What Banks and Credit Unions Must Do to Find Sales Success

Here are 12 tips, predictions and critical insights that should shape your sales strategy in the months to come.

Nostradamus I am not. Heck, for the past 50 years I have predicted that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series. But I am out talking with bankers every week, and through these conversations I’ve come across a few key themes that will drive success with sales in the next year.

1. Performance Cultures Replace Sales Cultures

Banks migrate away from outmoded sales cultures focused on products, ticking boxes, and ceaseless campaigns. Instead they should journey toward sustainable, trust-focused environments that center on people — associates and customers — through the alignment of vision, commitment of executive management and routines at sales management and frontline levels. There’s been enough talking about it, meeting about it, and pontificating about it. It’s time for tactics built around performance cultures.

2. Sales Processes Sit Front and Center

Forward thinking banks will adopt dynamic-yet-simply-understood sales processes that keep everyone focused and makes it easier to get new salespeople up to speed. Sales managers that interweave the process seamlessly into their routines have a much greater likelihood of hitting their numbers (or exceeding them). For some great data on the positive effects of a well-oiled sales process, go to www.csoinsights.com and review its multi-decade research on this topic.

3. Incentives Get a Hard Look

Sales incentives will be on the top of everyone’s minds in the C-Suite… and those top performers who usually get all the dough. Antiquated point-based systems and product-pushy cross-sell programs can be gamed, warping into a distorted sales scheme where customers are exploited as hapless pawns. These must be replaced by a P&L-based approach. This helps everyone have skin in the game, and fosters incentives that reward the right behaviors. For more in depth and well-articulated opinions on this important subject, read the book Drive by Daniel Pink.

4. CEOs are CRM Strong

The most important thing I learned in over 30 years of using everything from ACT, Goldmine, Seibel, Salesforce.com and others is that the best way to improve CRM adoption and to generate ROI on this tech investment is to have CEOs hold themselves accountable to know the system better than anyone. No joke, it’s that simple. When the CEO/president weaves their knowledge and experience with the CRM system into their conversations with others inside the organization, everyone else understands they must know the system as well. It should be utilized, it should be coached to others. When any sales automation process is used properly, a trialogue occurs: the CRM technology bridges a conversation between consumers, salespeople and sales managers, yielding solutions for prospects that are more individualized, as well as broader strategies to achieve overall market penetration.

5. LinkedIn — The Collaboration Tool

This year financial marketers should open their eyes to the fact that LinkedIn is not a job board, but rather a tool that can foster greater collaboration between your sales team. LinkedIn is also more than just the online version of a cold-call — I reach out, you accept, then I call you for an appointment. In 2016 banking execs will finally start using it as a tool for education — sharing articles, joining and actively participating in groups, and putting buyers together with sellers are all ways that high performers use LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator is an amazing tool that will be deployed at more banks and credit unions in 2016 too, as more of them realize that their modest investment of dollars can generate a much bigger return. Ultimately, salespeople in the banking industry must up their engagement time with LinkedIn to more than their paltry current average of 17 minutes… per month.

6. Commercial Onboarding Momentum Increases

Integrated welcoming systems for commercial accounts will become more commonplace at banks and credit unions of all sizes. There are currently very few of these programs being executed, and those that are tend to be “check the box” programs versus a disciplined and strategic process designed to maximize opportunities. Regular contact through the first year between a new customer and various bankers (and potentially even board members) deepens the sense of partnership with new clients. Develop an organized process of coordinated touches resulting in greater “cross-solving,” more referrals and a client experience that helps reduce “post-purchase dissonance” or “buyer’s remorse.”

7. Resource Management is the Ticket

Clients these days want something more from their banker. The internet, big data and economic mood swings have all served to radically change the buying habits of entrepreneurs. Unfortunately many bankers have failed to keep up with that trend and are being left behind. CEOs and CFOs want new ideas, new perspectives, best practices and much more. Bankers continue to shove brochures and pitchbooks at them instead. It’s easy to see why bankers get back in the door on their second call only slightly more than 17% of the time. This year, forward thinking banks and credit unions will take a proactive approach to building trust and providing ongoing intrinsic value. They are “bankerpreneurs” and they are the winners.

8. The Concierge Movement

Volumes have been written about the changing role of the branch. In 2016 financial institutions will use profitability models to identify the top 10-15% of retail clients. Then they pair high performing retail bankers and provide them with a portfolio of 200-300 these very important clients. The role of these Relationship Bankers is all about proactivity — it is their book of business. Relationship Bankers are responsible to refer business to partners, to contact their clients regularly (one bank requires 7 touches annually) — through phone calls, webinars, home visits, etc. In short, a Relationship Banker should be a concierge, creating strategies to help their clients continually grow financially… by any means possible. They should adopt a mindset where they are continually thinking about how to refer, cross-solve and to make interactions with these valued clients rich and full.

9. Business Intelligence + Big Data = Big Deal

Tools such as Vertical IQ, Smartbrief, Newsle, Charlie App and others are actionable, and more financial marketers are waking up to the applied, practical power of business intelligence and big data.

10. KISS’n Tell Works Well

In 2016 financial marketers will use “Key Insights Strategically Sent” (KISS) to help them achieve differentiation and greater success with their outbound sales strategies. A recent study by the highly respected firm Greenwich Associates found that when companies are confronted with critical business issues or decisions, bankers are called upon for guidance far less frequently than other resources. In small business it’s at a 12% level and only at 18% for middle market firms, while accountants and lawyers are two to four times more likely to be contacted for advice. The amazing book, Insight Selling says that sales professionals that win relationships do so primarily by providing new ideas and perspectives at a much greater level than second-place finishers. Finally, in 2016 bankers will begin to get it. They will find articles, white papers and reports loaded with best practices, and send them systematically to clients, prospects and other centers of influence. In this context, CRM systems are employed as a value enabler, not as an impediment. Content is sourced and shared selflessly.

11. There *IS* an “I” in “Team”

The “I” stands for “Insight,” and in 2016 more banks will be using the collaborative power of team selling to provide better client insight resulting in improved cross solving. Client Action Teams (CATs) will spring up all over the country. CATs will consist of a retail banker, commercial banker, mortgage associate, treasury management partner, wealth management professional and other colleagues. Twice monthly this team meets to talk about each team member’s one or two best clients, using entries in their CRM as a guide for the conversation. They talk about needs, and at the end of this 45-minute meeting there is a brief networking discussion to compare calendars and determine a follow-up strategy for each client. This is not a new or original concept, but more times than not these programs tend to discuss too many clients and the follow-up isn’t there.

12. The CMO is The CCO

Financial marketers add yet another duty to their already full plate. Their responsibilities now include Chief Content Officer — creating, curating and caring for content. Banks add pages with business tools to their shared drives, where compliance-cleared articles are also available. Salespeople access the content and share it through email, LinkedIn, Twitter and other means. When marketing and sales become more seamlessly integrated into tailored messaging, the result is amazing.

Some financial institutions won’t have the wherewithal to tackle all of the above. They aren’t foundationally prepared to do so. But other banks and credit unions will ban pity parties over shrinking margins and increased competition, and instead go from “survival” mode to a “thrival” mindset — one geared around execution and success. I also see the Cubs finally winning the World Series next year.

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