Sales Realities that “Can Be True at the Same Time”


A few days ago, I came across a post on a friend’s social media page. The title was, “Things that Can Be True at the Same Time.” It then listed a handful of realities we each experience in our lives that seem to conflict with each other but can co-exist and be true at the same time, such as:

You’re terrified to take the next step AND you know it’s the right thing to do.


You’re afraid to fail AND you believe in yourself.

As I finished reading through these seemingly conflicting realities, my mind instantly went to credit union sales. Surprising, right? Seriously though, I thought about my own sales journey, and the many journeys of those with whom we have worked here at SalesCU. I thought of the false beliefs, fears, and other situations that have seemed to stand in the way of achieving sales success for so many, but that have been overcome to provide greater value to their members through sales.

As I thought of this, I considered four common obstacles or conflicts that generally hinder credit union teams from selling and thought I’d present them to you here. So, here is my list of credit union sales situations that “can be true at the same time.” 

  1. Our branch is super busy AND we make time to sell.

When working to help credit unions incorporate selling as a consistent part of member service, one of the most common things I hear is, “Our branch (or call center) is so busy, we just don’t have time to sell.” This is a reality for many branches, call centers, and all other member-facing departments in the credit union. It’s great to be busy. Nothing helps the day pass faster than when we are busy. But being busy doesn’t justify skipping the opportunity to offer a product or service that will save a member time or money, help him make more money, or generally make his financial life more convenient.

In a recent conversation with a lending center manager, she told me how her team places the member on the phone above anything else, even those in the phone queue. Her team does this because they realize that rushing through a conversation, an application, or a problem devalues the relationship and hurts both the member and the credit union. 

Of course, I asked how this has impacted hold times for members waiting in the queue? She told me that at first the hold times got very long, which was also a concern. They even saw an increase in their drop rates. But she discovered that adding the sales discussions in the call wasn’t the problem. It wasn’t that they were taking more time to have better sales conversations; the problem was that they needed to be more efficient in their conversations. By making the calls more efficient, they were able to add sales to their calls while only increasing the call-time marginally. 
The first thing to go was discussions about the weather, sports, and other trivial topics meant to fill time. Her team replaced that fill-time with discussions about current needs and future plans, which helped move the application along faster and position discussions about additional products and services. 

Second, she said her team worked on the cadence of their conversations. This meant that her team was able to ask better questions and have a specific plan for the pace of their conversations that systematically moved the calls forward faster. 

Lastly, they worked to eliminate parts of the conversation that were important for helping the member, but not necessary for moving the call along. With each of these changes, her team members were able to incorporate deeper discussions with their members about their current and future needs and have sales conversations that led to higher penetration of assurance products (GAP and Debt Protection), loan recapture, and credit card sales while only marginally extending the call times. 

2. Selling is about creating revenue and growth for the credit union AND it is the best thing we can do for the member.

Individuals who don’t agree with selling often feel that selling is self-serving; they feel it’s only about the numbers and the revenue. That may be the case and the experience of many who have worked for other organizations and companies that see their customers as nothing more than revenue generating assets. But credit unions have an entirely different purpose for selling than most other institutions.

It is true that selling creates revenue and growth for the credit union. It is also true that credit unions must focus on revenue and growth in order to compete in an ever changing and competitive financial services industry. Credit unions can’t raise capital by selling stocks, qualifying for grants, or raising funding through charitable donations. The only way credit unions can make money is by selling products and services to their members. 

Actually, every credit union is already selling. Any time a credit union opens a savings or checking account or funds a loan, a sale is made. So, selling to create revenue and meet numbers is already happening. Most credit unions simply take a reactive, order-taker approach to selling; which is ineffective and a disservice to their members. Selling should be proactive. 

Opportunely, credit unions use revenue and growth as a way to reinvest in their membership. Credit unions that sell at a higher level have revenue to reinvest in better and more engaging branch locations, efficient remote contact options, better online and mobile account access, greater investment in their employee development and culture, robust fraud prevention systems, greater community involvement, better products, services, and programs for their members, and the list goes on. 

