The Five Key Elements to Creating a Successful Sales and Service Culture

As we all now know, implementing a sales and service culture is vital to the growth and survival of all credit unions. No matter whether you are a $2-million or a $2-billion credit union, member loyalty is extremely difficult to maintain these days with community charters, bank mergers, dot-coms, indirect lending, etc.

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In our quests to implement the ‘perfect’ sales and service culture, many of us have realized it is much more difficult to obtain than it appears. It does not happen overnight and it could take as long as two or three years to develop your sales and service culture. Then you have the task of maintaining the culture once it is achieved.

I have had several concerned credit union CEOs and VPs ask me what they are doing wrong. They provide sales training for their staff and are extremely excited (for about a week), and then product and service penetration reverts back to what it was before the training. The first thing I mention is that training is just one step in achieving your credit union’s service potential. The next question I ask is if the credit union has a written plan. Most don’t, and in fact many organizations in different industries do not have a plan either. I explain that if it is not on paper, then it is impossible for your management team and staff to have a vision of where you want to go and how to get there. There are so many factors involved in the process that it can become overwhelming for your management team and then it just fizzles away. Sound familiar?

Over the past several years, through trial and error in different sales and/or service environments and different managerial roles, I have narrowed the system down to what I have found to be the five key elements vital to creating a ‘successful’ sales and service culture within any organization.

1. Planning

An idea is just an idea. A vision is an idea that is shared by all. Success is a vision that has come to fruition. When something is written on paper it is much easier to hold your team accountable for production than when it is just simply an idea, especially if you include your management team in the planning stage, because now it is their plan. If it is not on paper your management team will not make it a top priority, and you know that if it is not a top priority with management then it certainly is not a top priority with your front-line staff. You have to create a roadmap of your vision. A written plan means consistency, which is especially important if you have more than one location. If you only stick to your plan 10% of the time, you are 10% more organized and focused than you were before. The plan also outlines your strategy pertaining to the remaining four elements: people, processes, technology, and leadership.

2. People

You are only as good as your people .I have seen some credit unions’ efforts fizzle quickly because they had the wrong people in the wrong positions. I have also seen credit union efforts fail due to lack of buy-in from the staff and/or management. Of course, with proper planning it is much easier to sell the vision to your staff. My clients typically distribute an employee survey to assess the staff’s opinion and/or buy-in of a sales/service culture just to see if it is the right time to implement the plan. Sometimes you just have to wait until you do have the right people in place to initiate your sales and service culture. In building your culture, I highly recommend benchmarking your top performers when hiring new employees through the use of profile assessments. These assessments play a significant role in organizational development.

3. Processes

Creating effective service processes is so crucial to the success of your program. Your service process should be a major part of your written plan and should be the first focus of your sales and service training program for your current staff and new hires. The most difficult part of this element is holding your management team and staff accountable for carrying out the sales and service process with all members.

Consistent training on sales and service for your managers and staff is necessary to keep the excitement about your culture in your credit union. Quarterly training via an outside source as well as continual internal training is fundamental in achieving maximum results.

4. Technology

Utilizing your technology to maximize your products and services penetration is essential. Most data processing systems have some type of tracking system or have the capability to be upgraded to track cross-selling referrals and penetration. This area, second to that of leadership is where some credit unions fall short. They have a vision. They have the right people in place. The processes are there. However, the staff does not have a clear vision of what its hard work is doing for the credit union. People want to see numbers and accurate tracking will give your staff a snapshot of the strengths and opportunities it has to grow your credit union. This is where Leadership comes in to play.

5. Leadership

So, you have implemented your sales and service culture. You have four of the key elements in place. Now it is time for your management team to become coaches. The first step is to have your management team receive sales management training. This is an area where they may not feel comfortable giving feedback to their employees and training and practice is key to helping them achieve their maximum potential as managers.

Continual and consistent follow-up and accountability is where your sales and service culture initiatives can slip. Goals need to be set with your managers and employees monthly. Feedback needs to be given daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly to obtain your monthly and yearly goals.

Creating your sales and service culture can be a timely and challenging task. Monetarily, it can be challenging too. However, by adhering to these five key elements, and continually updating your plan and modifying processes, you will achieve ultimate success and growth for your credit union.

Kelly R. Smith is president of Kelly Sales Consulting in Schertz, Texas. Visit or contact smith at 210-602-4132 or

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