Why a sales contest can put your brand on dangerously thin ice

bank brand on thin iceLast week at a social event, I spoke with a man who works at a local community bank. I asked about his job and he shocked me by saying “I hate it!” then told me about how he and his associates are pressured to sell additional products to customers and he feels it’s “immoral to try and sell them things they don’t need.” Yes, he said immoral.

This is frighteningly thin ice—especially for a financial brand.

He doesn’t know me that well, but  was very open in telling me how he felt about the job, the sales contests and his employers' expectations.

This is a bright, friendly and well-connected person. The kind of person many employers would love to have as a valued team member and ambassador—not a detractor—of their brand.

This community bank needs a program, not a sales contest. Here are 4 elements that make the difference between a high-performance program and a short-lived sales contest.

1. everyone is in on the business plan
If everyone inside the institution understands the business goals—and their important individual roles in achieving those goals—people feel important and empowered. They will be ready and excited about rising to the challenge.

It's your job to make sure they hear it from you. Keep the reinforcement going. Listen for feedback, then keep them in the loop. Leaving out this important element will have a chilling effect on all your efforts.

ASK: Do my employees know the goals and how each of them can help us get there? Do we have a rallying cry that includes and encourages everyone on our team? Are we keeping them in the loop?

2. you inspire belief and love for your brand and purpose
Let’s face it. Your institution offers most of the same things your competition does. So what sets you apart besides the great service you promise?

Are you about small business? Or is your purpose Dave Ramsey-esque—helping people be more financially responsible? Are you young-family focused or are you the go-to for agriculture?

Know your purpose, have mission and vision that go beyond some forgettable plaque in the lobby. Live it. Recruit for it and don’t settle. If your sales efforts are aligned with your brand and purpose, employees will understand the "why." They won't feel like they're compromising their values. That puts you on solid ground.Winning a set of steak knives isn't the right way to motivate!

ASK: Does our brand live beyond the slogan on our mugs and the website? Can all our employees tell what’s different about us, and do they help us communicate that through every touchpoint to each other and to everyone they meet?

3. you train on consultative selling
Arm twisting and haranguing can create some short-term sales. But in the end, employees and customers alike will be dissatisfied. It will be repeated throughout social media, at the PTO and social events.

Employees need training on how to suggest products only after asking questions and listening intently. That gives them confidence to make recommendations that truly make a difference in the customer’s life. That’s the stuff of personal satisfaction in a job well done.

ASK: Do we have an ongoing training program that helps everyone inside our institution confidently ask questions, listen and recommend? Do we merely have an order-taking culture where employees are afraid to ask? Or worse yet, does our culture make employees feel like reluctant used sweeper salesmen?"

4. employees have the technology tools to do their jobs
Most institutions have CRM modules that let bankers see their customer relationships with the click of a mouse. And many of those same institutions aren’t fully using their technology.

Customer service representatives should readily see important account profile information while conducting a transaction. That makes it much easier for them to start conversations that lead to better solutions for the customer and the bank.

ASK: Are we invested in technology and are we using it to its utmost? Does everyone have the proper access to it so they can do what we have asked them to do?

are you building sales or just selling?
Getting deeper, stickier relationships for your financial institution is the key to acquiring loyal, profitable customers. It all seems so simple: incent employees to cross-sell and let ‘em go. But if you don’t have a strong program—with effective training—you're veering into dangerous territory.

For help growing your financial brand from the inside out, contact Martha Bartlett Piland direct at 785.969.6203

Tags: high performance banks, customer service, consultative selling, employee engagement, culture, profit, financial institutions

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