Because credit unions are cooperatives and owned by their members, the generated revenue finds its way back into their members’ pockets every time.  Selling also ensures credit union staff are focused on identifying member needs, wants, and financial dreams as well as providing options and solutions to help the member fulfill them faster. Think of a member who would like to buy a home but believes she must have 20% down to do so. How about a member who needs to make a large purchase and believes the only way to do that is by using a credit card? How about a business owner who needs some equipment but doesn’t realize the loan options available to him? And what about those members who believe the only option to save for retirement outside of their 401K is an IRA earning .015%?When we, at the credit union, don’t open our mouths to education and promote solutions, we are not truly creating value for our members. That is poor service. 

3. We see or speak to the same members AND our sales have never been higher.
I recently spoke with a manager who oversees a small branch. Her branch serves a very specific membership group in a small town. As a result, she only has 300 members keyed to her branch. She shared that perhaps less than 25% of those members ever come into the branch. As a result, she admitted that she sees the same few members over and over again. 

It’s no coincidence that these same members use the credit union as their primary financial institution. They have all of their savings at the credit union, as well as their checking accounts, mortgages, and other loans too. In sharing this, she expressed frustration that “there just isn’t anything else I can sell to them, which is why my sales numbers are so low.”

Truly, she does face a challenge. Busier branches see more new faces which provide a great source of sales opportunities as team members seek to expand and deepen the member relationships through core and ancillary products. But low branch traffic and repeat members isn’t an excuse not to proactively reach out and generate new sales. 

Branches that find themselves in this situation still succeed at selling. First, they do not underestimate the power of referrals. Your repeat members love their credit union, and they have all of their financial needs with you because they trust you are their best option. They can be your greatest promoters if you simply ask for referrals. But you can’t just ask for a referral, you must help the member think of specific individuals you would want them to refer. 

Even smaller branches can see the value of the phone and pick it up to engage less engaged members. Of those 300 members keyed to this specific manager’s branch, there are over 235 she hasn’t met. She has a significant opportunity serve more of those members’ needs. Additionally, she shared that there are probably over a thousand members who live close to her branch that are not keyed to her branch that she could also engage. Other branches should be doing the same. 
Selling at your credit union should be proactive, and that means looking for ways to connect with members and understand their needs, wants, and dreams well enough that you can recommend solutions. 

4. I don’t see myself as a salespersonAND I am exceptional at selling.

Many people see a salesperson as someone who is charismatic, clever, gifted at being persuasive, and aggressive at getting what they want. When they don’t see those characteristics inside of themselves, they conclude that they are not cut out for sales and are clearly not salespeople. I am one of these people.

Early in my career, I didn’t see myself as a salesperson; and to be completely honest, I still don’t see myself as that archetypal salesman who can sell anything to anyone. Yet I, just like many others, am still exceptional at selling credit union products and services. How could this be?
Selling in the credit union way doesn’t require really anyof these characteristics. It only requires a love for what the products and services do for our members, and a concern for our members’ financial success. That’s it.

When a team member sees selling as an extension of great service, a way to help the member save time and money, a way to help the member make more money, or a way to help improve the member’s financial life, the team member is equipped with the mindset and motivation to sell. From there, she only needs to understand the products and services in a way that empowers her to align the features to the unique needs, wants, and dreams of her members, explain benefits, and show the members how using the products or services can give them an advantage. That’s really it. So, if you and your credit union team don’t see yourselves as salespeople, it’s okay. You can still be exceptional in selling the credit union’s products and services.  

Many credit union team members struggle with conflicting realities that prevent them from being successful and consistent their sales efforts. I and many others face fears, conflicting values, and challenges that could justifiably prevent us from selling to our members. However, as we recognize the realities that seem to conflict but co-exist, we can experience the successes and the challenges “at the same time.” We persevere despite the challenges, and we succeed regardless of the counter-intuitive truths that co-exist.  

Nick Brown

SalesCU is a credit union-specific, sales training company dedicated to bring a proactive sales approach to every credit union. SalesCU accomplishes this by providing sales consulting and training to enhance branch sales, contact center sales, outbound sales, and lending center sales. The goal of SalesCU is to empower credit unions to cultivate primary financial relationships with their members. Engage Nick Brown directly at 801-860-5807 and Ask about his credit union specific workshops and online sales training.

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