How to sell by not selling

Selling is a fact of life. We attempt to sell ourselves to find the perfect mate. We sell our abilities, knowledge, and experience to succeed. We even sell something as innocuous as a meticulously prepared meal to our kids so they will eat – “Broccoli is so good for you!”

In the business world, however, selling isn’t so subtle. Most of the time, it’s in your face via advertisements, websites, and even real live people convincing us how much we really, really need this new gizmo. Oftentimes, this in-your-face peddling is profoundly annoying and a mega-turn off, which is why many of us loath buying cars, backing out of mobile phone carrier contracts, or having anything to do with insurance.

Does selling have to be so eye-popping blatant to work? Sometimes, yes; many times, no. For credit unions, in this case, you can certainly sell by not selling. It’s called educating. Educating positions you as a trusted leader so you can provide the consumer with helpful information that will make their lives better. You do this; you can sell.

Here are a few ways of laying this trustworthy foundation that will ultimately allow you to successfully sell your wares to your members by not selling – and, yet, making your credit union a primary financial resource for a deeper member relationship for future selling opportunities:

Study your team’s personality and dynamic, and gather your credit union’s story.

This is the first step in developing a unique, one-of-a-kind brand personality that can be truly lived and carried out by your credit union team – and authentically received by your members. Avoid a forced personality that you cannot pull off or that is not built around your unique team makeup and credit union story. Again, authenticity is everything here to gain trust.

How do you achieve this? Readily identify your strengths and push those to the forefront. Do what you do best. And since the community and your credit union are probably closely aligned in spirit (if not, you should be), you’ll need to strongly develop those bonds by guiding your staff to see what they might not recognize.

After all, your credit union, in a small way, is a microcosm of the community you serve. If you can recognize this intrinsically, you can match the brand building with the needs and wants of that representation. As a result, you build the trust with your membership because of this connection. If you understand your audience, they will trust you – and, therefore, you can indirectly sell to them by educating and empowering them.

Develop a brand that will create a memorable experience, top-of-mind awareness and attract your targeted demographic.

Apple’s Steve Jobs has been quoted ad nauseam about the art of selling. To paraphrase Mr. Jobs: You don’t sell the product, you sell the experience. Yes, your auto loan is great, which allowed your member to buy their dream car at a super low rate. Guess what? The bank down the street can probably do the same thing. That said, you need a differentiator – which is the “experience” Jobs referred to.

How was the lending experience: clunky and redundant or streamlined and easy? Hopefully, the latter – which is the message you want to spread.

This experience is what your members will be talking about to their family, friends, and co-workers. The experience is memorable – not the $25,000 they have to pay back to your credit union over the next 48 months. Those are numbers they want to forget – especially each month when payment is due. If that experience is seamless and quick, then you can sell it by not selling it.

You want them to feel as though you are the only one who fully understands their needs.

Personalize it. Nobody wants to do business with a logo or a concrete building – no matter how nice they look. Consumers (or your members) relate to the people working within your credit union who listen, educate, and help based on your member’s personal needs. That personal, one-on-one attention is huge in selling because you’re not really selling; you’re helping. This is where the seeds of trust are planted and a lifetime relationship grows. It simply comes down to caring.

Taking it a step further: How does your credit union fit with a particular member’s lifestyle? Or, even better, how can your credit union foster that particular member’s lifestyle? You answer this question, and you can sell because you are being human with your member – helping their lives become better. This sought-after connection, again, allows you to build the trust that sells and “hits home” for members, leaving little doubt there is not a better choice than your credit union.

What can you do to set yourself apart from the competition in the eyes of the consumer?

Is it consistently getting out in the community and being the financial resource many of us crave? Is it employing an envelope-pushing technology that will not only raise the cool factor of your credit union but incorporates an amazing new service? Is it answering needs and offering unique services that only your members can appreciate and really use?

All of these aspects, and more, can help you sell. Each tells your membership that you know them and respond to their unique needs. This is your differentiator that allows you to open the doors to selling. If you don’t know or don’t have a differentiator, get one yesterday. Nearly everybody has checking and savings accounts, nearly everybody provides loans, nearly everybody has online banking, and the list of similar services goes on. So what are you doing that leads you to be different, which leads to the sale?

Culture that cares

If you have a culture built on caring, where this mission is instilled throughout the credit union, it will spill over to the members. Your members will recognize this foundation and respond positively. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?

Like kids watching their parents interact, members watch your employees interact. And, more importantly, they experience how they interact with members. If the mission to truly care is consistently carried out at all levels, it’s a pleasure to do business. If you’ve ever been to an In-n-Out hamburger restaurant chain, right away you will notice how the workers interact with each other and especially with the customers. They care about each other and their customers. It’s infectious – and it’s good for business.

Simply said: Credit unions that care, ultimately sell. They can care through consistent community outreach and investment efforts. They can care through personal interaction that educates and empowers. They can care by listening to members and providing the products and services that creates a memorable experience. They can care by daring to be different. All these aspects combined equate to selling by not selling. They position your credit union as a resource rather than a retail outlet.

What would you rather be?

Olivier Raoust

Olivier Raoust

Olivier Raoust is the founder and creative force behind Raoust+Partners, a brand consultancy that has worked with almost 40 credit unions over the past 20 years. Passionate about credit ... Web: Details