From time to time, I hear this question asked by credit union executives… “Is selling really all that important?” This is a valid question, especially for credit unions thatare struggling to improve their sales initiatives and incorporate selling into their service standards.

Making the adjustments to achieve consistent sales performance at the credit union is not easy, nor can they be made overnight. Such adjustments often entail training, coaching, and an uncomfortable shift in the way the credit union and team members operate. But selling is absolutely in the best interest of the members.

When credit unions see selling as a critical part of member service, and incorporate a proactive, member-centric approach to selling, they provide amazing value to their members by helping them:

  1. Save time and improve convenience
  2. Save money
  3. Make more money
  4. Improve financial security and confidence

Not to mention the growth and increased revenue that is reinvested into the credit union and the membership. What credit union doesn’t want to deliver this to it’smembers?

The unfortunate reality is that most credit unions struggle to achieve consistent sales results. So here are thirteen reasons your credit union just might stink at selling.

1.Lack of Direction from Senior Leadership

Senior leaders have control over the credit union’s resources, the strategy guiding the trajectory of the credit union, and its investments. They also govern the messaging going out to the organization and the flow of accountability. If selling stinks at your credit union, it might be because senior leaders are not creating the environment, providing the resources, and communicating the right expectations for selling to become part of the service standards.

2. Lack of a Rewarding Sales Compensation Program

Sales compensation programs can make a big difference, especially when it comes to retaining top talent and incentivizing the right kinds of behaviors. Why?

Consider two different loan officers,Jennifer and Sarah.

Jennifer sees her role as a processor. She takes orders and ineffectively and inconsistently sells ancillary products and service. She rarely looks beyond what the member has requested and because of that she misses most loan recapture opportunities and other cross-sales.

Sarah sees herself as an advisor who believes her role is to provide the very best service as possible. She sees herself as the expert her members come to for advice, recommendations, and insights. She uses effective lending sales processes and consistently sells the credit union’s assurance products. She consistently recaptures loans to help save her members money, and through her interviews, identifies upcoming lending needs on which she follows up. Sarah understands that as she provides exceptional service, her members will be more willing to refer a family member, friend, or co-worker when she asks for referrals.In this way she also contributes to the membership growth of the credit union.

Between these two employees, which is serving the membership and the credit union better? Of course, it’s Sarah. We may really like Jennifer; she may be a great team player and a pleasant person with whom to work. But do you think these two team members should be paid the same? If your credit union believes they should, you will not hold onto a Sarah very long. Other companies will value Sarah’s skill set and work ethic and offer her more opportunity.

Sales compensation plans allow the credit union to reward employeesfor taking the initiative to provide more value to the membership and the credit union. It is fair because it is a pay for performance model of which all employees can take advantage.

Sales compensation plans reward employees when performance is high and when performance is low, the incentives also diminish. This way credit unions don’t feel they have to lock themselves in to a high base pay rate at the job offering. A rate of pay that they may regret later if the employee does not deliver the performance promised.

Lastly, sales compensation plans provide recognition for higher performing employees,which they need to feel valued and less likely to “start looking” or be recruited away.

3. Weak Goals and Expectations

This past June, I met with a credit union’s senior leadership team to discuss sales expectations and how to set sales goals. Their retail team had already surpassed the goal for new checking accounts in just 5 months. This left them concerned about how to keep their staff motivated through the end of the year.

As we dove into their numbers, we found out the checking account growth goal senior leaders had set for the entire year was well below their current attrition rate. Gratefully their retail team had outperformed this goal. Had they not, they would have suffered net checking loss for the year while still having to pay bonuses and celebrate a job well done.

Often, the goals a credit union sets for loan growth, deposit growth, and membership growth are a simple equation of the previous year’s accomplishments. Other sales goals set for the retail team, such as new checking accounts, new credit cards, new SEG’s, and so forth, are a guess or a hope at best. This is not an effective way to set goals or communicate sales expectations.

Most goals lack specific purpose and are set because “that’s what we do in business.” Even when a goal is well researched and uses meaningful and complete data, it is nothing more than a number, percentage, or volume. It creates a false finish line. Everyone knows the start of the year brings another goal.

Goals are important and give the team something to focus on. However, goals can create floors and ceilings for performance and production. It is important to track the credit union’s performance, and, even at times, to set performance targets. However, the best goals are those specifically tied to the member experience and the value the credit union can provide to the membership. The goal should be to build and then maintain the processes and behaviors that deliver consistent service and sales and achieve the credit union’s cause.

4. Lack of Sales Training

Without a complete sales training program in place, credit union leadership cannot expect their team members to perform at a high level. Even if the credit union hires salespeople to fill their vacant sales positions, without sales training, team members will lack the specific guidance and direction they need to do a great job.

A complete sales training program is position specific and delivers training on the sales processes required to achieve a consistent sales performance. Most sales training programs only discuss the mindset and “Rah-Rah” aspects of selling. This limited sales training scope creates excited employees who understand the need to sell but lack the skills to actually sell. Your sales training program needs to include the mindset, processes, and skills to achieve the desired results.

5. Product and Service Confusion

Your sales team must understand the products and services they are being asked to sell. This requires much more than the typical product knowledge courses that only teach about the product, its features, and benefits.

When product knowledge training only covers the basic features and benefits, we see team members only telling credit union members about the products and services, not selling them. We see team members answering questions about the products and services, but not gaining commitments and helping members move forward in the sales process when asked about them, which is a huge buying signal. What credit unions need to train is product sales knowledge.

Product sales knowledge goes well beyond the basic product outlines by building a complete product profile that aligns the features and benefits to the specific advantages the products and services create for the member. This helps the salesperson know what to look for, listen for, and ask about to identify when a member may be interested in or need a product or service. It builds an understanding of why a member should buy these products and helps the salesperson know how to talk about the product or service to engage the member in the sales process.

6. Mixed Messaging with Operations and Sales Training

One reason that selling may stink at your credit union is because team members see selling and operations as separate functions. This is caused by team members receiving operations training first, then sales training ninety days later.

In successful sales organizations, operations and sales go hand in hand. In operations training, tellers should learn to upsell ancillary products and services as part of the process of depositing a check or making a loan payment. Contact center agents should be taught to identify product referrals as part of solving a member problem. Lenders should be taught to look for loan recapture opportunities as part of the loan application process. And so forth.

When new team members in sales roles leave training to go to their positions, sales and operations must be supported through peer and leadership coaching. The new team member should be expected to perform her operational function and sell. She should immediately receive sales expectations and sales performance metrics should be part of her certification process.

For many credit unions that stink at selling, these are a few of the things that can and should be addressed. Stay tuned for part 2.

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

Want to keep reading? This content is for subscribers only.

Log In Register