Baseball-Themed Contest Takes Swing At Cross Sales

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As baseball season enters summer, Paragon FCU is in full swing with a baseball-themed contest intended to increase cross-selling efforts.

This all-American business development incentive program combines both member contact and non-member-contact employees into teams that compete in a nine-inning game played over nine weeks to score points by cross-selling everything from checking accounts and vehicle loans to home mortgages and online services.

Richard Rays, CEO of the $400-million Paragon FCU, said the contest is part of an overall effort to improve quality of service. Prior to the start of the game, he said, employees received training on how to communicate with members.

"We want our employees to be extremely service focused," Rays said. "We want them to greet the members and be able to read their body language so, during the course of their conversation, they can ask the right questions in the right way."

He said the contest, developed by John Zalarick of Youngworth Communications, Inc., Upper Montclair, N.J., provided the perfect avenue to set that training in motion.

"It's quite formal and quite clear in its incentives," Rays said. "And we're able to track our progress."

At the top of the sixth inning, he said, "I'm encouraged. We've already pulled in a couple million worth of (cross-sold) products and services."

Zalarick said the program includes strict rules and guidelines and a lot of motivational tips on where to find business.

"I came up with this about fifteen years ago," said Zalarick, explaining that it was devised to help create a team environment for a former staff in the banking industry.

"It was so successful from a motivational standpoint that I decided to copyright it."

Paragon's 172 employees were divided into seventeen teams, each with a manager, a board member and staff from a mix of departments. The board member acts as team owner while the manager is responsible for overseeing and motivating his or her players.

Each team and/or individual gets 100 points per $1,000 that comes in via cross selling efforts. Those points can later be exchanged for cash and prizes.

"If somebody walks into the lobby and announces that he wants to open up a checking account, nobody gets credit for that," Zalarick said. "Credit comes only from what is cross sold."

Surprisingly, he said, the staff that doesn't have member contact do just as well, sometimes better, than those who see members on a daily basis.

"They tend to bring in more money in a single contact," Zalarick said, describing an incident where an IT employee referred a friend who refinanced his mortgage.

"There is a sense of competitiveness," Rays said. "And, I think it gives all the employees a more conscious effort that they should be part of the team. I hope it stays in their minds after the ballgame is over."

For employees who don't have a clue on who or what to ask to drum up business, the instruction manual includes three pages of memory joggers.

"This type of program is so important because it takes what can be a rather moderate or no sales environment and turns it into a culture of sales," he said. "We tell employees that this is part of their responsibility to see their company grow."

Rays said he's so pleased with the atmosphere of this baseball-themed contest, he plans on playing again in six months.

Zalarick said he's still working out a pricing plan for the program-Paragon is the first credit union client-but plans on making it affordable for all credit unions. Because of its team-centered arrangement, he did say it works best in environments of at least 50 employees.

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