How to Build a Sales-Driven Culture at Your Bank

By: Scott Seroka
When Bank CEOs think of “culture,” many think about productivity, morale, communication, teamwork and performance metrics. As important as these traits are, none on their own can compete with the metric of attracting and retaining new customers and deepening relationships. Building and maintaining a sales-driven culture is, was, and always must be the priority of the day. 

In one of my earlier blogs, Culture has nothing to do with touchy-feely stuff, I stressed that culture must be strategic and deliberate, and that it has nothing to do with Pizza Fridays or celebrating birthdays. These are nothing more than nice gestures to show appreciation for jobs well done and to foster a friendly work environment.

For the banks that make their competitors sweat, their cultural infrastructures are well-defined and positioned for growth and market leadership. Much like the components that make up a well-running machine, these banks hire to exacting specifications for every single role. Technical aptitude aside, these banks screen for traits such as: attitude, leadership traits, life experiences, personal beliefs, philosophies, enthusiasm, empathy and critical thinking skills, etc. They know and understand that the right mixture of high-quality people is exactly what’s needed to achieve lofty objectives and win. And for one bank to win, another must lose. And there’s nothing soft or touchy-feely about that!

There are a number of tactics you could deploy to integrate a sales-driven culture at your financial institution:

  1. Proactively keep everyone in the know on how successful (or unsuccessful) your organization is at hitting its goals. One of the best ways to retain good people is to celebrate your organization’s successes with them for the simple reason that they want to know their hard work and determination is paying off. And, they will also want and need to know when things aren’t going very well. Some CEOs believe that sharing bad news may spook some employees – especially the good ones. However, quite the opposite is true. With the right message and dose of encouragement, employees will step up as long as they know what the goal is and how they can help. One community bank brand manager shared with me a story about a time when she needed to deliver a bleak message to her employees about failing to hit projections. Her message started off with the bad news, but concluded with a rallying cry to help achieve her well-articulated goals for the next twelve months. She was pleasantly surprised by how energetic employees became when they knew what her goals were and how they could help.
  2. Schedule times for employees in non-sales roles to attend and/or participate in sales meetings. Everyone at your financial institution needs to know the difficulties and obstacles new account reps and loan officers face when trying to win new customers. Exposing employees who are not directly responsible for sales to the sales function will shed light on how important it is to provide the best possible level of service to customers so that the bank not only retains those customers, but may also benefit from earning referrals – the most effective and credible type of marketing. After all, customers are the lifeblood of any organization!
  3. Place a company-wide, unrelenting focus on client retention and earning referrals through fanatical client service. We’re in a service economy. We always have been, and always will. Fortunately for you, this presents great opportunities as many organizations across many industries still don’t understand the significance of delivering excellent customer experiences. (Just look at the airline, communications and healthcare industries.) And, it’s not that difficult, as long as your people are properly trained on how to adopt and maintain a client-centric mindset. (Here’s a simple way to get started – everything you and your staff needs to know can be found in Dale Carnegies book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.) Is it really that simple? Yes, it is.
  4. Ensure everyone knows and understands what the financial institution’s sales tiebreaker (value proposition) is. In other words, when all things (competitors) appear equal , what is the one thing (or group of things) your financial institution offers that competitors do not, or cannot deliver as well? Oftentimes, a strong sales tiebreaker is all that is needed to place competitors in second place.

Just another example of how critical culture is to the success of your financial institution.
If you would like to discuss a strategy for creating a sales-driven culture at your financial institution, contact us today.