Sales is NOT a four-letter word at your credit union

My grandfather used to say, “You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.” When I was little I used to chuckle at the silliness of a pig wearing lipstick but I really had no clue what he was talking about. Today, not only do I understand what his saying means but I use it regularly when working with my credit union clients.

Most credit unions are at some stage of implementing a sales culture – some much more successfully than others. It’s amazing how many are trying to implement a sales culture while not calling it a “sales” culture. Further, many spend significant time and effort coming up with creative words or phrases that mean sales but don’t use that ugly four-letter word.

Some creative recent word choices from credit union clients are: “solution offering”, “recommending”, and “service enhancing”. And then, of course, there’s the old standby that many have used … “relationship building”. All creative selections that capture what they’re trying to do but, at the end of the day, they all mean the same thing – sales!

Plus, there’s a real and dangerous dark side to such wordsmithing: while it may be creative, it’s also disingenuous and deceiving. At some point your staff is going to realize that you’ve put lipstick on a pig. You may insist on calling it “service” but your employees will recognize it as sales – so be honest and call it what it is from the very outset of your sales efforts.

In most cases, I find the aversion to the “s”-word is greatest at the senior levels of the credit union. It’s the execs who cringe at the thought of doing sales and assume their staff will have an equal aversion to it, as well. However, many employees, especially the younger generations, expect sales to be part of their job and chuckle at the lengths the credit union goes to in avoidance of the four-letter word.

Credit union execs would build far greater trust and respect from staff and realize greater sales success if they called the pig a pig. That is, acknowledge you are implementing a sales culture from the very outset, don’t disguise it or be ashamed of it. Define it clearly based on your criteria; demonstrate what it is and is not; show how it is a positive, necessary initiative for your business and will benefit your members.

If you want to avoid putting lipstick on a pig and be straight-forward with your staff and members, my firm would be happy to introduce you to the steps to a successful sales culture deployment at your credit union. Please contact us at

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 25 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty ... Web: Details