Building a Banking Sales Program Amid COVID-19 Disruption

Selling financial products in what promises to be a very different environment for banks and credit unions in the wake of the pandemic will take fresh approaches. Blending the experience and skills of a top sales performer with digital tools can help spread sales success through an organization.

Banking sales can be complex. Financial concepts underlying some of them are not easy for the average person to understand. No wonder there is a huge variation in sales performance among financial institution sales reps. And now COVID-19 has turned the process into rocket science, given the uncertainties, the pace of new developments, and working from home.

Viruses may come and (hopefully) go but not sales targets. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, topline growth in many financial institutions had been anemic at best. With the outbreak triggering a precipitous economic downturn and skyrocketing unemployment, how does a bank or credit union improve sales results? Or at least sustain them?

It is no longer possible to walk over to the next cube and get answers from a peer or the boss. Virtual training is nowhere near as easy or effective as in-person training. Moreover, Millennials, who are an increasing part of the sales workforce, have limited attention spans and hate training. They prefer to learn on the job training and experience, working from real-time conversation (say this) and process (do this) guidance instead of sitting in sales training classes.

Six Steps To Boosting Financial Sales

The answer lies in automating and augmenting the sales process with agile content management and AI and knowledge-enabled conversational sales guidance.

1. Capture the secret sauce.

What makes top banking sales representatives successful? They are empathetic, give intelligent financial advice, and sell products and services that match people’s goals, while complying with regulations. They adapt to customer conversations as they progress and ask the next best question or take the next best action in the advice and sales process.

Managers should identify the best of them and pick their brains. Capture and embed their expertise into a conversational guidance system, enabled by AI reasoning and agile knowledge management. Do this through interviews and by learning from their interactions with customers. Also make it easy for them to suggest knowledge and situational knowhow that can be incorporated into the system.

2. Enforce compliance.

Myriad regulations make it hard to keep track of them all. Regtech and other automation can help. Regulations should be digitalized into your AI, knowledge management and workflow systems for automated guidance and compliance when representatives and advisors work with customers. Make sure the guidance tool not only ensures an omnichannel audit trail of all conversations but is also able to monitor rep-to-customer conversations in real-time. Ideally any potential violations should be identified so they can be corrected before the completion of the conversation or process.

3. Publish rapidly.

There has been a lot of confusion on rules and regulations in the fast-evolving Covid-19 situation. This illustrates why it is critical to have a single-sourced and agile system for disseminating accurate information and process knowhow, as they evolve, in way that is tailored to all customer touchpoints.

4. Provide digital guidance.

Consumers used to be everywhere — digital touchpoints, retail branch, kiosks. COVID-19 is forcing everyone to be digital-only, thanks to stay-at-home directives. So, it is important that omnichannel conversational guidance is disseminated to all digital touchpoints as well. Touchpoint-specific approaches will create chaos with disconnected and disparate knowledge silos.

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5. Measure, measure, measure.

Measuring and managing performance through analytics is critical for success:

  • Use control and test groups for benchmarking performance.
  • Make metrics specific and granular.
  • Again, go with an omnichannel solution for analytics that comes with out-of-the-box best-practice dashboards and reports for sales performance.

6. Manage the “mavericks.”

Maverick sales reps beat their targets but frequently ignore compliance issues, landing financial institutions in legal hot water. They need to be educated on how costly non-compliance can be. They can also be nudged to compliance with carrots (kudos, incentives) and sticks (a performance improvement plan or termination). Again, a conversational sales guidance tool with personalization can help. Such tools tailor the conversational pathway to the rep’s experience level on the job.

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