For the last 6 years I have had the opportunity of working with credit unions directly and indirectly to help them create amazing outbound sales programs. It’s been exciting because credit union outbound sales has become my passion and I love every moment I get to share my knowledge and experience.
Recently I’ve had the opportunity to work with a handful of credit unions whose outbound sales departments were struggling. While they had great expectations for these teams when they were created the results were not at the levels they expected. I have had a great time working with these credit unions to identify areas for improvement and see them come alive again with a new resolve, and sales results.
As I have worked with these credit unions, and other credit unions that are experience successes with outbound teams, there are always 5 critical components that are either in line or not. And to help your credit union see success or understand where it’s coming from, I want to share these components with you.
1. Have a goal in mind: It should go without saying that before you start any sort of initiative there first has to be an underlying reason to do so. Like the Cheshire Cat says in the book Alice in Wonderland “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. Boy is this true with an outbound sales department. You can go any direction you want but most roads don’t lead to the success you expect, and what credit union is going to leave that success up to chance?
Early on in my outbound selling career while still an agent on the phone our department struggled with a clear vision. Should the department focus on developing checking accounts, making friendly welcome phone calls, recapturing loans, selling only ancillary products, calling existing members or only new members?
The expectation was loose and undefined. It made it difficult to celebrate successes and work towards goals because it was impossible to define what a great job looked like. As a result for the first few years the success of the team was inconsistent, and it was difficult to get the vote of confidence it needed form senior leadership. Without a clear vision it nearly failed.
A clear vision gives both leadership and employee’s confidence on how to move forward and allows them both to set clear goals and expectations. More importantly it allows everyone to celebrate when that vision is executed and achieved.
2. Choose your lead source wisely: The lead source your credit union chooses will likely make or break your outbound initiative. You can have everything else in place and working at a high level, but if your sales agents are calling on a poor lead source they will not succeed.
I recently spoke with VP of Sales and Service about their outbound sales initiatives. They reached out to me because they were struggling to see any results with their sales calls, and he was concerned because the employees were getting frustrated after just 3 months of calling with no success.
He explained to me that they the credit union had a goal to capture new loan volume from it’s membership either from recapturing lost loans or generating new business. They had created leads for their branch loan officers to call on during the day when foot traffic was a bit slower. Each loan officer was calling about 10 members per day but despite their efforts, had not helped a single member with a refinance or new purchase.
As the conversation continued it became clear that the problem wasn’t with their employees or their resolve, but with the lead sourcing. They were drawing leads from members with auto loans who were about 3 months from paying off the loan full term. While it seemed like a great lead source at the time as we talked about it he quickly realized why this was the source of the lack of results.
This credit unions lead source did not work because it didn’t follow these two proven strategies:
- The lead source needs to be aligned with the vision and purpose the sales team is working to accomplish and specifically focused in on the products and services the credit union wants to sell.
- It must identify members who have viable needs for those products and services right now and naturally create a purpose for calling.
Having the right lead sources for your outbound sales department is extremely powerful. It makes success so much easier, even when other components of your team may be off or lacking.
3. Leadership support: Your outbound sales department needs to have the right leadership on board. When I say the right leadership I am speaking specifically about the first and second level leaders. Leadership will drive success with its ability to train, coach and hold sales agents accountable for success. In the book “The Leadership Pipeline” we learn that great leaders are those that have the right skills, time applications, and work values for the departments they are leading. This is particularly true for an outbound sales department.
The leadership of your outbound sales team should be skilled in selling and have a background of success in doing so over the phone. They must value spending time with their agents to train and coach them to success, and work with them when they are struggling. They should also be able to clearly define what success is and hold agents accountable to goals and targets. Without these attributes your outbound team will have inconsistent results and produce below expectation. Learn more about SalesCU my online, and ongoing training program designed for credit unions with leadership training and support built in.
4. Focused team: The quality and focus of your sales agents is critical to the success of your team. Without high performing agents on the phones engaging your members, you can’t experience high production. The poor performance and attitude of just one under performing employee can lower the performance for the rest of the team. This is why hiring the right employee will make all the difference in your teams results.
Over the years I have seen my share of agents that simply couldn’t handle the pressure of producing sales over the phones day in and day out. It’s a difficult position for someone to experience long-term success in because it takes focus, drive, motivation, the ability to move forward after disappointment along with the product and process knowledge and sales skills.
One mistake I often see credit unions make when filling new outbound positions is assuming that success in one area makes them a good fit, because training and coaching will fill any gaps. For instance bringing over an employee from the inbound call center because they are good on the phones or hiring a great salesperson from a different industry. Training does create success however, without the correct behaviors your new employee may not succeed.
An outbound sales agent is not an entry level position. The sales agents on the phone speaking with your members must be experienced and carefully selected. Successful sales agents are those that have a background in selling and who have the right temperament to be on the phones selling all day. They also need a drive for success and the ability to create value in the lives of your members while selling to them over the phone. Learn more about how I can support your team and create a customized training expereince for your credit union.
5. A carefully planned process: A process is a systematic series of actions which if followed will bring consistent results. You hear a lot about processes in the manufacturing industry thanks in part to Henry Ford. And when most hear of process they think of Six Sigma, and black belts. So you may be asking why process is one of the critical comments to a successful outbound sales department.
An outbound sales department’s main job is to manufacture sales results (pun intended). The process begins at lead generation and continues through a series of steps which result in a closed sale. Of course a sales process doesn’t need to be as tightly controlled as the manufacturing industries quest for only one defect per billion, but it should be clearly defined and offer some guarantee for success over other processes or no process at all.
Your outbound sales department’s sales process will help it create more sales by making it easier for both the agent and the member to complete all of the necessary steps to create a closed sale in as short a time as possible. For instance if you are working with a member to recapture a loan from another institution, your agent will need to fulfill a number of steps including processing an application, gathering supporting documentation from the member, obtaining approvals, and getting documents signed and submitted in order to close and fund the new loan. This can be difficult to accomplish in person but doing it over the phone only increases the complexity. If your process is faulty, undefined and cumbersome you are going to lose the confidence of your members, sales agents, and will ultimately lose a lot of sales.
Bottom line, even with the best vision, leads, leadership and sales agents, without a great process to create closed sales your outbound sales department will struggle producing consistent results. Learn more about a tool I custom built to help credit unions in their process of loan recapture.
An outbound sales department can be a powerful addition to your credit unions strategy. You can utilize a successful outbound sales department for many initiatives such as generating new loan volume, capturing product and service sales that were missed or overlooked, and increasing member loyalty and equity. Ensuring that you have these 5 critical components in place and working at a high level will create the results you are looking for to compete in the ever-changing and competitive financial services industry. Contact me today for a complimentary consultation.