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Advocacy Is the Key to Sales

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By Jeff Rendel, CSP

3 minutes

Until the member wins, the credit union doesn’t win.

Six years ago, a now $16 billion bank began to acquire nearly 75 branches in the Western U.S. from one of the nation’s largest banks. Initially, there was a lot of deposit runoff (25 percent), which was accounted for in the purchase price. Once the transaction dust settled, nearly half of the acquired accounts were gone, but deposits were up 25 percent. The bank’s CEO and his team concluded that the lost accounts were zero or low-balance accounts, part of a past culture that compensated bank employees on the number of accounts opened.

Recently, the bank’s CEO opined on this dynamic in The Wall Street Journal. “Our philosophy is to do what is best for the client. If they need a new account, then open it; but, if they have too many accounts, it’s OK to close them and get to the mix of services the customer desires.” Doing what’s best for the customer—or member—and what he desires as a governing principle for a business model. Sound familiar?

Sales is a fascinating phenomenon in credit unions. We want members to buy, but we don’t want to pressure the sale. We want to deepen relationships (measured by added products), but we don’t want to overwhelm members with a never-ending cross-sell. We want to pull members to a better deal, but not push so much that they leave. So, what’s a credit union to do? Advocate for the member.

Credit union leaders are always the greatest sources of practical wisdom for articles. Reach out to several dozen on any given topic and a “Top 10” list will emerge. Except for this time. Forty-plus leaders added their thoughts, with one theme common amongst all—advocacy for members. Until the member wins, the credit union doesn’t win. Make certain the member is succeeding – with or without a sale – and the credit union will reap the benefit of a long, lasting relationship.

One CEO expressed advocacy in its clearest sense: “We want our members to earn more, save more, and experience more.” Products, services, and technology offer all three, but not without a culture and systems that seek to ensure members are in the best position possible. Growth, and the sales that drive it, requires a long-term approach to relationships and their business value. Some members are ready to buy now—sell to them. Some members will buy later—keep them informed and be ready to act when the time is right for them. Do what’s best for the member. 

Decades ago, Jim Cathcart, a fellow professional speaker, declared, “The highest level of business is an act of friendship.” Not revenue, profitability segment or propensity to buy. Friendship. Advocacy for a member with your credit union’s success a product of that investment. 

As you continue to develop, expand, and refine your credit union’s sales and business development programs, consider the importance of being an advocate for your members and their opportunities to “earn more, save more and experience more.” Odds are good the same kinds of business outcomes will benefit your credit union as a result. Your members deserve the success their credit union is able to provide.

Jeff Rendel, CSP, is president of Rising Above Enterprises. He works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners. Reach him at 951.340.3770.

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