Nov 9, 2016

Happy ‘grew’ year: Five best sales practices for banks in 2017

With just a few weeks left in the calendar year, 2016 has presented financial institutions with a multitude of growing-edge challenges sure to spill over into 2017. Like: How should banks partner with emerging FinTech players to attract and keep new customers? And: How do financial institutions address their growing concerns over personalized customer experience in an age of exploding mobile technology and increased branch closings?  

Somewhere amidst those customer service quandaries there exists an answer for how banks and their clients can both win: It begins when financial services players adopt best sales practices that, for starters, strengthen relationships—whether with small businesses, everyday banking customers, or on-the-fence Millennials looking for bankers who will look after them.

Here experts offer five pointers for banks that will endeavor to raise the bar on every crucial front, from ethics to sales to consumer loyalty.  

Do right by the “do-right rule”

“The first thing is to get people to understand what I call the ‘do-right rule,’” says John Barrickman, president and chief operator officer at New Horizons Financial Group, LLC, based in Amelia Island, Florida. Barrickman says the rule is best defined by finding the place where the best interests of customers and the bank intersect. Consider how your product line might be tweaked, for example, to meet the needs your customers express. Listen to what they’re saying—then “do right” by them and your bottom line, without excluding one or the other.

Head off bad salesperson behavior with continuous controls

Barrickman adds that smart banks should put controls in place “to quickly catch and eliminate aberrant behavior.” Given that regulators constantly step up their efforts (and will likely do so in 2017), organizations need to refine such controls continuously. One possibility to consider is implementing new technology solutions such as Apache Hadoop to keep your regulations and compliance efforts running smooth. This can free up more resources and bandwidth to monitor how your sales staff is doing.

Dare to use big data

Banks can design computer programs that keep managers abreast of how individual branches and personnel perform under a sales program, says Michael Flores, president and chief executive officer of Bretton Woods, Inc., a consulting company based in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. By taking deep dives into that data, managers can not only highlight and correct problems: They can also find out what’s working and build on that success, Flores notes.

Review and refine your sales culture to serve

To what extent is your sales staff encouraged and emboldened to put building customer loyalty far ahead of pure bottom line mentality? Here, financial services professionals can take a lesson from exemplars in other industries. In Texas, the Sewell network of automobile dealerships has empowered its sales force to create and implement sales strategies that promote good will and great profits. Sewell, which sells luxury cars at 14 locations, uses the tagline “Obsessed with service.” Family owned since 1911, this business compares itself to luxury hotels and department stores rather than other car dealers.” Patriarch Carl Sewell helped popularize the customer-service-first approach with his bestselling book “Customers for Life” — where he famously proclaimed that the fanatical loyalty his dealerships inspired was worth $517,000 over the lifetime of each customer.

Keep roles and responsibilities clear

Banks rightfully place importance in the goal of boosting sales. But at your institution, ask yourself whose wheelhouse that falls or has fallen into. Frontline employees, for example, are not typically sales-oriented and the products they have to offer customers—checking accounts, savings accounts, loans and credit cards—are low-volume products with thin profit margins. “Trying to turn them into sales people has always been a challenge for banks,” Flores says. Instead of watering things down, concentrate dedicated sales efforts and leadership among those whose task is to take on those responsibilities first.   

Robert Stowe England is a financial journalist who writes about retail and investment banking, financial markets and investing strategies. Lou Carlozo is Managing Editor for BAI and BAI Banking Strategies.

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