For the last six years, I have worked with some amazing people and credit unions to help them improve their sales and service cultures. One of the greatest challenges we face in this process are the misconceptions and limiting believes credit union employees have about selling.

The credit union industry has historically fostered a strong “Service First” culture. This culture is fulfilling, keeps employees busy, and, in some situations, keeps things growing well enough that senior leaders and board members remain happy. However, this is changing. Credit unions see that member growth is slowing, disruptive innovations are grabbing the attention and business of their members, and the younger generations are choosing other options besides their parents’ credit union.

The “Service First” culture, or what is sometimes called “Order Taking,” is losing.

In our January article titled, “The Order Taker Service Culture is Killing the Credit Union Industry,” I share a study performed by Raddon Financial in 2020 that shows a twenty-five percent year over year loss of primary financial relationships since 2018. This PFI loss is not just happening in the credit union industry, but across small and regional banks as well. Where is it going? It is going to the Mega Banks. Consumers are redefining what PFI is, and younger consumers are flocking to Chase, Capitol One, and Bank of America for the experience, ease, and brand. Simply put, the Mega Banks are making it easier for consumers to do business with them and they are asking for the business.

From my experience, the “Order Taker” service approach continues to thrive in credit union and smaller banks because those tasked with promoting the financial institutions products and service, who should be selling, have negative attitudes and incorrect beliefs about what selling is. And the troubling part is, those most opposed to selling and promotion are the leaders overseeing the retail channels.

In an article published by Unbound Growth in March 2018 titled, “How True is the Saying ‘As Goes the Manager, So Goes the Team,’” some startling statistics are cited about the power of the sales leader’s beliefs (please see the article for data sources). They looked at the relationship between the sales manager’s non-supportive beliefs and the beliefs on sales held by the team members. Some examples of non-supportive beliefs are (translated into credit union lingo):

  • “Members aren’t interested in products they don’t ask about.”
  • “Members will be upset if we try to sell them something.”
  • “Our members already understand the products and services for which they are asking.”
  • “The member interview means we talk about the weather and start the application.”

And so forth. They found that 80% of sales managers promote non-supportive beliefs and 89% of their salespeople share them. On the flip side, the managers who have positive attitudes and beliefs about selling, their teams are 1000% more likely to share those beliefs.

So how do we shift the attitude and beliefs about selling at our credit unions? How do we get more employees on board with being “Value Creators” rather than “Order Takers?” It starts with mindset.

Peter Drucker taught that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Another way of saying this is that organizational and individual mindsets (the beliefs and attitudes) define our reality and results. If your credit union is stuck in the “Order Taker” service rut, or it is trying to get its sales culture moving forward faster, it must first shape the mindset.

Shaping the organizational mindset starts by addressing and challenging these negative attitudes and beliefs about selling with clear guidance on what selling is and does, then support it with real member examples. Situations where a credit union employee offered the member a product or service that created value in the member’s life.

We define creating value as one of four things. Helping the member to:

  1. Save time and make the member’s life more convenient.
  2. Save money.
  3. Make more money.
  4. Create security and peace of mind.

We call this the “Four Core Values of Selling.” Allow me to share more.


Value 1: Any product or service that helps the member save time or makes his/her life more convenient.

For many who struggle to sell, they believe that offering a product or service is intrusive or pushy. Yes, selling can be done in a way that is manipulative or tricks someone into buying something they do not want or from someone with whom they do not want to do business. But that is NOT how we sell at a credit union.

Selling at a credit union is always focused on the member. When we sell in the credit union way, members see a product or service offered to them, with the right intentions, that provides them value, as a higher level of service.

Piggy Bank and clock

Many times, a product or service offering does not create a monetary return to the member or the credit union, but it provides convenience. These products are critical because they create value to the member in the form of simplifying their financial lives. These products and services also create loyalty because they deepen that member’s connection with the organization. These are products such as direct deposit, automatic loan pay, the mobile app, and so forth.

For Example: A member has just realized his debit card is not in his wallet. After checking his house, he realizes that he left the card at the restaurant last night. Instead of having to call into the call center to have the card canceled and reissued, he remembers the teller talking about a cool new “Card Manager” feature on the credit union’s mobile app. He pulls it up and turns the card off temporarily until he can pick up the card. Later that afternoon, with the card retrieved from the restaurant, he turns the card back on and heads to the grocery store, all the while thinking how awesome his credit union and the employee who educated him are.

For the employee who shared “Card Manager” this was a sale. For the member, he only sees this as excellent service.

Value 2: Any product or service that helps the member save money.

The house of money

There are many times when the credit union can help the member save money. Often though, this requires an employee who understands the products and services better, knows how they work, and can apply an outside perspective to identify these opportunities.

For credit union employees to see opportunities to help their members save money, they need training. They need a coach who is going to follow-up with examples and scenarios for the employees to look at and learn. And finally, they must have an opportunity practice, apply, and receive feedback from a leader who is on board and committed to the development of the employees.

