Changing your sales culture to achieve long-term growth

Are your team members order-takers or salespeople?

Are they offering the right products and services that will have a positive impact on your members’ financial lives?

Have they been given the proper tools and training to increase wallet share and drive more loans?

These are direct questions, but they speak to the core challenge facing credit unions: are you positioned to grow in 2022 and beyond?

The pandemic, infusion of capital into the economy, and red-hot housing market have changed the landscape for most financial institutions. Yet in the first half of 2022, we’ve already seen headwinds emerge with inflation, interest rate increases, and a shrinking refinance market.

For credit unions to thrive in the post-pandemic world, they must think strategically about their sales culture. 

Choosing the right sales culture for your organization

Sales training is often viewed as a “one-time” event that will magically change the mindset of the organization and achieve long-term results. The reality is much further from the truth.

When sales training is delivered independently, many times it becomes just a “Flavor of the Month.” According to research by Neil Rackham “87% of sales training content is forgotten within 30 days.” Said another way, 87 cents of every dollar you spend on one-time sales training is wasted.

Surprisingly, changing your sales culture does NOT start with training – it starts with identifying the sales processes for your organization and building a sales infrastructure to execute and support those processes.

To change the culture of your organization, you must commit to ensuring the right processes, systems and training are developed that are custom to your credit union. It must be built WITH your team members – not thrust upon them – and then embedded into the fabric of your organization.

Sales training is critical to making a culture shift, but it must come only after you’ve created the processes and then supported with an infrastructure for sustainment.

Making this change may seem daunting, but it really comes down to how committed you are to growing. The investment you make in developing processes, building an infrastructure, and implementing ongoing development will position your credit union for years of success.

Communicating the “Why” is more important than the “What”

Simon Sinek has inspired millions through his videos and best-selling book “Start With Why.” He has flipped the mindset that instead of starting with the “what”, successful organizations begin with the “why” and work backwards to the actual product being sold.

The same holds true for any change initiative within your organization – explaining the “why” behind the program is critical to its implementation and sustained success. This communication needs to come from the top of the organization.

When we begin working with new clients, we ensure communication is sent from the Executive Champion prior to any direct engagement with leaders or producers, ensuring the organization is aware of the purpose of our engagement. The communication explains why the initiative is critical to the organization’s success and how it will directly benefit each team member.

While the remaining details of timelines, milestones and time commitment are vital to communicate to your team, if they don’t have a firm understanding of the “why”, the initiative may be doomed from the start.

Frontline input is critical to gaining traction with your sales processes

Research from McKinsey shows that “75% of change destinations were reached when employees were included in early planning.”

This data should be intuitive: are you more likely to support an initiative if you are told to do it or if you had input into the process? Yet when it comes to sales training programs, they are often cookie-cutter and pushed down within the organization, making it extremely difficult for team members to embrace.

Effective sales culture transformation occurs when everyone in the organization – especially frontline team members – are included in developing the processes and procedures. Every credit union is different with subtle nuances to their member base – who better to build out custom sales processes than those interacting with members daily.

Building your sales culture this way not only creates buy-in at all levels, but also empowers project champions who become advocates for the new infrastructure.

Establishing a sales infrastructure that the entire credit union can follow

Sales infrastructure is the framework for how the sales processes you’ve developed are implemented and reinforced on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This enables your organization to grow due to a solid foundation.

This point in the process is where the customization of your sales culture begins to crystalize and the magic starts to happen. There are numerous tactics that will support your sales infrastructure, but here are a few that top performers consistently implement:

  • Team Meetings with Consistent Agendas – regular, structured team meetings are paramount to creating a sales culture. Consistent agendas which include pipeline and goal review, ongoing education, and internal partner participation are critical to getting everyone following a consistent process.
  • CRM Alignment – we often see low adoption by sales teams of technology products, especially CRM systems. That miraculously changes once you align the developed sales processes to the CRM.  Not only do you get consistent information and can track pipelines, but it reinforces the established processes as they are seen on a regular basis.
  • New Employee Sales Training – our clients typically have a robust new employee onboarding program that ensures team members are properly equipped to step into the operation. However, sales training – sometimes the biggest part of their role – is often neglected or even worse, non-existent. Weaving sales training into all aspects of your new hire on-boarding allows your new team members to become confident in their sales approach and productive quicker.

Continuous developmental initiatives are key to long-term sustainment

Training must be viewed as an ongoing part of the operation, not just a program that is rolled out and expected to thrive.

Pretend you were going to install a garden in your backyard. Would you invest time, energy and money to plant the foliage, but never dedicate any resources to watering, weeding or fertilizing it? To reap the full benefits and achieve long-term sustainment you must have a continuous training and development strategy.

The more you plan the easier it is to execute. We always recommend identifying the key partners to develop a roadmap for carrying out the ongoing topics and tactics.

Pipeline meetings and one-on-ones are a perfect venue to educate your team. Not only does this weave continuous development into your day-to-day culture, but it also allows for discussions and coaching on sales so it becomes embedded into the framework of the organization.

Now is the best time to start

Many credit unions put off changing their sales culture because it seems overwhelming.

In this situation I am reminded of the Chinese Proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Now is the best time to take action. The longer your organization waits, the longer it will take to catch up, not to mention the opportunities you miss daily to financially impact your members lives and grow the credit union.

Adam Pickett

Adam Pickett

Adam Pickett is the Founder & President of Accelergy Consulting, a firm that works with Credit Unions to develop and implement a customized sales infrastructure. Accelergy works hands-on with everyone from ... Web: Details