In the many years that I've been involved with this industry, we have always been interested in helping credit unions improve their cross selling capabilities. But I have to say that there are some really disparate philosophical approaches to selling out there. Most of these discussions rotate around having credit union staff members-who are traditionally service oriented-become super sellers.
The prevailing wisdom in the industry is that we need to provide sales training to foster a sales culture and to position staff to be able to engage customers in a conversation that results in a sale of a new account or an expanded service. In other words, teaching staff to sell because as we all know, sellers sell, right?
OK, I'll admit that in some situations sales do occur because the seller was truly relentless and convinced someone to purchase a new product or service. With that acknowledgment, I'd propose to you that the poor buyer in most of these situations left the visit with buyer's remorse. Not really one of those top-of-the-morning feelings. After all, they weren't really buying something; they got sold.
Credit unions, on the other hand, are in the business of providing service. This service philosophy is what truly sets them apart from their counterparts. Credit unions are certainly in it for the long haul. But if they have the mentality of getting the quick sale, they're in for an unhappy ending. If, however, they continue to focus on the service roots of people helping people, their success for the most part is there for the taking. People want to do business with people they trust. They want to do business with those that help them-not those who push a sale on them.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. For over a decade I participated in a networking group of CEOs and presidents of local businesses not in the financial services industry. Each month we met and discussed issues of the month and listened to an outside speaker on a topic of interest. One month that person was Jim Cecil. Jim espoused an approach called "drip marketing." Drip marketing involves staying in touch with clients and prospects on a routine ongoing basis and never truly pushing the sale but always letting your target know what you could do for them and being available should the need arise. The essential recommendation Jim made is that when your prospect is ready to buy, you want to be top of mind.
This particular presentation formed much of my personal and corporate philosophy about selling. That is, sellers don't sell, buyers buy.
The practical result of this adage influences how my company addresses the topic of cross selling in our products today. We believe that it is difficult (or I should say impossible?) to turn great service reps and call center agents into trained sales killers. But the alternative is entirely possible. We can equip them with tools and information that help staff talk with members and prospects about products and services that would be helpful to them-not helpful for a salesperson's month-end quota.
After a sale, both parties in the transaction will evaluate the deal. The buyer will probably do so at an emotional, subconscious level. When this evaluation happens in the mind of your credit union member (who just got a couple of new accounts and signed up for a review with a financial adviser), what feeling do you want them to have? If they got sold, that adviser meeting may never happen and the accounts might close within a few months. But if they bought because you helped them, then you've built some trust and most likely are on the way to establishing a long-term member relationship that could lead to more sales down the road.
Everybody wants to do business with people they trust. But trust has to be earned. Providing helpful, non-salesy advice consistently over time helps achieve this profitable goal, where your credit union wins and your members win. Turning your service-oriented reps into trained sales killers could definitely work, but where's the service in fulfilling a quota? If you allow those reps to focus on serving your members with helpful information that will make their financial lives better, your members will trust and eventually choose to buy from them-which results in long-term success for your credit union.