As I travel the country to provide training to salespeople and their leaders, I encounter many myths about selling. While some are quite funny and easily cleared up, most of these myths are deeply ingrained in the cultures of the various credit unions and the minds of those employed there. When these myths become deeply engrained, they can drive resistance to selling and impact the success of the credit union.
As we consider the culture in which we live, it is easy to understand how these myths came into existence. First, not only do we see selling portrayed poorly in entertainment and in the news, we have also all had personal experiences with salespeople who sell very poorly, and it invariably leaves a bad taste in our mouth for selling. Secondly, there are always those exceptional examples of selling by individuals and credit unions that make sales excellence seem completely unattainable. Each of these experiences shape our beliefs and attitudes towards selling and ultimately become myths that are passed on as truth. These myths then cause employees to resist sales expectations and discourage credit unions from addressing their poor sales cultures.
So, what are these sales myths plaguing credit unions, and what is the reality behind them? In this two-part article, we will debunk the top ten sales myths impacting individual sales performance and the top ten sales myths to which credit unions often fall prey.
- Selling to members bothers them.
Granted, there are different forms of selling and some are simply not appropriate in the credit union industry. But selling is and should always be part of the service experience being delivered to your members.
When a credit union salesperson sells properly, it creates the highest form of service for the member because she is constantly looking for ways to improve his financial situation by helping him save time, save money, make more money, and generally make managing his finances more convenient. This form of selling creates value, and when she is creating value for her members, they will respond positively.
2. Selling is pushing the product of the month.
Pushing the product of the month means that a salesperson is trying to sell the same product to every member he sees, regardless of the member’s needs. We see this approach when sales expectations have been sent down to the front lines without providing proper sales process training.
This approach to selling has little success and often leaves the member with a bad impression of the credit union. Selling is a process that first identifies a need, then presents options customized to that need, and finally helps the member move forward with the next steps because it makes sense to her. The product-of-the-month approach skips this process and goes straight to “asking for the business.”
When the product pushing approach is being applied, salespeople will generally complain about a lot of sales objections and become frustrated with selling altogether.
3. Members don’t want to be called at home or work.
A few years ago, I published an article about making outbound sales calls during the holidays. In the article I proposed that credit unions reach out to their members proactively to discuss ways they could help members during this financially demanding time of year. As I often do, I received a few comments in response to this article. I was shocked, however, by one particular comment that I received on this article from a chief marketing officer of a medium-sized credit union. She said, “Give your members a break from the selling, and don’t bother them during the holidays.” Clearly this credit union leader is confused about the role of selling, and the value it can and does create in the lives of her members.
After personally calling over 10,000 members at work and home, and leading several outbound call center teams, I can attest that the myth that your members feel bothered when you call them, is one hundred percent inaccurate. Certainly, there were members we called who did not have the time or a desire to talk. And yes, there were an occasional few, over nine years, who were bothered. However, they were the vast exception. Members love it when you call them to offer something of value, and it is an extremely effective way to connect with members you don’t often see in the branches or the call center.
Note, before reaching out by phone to a member to offer additional products and services, do ensure you are in compliance with all governing laws and regulations.
4. People are born to sell.
The belief that selling is a skill you are either born with or without is simply not true. There are many successful salespeople, including myself, who did not enjoy selling at first nor were they initially good at it.
Selling is a skill that can be taught and mastered through practice and experience. In fact, selling is a system that anyone can follow, and with the right mindset, even master. This doesn’t mean that everyone will enjoy selling or become a star performer simply because they have received training. Like any worthwhile skill, it takes training, coaching, practice, and just the right amount of failure to perfect. It also takes an individual who is intrinsically motivated to succeed and has a desire to learn and apply.
While anyone can learn to sell, it is always best to hire and promote individuals who have the right mindset and will enjoy the challenge of becoming great in their sales positions.
5. To be good at selling you must be aggressive.
The other day I was discussing our companies’ sales approach with my wife, and I must admit, I used this very phrase to describe some changes we needed to make. My wife looked at me with a concerned expression and said, “Aggressive?” as if shocked to hear this word coming from my mouth. I quickly clarified. What I meant was assertive.
Yes, assertiveness is important in selling, but aggressiveness is detrimental. Aggressiveness invites approaches that employ manipulation, deception, and undue pressure that are not acceptable anywhere, especially in the credit union industry. Selling is not something you do to your members but rather for them.
When selling in the right way, a salesperson offers a product or service that adds value to her member’s life. If she truly believes in the solution, she will be gentle yet assertive.
6. Selling is just about numbers and revenue, not about the member.
For some businesses selling really is simply about the revenue, but not with credit unions. Numbers and revenue are certainly one of the driving factors for selling, but it is only half of the equation. As a not-for-profit, member-owned financial institution, any success a credit union achieves from selling equals success for its membership.
Bottom line, when credit unions have strong and productive sales cultures, the member and membership always benefit. That’s a good thing because that is why the credit union exists.
7. It takes ten “noes” to get a “yes”.
If your salespeople are getting ten noes to every yes when offering a product or service that will truly benefit the member, it should be a sign that the sales approach is off and needs to be adjusted.
When done correctly, a sales process should create more yeses than noes. That is why it is important that sales training and execution should always be accompanied by coaching and mentorship. A coach has the ability to identify where a salesperson’s process is off and can provide guidance on how to correct or improve it.
We should add another myth here: an effective sales approach will always get yeses. That is equally untrue. However, the difference between an effective and ineffective sales approach is why member says, “no.” When the salesperson follows an effective sales process, but the member still says “no” the salesperson can take comfort that he helped the member make an educated decision.
8. Selling is all about the pitch.
Actually, selling is all about understanding the member, not about making a good pitch to him.
If a salesperson takes time to identify a need her member has, asks questions to understand that need better, then offers a solution that uniquely fills the member’s need, she will not have to pitch anything. Salespeople don’t have to be clever when asking for the business, they just need to take time to understand before offering.
9. If a member wants it, they will ask for it.
Waiting to be asked for a product or service is called reactive selling. So, it technically is selling, it’s just highly ineffective at truly servicing the needs of the members. The reactive sales approach implies that the member is the expert. Survey 100 members and 99 of them will admit they are not the expert when it comes to the products and services their credit union offers. Heck, ask 100 credit union employees and you may get a similar result.
People do not do business with a credit union to simply gain access to the credit union’s assortment of financial products and services. People do business with a credit union to gain a financial partner that will help them solve their needs, fulfill their wants, and reach their dreams faster. This requires employees who know their credit union’s products and services and are looking for ways to add value by offering solutions that will help their members reach their goals.
10. Using a script makes me sound… “scripted”
It isn’t the script that makes a salesperson sound scripted,
it’s the lack of practice and refinement.
Nearly all successful salespeople use a script and they do
not sound scripted. The reason successful people do not sound scripted is
because they have written the script using their words, practiced it, applied
it, assessed the script, and then refined it to make it sound natural and
For many people and credit unions, it can be tempting to buy
into sales myths. As you have read through this article, you may have noticed that
many of these myths sound a lot like excuses. Maybe you, someone you work with,
or someone you manage has used some of these myths to justify not succeeding at
selling or explain away the need to sell. That is why it is so important to
address the myths and understand the truths behind them.
Stay tuned for part two where we will address the myths to
which credit unions as a whole often fall prey.
To Be Continued…