How to Use AI to Ignite Retail Sales by Cloning Your Best Bankers

When retail banking sales reps are backed by technology, best-practices and conversational guidance, financial institutions avoid the endless cycle of hiring, training, and firing. Eight steps help elevate performance results of the overall team to match the best performers.

All retail banking executives know there is no growth without sales. One of the biggest challenges sales leaders face is huge variation in sales performance in their teams. Top sales reps outperformed worst performers by a factor of eight in new account acquisition and sales conversion of inbound calls, according to BCG research.

What is the secret sauce behind these top performers? The answer is deceptively simple: They give intelligent financial advice and sell products and services that match the customer’s goals for today and tomorrow, while staying compliant with regulations.

The other side of the equation — why others in the team are not performing as well — is more complicated. Four likely reasons are:

  • Financial concepts are not easy to understand for the typical sales rep in the contact center or retail branch.
  • Banking products continue to proliferate, adding to the complexity. In fact, diversified financial services companies sell everything from traditional banking products to wealth management services to insurance, too much to handle for the average sales rep.
  • When it comes to industry regulations, the only constant is change.
  • Millennials, who are an increasing part of the sales workforce, have a limited attention span and hate training, as a general rule. They prefer to “learn on the job” with real-time guidance rather than sit in classes.

So, how does a bank or credit union reduce variation in sales performance and boost sales across the entire organization? The answer lies in cloning the best agent with conversational AI and knowledge-enabled guidance.

Building a Cloning Framework

We propose a framework for cloning with attitude and aptitude as the two dimensions. Aptitude can be easily measured by sales performance and attitude includes important attributes, such as representing brand values, alignment with business goals, compliance with regulations and following best practices. Your institutions’ agent pool likely falls into one of these four categories in the framework.

Four categories of retail sales agents

Models: These are sales reps with high aptitude and high attitude, who not only excel in selling but also have the right attitude.
Makeovers: These are reps who have the right attitude, but need help with aptitude or their sales competency.
Mavericks: Good in sales aptitude, but not a paragon in attitude. While these reps may be good in sales, they ignore issues like compliance and best practices. They may not be team players.
Misfits: They lack both aptitude and attitude.

8 Steps to Cloning Your Top Performers

1. Identify your “models” or star bankers. The first step is to identify the sales reps who score high in aptitude and attitude. Sales performance is a clear indicator of aptitude. Beyond alignment with brand essence and values, here are some additional points to consider for attitude.

  • Is the rep open to continuous improvement? Even the best sales people can always improve.
  • Does the rep freely share expertise so it can be captured on conversational guidance and knowledge management (KM) systems?

The good news is model bankers score well in these criteria because of their good attitude.

2. Elicit and embed model bankers’ expertise. The best reps possess situational expertise in conversations — i.e., they are able to adapt to conversations as they progress and ask the next best question or take the next best action in a process.

Basically you need to pick your model bankers’ brains. Capture and embed situational expertise from the models into your conversational guidance system. Do this through interviews and by learning from their interactions with customers. Also let these sales stars suggest knowledge and situational knowhow into the system with the click of a button. A process excellence group can then review and serve up the expertise to other agents when they interact with customers through a guidance tool, helping to elevate their performance.

3. Identify and manage “makeovers” and “mavericks.” The next step is to identify Makeovers and Mavericks and get them to the next level.

The sales advisors with a good attitude, who need improvement in aptitude — the Makeovers — hold great potential for improvement and can become models with the help of conversational AI guidance.

Prone to “going rogue,” mavericks score poorly in attitude. Their tendency to improvise processes creates compliance issues, which might put the institution in legal hot water. (One just needs to look at the travails of a large U.S. bank that got into trouble because of questionable sales practices.)

With misfits the answer is to cut your losses by having them move to other teams that might be a better fit for their skills. Or simply have them leave the company.

Additional Resources: Customer Service Messaging: Dos and Don’ts

4. Enforce compliance. Keep regulations in mind when it comes to the who, what, how, and when of customer service content, transactions, interactions, and processes. Banking regulations often live in documents and flow charts. They should be digitalized into your AI, KM, and workflow systems for automated in-band guidance and compliance when advisors interact with the customer.

All sales reps and agents, whether models, makeovers, or mavericks, should be required to be compliant. As noted above, mavericks need more attention in this case. An AI guidance tool should ensure an omnichannel audit trail of all conversations, whether agent assisted or self-service. It especially helps analyze the effectiveness, efficiency, and compliance of agent-to-customer conversations.

5. Clone everywhere. Today’s consumer is everywhere — digital touchpoints, retail branches, kiosks, and more. In an omnichannel world, agent cloning needs to happen across all touchpoints. At the same time, many consumers are digital-first and often prefer to be digital-only. Omnichannel cloning can be accomplished with a unified solution that allows consistent AI guidance across channels. By contrast, point products can create chaos with disconnected silos.

6. Measure. Measuring and managing performance through analytics is critical for sales success.

Use control and test groups for benchmarking performance. Make metrics specific and granular (e.g., “in one month, makeover agents handled 20% more customer interactions per day”; “mavericks used the guidance tool 25% more this month versus last month”).

7. Manage appropriately. Mavericks need to be educated on how costly non-compliance can be so they can reform their ways. They could also be nudged to compliance with carrots (kudos, incentives) and sticks (performance improvement plan or termination).

A conversational AI guidance tool with personalization can also help. Such tools personalize the conversational pathway, based on the agents’ experience on the job. For instance, it may allow experienced agents to skip some questions or steps in the process while remaining compliant with regulations. Of course, radical mavericks should be managed out and so should misfits who lack both aptitude and attitude!

Makeover sales reps need encouragement. Inform them about the progress they have made through regular feedback, so they develop the confidence of the model reps.

8. Recruit wisely. Finally, recruit sales reps whose attitude, personalities, and values are aligned with your brand. Err on the side of attitude than aptitude since guidance tools can help with aptitude but cannot fix someone’s attitude.

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Conversational Sales Guidance at Work

A global bank uses an AI guidance tool to answer questions about products and follow compliant process in helping business clients select products, walk them through applications, and onboard them. With conversational guidance, the bank was able to cut agent training time by 40%. Moreover, as agents became more efficient, their productivity doubled.

A tax prep giant leverages AI guidance to answer taxpayer questions through a chatbot, while looking for upsell opportunities during the conversation. When the opportunity arises, it transitions the conversation to a human agent, who, in turn, leverages conversational guidance to sell the services, handle questions on tax topics, and provide advice.

Among the solution highlights for these and other institutions are:

  • Conversational AI to guide interactions between sales reps in the contact center or retail touchpoints and customers.
  • Virtual assistance and coaching with a banker bot, powered by natural language processing, machine learning, and AI reasoning.
  • Follow-on coaching and nurturing with contextual digital engagement.
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance and auditability in sales interactions.
  • Connected customer engagement across touchpoints.

Consumers expect banks and credit unions to provide sound financial advice that will benefit them in the long-term. When institutions do that, consumers are happier and buy more. When all agents and advisors in your branch and contact centers — backed by technology, best practices, and conversational guidance — are elevated to the productivity of model agents, the results are transformational.

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