Creating a Sales Culture in your Branch: Is it Possible and Worth it?
I recently read an article talking mainly about what a big mistake turning your institution into a sales culture is or can be. The article points out that most community focused institutions talk about their differentiators being their people and their service. The article also claimed that creating this culture can often be expensive and a turn off to existing employees who may feel uncomfortable "selling". The problem with this rationale, in my opinion, is that it appears to be a close-minded version of someone with a negative view of sales. Truly, if we take the used car model and the ABC - Always Be Closing - strategy, then yes that would be painful to implement both to customers and employees alike. However, if done correctly, with clear communication and training, and while there may be expense in getting there, ultimately the return on investment is huge. If you stick your head in the sand and don't change in today's market, you soon will become irrelevant or part of someone else's institution that's doing it right.
Sales is truly about talking to folks about their problems and recommending solutions that make sense for them and help them achieve their goals. In an environment where most financial products can be viewed as commodities, it’s truly putting the needs of the customer first and creating a winning experience for them that is a differentiator. Many FIs have the fear of turning off customers with a more revenue based model in their branch, but the fact of the matter is in order to grow you have to grow your wallet share of existing business. With the cost of customer acquisition being high for most FIs, it's much less expensive to grow a relationship and products with people who trust you. TRUST. It's a big word and really makes the difference in the culture. If the employees trust that what they are doing is right, they will do it with more conviction and passion. And if the customer trusts that what you are recommending truly serves them instead of you as the institution, then they are more likely to accept the recommendation.
Make It Count
With branch transaction volumes dropping in the 8-12% range year over year for most institutions across the country, how can you afford to maintain the status quo in the branch? Even more now it's important to build that relationship in person, because most savvy customers these days research a ton online, but typically there are questions that go unanswered. So the argument that a sales culture in the branch is obsolete is almost comical. Preparing your staff and the resources needed to help them to be experts to your customers is how you make yourself a differentiator in the market. If you are pushy, talk more than you listen, then yes failure or even customer exodus are possible without a doubt. But, a properly trained and executed program that both incentivizes the employee to serve the customer and meet revenue goals, can really help your community institution take off. That's what it’s about these days, being a true resource for the community you serve and giving honest, trustworthy advice that even will bring millennials back for more.
In summary, I was just blown away by the thought that creating a sales culture in your branch was too costly, too off-putting, and a way to destroy your work culture. Granted if you go about it the wrong way, you can achieve all of those negatives. But if you create the culture around the customer and finding the right products for the right customer at the right time and give them a true WOW experience with your great staff you told us about earlier, then the future is bright and growth will be undeniable.
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About Sean Farrell
Sean has been in the business since 2003 and always aims to be an expert on whatever solutions QDS is providing. Sean has grown into a thought leader in the space through research and company growth. Sean holds strongly to his Christian faith and uses those principles to guide the business.