For many banks, revenue growth has been an elusive goal. It's not for lack of trying: Millions of dollars have been spent on sales training, product development, advertising, incentives, target marketing, cobranding, etc.
Why have the results been so disappointing?
Success in generating revenue growth, like success in most things, is primarily an issue of will. Soldiers who don't want to fight can't win a battle, however well equipped or well trained.
Sure, skills and support are important, but they must be viewed as secondary to supplementing or enhancing a strong-willed commitment to increase revenue.
There are a number of revenue building blocks that management can ensure are in place. I'll talk about six of them.
Commitment to results. It's not enough to begin with a nebulous notion like we will increase revenue. The conversation about increasing revenue must begin with a specifc desired result, or goal, such as boosting revenue by x dollars.
When you start off with results, you can then work backward to figure to what you have to do to achieve them. That approach, by its very design, forces you to address only the tasks that are absolutely essential to achieving the goals.
Will is the engine that will drive the results. You must guard against trade-offs and detours.
Understand the charter: The major reason organizations fail to change is that the stakeholders - customers, employees, and stockholders - don't understand the vision. You can't get to Albany unless you know that's your destination.
Understanding the charter has two other components. If there isn't something in the vision for everyone - stockholders, employees, and customers alike - it's unlikely you will get the commitment you need. You must understand how every employee or job in the bank affects, or could affect, revenue. If you still don't know, the next question arises: Why is
that person part of the organization?
Finally, personal values - the opinions, attitudes, and beliefs that influence people to behave in a certain way - must also be considered. If an employee doesn't personally believe the customer is what it's all about, or that revenue is important, it doesn't really matter what anyone else in the bank does or says.
By understanding the charter, stakeholders are equipped to act both individually and as a group to achieve the organization's goals and realize the vision. If part of your strategy is building relationships with your customers, then everyone from the front office to the back office has to know that is the goal. If your growth strategy involves referrals, then employees, customers, and stockholders should act with that in mind.
Everyone has to do it if you are going to leverage all your resources.
Clear conception of the offering. The most effective way to sell is to demonstrate to buyers that what you are selling meets their needs.
This is hard to do if you're not informed about your products, services, pricing, delivery, etc.
You must also have a clear understanding of your competitors' offerings. Armed with that information, you can make knowledgeable and honest recommendations to customers. This will encourage them to seek you out when they have a need you can satisfy. As a marketing strategy, it beats cold calling.
In thinking about the offering, don't forget yourself and the value you add not only in terms of knowledge, but service. I've often gone into a bank only to hear customers talk about a particular teller, service assistant, or support person. Everyone can differentiate himself in some way.
A culture that puts a high priority on revenue generation. The culture of any organization speaks more loudly than any voice or memo. It says not only what to do, but also why.
While mores may be diffcult to manage, ceremonies and traditions are not. Senior management needs to lead by example to change the culture. Case in point: Everyone, including senior management, must sell. That says it's important.
Management needs also to seek the cultural alignment of the other stakeholders.
Some banks have a history of frequently changing their priorities. This has some unintended effects. It confuses people, they never learn what the charter is, and, consequently, the vision is not achieved.
Stakeholders must know that achieving revenue growth is a priority and that it won't be forgotten the next time a hot new idea comes along.
Revenue producers like to sell and are good at it. While I have argued that everyone sells, it's not true that everyone likes to sell or is good at it.
So staff appropriately. If the bulk of a job involves selling, make sure these people like to sell and are good at it. Don't waste money training or supporting people that don't like to sell.
For those employees who spend a minority of their time selling and have been hired for some other competence, formal skill-based training may be a reasonable solution.
But what often is more effective and cheaper is witnessing, or having the sales stars interact with the nonstars as a source of ideas, expertise, and coaching.
Also, make sure your resources are aligned to reflect the contributions made by your staff. The sales stars should get more attention than the nonstars because you don't want to lose them. And top performers can be encouraged to do even better.
Infrastructure is designed to support revenue generation.
Controlling expenses is important. But don't begin a revenue-growth strategy by looking at cost cutting.
One approach to do this is to start with the revenue results you want to achieve and then identify the support structure you need.
Don't start with some patchwork of a system or some hot software product or organizational design and then try to meet your revenue objectives. It won't work, unless your revenue objectives are too low.
In seeking to make the support system most effcient, you will also achieve the goal of devoting more of your time to revenue production. And you will have aligned your resources to meet your objectives.
Robert G. Stemper is an independent marketing consultant in New York.