Nearly every financial institution nationwide offers business services, comparable products, financial management guidance, lending packages, online services, etc. to attract and retain consumers. Establishing a Business Development Program that appeals to today’s businesses, however, can separate your organization from the pack – offering a true competitive edge. So how can your credit union, which may be mired in the minutiae mud of everyday operations, achieve this competitive edge?
To get the process started, stop and ask yourself these two questions:
- What value can we offer that will separate us from other financial institutions?
- What can we offer the company’s employees as well as the company that other financial institutions are not offering?
One “attention getter” to attract established and prospective “Preferred Partners” (SEGs) is to incorporate Credit Score Management Seminars as a “lunch and learn”. Offering these one-hour credit score management (CSM) seminars for your preferred partners, along with one-on-one credit score analyses (CSAs) to educate employees as to how they can raise their credit score and manage and protect their credit score, can greatly enhance your value and give you that competitive advantage in today’s fast-moving marketplace. Not everybody is doing this.
You can also offer one-on-one credit score analysis consultations to your members. As a credit score specialist, your frontline staff can offer FREE credit score analyses (CSAs) to help people (not just members) increase their credit scores, lower their monthly payments, and eliminate high-interest rate credit cards. All financial institutions offer debt management and identity theft educational programs, but very few offer free credit score analyses. For example, just by transferring high-interest rate credit card balances into the equity of a vehicle or an installment loan can raise a credit score as much as 85 points. Offering this type of educational program and unique service to your members can create a powerful differentiation and increase loan opportunities. For example, one credit union captured 574 loans out of 847 CSAs conducted in a four-month period. Based on an average loan balance of $10,000 per loan, the total loan volume would equate to an additional $5.74 million.
Business NOT As Usual
In the Wall Street Journal bestseller, How Successful People Think, leadership expert John C. Maxwell says that creativity is intelligence having fun. Creativity gives us more options and opportunities. We have to think outside the box and think of ways to do business “NOT as usual.” Walmart Founder Sam Walton once said that when everyone is going in one direction, go the other way.
That said, we must find ways to differentiate ourselves as a financial institution in unique, creative ways – not with the lowest loan rates or the highest savings rates. Sparking creativity is essential to reinventing your Business Development Program. Factors to consider include:
- Added-Value Pricing
Target C-level Executives
C-level executives are the decision makers. They make things happen within their organization. If you can create opportunities to connect with C-level executives on a personal and professional level in a social environment, you have a greater chance of building a relationship that will lead to more business opportunities.
To build successful relationships with C-level executives, use these 5 C’s of relationship building:
- Care. Care about their passions, their personal and professional achievements, their company needs, their “great causes,” etc. Care enough to be curious!
- Curious. Be curious enough to ask the right questions that will provide you the insight to connect personally and professionally. The right questions will lead to the right conversation.
- Connect. Connect through the right conversation. The right conversation can lead to the right results.
- Creative. If you connect through the right conversation, it can lead to creative partnerships and/or creative solutions that can lead to more opportunities and help build strong relationships. Become creative and offer the right programs…the right products…the right partnerships…the right rewards for doing business with you.
- Commitment. Commit your time, resources, value, and trust in order to build a stronger relationship and open more doors of opportunity.
Adding value that appeals to the company and its employees means becoming a resource partner that supports their causes, their company events, their fundraisers, their employee events, etc. You can also become an educational provider that offers compelling education programs for companies’ employees that differentiate you from the rest. The Credit Score Management Program is an example. Tagline: “We partner with your employees to show them how they can manage, protect, and raise their credit score so they can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest during their lifetime.”
It’s All about Relationships
At one time, Business Development was all about sales. In today’s environment, Business Development is all about relationships. With the right people, the right relationships, the right programs, the right added-value resources, etc., you will get the right results – more business and loans, loans, and more loans.
Hire the right people with the right intangible attributes (priceless).
Having the right staff calling on prospects and clients is 50% of your success in Business Development. You can train skills but you can’t train attributes such as: personable, gregarious, softly persistent, competitive, articulate, sense of humor, sociable, and conversationalist. (TIP: 50% of your success in Business Development is hiring the right people.)
Network in the right places with the right people.
- Don’t just join–get involved in associations such as the Society of Human Resources, Economic Development Board of the Chambers of Commerce, other Boards, and Rotary Clubs.
- Transition from a passive to active role by transforming from an attendee to serving on committees, boards, etc. Serving on the Boards of the above referenced organizations and associations gives you access to other C-Level executives.
- Become the official sponsor for annual meetings/events, fundraisers, etc., of these types of organizations and associations to give you more exposure and access to C-Level executives. However, develop a plan of action to ensure you get your return on investment, i.e., what is your objective? For example, how many loans would you need to get to break even? Which companies do you want to target at the event to get company commitments for partnerships? How many commitments do you want to get for face-to-face access with employees?
Build the right relationships with the right people who can bring you the right opportunities.
- Targeting C-level executives is most effective
- Use Google to learn more about C-level executives and their professional involvement in their organization and the community
- Be prepared to connect with C- level executives on a personal and professional level – learn what they like, love, and dislike; what they value; their favorite hobby, books, etc.
- Learn about C-level executives’ organizations, successes, and challenges – be prepared to touch on points of interest
Tenets to Live By
When developing business to bring in more loan opportunities, consider and embrace the following tenets:
- “No” NEVER means no – it just means “convince me.”
- Never ask a question that gives you a 50% chance of getting the “no” answer.
- Package your programs to fit your audiences. No one marketing piece fits every market and their needs, so customize your programs to fit your audiences.
- Market yourself first, then your value, then the financial institution, then unique programs, and then products and services – always last.
- Offer value and programs that compel people to want to do business with you.
In summary, keep in mind that banks are aggressively going after your SEGs. Now is the time for credit unions to elevate and strengthen the relationships with their Preferred Partners (SEGs) by opening doors, increasing the number of visits onsite. Offering the CSM Seminar to your partners to help their employees raise their credit score, lower their monthly payments/out pay, and eliminate high-interest-rate credit card debt is a unique venue to increase the frequency of onsite visits and get face-to-face interaction with the employees.
Integrating creative and unique strategies, programs, and techniques can help you create a compelling differentiation and strengthen relationships – which, in turn, will increase loan opportunities through your Preferred Partners (SEGs). That’s effective business development, which will give you the competitive edge in today’s demanding marketplace.