10-20-14-ignite.pngThree years ago, the word sales was more or less a four-letter word in banking. At the time, banks didn’t really understand the sales culture and didn’t see the need to implement a sales culture at their institution.

But times are changing. Customers are taking greater control of their banking relationships. They are switching banks, changing their behavior and demanding improvements. Faced with unprecedented competition from non-banking competitors, new regulations that limit their ability to generate fee income, and shrinking net interest income, banks are challenged to find new sources of revenue if they want to grow.

Outside the banking industry, at the core of any growing company is its ability to connect, nurture and satisfy customers. Although customer service is engrained into the banking culture, a sales culture is not. It is the combination of the proper sales culture, sales skill sets and sales enablement tools that are largely missing from retail banks.

Banks have been focused for several years on cost-cutting measures such as reducing headcount and offshoring, which has been good from an expense standpoint. But in order to grow, they must implement a measureable sales process once and for all.

Take these steps to get the process started:

  1. Focus on the buying process at the point of sale. When the first account is opened, it often falls far short of revenue potential. Most business customers are eligible for up to seven income generating products, however only one is typically sold at the initial point of sale. Once this happens, the opportunity for additional sales is lost indefinitely. The best opportunity to sell add-ons is immediate.
  2. Think about merchandising. Merchandising is the cornerstone of a best-practice sales process. Retail banking is the only industry known as retail that doesn’t also have merchandisers. Merchandising is simply presenting the right product, to the right customer, at the right time—this is done best at the point-of-sale when customers are already inclined to purchase.
  3. Make all channels equal. Whether the customer is online using a computer or mobile device, on the phone with a customer service representative or in the branch, the customer experience should be the same. Based on their needs, the advice and products offered to them should be consistent in all channels.
  4. Automate product recommendations. With more than 100 retail banking products on average at their disposal, is it reasonable to expect employees to understand them all in detail? By using a digital playbook, your bank’s representatives can interact with the customer via automated, guided selling. This enables them to automatically find the best products for the customer and engage them in a consultative manner. Guided selling also takes away the complexity of learning every product detail and ever changing regulations so that customer service representatives can focus on engaging customers and developing long-term relationships.
  5. Empower employees to create customer loyalty. Give your branch and customer service employees the framework, the tools and the flexibility to use their creativity to provide exceptional customer service.
  6. Enact measurement tools. Unless you have in place the sales analytics tools for measuring performance, there is no way to know if you are meeting your objectives. Use sales analytics to track recommendations and openings to ensure your investments are paying off.
  7. Create in-the-moment feedback mechanisms. You can’t expect improvement from employees if you haven’t let them know how they are progressing. Don’t wait for review time for your staff to provide feedback. Ensure feedback is being provided on the spot. That way, proper action can be taken to improve performance.
  8. Coach them. Without making anyone feel inferior, develop your low performing employees in the branch and call center by coaching them on tried and true tactics used by the higher performing members of the team. Identify and incorporate those tactics and strategies into your digital playbook to ensure you are winning customers.

In retail banks, most sales organizations are underdeveloped. There are few processes in place and as result, fewer measurement tools to make sales accountable. Banks need to implement proven sales processes, use technology to help merchandise income-generating products, and apply both consistently to drive successful sales outcomes.

And last, but not least, the most successful sales programs are spearheaded, promoted or at the very least, approved and supported by the CEO. Sales cannot be successful if the CEO is not on board.

Mitchell Orlowsky