I have had the pleasure of working with some great credit unions this year. They have goals for growth and success and they are taking action to deliver the sales strategies and training to their front line to accomplish them. It has been an inspiration for me and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with them.
Over the last few years the credit union industry has gone through a change. It is recognizing the importance that a strong sales culture has on the success of the organization and the value they deliver to their membership. But a recent conversation I had with a Senior Vice President of a small credit union reminded me that there are still some credit unions that have yet to see the light. I would like to share the first part of that conversation simply to illustrate the perspective that still exist.
As I normally do I started the call with a basic question and went from there. The start of the conversation went something like this:
Me: Mr. SVP, do you have an outbound sales strategy at XYZ Credit Union?
Me: What is your strategy to engage members who have financial product and service needs that are either going unfulfilled or serviced at a competing financial institution?
SVP: We don’t really focus on that. Our approach doesn’t involve really selling ourselves to our members, we serve their needs as best we can.
Me: So what kind of sales culture would you say you have there at XYZ Credit Union?
SVP: I wouldn’t say we really have a sales culture here. We have a commitment to serve our members needs the best we can but we don’t really do sales.
As the conversation progressed it was clear there was a major disconnect between the business this credit union was in and the way they were running it. Credit unions are retail sales establishments that offer products and services direct to members. They all have a sales culture and every credit union does sales or they would not be in business. Do credit unions work to serve their members financial needs better than any other financial institution? Absolutely, but if they are not selling to their members, they are not truly serving their members needs.
There are two types of sales cultures in the retail sales world, reactive and proactive. Whether you have purposefully established a sales culture or ignored it completely, your credit union will fall into one of these two types. Let me explain further.
What Reactive Sales Cultures Look Like:
In a reactive sales culture, credit union employees wait for members to engage them for their product and service needs. These members have already decided they have a need and have already chosen your credit union to fulfill it. When their need is fulfilled the members will leave with no additional information or offers of other products and services that may benefit or serve them better.
Employees working in a reactive sales culture typically don’t see themselves in sales roles. If asked about sales their response will typically be something similar to this SVP “I don’t do sales”. They see selling as a burden or annoyance to their member’s overall credit union experience. As a result they add very little value to their membership’s lives and in turn receive little to no added value from their membership.
Credit union leadership in a reactive sales culture rely on broad marketing offers, relationships, and member loyalty to drive foot traffic. Because foot traffic is seen as the only way sales happen they see their membership as the strategic sales advantage and the key to future success and growth.
What Proactive Sales Cultures Look Like:
In a proactive sales culture, all departments of the credit union see themselves as financial advocates for their membership. They spend time understanding their member’s needs, wants and desired outcomes and develop strategies to keep their membership engaged and feeling valued.
Employees are trained and continually coached to understand how to match products and services specifically for their member. Employees receive lists of members who have unfulfilled needs or that have products and services with competing financial institutions. They produce results and see their role with the organization as a sales and service representative. Turnover is low as employees feel engaged and recognized for their performance.
Credit unions that purposefully employee a proactive sales culture do so from a position of abundance knowing that there is always more opportunity than they can serve, and they are driven to identity and capture it. They see sales and financial advocacy as an expectation of their membership. They understand that by adding value to their member’s lives through sales they will receive value back from their membership.
Leadership in a proactive sales culture rely on marketing efforts, relationships, and member loyalty, but do not leave success to chance. They promote employee training and sales to fulfill all of their members financial needs and generate opportunity from outreach initiatives capturing member needs and to develop new relationships. Because of this approach they see their employees as their strategic sales advantage and the key to future success and growth.
Where Is Your Credit Union At?
Because every credit union is unique, the way they execute sales and the strategies can vary, but the sales culture will be ether a reactive or proactive approach. So which sales culture does your credit union have? What strategies are you employing to improve the value you deliver to your membership? What is working and what needs improvement? Please share and comment.