For Example: A member has applied for a visa limit increase online. One of your loan officers, John, just processed the application and sent it to you, the Lending Center Manager, for underwriting. As you review the application you notice that the member has maxed out her credit card with you as well as credit cards with four other companies. You also notice she is retired, and on a fixed income. It is not the first time you have seen this scenario; your member is in financial trouble and supplementing her income with credit cards. Instantly, you realize that her application is not just another application to review, this is a plea for help.

As you recognize the teaching opportunity, you ask John to come review the situation with you. Together, you discuss the situation and the options. While she has charged up about $35,000 in credit card debt and is not able to meet her monthly obligations, you both see the member is in a good equity position on the home. With some very simple calculations you see that she can use her home as collateral to consolidate her debt, lower her monthly payment by $600, and she may even be able to pay off her mortgage four years sooner.

You ask John to call the member and share this option, answer basic questions, and connect her with a mortgage loan officer. You practice and role play the conversation and provide some suggestions and pointers. Finally, you ask John to make the call immediately and report back to you after he has spoken with the member.

When an employee has a caring manager, who is committed to the development and success of her employees, movement can take place.

Value 3: Any product or service that helps the member make more money.

Often, consumers decide to go with a credit union because they believe they can make more money. They have heard that credit unions have lower rates on loans and pay higher dividends on savings. Is helping the member make more money a top priority for your credit union team members?

Couple Meeting With Financial Advisor In Office

There are several ways the credit union can help their members make more money. Primarily the credit union offers deposit products and investment products that provide greater returns than other sources. But how does the member know how to use these products and services for their advantage? They only answer is through the credit union employees.

For Example: A common objection employees get when talking to members about how they can make a higher return on their money in a CD or with an investment advisor is, “I don’t want to lock my money up.” This is a valid concern, and many employees simply concede and move on. However, that is not the case with Julie. Julie has been trained and understands that when the member says no, it is generally a request for more or better information.

Julie applies her sales training by asking a member with whom she is working a few great questions. Her member has a large balance in savings, and Julie suspects he has other deposits with other financial institutions.

As Julie asks great questions to learn more, she learns the member is not planning to spend this money on deposit, he just wants to have access to it in case he needs it. With some additional questions asked, she learns more about the member’s savings goals and that he also has additional money on deposit at another credit union.

With this information, she offers the member a few options and helps him put together a plan that includes opening a few CD’s that have tiered maturity dates as well as a money market account. She is also able to commit the member to bring his other deposit over as part of the plan.

When all is said and done, Julie can show the member, using simple math and savings calculators, that with this new plan the member will make an additional $3,000 in interest over the next five years. She also brings in an additional $50,000 in deposits for the credit union.

When an employee is selling for the right reasons, and places the member’s needs first, both the member and the credit union benefit.

Value 4: Any product or service that delivers greater security or peace of mind.

Financial security and being protected in the event of an unforeseen situation is often at the top of your member’s financial goals. Credit unions provide this through a variety of products and services such as financial planning, insurance products, and possibly even trust services. However, even simple ancillary products, such as your credit union mobile and online tools, provide this.

For Example: Your member wakes up at 2:00 am Sunday morning because she forgot to deposit a large check into her account. Bills will hit tomorrow and take the account into the negative if she cannot get the check deposited. She was sold remote deposit by a teller the last time she was in the branch and shown how to use it. Because of that, she can get up, take a picture of the check, do a remote deposit, and go back to bed in peace knowing the situation has been resolved.

A few days later, the member sees an ad on YouTube from one of the Major Banks promoting their mobile app and remote deposit feature. Instead of considering moving her accounts, she remembers this situation and how her credit union also provides this service and thinks, “My credit union is just as good, if not better than that massive bank.”

Credit unions need to be committed to being proactive, identifying products and services which could provide value to the member, taking the time to educate the member, and helping the member set them up. Credit unions that do this effectively and on a consistent basis have a higher retention and a higher usage of their products and services per member.

The Four Core Values of Selling are designed to help credit union senior leaders ease the concerns of their employees, especially their sales leadership, about what is being asked of them when they are challenged to sell. Selling is not something we do to the member; it is something that should be done with the member and for the member. It should create value for everyone. Often, these kinds of behaviors are already taking place in the credit union, they just need to take place more often and with better processes and skill.

The Four Core Values of Selling help to direct the efforts of leaders and the team by elevating selling as a top priority. By communicating them as “Core Values” we elevate their statice placing them on equal footing with the other values of honesty, integrity, accuracy, and so forth. At this level it is easy for employees and leaders to adopt these Four Core Values of Selling as essential elements of their job and attributes that define success.

Finally, the Four Core Values of Selling make it easier to measure and track success. Success becomes defined by the value created when one of the four values is applied and the member benefits. They enable senior leaders to clearly define the difference between a good job and a great job. And it enables them to celebrate and reward great work. This in turn provides added incentive for sales leaders to get on board as well as support and promote selling in their teams.

Can your credit union use the Four Core Values of Selling? If so, how? What kind of results could they get? How could they help your employees get on board?

I would love to hear from you. Please email me with your thoughts, questions, and struggles on this, and other sales topics with which you think I may be able to help you.

SalesCU is a credit union-specific sales training company dedicated to bringing 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 . Ask about his credit union specific workshops and online sales training, featured at

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