The Problem with Cross-Selling
Actually, as I see it, there are three major problems with cross-selling inside bank and credit union branches.
One, most branch employees don’t like to sell. They feel uncomfortable selling. And they don’t want to be trained to sell.
Two, over the years many branches have come to rely on part-time employees who aren’t hired for selling.
Three, with very few exceptions, most consumers don’t like hearing sales pitches about anything, particularly bank products and services.
Obviously, this presents a major dilemma to senior management and branch managers when it comes to the subject of cross-selling.
I was delighted when my blogging partner Joe Swatek raised this topic in last Friday’s blog “More Emphasis on Cross-selling” available below. Joe tells us that the topic of cross-selling has once again been elevated in importance as banks and credit unions are looking for ways to offset the loss of fee income as a result of recent legislation.
In my 30+ years working in bank marketing departments I lost track of the number of times the issue of cross-selling was raised and we spent time debating how to make it work in the branches. Over the years we tried inside training, outside training, online training, sales contests, incentive pay, revising job requirements, and whatever else came along to instill a sales culture inside our branches. Nothing worked.
It was probably wrong of me, but I smiled when reading Joe’s blog. I thought to myself, “Here we go again. Banks and credit unions are, once again, trying to find the silver bullet for cross-selling.”
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet.
While I’ve never worked as a teller, a new accounts person, or a branch manager, as a bank marketing person I can sympathize with these employees. Personally, I can’t imagine how they keep track of the ever-changing product line, all the pricing differences and interest rates that change weekly, all the rules and regulations, compliance issues, and flavor-of-the-month marketing campaigns. Most of the time, they are kept busy simply handling the daily customer flow. And, oh yes, let’s not forget about those pesky training sessions covering the latest new product.
Yet, periodically, we come along and want to magically turn them into successful sales persons to increase the bank’s cross-sell ratio and grab a greater share of each customer’s wallet. It’s easy for those of us in marketing and management to want them to do this for us – after all, it won’t be us doing the selling. It’ll be them.
Just roll out the latest silver bullet and off we go.
Having a lot of experience with many banks’ and credit unions’ checking product lines I often wonder how these branch people manage to do something as simple as determine which checking account is the best choice for a particular customer.
If you’ve ever taken a close look many institutions’ checking product menus you’ll discover anywhere from 4 to 8 checking accounts – none of which are mutually exclusive. Usually, these accounts have so much overlap it’s tough to determine which account would be the best for any given customer. Aside from demand, I believe this is the main reason so many customers have free checking. It’s simply the easiest checking account to sell. And given a confusing checking product line, most branch people will default to the easiest account to sell.
Why not? On a daily basis, most under-staffed branches are transaction focused…not sales focused. Who has time for selling? Sure, we make time to open new accounts but we’d rather handle the next customer than spend time with the current one trying to persuade him or her to open another account. We feel uncomfortable selling and most customers have to get back to work or have another place they have to be in a hurry.
Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against sales training or cross-selling.
What bothers me is that periodically someone in management decides we have to get serious about cross-selling and decides the place to start is to hire some expensive sales consulting firm to come in and train everybody in the branches. Well, this doesn’t work. If it did, by now a majority of banks and credit unions in this country would have high cross-sell ratios – the 8 or 9 number bandied about by the folks at Wells Fargo for the past several years.
It seems almost every article I read about Wells Fargo these days, their aggressive cross-sell numbers come up. Apparently, cross-sell is a religion at Wells. It must be true as my spouse complains about their aggressive cross-sell efforts every time she has to deal with them at work – which is frequently. And then she reminds me why she’d never have her personal accounts at Wells. While Wells Fargo may get away with this I doubt such aggressive tactics would be tolerated by customers of community banks and credit unions.
And, it’s unlikely any bank or credit union is going to terminate all its branch employees and start over hiring only seasoned sales people. Therefore, the best approach to instilling a sales culture may be to approach this in small bites. For example, look for a direct response marketing company that has a small training staff willing to work with your branch employees a step at a time.
For example, if auto loans are important to your bank or credit union, start by training employees how to sell auto loans to current checking customers. And stop here until they’ve mastered this cross-sell and you see positive results. Once they are comfortable with auto loans, move on to the next product. But, move on only after the employees have told you they are ready for the next product.
Force feeding the sales process in one big lump will never work. It hasn’t in the past and it won’t work today.
Remember the sage advice: Crawl before you walk, walk before you run, run before you jump, and jump before you fly. Rome wasn’t built in a day.