there is some truth to be found in it. Because of the myths surrounding sales, your credit union’s processes and procedures are generally out of alignment from those that exist in healthy sales cultures. Changing these process and procedures will take continuous effort and work. It will be uncomfortable as employees are asked to be more inquisitive and sales leaders are asked to be less process minded and truly become business leaders. Coaches will have to stretch themselves as they are required to hold employees to new levels of accountability.

What isn’t true is that transforming and revising the processes and procedures to be more effective in sales will ruin the current culture and replace it with a culture that the organization doesn’t value more. Research shows that employees are happier when they feel a sense of accomplishment and see how their individual contributions promote the success of the organization. Additionally, employees who are continuously coached and developed see this investment in their  growth as an opportunity to improve and work towards advancement and promotions. This applies to all levels. Working to instill a culture of sales success builds a level of engagement and fulfillment and creates a rewarding culture with which anyone can fall in love.

12. We need a customized sales approach built specifically for our culture.

Here is another culture question. Does your credit union really need a sales training program that feels “home grown” and customized to your culture? While it is best to have consistency to your messaging, this simply isn’t necessary.

Selling is a systematic set of actions which lead to a consistent and predictable outcome. What works for one credit union will work for the one across the street or across the country. While it is true that individual credit unions like to use their own acronyms and verbiage when describing their sales processes, the foundational processes are universal. Customization should only overlay the time-tested core and fundamental processes of selling.

13. Top individual contributors make the best leaders.

To some extent it seems logical that your individual contributors would make the best managers of individual contributors because they have mastered what it takes to do the job well, have been on the job for a number of years, and therefore should be able to lead others to similar success. However, it simply isn’t true.

As taught in the book, “The Leadership Pipeline,” leadership requires a whole different set of skills, time applications, and values. When it comes to sales leadership, great leaders must be able to inspire others, hold them accountable, and spend the majority of their time coaching and developing their teams. While it is also true that great leaders understand what their employees are experiencing and what it takes to achieve success, the leadership skills are more important in leading your sales teams to success.

When hiring leaders, credit unions should focus on identifying those candidates which possess leadership qualities over individual sales skill and success.

14. Successful sales cultures only exist at large credit unions with unlimited resources.

Often, smaller credit unions look at larger organizations that are able to invest time and money into their sales culture by bringing in third party sales training programs, hiring specific sales leadership and training teams, and spending money on software and incentive programs designed to boost sales efficiency and think, “we can’t do that.” These measures are not necessary for sales success. Any credit union, regardless of their size or budget, can have a successful sales culture with the correct mindset, coaching, and accountability.

15. I tell my employees to sell, so that should be enough.

As mentioned already, selling is a skill which must be developed. Simply telling an employee to sell without providing the training, coaching, mentoring, and an environment that promotes a healthy sales culture will not yield results. Salespeople must be consistently developed if they are to be expected to produce sales results.

16. Sales cultures are built from the bottom up

Okay, so this may not be a myth, but it sure seems like it could be with the way many organizations approach sales training and expectations. Yes, selling happens at the front lines, but just like a tree doesn’t produce fruit without a strong root system, employees will not sell without a strong and supportive leadership team.

Successful sales cultures are built and sustained from the top down. If a credit union relies solely on its front line, first level leadership, or training team to cultivate a sales culture, it will fail. Selling is an organizational initiative which can only be led by the senior leaders who set expectations, provide resources to accomplish those expectations, and hold the organization accountable to results.

Myth: We don’t need a great sales team, we can just funnel more money into marketing

17. We don’t need a great sales team, we can just funnel more money into marketing

This is one I hear a lot. In an effort to avoid the difficult task of building and sustaining a healthy sales initiative, sometimes credit union leaders look for shortcuts or ways to buy their way to success. One of the shortcuts they attempt is to secure healthy marketing budgets. Another is to invest heavily into indirect channels for capturing new loans, deposits, and membership growth. Where they get lost in this myth is that marketing alone does not create growth or success.

Marketing and indirect channels create the opportunity. But if staff do not know how to sell, they will always miss the opportunities to expand and deepen the member relationship through sales. Sure, marketing and indirect channels will create growth, but the ROI will be very low as the cost of acquiring new business through these channels is excessive.

On the same line of thinking, credit unions cannot expect that sales alone will deliver the growth they are seeking. The best strategy is a good balance between creating new opportunities through marketing and indirect channels and investing in one’s sales culture through training, coaching, and meaningful accountability.

18. Bringing in a new software will fix our sales woes.

Software, such as a new core system, CRM system, or online application process will not create more sales if the fundamental problem lies with the organization’s inability to produce sales results. Rather, such an upgrade will serve only to magnify the problem and make it much more evident as the credit union will pay a significant amount of money for the software, but use of the software will not be able to adequately recover the cost of procuring it.

As an organization, it is best to first address the lack of salesmanship, then bring in the new software to remove barriers and enable your salespeople to help more members. Run as fast as you can from any software company touting that their system will magically transform your credit union’s staff into sales super stars by merely simplifying a credit union process, providing pop up sales opportunities in every transaction, or efficiently generating lead lists. 

19. The reason we aren’t selling is because we have bad products and services.

It is easy to blame your product and service offerings as the culprit for poor growth and product penetration. Maybe you don’t offer a flashy rewards checking account, a zero percent balance transfer credit card, or a tiered CD like the financial institution across the street. I can assure you, however, that the lack of specific products and services is not why your members haven’t brought all their business to your credit union.

Yes, having flashy products and services makes it easier to sell. But the true reason why your members don’t use all of your products and services is because they have never been asked to. Inserting sales-engaged employees will help to drive product penetration up. They are experts, or should be, and can help proactively identify products and services that will benefit your members and give them a financial advantage.

Before developing flashy products and services, first improve the sales performance of your employees. Enhanced products and services, like expensive software and systems, are only helpful in removing barriers and enabling the salespeople to help more members.

20. Our sales people just need to know how to overcome objections.

Objections are always going to be present in the sales process; however, most objections are a symptom of an ineffective sales approach and process. If salespeople are getting more objections than sales, something is off and no amount of training on how to overcome objections is going to help.

Instead of treating the symptom, focus attention on the cure. By providing better sales training, coaching, and mentoring that aims to fix the ineffective sales approach and process, objections will all but disappear. Why? Objections are generally a request for better or more information, information that is needed for the member to make an educated buying decision. As employees provide this right information in the right process, members will be able to say “yes” at a higher level.

The End of Sales Myths as We Know It

How your credit union and its employees view selling greatly impacts their ability to do it. Too often sales myths influence the processes and procedures of the credit union and their individual employees and create situations where the employees approach selling in ineffective ways or avoid selling altogether. If your credit union is looking to enhance sales success, it is best to begin by identifying the myths that exist, debunk them with the truth, and replace them with new beliefs, behaviors, and skills to succeed.