Want More Sales – Turn Transactions into Conversations!

Are your tellers, CSRs, MSRs and call center staff completing routine transactions and missing opportunities to create engaging conversations? Very likely!

Just about every week I stop in Sprouts, my favorite local grocery store to pick up some items.  At checkout, the friendly clerk typically asks, “How are you?”  Each time I give my standard reply, “Fine thank you.” Recently, I asked a nice young man stocking shelves, “Do you have any Thai curry paste”?  With a big smile he took me to the international aisle and said, “If we have it, you’ll find it here”.

Certainly, my transactions were pleasant, professional and efficient. Could they have been more engaging and conversational?  Absolutely! In fact, here’s an excerpt from a Gallup post I believe makes the point in our banking world.

So, forget about transactions — they are all conversations. A customer visiting a branch to deposit a birthday check from his great aunt. That is a conversation. A customer calling the contact center to transfer money between accounts. That is a conversation. With customers’ having the ability to complete more and more transactions today through digital channels, when the opportunity presents itself to speak to a living, breathing person — you need to seize it. And at that point, it is no longer merely a transaction (that you are still expected to execute flawlessly), it is an opportunity to engage in — or at least start — a meaningful, needs-based conversation.

If you’re nodding your head, “Yup, Barb, we definitely need to move beyond transactions”, consider the simple, yet proven actions listed next.

Create Conversation, Connection and Confidence

Develop questions that invite a reply –  Chances are your staff is comfortable asking routine questions to gather basic information.  However, from my experience, many of these questions are either closed-ended or very product-oriented.  The key is to get your folks to initially imagine they are speaking with a new neighbor having a get to know you conversation.  Once the relationship and trust are established, they can view themselves as a financial doctor asking relevant questions.

It’s important the questions are open-ended to encourage more dialogue and uncover possible needs.  Following are some examples from easy rapport-building to open-probing questions that go much deeper. Any of these may uncover valuable information about life stage, life events, future opportunities and most of all, begin a personal connection.  Note: They all begin with the three important words of what, how, or tell me and cannot be answered with a quick yes or no. Begin with just a few warm-up questions and use the others selectively as the relationship develops in the coming weeks, months, and years.


  • What are your plans for the weekend? (Learn about family, hobbies, home projects)
  • What do you have planned this summer with your family?
  • What’s new or different in your life since I saw you (or we spoke) last? (Learn about priorities, challenges, life events)
  • What’s your child’s name? I hear laughter. (Learn the child’s age for future planning)
  • Tell me about your family? What’s most important to you about their well-being?
  • What’s new with your kids these days?

Let’s get serious…

  • How happy are you with your ability to save or manage your money?
  • How would you handle a large, unexpected expense like a major car repair or new appliance?
  • What does financial success mean to you?
  • What are your top two financial goals or dreams in the coming years? (Note: Once you have rapport and trust with your customer or member, this is the single most important question you can ask. Help your customer or member achieve this and you have an advocate for life!
  • How do you imagine spending your time in retirement? How prepared are you?
  • What is your experience with financial and lifestyle planning so you can enjoy your later years?

Record all information in a profile – Any reply to the above questions is helpful either as an immediate or future relationship-building opportunity. This brings up an important question. How confident are you that your staff is consistently capturing personal and business challenges, anxieties and goals important to your customers or members? It’s of no value if Linda, your CSR or call center rep, jots down notes on a pad yet fails to enter them in your system. Be sure to create a structured process and profile for each associate to capture key information and needs. Note:  If you lead or supervise your team, be sure to periodically review some profiles with them.  Ask, what do you know about this customer?  What don’t you know about this member? What can you find out on your next call?  What are potential ways we can help this person?

Practice to Build Confidence As a professional speaker and trainer, I feel much more authentic, relaxed and confident when I rehearse my keynote or workshop.  I’ve learned I must hear what I’m saying and if it sounds natural. Likewise, your staff’s confidence will increase when they frequently practice asking open-probing questions. A Probing Clinic is a fun and popular exercise I often use in my training sessions and highly recommend.  Make it part of your sales meeting or a private teaching moment with a role-play session. Simply have each person ask a colleague one of the questions above and keep going around the room until everyone has opportunities to ask several questions. Change the wording as needed. Note: Often staff will revert to closed questions beginning with do, are, or is. So be sure to listen carefully for what, how, and tell me questions.

In summary, conversation, connection and confidence are the keys to build loyal relationships and earn more business from your customers and members. Your digital offerings and experience are important. Yet please remember, technology alone does not build relationships – your people do!  Invest in them and you’ll reap the rewards!

FYI – I’m excited to offer my popular 60- 90-minute motivational keynote virtually for your leadership conference or staff kick-off.  Check out the demo video by clicking on my picture below and let me know if you wish to discuss it by phone or hold a tentative date.

Thanks for reading this post and sharing your observations!


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