*****As seen in CU Business Magazine in July 2019.*****
It was 2002 and I was approaching the second anniversary for my very first credit union position. I had recently been promoted to head teller, mainly because I had mastered the processes of tellering and was experienced in many of the back-office responsibilities. Oh, and I was the only full-time teller who wanted the position.
The credit union had just announced the launch of a sales incentive system and new sales goals for all employees. As part of this, the credit union was sending senior leaders to every branch to present an early morning meeting on the new sales culture. The senior leader we drew was a fun, charismatic, Senior Vice President of Lending. I had met him before at new hire orientation and instantly liked him, so I was looking forward to his presentation.
As expected, he spoke a lot about lending, the need to grow loans, increasing credit card penetration, and the need to be on the lookout for members who had loans with other institutions that we could steal. I think this was the first time I had ever encountered that concept and I remember thinking to myself, “Isn’t that dishonest?” I wasn’t very sales minded in those days. Read another article that I wrote Are you Missing Selling Opportunities.
I don’t remember much from that meeting, but one phrase has stuck with me all of these years and has become a foundational principle in the work I do with credit unions. He said, “Be a deal maker, not an order taker.” I’m not sure if it was because it rhymed, or because it inspired me to see the possibilities of what selling could do for our members, but I have often used it as a measuring rod for my personal mindset and individual performance in my credit union career.
Clearly, being a deal maker can mean different things to different people. It can also take on different meanings based on the setting and context. For me, being a deal maker in the credit union industry means proactively looking for ways to improve our members’ lives by offering products and services which help them make money, save money, save time, or make their financial experience customized and more convenient. It is taking the responsibility for your member’s financial success and educating them on how they can satisfy their true financial needs, obtain their financial wants, and build towards their financial dreams.
Making this change in your own approach, and helping others make that change too, requires a shift in mindset as well as the adoption of skills and processes. Here are the three transitional elements necessary to transform your credit union’s sales results. With these, you will begin to see your employees abandon the order taker approach in order to become deal makers.
Changing the Mindset
As mentioned above, early in my credit union career I was not sales-minded at all. My opinion of selling was something people did to make money at the expense of others. I believed good sales people are pushy and dishonest and that selling was something to be avoided. I see this opinion of selling in just about every credit union with whom I work from the frontline staff all the way up to senior executives.
But truly, that archaic and fallacious view of selling is generally only a front for the real concern; which is fear. We fear the rejection, we fear the work it takes to become exceptional at something that is a championed and extremely sought-after skill.
Sales is not easy. It requires all of us to put ourselves in a vulnerable position and it makes us feel uncomfortable. To become good at selling, or at the very least, achieve a level of competence in selling, it requires work, training, coaching, and accountability.
In an article titled, “Are Great Salespeople Born or Made?” published on TheRainMakerGroupInc.com, it says:
Salespeople are ‘made,’ but they are not made quickly or in a short period of time. You are not made for sales in a short period of time. It takes years of development to acquire that “certain something” for sales, and although it can be acquired once a person enters a sales job, it is extremely difficult to do so.
Okay, I know you are thinking, “But what about that neighbor kid who consistently shows up at my door with something to sell or asking to do odd jobs to make money.” Yes, there are people who seem to be born skilled in persuasion and getting what they want. However, simply displaying traits found in great salespeople does not a great sales person make.
The truth is, we all have abilities and traits which can be refined through training and coaching that would give us an advantage in becoming great at selling. The differentiating factor between those who become great and those who don’t is the willingness or desire to become great. And that requires the right mindset or a change in mindset.
For me, that change in mindset occurred after I was able to take an objective look at what service really was. It was pointed out to me that I was actually doing my members a disservice by not advising them on the products and services which could save them time, money, or make them more money. That realization challenged my old way of thinking and created the path to a new perspective that selling done right is actually the highest form of service I could provide to my members.
The path to a new mindset is different for everyone; however, the path to changing a mindset is consistent. As a credit union leader or employee you can lead your own mindset and shape the mindsets of others by doing a few things:
- Change the way you talk about sales
- Begin applying the skills and processes of selling however difficult it might be
- Surround yourself with people who are great at selling
Delivering Competent Credit Union-Specific Sales Training
Victor Antonio, a sales mentor of mine, says “Selling ain’t hard when you know how.” This is true. Those who receive even the most minimal amount of sales training will see an increase in their results. Those who receive consistent training, coupled with coaching and accountability, can expect to see exceptional results. The critical point here is that you must know ‘the how.’
Employees who are expected to sell must have training. Specifically, they need to have training in five critical areas:
- How to identify sales opportunities
- How to conduct sales conversations
- How to ask the right questions to uncover the members’ true needs, wants, and dreams
- Why people buy and how they like to buy
- How to create engagement and get commitment
With these skills, your employees will be confident and effective when selling. Any training program designed to help your team sell more effectively should cover these topics as a foundation for success. As they move forward, they will also need a few additional skills:
- Recapturing loans
- Recapturing deposits
- Transferring checking accounts
- Selling assurance products (GAP, Extended Warranty, and Debt Protection)
- Sending referrals to your mortgage, investment, business services, commercial real estate, and insurance teams
Employees must know what is expected of them. Sales training only fills a portion of this. With training, employees need clear expectations that define the results you will look for in their sales interactions. They also need support from leaders to help them develop these specific sales skills through coaching and mentoring.
Leadership Committed to Coaching and Meaningful Accountability
Because selling happens outside of operational processes, it is not guided by the core system or procedures and is not held accountable by compliance or auditing functions. Therefore, another layer of accountability and process/skill improvement must be put in place. That layer is delivered through the sales leadership. Luckily, your credit union’s sales leadership is already in place.
Sales leadership begins at the front line with each individual contributor taking ownership of their sales results and subsequently becoming an example to their peers. Next are the branch, contact, and assistant managers who lead sales. Continuing up the organizational chart are the regional sales leaders and operational vice presidents, retail and/or sales, and so on all the way to the CEO and the board.
In order for sales to be successful, each leadership level must take ownership of the sales success of their direct reports. They must train, coach, and hold their direct report leaders accountable to sales success appropriate to their leadership level. Finally, they must also remember that while coaching flows downward from the top, meaningful accountability flows upward with each employee being accountable to their individual leader.
Transforming your credit union’s sales results is not a simple process. Improving sales at your credit union cannot be treated like installing a new transaction procedure, adjusting your loan process, or making changes to underwriting guidelines. And it cannot happen by installing a new and better software system. It requires a solution outside of the operational framework on which much of the credit union has operated for decades.
By creating a new framework, built on the essential elements of a mindset which focused on delivering a higher level of service, sales training, coaching, and meaningful accountability, your credit union will be empowered to make the necessary changes that will transform your sales results. Employees will transition from order taker to deal maker, proactively seeking new opportunities to serve and create value in your members’ lives through sales.
I would love to schedule a time to talk about how I can help your credit union create the sales conversations you desire at your credit union.