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Customers and Members Are Sick of Being Sold To

Don’t get the wrong impression – Bob and Barb are all for selling. We acknowledge the thousands of front line staff that use cross-selling skills with a mindset of genuinely serving their clientele. But that doesn’t change the proven research: many customers and members feel your staff is more interested in selling them something that fills an immediate need but does not necessarily address their “big financial picture”. Regardless of your organization’s intention, perception is reality and the very nature of transactional cross-selling is part of the problem.

In this post we’ll tell you what some bank and credit union staff members do to turn this perception around and convert your customers or members to advocates who view you as their financial partner. We also challenge you to consider whether there is too much emphasis on one type of selling or the other.

So, if your management team could only pick one of two customer revenue-generating strategies, which one would they choose?

A) Train and coach your front line staff to achieve a 3.0 or higher cross-sell ratio with walk-ins and call-ins to your branches

B) Train and coach a select group of your staff to build trust and earn the business from customers or members who are disengaged and/or don’t visit branches

C) A combination of both

We bet most management would choose option A. This is where banks and credit unions have invested their time and hard-earned dollars for the past 20+ years and it’s what we all know best. Besides, it’s generating revenue. However, it’s mostly transactional selling for immediate gain with little thought about the greater long term potential of working on building a more solid relationship with customers and members. We recommend C, a little of both. But we also recommend you transition from a purely transactional business to building relationships so people view you as their financial partner.

Cross-selling is mostly transactional

With cross-selling, the emphasis is mostly on staff getting just enough information to help them sell multiple products in a short time frame to walk-ins and call-ins. These transactional sales are focused on a quick result by going for the immediate sale rather than gaining a holistic understanding of the customer’s or member’s future needs and goals. These transactional sales lead to immediate revenue. However, most casual customers may or may not think of you when a significant financial need comes up. The most loyal and profitable members are advocates. To earn their loyalty they want you to have an understanding of their long term financial goals (see the research). Most transaction customers are not likely to be advocates. To them, you’re “just another errand”.

Banking relationship management is more consultative

Bankers who have mastered consultative selling resist the temptation to “pitch” product and get a quick sale but take time to understand the person’s “emotive drivers” and develop a customer relationship over time that’s based on trust. If you ask people who have a relationship manager if they feel like they are being sold, chances are the answer will be “No”!

While relationship managers certainly can cross-sell, they are essentially account managers who develop their book of business. They build trust and build customer or member profiles capturing key facts, hobbies, needs, goals and dreams. This powerful information is updated periodically in a CRM system and helps them anticipate and recognize future opportunities. These opportunities are likely to be missed when you rely only on transactional cross-selling.

Skilled Relationship Managers build a trust relationship over time with a variety of touch points and only sell at the appropriate time. They ask questions to understand their customers’ financial goals and then give advice to improve the customer’s financial well-being. In fact, this approach prompts customers or members to call you! However, in our relationship management training classes, we find many employees are not comfortable at engaging members about their goals and need help.

Which is better – consultative relationship management or cross-selling?

You will always need a combination of both. Many members are happy conducting transactional business with you so it’s best to give them what they want. However, as the research shows, you have customers who welcome a deeper relationship with your organization right now. Trust needs to be developed with them first so you can uncover their hidden needs (Are You Uncovering Customers’ Hidden Needs). Once this happens, instead of feeling “sold”, your customers or members will view you as their financial partner and you will generate more organic business from them.

Agree or disagree? Do let us know what you think by scrolling down and commenting below.

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The Banking Relationship Management Experience – A Strategy for Becoming a Trusted Financial Partner and Increasing Revenue and Profitability