Are You Selling to Members?


Financial institutions, specifically those that begin with a “B” and end with a “K”, are often known for being aggressive as it relates to sales. This may be for several reasons, but most of the aggressiveness is likely associated with the for-profit mentality. But that does not mean that credit unions, as financial cooperatives, cannot exercise the opportunity to enlighten member-owners on how they can benefit from certain products and services. Or how the member-owner can assist their credit union in reducing expenses or generating revenue. After all, as member-owners, we should all be invested in the overall performance of a business that we own.

Let’s take a look at the three pillars associated with a successful cross sales program.

Soft skills training and continuing education

Not every credit union employee has been in a sales role as it relates to offering products or services to a customer. But in the credit union space, I consider this to be more of an advisory role to the member-owner. Therefore, it is important to debunk the myths associated with a sales culture and to educate credit union staff on the fact that one of their main roles as credit union employees is to assist the member-ownership community and assist the credit union in succeeding.

This “spin” often helps credit union staff realize that they are not aggressively selling a product or service, but they are offering products and services that will likely provide financial success for the individual member or provide greater financial success for the financial cooperative that they own. It is important to convey this message to staff, often to ensure that they do not consider themselves part of a large corporate machinery they do not feel invested in.

It is also critical to ensure that staff understand how to communicate and, more importantly, listen to members. One of the concepts I often tell my staff is to look for opportunities to “break the ice” with a suggestion or a conversation on a product or service that could benefit the member.

For example, I was recently in the lobby of a credit union, and I overheard a member who was discussing the challenges they were experiencing with paying their home equity loan at another financial institution. Immediately, this challenge was identified as an opportunity to advise the member on the opportunities for how they might be able to transfer funds more easily between financial institutions and how there might be interest in re-financing their loan with the credit union. Either way, there was an opportunity that was identified by simply listening to the member’s conversation and identifying opportunities to assist.

Defining what products and services to sell while keeping them exciting

Often, credit union staff can become overwhelmed thinking about all of the products and services their financial institution offers. It is important to recognize that potential and mitigate it by creating a program that focuses on key products and services. If your credit union has not begun asking staff to advise members on the products and services, one of the first products that often enter the conversation is e-statements. This is largely due to the fact that almost all staff will likely recognize the benefits of e-statements.

But the important factor is to ensure that staff are aware of what the credit union’s current priorities are. These priorities can be defined in several ways, so the critical piece of the puzzle is that it is defined. Once defined, it can easily be communicated with staff. And staff will feel more comfortable discussing the specific products and services with members knowing that they have the support of all other credit union staff as well as the credit union.

Also important is the opportunity for the credit unions to keep the products and services fresh. Include aspects of your credit union in your promotions and campaigns that may not be a specific product or service that the member-owner must sign up for, such as community events your credit union is hosting. This may be an event where member-owners can come to the credit union to shred any documents that require disposal or it may be a charitable event that your credit union is participating in within your community.

This allows staff to discuss a topic that is outside the normal everyday shuffle of the credit union and to talk about an event or topic that they may have an interest in (personally or professionally). If your credit union is not discussing this style of events with your member-ownership community, it may be a great time to start. Not only will you likely see your staff get excited about the opportunity, but you are also promoting how your credit union is invested within your community as a cooperative that is dedicated to not only serving the financial needs of the community but also just serving the community as a whole.

Rewarding credit union staff with the recognition they deserve 

As soon as you consider the concept of rewarding members, you may think of incentivizing staff for the sales activities they are performing. This is always a great way to encourage staff to discuss opportunities with your member-ownership community but there are other ways in which you can encourage your staff to discuss products and services with members.

One method that has been proven to be successful is to spotlight staff members that have not only assisted a member-owner but also spotlight situations where a staff member has reduced expenses or increased revenue for the credit union. This could come in the form of a friendly staff competition on a specific product or service, or could randomly be spotlighted based upon the discretion of the credit union’s management team. Either way, the spotlight is an important piece of the puzzle because the spotlight will encourage others to want to be in the spotlight.

Another method would be to create some friendly competition amongst teams, branches, or any other group of individuals where there is an opportunity for team spirit. For example, a credit union may decide to institute a friendly competition between branches for how many members enroll in e-statements at each branch. This is a very simple approach that promotes teamwork and camaraderie amongst teams and most importantly provides a bit of fun amongst the team while achieving a credit union corporate goal.


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