As credit unions encourage members to conduct more routine transactions using self-service technology, branch employees are being asked to take on more of a sales role. While many tellers have basic sales skills like rapport building and product knowledge, credit unions have encountered resistance when tellers are asked to make the transition.
The problem, according to sales trainer Bill McCormick, is the negative association people have with sales.
“When we kick off a sales workshop, we’ll begin with this question: ‘when you think of a salesperson, what comes to mind?’ The most common answer we hear is pushy – they’re too pushy, all they do is talk and try to sell me something I don’t need. It immediately turns people off.”
McCormick is president of the Boston-based firm Sales Training and Results (STAR) and has worked with more than 100 banks and credit unions. STAR’s most popular sales program for financial institutions is its “Needs-Based Selling” workshop and online courses. Branch and call center employees, who tend to care more about meeting members’ needs than they do about meeting quotas, appreciate the needs-based approach, he said.
Here are four tips McCormick shared to help credit unions train employees on how to implement a needs-based selling strategy in the branch and in a call center.
- Ask good questions in a professional way
The difference between needs-based selling and traditional sales is asking questions to identify needs. Questions are so important, McCormick said, they’re the heart of the strategy’s skill set. Also key is the ability to listen to members’ answers and identify their needs or concerns. Only then can a successful needs-based salesperson properly recommend the specific product or service that will meet those needs.
- Don’t pressure members
Needs-based selling questions focus on the member, while high pressure selling questions focus on the salesperson. For example, McCormick said, consider the high pressure sales question, “What is it going to take to get your business today?” That question identifies the salesperson’s need, not the customer’s.
“Instead, briefly explain to the member why you’re asking questions,” he said. “Something like, ‘we offer many products and services – do you mind if I ask you some questions to learn which ones will work best for you?’ Most of the time they’ll say yes, that’s fine.”
Never pressure a member to close the deal right away if they’re not ready. Listen, McCormick said, and if they need more time – perhaps they need to talk it over with a business partner or spouse – then ask to set up the next logical action.
“Ask, ‘can I schedule a time to call you,’ or ask if you can discuss it again the next time the member visits the branch,” he said.
Allowing the member to take their time to make a decision, but also asking to follow up, creates a business relationship that is needs-based and not pushy.
- Focus on needs, not quotas
McCormick acknowledged that credit unions must set sales goals and benchmarks that track the cooperative’s return on investment. However, too much emphasis on meeting sales goals sends the wrong message to employees, and could result in a Wells Fargo situation in which employees resort to unscrupulous tactics to meet their quotas.
It’s much easier to sell members products they actually need, because if they don’t need it, they’ll just tune out the sales pitch.
So how can needs-based selling work with sales goals? Member segmentation, McCormick said.
Credit union sales managers should group members based on which products and services they may need. This practice not only gives the credit union a more realistic goal for each product and service, it also makes cross selling more effective by avoiding the one-size fits all, “you want fries with that?” approach.
“Say, for example, you’re trying to sell payroll services,” McCormick said. “If a member has a business checking account at your credit union, they might be more interested in payroll services.”
Then, ask questions to confirm that need exists.
“For example, tell the member, I see you’re a long-time business checking customer,” he said. “We just introduced a payroll service and have found lots of members like you are interested. Would you like to learn more about it?”
- Coach employees
Needs-based sales training by itself isn’t effective, McCormick said. It requires complete managerial buy in, and frequent coaching by managers is essential.
“We see a big difference between credit unions that reinforce our training with manager coaching and those that don’t,” he said.
Sales positions also experience frequent turnover, so managerial coaching also provides consistency for the sales team, he added.
To learn more, download our how-to guide, “How to Evolve Your Branches With Universal Bankers” below.