A few years ago, my extended family, which included my wife, my three kids, my parents, my sister, and her family, took a vacation to a major theme park across the country.

In order to make the most of our time at the park we hired a travel agent to help us get everything organized. This included where we would eat, tickets reserved for the most popular rides, and even a route that we would take in each park. While he helped us meticulously plan our vacation, probably the most important bit of advice we received from the travel agent was to remember to bring a pair of good shoes.

If you’ve ever been to a theme park, you know the majority of your time is spent standing in lines and walking from one end of the park to the other. This advice made sense. A comfortable pair of shoes is essential and everyone heeded his advice. Well, almost everyone…

You see, while I made sure my wife and children were all set with good shoes, I had already spent several thousand dollars on the vacation. I was not thrilled about spending another $60 on a pair of “good shoes” for myself. So, I decided I would be budget conscious and just wear a pair of shoes I already owned that were “comfortable enough”.

While I was pretty darn proud of myself for finding a way to save money, in the back of my mind I knew this was probably a bad decision. Sure enough, by day four I was absolutely miserable. My feet hurt so badly the thought of standing in another line was almost unbearable and I began taking any opportunity I could to sit down. This resulted in missing some of the rides my family was going on and slowing down the group as I hobbled from one part of the park to the next.

After watching me for a day, my Dad pulled me aside and asked if he could buy me a pair of shoes. When I told him my logic in not buying new shoes was to save money, he told me in so many words that this line of thinking was absurd. He said “You mean to tell me you would ruin a vacation on which you’ve spent thousands of dollars, to save a few bucks?”

As that settled in, and I pondered about my bruised and sore feet, I realized how narrow-minded and cheap I had been. What had that decision actually cost me? Probably a lot more than the price of a pair of good shoes. Certainly, it cost me time making great memories with my family and you can’t put a price tag on that.

A few years later, I was attending a convention as a sponsor and exhibitor. During the breakout sessions, while credit union employees were in their classes, I took the opportunity to connect with the other sponsors; companies that offer core systems, loan processing systems, marketing solutions, business services, branch construction, CRM/MRM systems, and branded checking accounts. As we discussed what they offered, the question would come up about what we do for credit unions. I would explain that SalesCU provides credit union-specific sales training programs to help credit unions capture more of their members’ business and cultivate primary financial relationships. In many situations, the reps would say something like, “I wish our clients did a better job at training their employees to sell,” or “We should talk with you about creating sales training for our clients,” or “If only we could get our clients to sell better, our product would be so much more valuable.” Of course, I would absolutely, 100% agree.

It got me thinking. Credit unions spend millions of dollars each year on:

  • Their core system, CRM solution, and LMS
  • New branches and remodels
  • ITMs and cross-trained, universal employees
  • Paying their staff

How much of the money devoted to these areas and systems is lost because employees are not properly trained to maximize these investments through sales? How much more value could credit unions create with employees who know how to sell? The answer, of course, is difficult to quantify, but it’s reasonable to assume it would be significantly more! Let me share a few observations from my discussions at the convention.

One of the exhibitors with whom I spoke represented a company which provides an appointment setting and lobby management system. The rep told me their system’s value is in providing the member with the ability to directly schedule appointments in order to meet or speak with an employee about the product or service they need. Because of that, their clients are twice as likely to close the requested product. These are amazing results, however, the rep shared that with their product, they do not see an increase in cross-sales.

Intrigued by this shortcoming, I asked what he thought was the reason that they weren’t seeing cross-sales increase. He said it was due to a lack of sales training. He went on to say that while their system helped employees meet with more members who would normally fall through the cracks because of improper follow-up, the employees’ behaviors weren’t changing. They were still order takers.

Another of the exhibitors I spoke with at the convention that day was the owner of a marketing consulting company. He told me about the amazing work they are doing for their clients to create thousands of sales-qualified member leads. Their process is creating a 5% closing rate for new checking accounts, credit cards, deposits, and other loans. They are also building marketing channels to bring in new members. However, when asked what is happening to the other 95%, he answered that they die on the vine.

My initial thought, when he said this, was that this list would be an amazing outbound sales opportunity. So, I asked if any of his clients were making calls on the 95% that aren’t closing with the initial contact? He said they strongly recommend it. He mentioned that some clients try, but their success rate is really low due to employees not making the calls or simply not being effective when they do.

I heard similar feedback from other solution providers at this convention.

So, why not provide sales training with the launch of a new system and solve this shortcoming? When compared to the cost of these complex systems and solutions, sales training is extremely affordable and can provide significantly more value to the success of the initiative. Sales training is that pair of “good shoes” that makes the larger investment more worthwhile. Sure, a credit union can gain a short term victory by avoiding the expense, but how long will that last before they begin feeling the pain (pun intended).

As illustrated above, a credit union employee’s ability to sell, or lack thereof, is the bottleneck of success. While the other systems and solutions can bring more efficiency, and even more business, on their own, they only treat the symptom and not the disease. When all is said and done, employees who were ineffective at selling before will still be ineffective with more expensive tools in their hands.

So, the most important bit of advice I can give you is this, don’t forget a pair of good shoes! And don’t forget to invest in sales training for your employees.

SalesCU (formerly Nick Brown Consulting) is a credit union-specific, sales training company dedicated to bring a proactive sales approach to every credit union. SalesCU accomplishes this by providing sales consulting and training to enhance branch sales, contact center sales, outbound sales, and lending center sales. The goal of SalesCU is to empower credit unions to cultivate primary financial relationships with their members. Engage Nick Brown directly at 801-860-5807 and nick@salescu.com. Ask about his credit union specific workshops and online sales training, featured at www.salescu.com.