***As featured in CU Business Magazine November 2017***

In December’s article I shared with you the SURPASS Sales Process.  The process is 7 steps to sales success that can be applied in the branch, over the phone and online.  Giving your member a consistent sales experience is so important, not only because it brands that experience, but it also ensures your member is getting the very best service possible.

If you read the article you already know that your credit union has a sales culture whether it was built intentionally or not.  There is no escaping it, the credit union is a sales organization first and always.  You sell products and services direct to consumers.  Often though the selling that is taking place sounds a lot like this.

Employee: So what brought you in today?

Member: I need to open a checking account.

Employee: Great, what kind of checking account are you looking for?

Member: Well I don’t want any fees and I need a debit card.

Employee: Absolutely, we have a great free checking account here at the credit union I can get set up for you.  Are you already a member?

Member: No.

Employee: No problem, let’s get started opening your new account and that free checking.  I just need…

If you thought “Order Taker” after reading that, you would be absolutely right.  This is what is often referred to as a “Reactive” sales approach.  The employee asks only those questions necessary to learn what the member thinks they need, then moves forward processing the request.  As an order taker in a reactive sales approach, the employee misses an opportunity to add value to the member relationship by expanding it through cross selling and deepening it through up-selling.

The example script I shared above is actually one of the steps in The SURPASS Sales Process, although not done well at all.  It is the step where we ask questions to understand our member’s needs, wants and dreams.  You are likely already familiar with this step.  It’s often called “The Member Interview”.

Where done correctly though, credit unions experience greater loyalty from their members, higher satisfaction and net promotor scores and greater value in their member relationships.  Growth expands from within and new members will onboard much faster to a primary financial relationship.

Where the member interview is so critical, why is it not being done more consistently and effectively?  Here are some misconceptions I have observed while training and coaching credit union sales teams, and the truths behind them.

Misconception #1: The member knows what they need and they will ask for it when they need it.

Often, employees believe that the member is the one who knows what they actually need.  If the member needs it they will ask for it specifically. This places the member in a situation where they must be the expert and advocate on their own behalf for financial success. 

Approaching the member relationship with this misconception is like being the vending machine for financial products and services.  The member takes a look at what is offered and the credit union simply dispenses their selection.

The Truth: The credit union and its employees, is the member’s financial advocate.

We do live in the information age, and our members do have access to a vast amount of information but that does not make them the expert.  The credit union is, and the employee is the advocate for the member to help them sort through the products and services available to find customized options and solutions for their needs.

The real reason members do not ask for products and services which they truly need of is either because they:

  • Don’t know your credit union offers it
  • Don’t understand how it can benefit them
  • Don’t know that the product even exists
  • Know it exists, but it never crosses their mind that they need it

A few years ago I worked with a credit union client to improve their new mortgage originations through proactive outbound sales calls.  The credit union was working to achieve a goal of capturing 10% of their member’s mortgage business.  At the time they were at 4%.  We then employed a lead source which identified members who had just started working with a competitor to get a mortgage, and called them to offer a competitive quote.

Initially the credit union was confused as to why more members didn’t come to them when they were in need of a mortgage.  They had great programs, strong member satisfaction scores, and were competitive on their turnaround times.  However, after the first week of calling they understood why.  A consistent member response when employees would ask if they could give a competitive quote was “We didn’t know the credit union offered mortgage loans”.

Misconception #2: The member will be offended if I sell to them.

There is a fear of rejection that keeps many people from selling.  The fear is that they will be too pushy or they will need to use hard sales tactics to be effective and meet sales quotas.

The Truth: Member expects their credit union to sell to them.

I haven’t ever come across a great salesperson in the credit union industry that must be pushy or deceptive in order to sell.  And after nearly 2 decades of selling and coaching sales in the credit union industry I have very rarely had a member complain or get offended when sold a product or service.  Actually based on consistent member feedback, the opposite is actually true.

During my time with a credit union they underwent sales culture change to be more proactive in their sales approach.  To support the change and show how members felt about what the credit union was asking employees to do, they hired a camera crew and interviewer to visit local branches and ask members specific questions about their expectations being a member.

In the interview one of the questions asked was “If you found out that the credit union had a product or service which could have saved you time or money, or helped you make more money, but didn’t tell you, would you be upset?”  The response was consistently “Yes”.  There were even a few members that went so far as to say they would likely close their account and go to another institution who would value their membership.

The truth is, members not only appreciate being sold to in the proactive credit union way, it is one of the reasons they stay with your institution.

Misconception #3: I can’t find anything more to sell to my members.

This is generally a phrase I hear from the teller line and call center.  Often they are helping the same members over and over again.  The members have been sold the typical products and either have it or have mentioned they no longer want it.

Operating under this misconceptions assumes that if a member didn’t want a product 3 years ago they still don’t want it.  Also, it assumes that if a member doesn’t want bill pay, they also are not interested in a credit card, Christmas Club savings, or investment services. 

The Truth: In most situations there is always something more you can do for your member.

Too often employees get stuck thinking in the box.  This is a rather cliché phrase but it truly has application here.  We need to help our employees think out of the box, or maybe as a first step, expand the box.

Member interviews are successful on the teller line and in the call center when employees stop focusing on the product and its features, and start looking for how a product will benefit the member.

I recently coached some branch tellers who shared this misconception with me.  I took this as a challenge and while shadowing the tellers I was determined to sell a few products.

One of the first members that came in was a woman with a few grandkids in tow.  After some small talk about her grandkids I asked, “Do you have a savings account for your grandkids by chance?”  She said yes.  I asked a few more questions and found out the accounts were at another institution.  The credit union had a great children’s savings program that would earn a higher rate which she didn’t know about and shared that her grandkids would be earning a higher rate with our product.  We were able to get her over to an account rep and she ultimately brought $5,000 in deposits over to the credit union.

In Conclusion

The member interview is a critical step in servicing all of our member’s needs.  The member interview can be something that takes a few minutes to accomplish at the loan officer desk, or just a matter of a few questions at the teller line or over the phone.  Asking simple questions to learn more and to offer the member an opportunity to share more is the way in which we connect and serve.

Yes, the purpose of the member interview is to sell.  Selling for the purpose of serving, this leads to value.  Value for the member.  Value for the credit union. And value for the employee. Schedule a Leadership Road-map session with Nick to see how he can serve your credit union. 

Check out Nick Brown Consulting’s latest product SalesCU. An online sales training platform designed only for credit unions, to help meet your credit union’s sales goals. If your credit union is behind the 8 ball to meet goals, this training is the fastest way to implement and see real results. Schedule a demo today.

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