Financial institutions face a strange challenge that they have not faced before. With loan margins being so small, they are forced to find various other methods of generating revenue. The challenge is converting into a product-driven sales culture in an environment where one has not existed, or has been sorely lacking. Since I have been working on the “vendor-partner” side for the past 28 years, I take it for granted the challenges that this transition might pose.
On “our” side, we hire salespeople and expect them to be able to sell. We train them, provide them with the tools they need, and expect them to go forth and conquer. Many times they do because that is how true salespeople are hard-wired. Sometimes they don’t which forces us to make a change. But for financial institutions, we are essentially talking about building a sales organization from the ground up, which at a minimum is a very daunting task with many hurdles to overcome.
Many loan officers in today’s financial institutions are not equipped for this transition yet. However, there are steps that can be taken to get them to this point.
Assess your current staff.
Conducting a sales assessment will give you a good idea of which people in your organization have the aptitude to thrive in a sales culture. By "aptitude," I mean employees who are great at active listening, communicating, and problem solving. You should also look for those who are persuasive, confident, and able to hear the word “no” over and over again without taking it personally or getting emotional. It may be that you have qualified salespeople in other parts of your institution, making some type of re-organization necessary. This could be difficult—change always is—but if you’re making the right changes for the right reasons, it’ll benefit your employees and organization as a whole when all is said and done.
Figure out what motivates people that have the sales aptitude.
The common notion is that all salespeople are motivated by money. After 28 years of sales management, I can categorically tell you that this is NOT the case. Money is always a contributing factor, but most of my more successful salespeople are motivated by other factors such as competitiveness and recognition among their peers and within the company. This is where your management skills come into play. The reason being that there are many varying egos that are necessary to appease, and each of them can potentially have different motivators, so it will take people-skills and good, strong leadership skills to accomplish that.
Make sure your salespeople are trained to be product experts across all (or most) lines.
Whether a loan officer is a true sales person or not, it’s nearly impossible for them to close business if they don’t understand what a product is or why you offer it. Knowing each of your products inside out will not only build a loan officer’s confidence, but will also help increase the number of products they sell per customer. How? Well, in a sales situation, knowledge really is power. Being an expert gives salespeople a sense of authority which they display through their body language, and customers pick up on it quickly. It’s an age-old aspect of consumer behavior that will more than likely never change—we buy products (whether we need them or not) if someone we see as an authoritative expert tells us we need to. Plus, if your loan officers are knowledgeable about each of your products and their benefits, they will more than likely be able to see opportunities for cross-selling, thus, increasing the number of products sold per person.
Can all of this be done? Certainly. Will it be painless? Probably not. But, to ignore this culture change will certainly not help your financial institution address the realities of our new economy.
As an SWBC partner, we provide the tools and training you need to turn your staff into a sales machine! To learn more, contact us today!