Is your product guide like a Cheesecake Factory menu?

My wife and I always enjoy going to the Cheesecake Factory. In addition to the obvious dessert selections, it feels like a Disney-type dining atmosphere that takes you out of your normal restaurant routine.

Every time we go, I am determined to try something new from their encyclopedia-like menu, yet each visit I end up ordering the same thing: Chicken Piccata. Why is that?

As much as I want to experience something different, I am completely overwhelmed by the size of the menu and numerous options that fill each page. While I attempt to peruse through the menu for a new selection, I end up abandoning my search and sticking with the only thing I know.

When it comes to your credit union, are your team members able to talk about all the products and services you offer? Or do they take a similar approach and only mention the “Chicken Piccata” they feel comfortable with?

Your credit union’s product smorgasbord may be overwhelming

Many credit union team members provide excellent service and genuinely want to assist members whenever possible.  One of the best ways to do this is by making sure members are consistently made aware of all the products that can financially impact their lives.

However, many employees might not feel comfortable talking about or sharing information on certain products because they feel overwhelmed by the exhaustive list of options and details. Additionally, the products credit unions offer are continually changing and evolving.

As a result, frontline employees stick to the limited products they feel comfortable discussing, missing opportunities to help members enhance their financial lives.

One credit union we recently worked with had an amazing 60-plus page product guide that provided extensive information about each offering available to members. It was all-encompassing, detailed, artistically beautiful…and completely overwhelming.

Many of the member service reps – already responsible for so many other things like day-to-day operations and member service – did not fully comprehend some of the products that were available to members. And while the product guide was well-intentioned, it had the opposite effect of educating employees.

Less is more when it comes to product knowledge

In the book “Crossing the Chasm”, Geoffrey Moore articulates that for a new company to gain traction, the narrower it focuses its target audience the quicker it will become successful.

While it may seem counterintuitive, he argues that it is easier to sell to a targeted group (single parents with kids under five years old living in Orlando, Florida) than trying to sell to the broader audience (all parents in the world). Even though the product may be relevant to everyone, without a limited focus it rarely achieves the short-term wins that will catapult it to long-term sustainment.

The same holds true for your team members when it comes to understanding and feeling comfortable discussing your credit union’s product set. Employees should have enough information to have a simple conversation about the product and its key benefits, but not be overwhelmed with so many details that it causes them to avoid the offering.

The more your team feels comfortable talking about high-level product details, the more they will be willing to ask members additional questions and discover better ways to impact their financial lives.

Asking good questions can overcome a lack of product knowledge

One of the best ways to build trust and identify opportunities is to ask great questions.

Even if a team member doesn’t know every detail about every product, if they know the right questions to ask to build rapport, they can uncover opportunities that will lead to sales.

I spent a semester on the Walt Disney World College Program selling watches at Uptown Jewelers in the Magic Kingdom theme park.

Even if someone was intently staring at the watch case, I never asked if they would like to see a timepiece (which many of my team members would automatically offer).

I always started with “how are you doing?” It lowered their guard and got them talking about their day or favorite character, which allowed me to strategically pick the watch I showed them.

The same can be done for your team and their interactions with members. “How are you? How is the family doing? How is work going?” are great questions that can get a member talking about themselves.

Without knowing every feature and benefit, your team members can listen for nuggets of information that may identify that they are shopping for a new vehicle, looking for a new house, or may need wealth management services.

Educating team members must be an ongoing initiative

The current state of the mortgage industry is a great example of why continuous developmental training and ongoing product knowledge should be built into your learning & development strategy.

For loan officers, the market shifting from refinance to purchase, coupled with the quick rise in interest rates, have left many out-of-practice on how to position your credit union in a competitive marketplace. Furthermore, with the addition and reemergence of products such as ARMs, teams need to be trained on how to communicate the benefits to those members unsure of purchasing a home.

For your branch teams, although at a much higher level, they too must be kept up to date with how to talk about your mortgage products as the market has changed. And as HELOCs have emerged as a great opportunity to replace refinance production, your member service reps and branch leaders must be equipped to ask the right questions and identify opportunities with members.

Having a continuous development strategy to train your teams on a regular basis will give you a venue to keep employees educated, while allowing flexibility to prioritize the hot trends facing the industry.

Get new team members off to the right start

You also can’t forget about the initial training and onboarding of new team members.

Employee turnover has been a major issue facing the credit union industry over the past couple years. In addition to the hiring and training costs associated with every new employee, there are opportunity costs for the period of missed production (from the time the old employee leaves until the new employee hits full capacity).

Ensuring your new team members are given the proper tools – both regarding the products offered and how to sell them – is crucial to speeding up their time to produce.

Many times, we see new employee onboarding that is dominated by the operational and tactical duties of the role. Yet sales – often one of their major responsibilities – is either given minimal attention or completely neglected during orientation and initial training.

Besides sales-specific training, providing a high-level knowledge of your credit union’s products is critical for these team members to begin producing, especially for employees completely new to the financial industry.

  • Do you know what a secured credit card is and how it can help improve members credit score?
  • Do you know a current car loan can be refinanced to save members money?
  • Do you know the importance of GAP insurance when a member buys a vehicle?
  • Do you know what a HELOC is and how a member can use it in emergency situations?

Setting your new employees up for success will not only drive production, but it will help keep them engaged at work and develop a deeper connection to the credit union’s mission.

Don’t settle for the Chicken Piccata

Implementing strategic tactics to educate both new and existing employees allows you to better service your members, while remaining competitive in a changing economy.

And remember, keep the training simple, focusing on the high-level benefits and talking points of each product.

The more comfortable your team feels, the less they will default to the “Chicken Piccata!”

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