Tough Questions Yield Answers In Business Development

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Business development is paramount in the continued success of a credit union, yet it is easily one of the CU industry's greatest weaknesses, according to former CU marketer-turned-consultant Paul Lucas.

"I recently met the CEO and founder of INGDirect.com, and when I told him what I do, he said, 'The problem with America's credit unions is you do not aggressively sell your values and benefits to your members,' " Lucas told The Credit Union Journal's SEG & Business Development conference. "And he is absolutely right. Business development, SEG and PEG development is our greatest weakness."

Lucas offered a variety of strategies from hiring the right business development people to creating an effective brand to help put credit unions on the right business development track. "I have a questionnaire for business development officers, and your people must be able to answer every single one of them," Lucas suggested. "If they can't answer these questions, they're gone."

The questionnaire starts by asking the employee to define his personal goals, then takes him through the entire planning process from using competitive analysis to gain more business to "pre-call" planning and use of technology. Other questions call for examples of sales techniques the employee uses, a detailed description of how the employee conducts calls and visits to new and existing accounts, a list of the person's and the credit union's strengths and weaknesses, and much more.

More Harm Than Good

"Your reps can be doing more harm than good, and you need to be sure that what they're saying and doing is consistent with your brand," he said. "They might be good people, but they still need to be managed."

Lucas is a strong supporter of incentives for business development. "Make sure your reps are all about goals and objectives and have an incentive-driven contract," Lucas advised. "If they're scared of it, you don't want them. If they're good, do everything you can to keep them. Once you make hitting goals and objectives primary to getting a raise, it's amazing how well those goals get met."

One of the cardinal sins of establishing an effective business development culture at the credit union, said Lucas, is assuming a good teller will make a good BD rep. "If you're a business development rep, you have to have solid B2B principles," Lucas counseled. "You cannot market to a business owner as you do to your individual members."

Testimonials and referrals are huge when marketing the credit union to a business owner, Lucas said. "You must build personal relationships with your contacts," Lucas advised. "That is the key to getting testimonials. And use what I call 'guilt by networking.' That means you always give more than you take."

More Pointers

Among Lucas' other pointers:

* Look for alternative and unique touch-points. Lucas related how one credit union was trying to determine how to increase its penetration in Colonial Williamsburg. On researching the area, the credit union discovered that "everyone" belonged to a bowling league. The credit union promptly put together a bowling league sponsorship, which drove a lot of business to the credit union.

* Use 360-degree marketing. "You have to get your message in front of them all the time."

* Pizza can be a powerful marketing tool. "Pizza coupons lay around the house longer than every other marketing piece," Lucas offered. "Get your fliers on the pizza box." Second only to the pizza coupon is a TV Guide wrapper.

* Use the cooperative spirit. "Find a credit union that's your size that's doing nifty things and go visit them," he suggested.

* Invest in phone skills. Lucas advised getting a phone system that allows managers to listen in on calls to ensure that employees have a great attitude on the phone.

Get Out Of The Castle

* Cross the moat. "The credit union is your castle. You have to get out of the castle, cross the moat and get up in the hills and see what the castle looks like from there," he said, referring to a Warren Buffetism. "Your view is from inside the castle. You need to get out to see how members and potential members see you."

* Hide your rates. "Rates and fees do not drive the retail message. As soon as you show your rate, they will compare you, that means they're leaving you to go shop around," Lucas noted. "We hide them. The first thing we do when I go to a credit union is take their rates off the Internet."

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