As a two-time cancer survivor, Credit Union ONE Vice President of Sales Renee Muccioli has learned to squeeze the most out of each day.
“My philosophy is live for today, as there’s no guarantee for tomorrow,” said the latest Women to Watch honoree.
The concept of making the most of experiences has served her well. At the time she was recruited to the more than $810 million, Ferndale, Mich.-based credit union, she was working 65 to 70 hours a week at JPMorgan Chase. Although she didn’t know anything about the credit union industry, she was ready for a change and a new challenge.
“I got my degree in operational management at Western Michigan University and anticipated a career in the auto industry,” said Muccioli, who ultimately found her niche in banking. “Both my parents are in sales, and in working for a big national bank I got to see and learn so much through mergers. To me, sales is fun and something I thought I could share to help make a difference at Credit Union ONE.”
As expected, Muccioli said she encountered strong pushback when she introduced and implemented a sales process for Credit Union ONE’s 18 branches.
“I think of sales as helping members and a way to make sure their needs are met. I think of (sales) as giving (members) options,” Muccioli said. “To help change the mindset about the word, I had to sell it as a service process, which was a struggle for many to understand. It’s about proactively helping members save even $60 a month or $5,000 over the life of a loan. By engaging in a conversation instead of being order takers, we can help change members’ lives and they feel devoted to the credit union for life.”
She added that building relationships served as the basis for her sales process. To that end, she facilitated daily huddles before opening, and required branch managers not only meet with new members but also work the floor attending to member needs and coaching staff.
An integrated needs-analysis program has increased cross-selling and referrals, and she said a focus on training, coaching and incentives has gone a long way toward creating a sustainable sales culture. In place for some four years, the sales environment has expanded to include a specialized sales team of six dedicated to simplifying the loan application process for members.
“We’re getting there,” Muccioli said. “Employees understand that sales isn’t a bad word, especially when members give glowing recommendations and come back to thank them with a hug. They see the member actually does want and need a product, and that the ‘sale’ is not that hard when you’re making conversation to find out how we can help them by providing options they might not be aware of. They’ve become believers.”
She added that it’s been fun to see the evolution and know that she’s had a hand in helping the organization as a whole make a shift.
“What inspires me is that I keep having these opportunities to constantly challenge myself and others,” Muccioli said. “My leadership and communication style are very direct. That connection with others is the most important thing to me. I put everything on my desk aside to walk around the floor for an hour or so. For sales, if you don’t follow up, it won’t be done. We’re asking people to come out of their comfort zone and change, and that’s difficult for anyone to take on. So it’s important to spend the time on the floor face-to-face following up on training, coachin g and engaging in conversation making sure we’re meeting the needs of the member. You can’t do that behind a desk.”
She recognized how easily the daily demands and responsibilities can take over, but time must also be carved out for talking to employees and members alike.
“We’ve got to work with our staff to make sure their needs are being met as well. The process of getting a sale is no different than engaging employees, and knowing you care is the common denominator. It’s no different than coaching. Don’t hide behind email or a survey; go into departments have a conversation and get to know the person face-to-face, as it should be.”
Passionate about sales, she said she would like the industry as a whole to be more proactive when it comes to offering sales options to members.
“Do we go outside our box and solicit for mortgages coming due or let members know they are preapproved for another auto loan at 24 months,” Muccioli said. “Are we making the most of technology to leverage opportunities? I think these are the questions we should be asking, and it’s something we as an industry all struggle with as far as what aspects of our culture need to change.”
For Muccioli, that also means having a team dedicated to looking forward.
“In order to improve employee engagement, our CEO Gary Moody has pushed for the creation of an innovation engine,” she said. “He believes our employees will generate the best responses for change.”
Here’s how the innovation engine works: vice presidents serve as project owners and research employees ideas for feasibility. Their goal is 30- to 45-day turnaround. Employees who submit successful, launched ideas are awarded Kudos Points, which can be used to make an online purchase.
“It’s been a great way to encourage idea sharing and getting innovative solutions implemented,” Muccioli said. “It can be something as simple as our recently adding a chat feature to the auto loan process. It’s not something new but it makes a difference for members. I am so proud of how we as an organization continue to grow and evolve. There's so much opportunity for credit unions.”