Is Your Sales Training Aligned With Your Bank or Credit Union Brand Promise? – Relationship Selling in Action

Staff: “The last place I worked at didn’t really care about the customer and now I see the same thing here.”

Execs: “We have some resistance to our sales program.”  “We’re losing good people AND too many members.”

Customer: “I can’t talk to anyone without having a loan pushed on me.”

Often a bank or credit union’s focus is on transactional product selling rather than advising. High Definition Banking® Do any of these refrains sound familiar? Even though your sales training wisely teaches, “first find a need and fill it”, most sales training programs offer an approach that hasn’t changed much since the 1980’s. Often the focus in a bank or credit union is on short-term transactional product selling rather than educating, advising and developing a loyal and trusting relationship.

So how can your bank or credit union excel at generating business and at the same time enable employees to feel they are truly serving your customers or members?  Answer: place emphasis on developing trust in member or customer relationships foremost before just making sales. Teach staff how to engage in relationship building conversation about the member’s goals instead of a transactional conversation about products.

Real Life Example of A Bank Whose Sales Training Clashed With Their Brand

A few years ago we were in discussions with a $1B bank (275 employees) about helping them increase sales and boost their customer loyalty. Their brand emphasized their ability to fill their customers’ financial needs through all their life events. To accomplish this, they created objectives for better utilizing Relationship selling means getting to know the customer and not jump on every cue to sell a product. High Definition Banking® their CRM software to capture key conversations, life events and future goals and truly make a difference in the lives of their customers.

However, they didn’t immediately see this conflict: asking employees to embrace customer relationship management while their sales training was more focused on transactional selling and product pushing. The unspoken message was “sell, sell, sell and then sell some more”. If your intention is to fill a customer’s or member’s financial needs for a lifetime, jumping on every cue to sell a product before getting to know them and building trust is just not going to cut it! Employees see this contradiction like a flashing neon sign.

Customer Relationship Management Skills Surpass Conventional Selling Skills

We asked the senior management team to read our blog post, How A Single Phone Call Saved Our Customer Relationship. This post tells a true story of how customer relationship management skills rather than “sales skills” of our personal banker kept us from leaving our bank. The moral is if your staff is focused primarily on making a sale and not on building the relationship, your bank or credit union may be at risk of losing valuable, high potential customers or members like us. That will quickly put an end to your aspirations of serving customers’ or members’ needs through all of their life events.

Excited about a relationship selling model, they wondered how their people view this different approach. So the EVP of Sales asked his staff to read the blog post and send him their comments. The employees were very positive. With the EVP’s permission (and changing any reference to the bank) we included a sampling of the comments below. As you read them, notice how the employees totally believe nurturing customer relationships is the key to their customer loyalty and growth.

Employees Agree – Relationship Selling is More Effective Than Going for a Quick Transactional Sale

“I agree with this article 100%. It reminds me of when I worked at XYZ Big Bank. They would try so hard to get new customers into the bank and cross-sell them but would forget about their existing clients, which created a disconnect much as outlined in the article. Customers would simply leave (many came to our bank) because they didn’t have the contacts or the office was simply understaffed. This always amazed me about the company; they would put so much money and resources into teaser rates and promotions that they had the blinders on when it came to service after the sale”.

I also really appreciated the paragraph stating, “A bank has to have faith that if you develop the relationship rather than just go for the short-term sale, the customer relationship will become more lucrative than if you relied on the individual transactions.” Developing a relationship takes a lot more time and care than pushing products, but it pays off in the end! I think this is a good reminder”.

Sooner or later these customers will have a need. We need to position ourselves so that they come to us with that need. Satisfied = happy for the moment, we met their current need. Relationship = Trusted advisor”.

The relationship will become more lucrative than if you relied on the individual transactions. High Definition Banking® With customers, they are sick of being sold. We need to focus on sales, yes. We need to pick up on services, yes. But we can’t be in their face all the time constantly trying to sell. I personally will leave a business if I feel I am just trying to be sold. A friendly ‘Hi’ and ‘let me know how I can help you help you’ and periodic follow up calls is much more my style. I’m a very soft sell, and that takes time to build, which is also building a relationship at the same time”.

Great article. I agree with it. Customers leave banks [and credit unions] because they don’t have a good relationship with someone or the banker doesn’t reach out periodically. They don’t “feel the love.” If they feel the connection with us, they will look to us for help during various life events and helping them achieve their goals. We need to feel comfortable and confident in first discovering their financial goals and priorities (more training) before we mention any products.”

“The initial touch to a customer is simply a get to know them, not a product or service offer, and earning their business. I think we currently use this approach in a lot of our joint calls and this is why we have been successful in earning full relationships. In the end, it is more rewarding to the bank and the customer”.

 “I thought the article was very interesting. I never really thought about the fact that satisfied customers using our online service probably don’t come to the branches often and may feel disconnected from the bank and our employees. It makes sense that it is the relationship, not the product, which keeps the customer returning to the bank for all their life events and future needs”.

To see a point by point difference between a Conventional Sales Culture and a Relationship Selling Culture Click Here

Five Key Questions to Discuss with Your Executive Team

  1. How do we rate our current culture on member or customer relationship management? Take the brief assessment and find out at Rate Your Relationship Selling Culture
  2. Do our employees believe we live our values and genuinely care about helping our customers or members achieve financial success?
  3. Do our processes, sales training and compensation encourage short-term, product selling or long-term relationships and organic growth?
  4. Is it time to elevate the role of our staff to professional relationship managers and financial coaches proactively reboarding our disengaged customers or members?
  5. Is transitioning to a CRM/MRM culture and approach a strategic priority in 2019? What steps can we take to move in this direction?

Learn more about our services including relationship selling skills training at or Contact Us and we’ll get back to you.

Thanks for reading!

Barb Sanfilippo


Thanks for reading this post and sharing your observations!


“Your focus on capturing substantive member information, entering it into our CRM profile and then applying it on future calls has reinforced behavior change and ensures an ROI on our investment in CRM and your process. In addition, your emphasis on building trust first and avoiding product pitching is resulting in more new business, referrals and increased loyalty. In fact, one member said, “Nobody has ever helped me like this.” – WESTconsin Credit Union

 “One outreach call by a relationship banker alone generated $1.1 million in total customer relations including six relationships encompassing business and personal loans, deposits, trust accounts and more. Our bankers are maintaining and updating profiles for their assigned customers in our CRM and reviewing them when pre-call planning.” – Town and Country Bank

“This was truly an amazing program, so dynamic and yet at times so simple. I am very excited to watch our staff’s growth with this way of thinking. We are the customer’s financial advocate! When we build that trust and relationship with them sales will follow!” –  Program Trainee and Branch Manager


P.S. I’ll be traveling to your area in the coming months.  If you’re planning an employee meeting, kickoff event, leadership retreat, etc., click on six factors Barb delivers on and then watch my demo video below to see how I’ll engage and inspire your employees to achieve your 2019 strategic objectives.  

 Barbara Sanfilippo Demo Video

Let’s plan a tailored and memorable presentation! For an exploratory call, click Contact Barb, email or call me at 858-674-5500 x101

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