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

Your Credit Union is a retail sales establishment, meaning you sell products and services direct to consumers.  As a retail sales establishment this means your credit union has a sales culture and a sales philosophy whether they were strategically designed or not.

A few months ago I wrote more on this topic in an article titled “Leading Your Sales Culture from Reactive to Proactive”.    In the article I described these two cultures in detail from the perspective of a credit union undergoing a culture change.  There are some amazing tips on how to identify what culture is guiding your employees in each member interaction, and how to improve it.  One of the tips which I’d like to elaborate on, is the importance of a credit union sales process.

When I first discuss sales processes with some credit union leaders they will often say “Yes we train all of our employees on our sales processes.  When doing a loan we teach the employee to start the application, gather the loan information, get supporting documents, send it to underwriting and so forth…  We have that down.”

I have to chuckle and cringe a little each time I hear this.  Why? It’s because this is not the sales process at all, but rather the steps to processing an application.

Certainly processing is part of the sales process but it only occurs after the employee has discovered and discussed what need the member truly trying to solve.  And this misconception is actually what contributes to much of the “Sales” frustration for credit unions.  Let me explain.

Processing and selling are actually two completely different functions and quite frankly they require two completely different employee skillsets.  If we see, for example, the steps to processing a loan as selling we generally hire employees that are great at processing.  As a result we end up with a sales staff which produces tidy accounts and loans with clean audits but doesn’t effectively upsell ancillary products or cross sell additional core products.   Don’t get me wrong, you need employees with a processor skillset, but they are most effective in a sales support role rather than a sales lead role.

A sales process encompasses the entire member interaction. It should outline each step your employee takes a member through from needs assessment to closing and onboarding.  All employees should be trained on the sales process and receive consistent coaching to ensure they are executing it at a high level.

So what are the steps of an effective sales process, and in which order should they be taken?  This is a question that comes up often with my credit union clients, and to help them I have created the SURPASS Sales Process which I would like to share with you.

The SURPASS Sales Process is, of course, an acronym with each letter representing a separate step.  The steps are in order and act as a guide for employees to sell in any member interaction.  It stands for:


The SURPASS Sales Process is specifically designed to be used for any member interaction whether it be at the loan officer desk, teller window, over the phone or online.  It can also be applied and followed in any situation where the member has reached out such as to open a new product or service, deposit a check, or during a routine call to the service center for a balance inquiry.  It works in each of these scenarios because it doesn’t aim to create a rigid script for each member interaction but rather guild an employee through a natural process to obtain a consistent outcome.  Let’s take a closer look at each step, and training your employees might need to execute them.

Smile and Greet

It goes without saying, the value of a first impression is priceless.  Likely the most important step in any sales process is the greeting.  Greetings happen in person, over the phone and online.  The greeting should be warm, inviting and instill confidence trust.  Trust in the employee and in the credit union.

A greeting is part of your credit unions brand.  You can probably think of a businesses which has a consistent greeting regardless which location you go to.  Impressive right?  Why not brand your greetings and create a standard for employees to live up to in your credit unions sales process?

Understand Needs, Wants and Dreams

Taking time to truly understand what goals the member is trying to accomplish is extremely important.  It will mean the difference between establishing a single service relationship with your members or a primary relationship.

The main skill your employees must understand and religiously practice is the member interview.  Often though the member interview consists of one question “So what brought you in today?”  My clients know that even this question is not effective and likely carries a negative connotative meaning.

The member interview should consist of a series of questions to understand the member’s true needs, what they want to accomplish, and how it helps them get closer to their financial dreams. It dives into the member’s motivation, the events that caused them to act now, their concerns and their expectations.  In the member interview the employee should learn the critical bits of information to align the right product or service for the member and position them to sell additional products and services the member may need but doesn’t know to ask for.

Review Options and Solutions

Your member should be the one making the decision on the solutions which best meets their needs, but only after they have been properly educated.  This doesn’t mean that the member is the expert or has all of the answers.  Your member chose your credit union because you are the expert and they have partnered with you to be their financial advocate.  This step in the sales processes is where your employees reinforce that this is a partnership, and illustrate the immense value membership at your credit union provides them.

In this step employees take the information they’ve gathered in the interview and put it to work, aligning the products and services which fit the members unique needs best.  They take the time to discuss which features the member would benefit from and discussing how it might give them an advantage over another option, and even over another financial institution.  However, employees cannot do this unless they have the proper training on the credit unions products and delivery systems.

