Advice On Selling The CU To Co.'s

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In just under 20 years, CEFCU has grown from a single sponsor financial institution to one that is now $2.6 billion strong with 464 SEGs in 14 counties.

Certainly, mergers in 1986 and 1988 gave the then 50-year-old CU the jumpstart it needed, adding 120 SEGS and another county. And, a switch from a federal to a state charter helped expand its FOM.

But, says Gary Nester, Business Development Manager, hard work, persistence, patience, a solid plan and the right people are also largely responsible for its leap into success and stability.

Nester will share the details during the 5th Annual SEG and Business Development Conference of how the former Caterpillar Employees FCU pulls in SEGs and keeps them happy. The conference, hosted by The Credit Union Journal, will be held March 4-5 at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Fla.

"The very first thing you have to do is hire the right sales staff," said Nester. "You need to make sure they have the right type of training and skills. You want them to have a successful sales history, the ability to lead meetings with upper management, be good problem solvers, quick on their feet and effective public speakers."

Doing Their Homework

Before they ever pick up the phone to schedule an appointment with a potential SEG, he said, they are expected to learn as much as they can about the business via trade publications, television, radio and newspaper advertisements.

"Make sure you do your homework," he said. "Go well informed, know their business and show that you are interested in them."

In an effort to "respect their time," he said, the CU provides a seven-minute video that addresses how business leaders and their employees can benefit from the relationship.

CEFCU has also created promotional pieces for the business executives to review as well as "at-a-glance" material for employees who attend CU Day events.

When getting passed the gatekeeper-usually a secretary-is a challenge, he said it doesn't hurt to use cookies, chocolates or a mug bearing the company logo filled with treats.

He said it's wise to stress up front that the relationship is free to the company and convenient and useful for its employees.

Once the relationship is established, Nester said, CEFCU has to show its continued interest via employee meetings, benefits fairs, e-mail blasts and breakfast and lunch meetings.

Hands In the Cookie Jar

"We give them a candy jar that says, 'You make the difference' on the front," he said. "In six months or so, it's a good reason to come back to refill the jar."

He said CEFCU staff also makes a point to acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and holidays with cards, personal notes and treats.

"It's about building relationships and strengthening those relationships," he said. "Don't just tell them about the credit union. Find out what their concerns are and what their employees are looking for."

Nester said the CU is always working on ways to get better employee participation. With the help of a new software program, he said, staff could network internally, send e-mail blasts (with the employees' permission, of course) that advertise products, services and special promotions.

"Finally, you have got to be able to keep things fun and exciting,' he said. "Enjoy what you do and the people you meet."

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