Every department within an organization serves a role and an important function. Some are more support roles and on the back side of your organization. Others are involved more directly with members or customers. I would submit that the sales department is the face of the credit union.
By no means am I downplaying the role of any department within an organization. If it was unnecessary, it wouldn’t exist. However, sales is primarily the department that will be bringing in income to your credit union with the selling and cross-selling of products and services to members. Sales is often the first stop when there’s something wrong with an account, and your member’s go-to employee. So, it stands to reason that your sales department would be the first face your members think about when needing financial assistance or guidance.
This puts a little extra pressure on sales and holds them to some different standards. So, what kind of things should your sales department be focusing on through this lens?
Emotional intelligence is a huge asset to your sales department. Being able to be aware of, and effectively express, your emotions and display empathy towards others will put your team in a secure position to deal with a variety of situations. Finances can be a very personal and vulnerable topic, and we sometimes lose sight of the anxiety and fear that a member may be facing when they come in. Putting yourself in your member’s shoes and not rushing to any assumption will only strengthen the bond your members will develop with you.
Situational awareness is another skill that those in sales would greatly benefit from, especially being in front of members all day. This skill is the ability to understand and respond to immediate environmental factors and is huge for effective decision making. We need to be able to access our situation and our member’s situation quickly and respond appropriately. The language you use may vary depending on the person at your desk when you see someone dressed a little more formally versus someone who is a little more relaxed. You find that the person in front of you has a bit of a financial background, so you can use more of your “industry jargon” with them versus someone just out of high school. You treat everyone with attention and respect, but how you present yourself, your products, and your solutions will vary. Deliver the same message, packaged differently. There is nothing wrong with that.
COVID and Post-COVID changed a lot of things in the workplace, and physical presentation was one of them. For a large part, gone are the days of the business professional dress code. Jeans and tennis shoes are welcomed in many organizations. However, for those front-facing staff, a business casual attitude should still be adhered to. A member or customer should still be able to come into your organization and feel confident in the maturity and professionalism of the person they’re dealing with. And while those sweats or hoodies may be comfortable; it doesn’t portray that level of confidence that needs to be portrayed to your membership. Adhere to your company dress code, and don’t push the boundaries just because it’s allowed in some organizations. Think about the image that your organization wants to portray and what your target audience is.
The sales department can sometimes be under a microscope because of the role that they play within the organization. Set yourself up for success by working with your team (or on yourself) to be aware of these things in your daily interactions and hold yourselves to a high standard of excellence.