What do top salespeople at credit unions do differently?

A number of years ago I had the opportunity to read the book “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell.  The premise of the book, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, is to explain the makings of extremely successful people.  Those that achieve success are those who rise far and above the success of others but who seemingly have the same capabilities, smarts, and even ambitions.  Gladwell termed it best in an interview published on Gladwell.com.

“In the case of Outliers, the book grew out of a frustration I found myself having with the way we explain the careers of really successful people. You know how you hear someone say of Bill Gates or some rock star or some other outlier—”they’re really smart” or “they’re really ambitious?” Well, I know lots of people who are really smart and really ambitious, and they aren’t worth 60 billion dollars. It struck me that our understanding of success was really crude—and there was an opportunity to dig down and come up with a better set of explanations.”

For me the book opened my eyes specifically to the role advantage and opportunity play in success.  Likely I’d never be an “Outlier” but this didn’t mean I couldn’t become exceptional in credit union sales.  The conclusion I came to was that extreme success is a combination of opportunity, timing, talent, and focused hard work.  These were all things I could seek to harness in order to reach an exceptional version of myself. 

Using this model, I’d like to share my observations of sales success and what makes top salespeople in the credit union world more successful than their peers.  What do they have or do differently which catapults them to the top?  And what attributes can you as salespeople, supervisors and senior leaders espouse to take your credit union sales to the next level?

When putting this together I started out with a rather lengthy list, I have managed to narrow it down into 4 simple attributes and behaviors that really anyone can develop and apply.  That’s not to imply it’s simple, it takes work, dedication and a willingness to learn but I hope this can give you guidance and insight into the makings of great salespeople.  

Four things that make top salespeople great in the Credit Union World.  Top salespeople:

1. Understand the Products and Services They Sell.

Product Mapping- A course taught in our online sales training program.

Top salespeople demonstrate a deep understanding of the products and services they sell and this knowledge goes far beyond just the features.  Top salespeople have a holistic knowledge of the products and services the credit union offers. 

First, top salespeople know how features create benefits for their member and they tie the benefits directly to an advantage their member will receive over other available products or services.

Second, top salespeople understand the closing process of the products and services they are offering.  With this understanding they can begin every interaction with the intention of closing and lead the member through a carefully crafted discussion to gather the right information, receive the right commitments and ultimately close the sale.

2. Understand Why Members Buy.

Tops salespeople spend more time asking questions and learning why their members buy.  They seek to understand what the member’s true needs are and what is motivating them.  They position information through the conversation to get the member thinking of the possibilities and to consider each product and service needed to obtain them.

Allow me share an example.  When a member engages the credit union for an auto loan, they aren’t there because they really want another monthly payment.  They aren’t even there because they want to buy a car.  They are there because the car fills a need, want or dream for them. 

Asking questions in order to learn the member’s true motivation reveals a lot of information that a salesperson can then use to align all of the products and services that would most benefit their member. The salesperson would then sell and ultimately close all of the products and services that would best serve their member.

3. Know How to Lead a Sales Discussion

Credit Union Salespeople lead successful sales discussions.

As mentioned above, selling is a process.  Too often salespeople simply think selling is explaining a product and then asking the member to make a decision.  We’ve all heard it before, the most important part of selling is “asking for the business”.  One of the reasons this idea about selling is perpetuated is because every now and then it actually works, giving individuals and even trainers the false concept that this is what selling is. 

Top salespeople understand that selling this way is inconsistent and unpredictable, requires hard sales tactics that put goals and products ahead of the member’s needs and leads to frustration and burnout on the part of the salesperson. 

Top salespeople see selling as a process and not a phrase.  Top salespeople never ask “Is that something you’d be interested in?”  Rather they ask questions such as “Do you have just a moment to… (Insert the next step here)?” They lead the member through a process to learn more, educate the member, qualify the opportunity, then get commitments.  There is no need to ask for the business, closing is just the next natural step for the member.

Top salespeople understand what potential objections a member may have.  They can read a member’s concerns from their body language and vocal tone, and they proactively address objections before the member has an opportunity to verbalize them.  In this way sales objections rarely become obstacles for a top salesperson to “overcome”. 

4. Are Passionate to Produce, Succeed, and Help 

Top salespeople have an energy about them which fuels greatness.  It is sometimes called optimism, ambition, or determination; they just don’t settle for mediocrity.  To others around them this energy seemingly attracts opportunities which lead to success.  In reality opportunity doesn’t flow to them, they seek the opportunities that are constantly presented to all of us and drive to capture them. 

As mentioned I am not an outlier, but I personally experienced much success in selling while serving as a credit union outbound sales agent.  I remember one experience I had a few months after starting in that position.  I was new and still learning.  I relied on mentoring from my manager and others on the team who had more knowledge and many more years of experience.  After a few months I began having success and eventually out producing those mentors.  One of the agents, who didn’t understand the source of my success claimed I was sorting through the sales lists and getting the best leads. 

Top salespeople will always out produce their peers because they have the right mindset, a clear objective, and a hunger to succeed.   From the outside looking in it may appear they have an unfair advantage, such as getting the best leads.  In reality they get the best from their leads. 

For top salespeople there is no conflict in their mind between their member’s interests and their sales goals.  Their success is in perfect balance with their morals, values and ethics.  For top credit union salespeople, this means that their focus is on providing their member opportunities to better their situation.  Their goal is to add value by expanding and deepening the relationship with the member and each opportunity they find both validates and motivates them to sell.  Each sale they make is in harmony with that goal and each opportunity they see is vetted through that lens. 

The goal of each credit union sales team should be to become a top sales team.  However, leading, coaching, or becoming a top salesperson or sales team is not easy; it takes time and focus.  My hope for you is that knowing these attributes which catapult top salespeople to the top will help make that path clearer and more tangible.

I wish you success on this path, and if you have questions or need support in this process I invite you to reach out.  I have developed resources to aid credit union leaders and front line salespeople in becoming top salespeople.  After all, your members deserve this level of service and value from their credit union!