Sales-service culture is not a sin

Few credit unions proudly drape themselves in the mantle of a sales and service culture. Some keep their practice of it hush-hush, like their credit union’s strategy is a speakeasy from the Prohibition Era. Others vociferously declare abstinence is best for credit unions, because they’re not supposed to “sell” members.

Sales has gotten a bad rap from the Mad Men days, but modern sales is about meeting and exceeding member expectations, so really a strong sales culture is member service and vice versa. The member will recall how the credit union has listened to their needs and helped them achieve their goals, and therefore come back the next time they need help. These members also become advocates of the credit union, spreading word of mouth marketing that is much more valuable than any bought-and-paid for advertisement.

When executives clearly and repeatedly outline a member-centric corporate strategy, managers are better able to explain and implement goals of the member service specialists. Member service representatives, loan officers and tellers can then listen for cues in what members are telling them about their lives, whether it’s about their 16-year old getting her license and they need to buy another car or where they’re planning to take their family vacation. Then the member service specialists can better home in on connecting those member needs with the corporate strategy and making the sale.

Of course, all of these machinations begin with ensuring your credit union has the right products and services mix for its membership. In addition to the daily member interactions, broader surveys and focus groups should be conducted to ascertain exactly what members want from your institution. When that’s aligned, the member service specialists can be more confident that what they’re offering the members is exactly what they need. Member services must be able believe in the product so they can feel good about themselves in offering it to members.

They also need to be trained to talk about the benefits of the product or service to the member in addition to its features. All of its benefits and features. But the member communication should focus on how it will help make their lives easier. Most people don’t care about the torque power of a drill; they just want to be able to hang their family portrait on the wall.

And don’t shy away from non-interest income products if they’re the right product for the right members. Credit unions often don’t want to be seen as salesy, but these products, like GAP insurance, can help members avoid disaster and feel better taking the coverage than if they had not had the option because no one told them about it. The extra income to be earned from these products are re-invested back into the institution in the form of new services like an updated mobile app, or as a dividend back to the members. It can also be used to support community events and fundraisers, which generate more awareness for the credit union and the good work it does. Credit union executives and members will see and understand the good in that!

Take Community First Credit Union for example. The credit union began a content marketing program offering financial education for members, Community First’s Johnathan Hanson explained in a post on, which demonstrated that the credit union cared about its members’ financial well-being, and the members received advice and pointers that benefited them. The effort was aligned with credit unions’ overarching purpose to improve members’ financial lives, which made it genuine for the members and strategic for Community First. Hanson cited one study, which found that 20% of consumers will return to a company based upon a previous experience, and another FICO study, which discovered that people who participated in financial literacy programs used more of the institution’s services and became more loyal to their institution. Community First interviewed hundreds of people, and found every single one of them agreed that financial education was important.

The results: a 40% increase in account openings in one day. Products that were promoted during the online learning modules enjoyed increased sales of $2 million. Debt consolidation alone experienced a 41% increase in sales. Emails associated with the campaign earned a 20% conversion rate during the initial launch period. Community First blew away its goal of 5% member participation in the financial literacy program.

While the financial education program took place online, as did the promotions, the member service representatives and loan officers must be prepared to take the follow-up phone calls from members seeking help, and then matching them with the right help the credit union can provide. Employing a sales and service culture isn’t a Scarlet Letter emblazoned on your chest to shame you; it’s more like the logo of a superhero every time you change a member’s life because you took the time to learn, listen and make the offer.

Eager to start or build upon an existing sales-service culture? Contact gameFI today to learn how it can get and keep your credit union on track.

Siri Chakka

Siri Chakka

Siri Chakka is currently the Chief Strategy Officer for gameFI, a platform that amplifies growth and for community and regional institutions through employee engagement, powered by gamification. She has an ... Web: Details