Many credit unions provide product knowledge training, but most employees are not being trained on Product Sales Knowledge.  To help sales employees successfully execute this step in the sales process they need to know the qualifying factors, features, benefits, and advantages of those products or services they are expected to sell.  They also need to understand common concerns a member may have about a product and how to anticipate and address them before they become an objection.  With this knowledge they will have the ability to provide what feels like a customized solution for your member.

Proceed to Help

At this stage in the SURPASS Sales Process, the member has been educated on the options available to them and has decided on the direction they’d like to go.  It’s time for the employee to move forward and begin helping the member with their transaction, resolving a problem, or starting the application for a new account or loan.

For employees who are eager sales people it’s easy at this point to start looking at other sales opportunities, but doing that will inevitably lead to member objections.  The member’s goal is to solve their current need.  This step reminds the employee that it is best to help the member get a solution to their need before venturing into cross sell discussions.  That being said, this doesn’t mean the employee isn’t selling in this step.  Actually it’s quite the opposite.

During the “Proceed to Help” step, employees should focus their sales efforts on the associated ancillary products and services.  In fact this is where employees should upsell products like online services, direct deposit, overdraft protection, debt protection, extended warranty, and so forth.

Assess Other Opportunities

Once the employee has helped the member with their needs, the discussion can then be opened to other opportunities they have noticed.  This would be the cross selling step in the sales process.  Cross selling of course is the process of discussing other core products the member doesn’t currently have with the credit but which will benefit them.

Employees would look to cross sell deposit accounts, checking accounts, credit cards and especially loan recapture and balance transfers.  Ideally, earlier in the conversation the employee would have suggested to the member that they noticed something the credit union may be able to help them with, and mentioned they would look at it together once they were finished with their need.  This is now the perfect time to bring up those other opportunities.

Secure Commitments

Great sales people are great because they know how to get commitments.  Often the reason sales fall through is because the employee did not get a clear commitment from the member.  Unless the member is driven by their own motivating factors to close, they will feel no obligation to follow through on sales conversation.

Securing commitments from the member is an essential step in the sales process. It helps the member understand the next steps, and gives them a level of accountability.  A proper commitment creates the motivation for a member to follow through because it ties the next step to the benefit and advantage the member will receive.  However, one thing not to forget in this step of the sales process is that commitments are two way.  Employees who get great commitments from the members are also willing to make commitments.  They are willing to over promise and over deliver for their member.

Schedule Follow-up

The last step in the SURPASS Sales Process isn’t actually the end but rather the beginning of the next sales discussion.  Follow-up is essential for the success of any sales process.  In a way, follow-up is a sub step to commitments, as one of the commitments that will be made is to follow-up.

Follow-up will need to happen during any step in the sales process.  For example when a member doesn’t have time to finish a discussion, when they don’t have everything needed to close with them, or when a step is going to take a few hours or even a few days to complete.  When situations like this occur the employee must schedule follow-up to avoid the sale falling through.

Follow-up doesn’t just need to happen to get a sale closed.  After a sales is closed employees should schedule follow-up to onboarding new products and services.  Yep, that’s right I said schedule onboarding.  Onboarding is follow-up and as I said before without follow-up sales fall through.  Onboarding is essential to ensure the member is utilizing the products and services set up for them.  Imagine all of the members out there who don’t have an activated debit card because they never received it, or they were confused about the activation steps.  Think of the frustration this would cause and this is just one example.  This is why onboarding is essential in any sales process.

The most engaged and loyal members are those which feel connected to their credit union.  Connection occurs through contact and support.  Always schedule follow-up with your members.

In closing, the SURPASS Sales Process can work in virtually any member interaction.  But think about your typical member interaction at the teller line, or in the call center?  Are your members being led through a similar process to identify their true needs, and discuss other opportunities?  How about when your member applies online for a new account or loan?  Are they being engaged by employees and receiving a customized solution to their needs?  How about through your online branch and mobile banking app?  Are your members being upsold or cross sold products and services which would benefit them?

If your credit union does not have a formalized sales process I encourage you to find one that fits your brand, and which has the sales training your employees need to execute it effectively.  You will find that it will not only improve your results on the front line but in other areas of the organization as well.  It will give your training team the framework to build training which covers both operations and sales.  It will empower your sales managers to coach and mentor their employees to a higher level and build accountability.  It will give senior leadership a tangible vision to build upon and vet opportunities against.  And most importantly it will develop the kind of relationship your members want to have with their credit union.

You can contact Nick here to learn more about how the SURPASS Sales Process can help your credit union.

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