Don’t be so quick to write off sales as a dirty word, said Sean McDonald, president of Your Full Potential and chairman of CUNA’s marketing/business development council.

“Business development is a sales job,” said McDonald. “It’s not pressure selling but consultative selling and building relationships. At its heart is the art of building sustainable, meaningful relationships. In the communities you serve and in the business community it all starts and ends with building that relationship.”

Since March, McDonald has been on a mission to stop the common misperception that business development and marketing are interchangeable terms with the launch of the Credit Union Business Development Academy.

“I would say business development and marketing have to work together and have a good relationship, but they are very different disciplines,” said McDonald. “There are still a lot of credit union executives that believe business development refers to commercial/business accounts and loans. That is simply not the case. Business development encompasses everything from building relationships to cross-selling to community development.” 

He added that business development essentially touches all aspects of the credit union and its core remains sales beyond just setting up a table at a SEG or at an event.

“We need to ask am I spending most of my time focused on building, sustaining meaningful relationships with a center of influence in the communities served,” said McDonald. “Does sitting at a table with balloons and donuts add value to your credit union? Most of the time people see the table and try to avoid eye contact and find ways to ignore you because they automatically think you are trying to sell them something. How about offering a workshop on the financial topic of their choice instead to employees? Or showing up with and iPad slideshow video about how the credit union can help make it easier, more convenient to bank? The idea is to do something different, be bold and help change their perception and build awareness that their credit union is relevant. We know that consumers don’t know who we are or what we do, so we should take every opportunity to change that, building one relationship at a time.”

Designed to complement existing resources, the academy offers a mix of one-on-one coaching, two monthly webinars and monthly interactive roundtable discussions with all participating credit unions where everything from current challenges to best practices are shared. In addition, participation in the program is open to anyone at the credit union. So far three credit unions have signed up and a few more have been slated for 2013.

McDonald said his goal is to build awareness of all the resources that are available through CUNA, NAFCU, CUES, and the leagues.