SAN ANTONIO–Ultimately it comes down to, “Can you close the deal?”
The challenges in business development at credit unions are can be formidable, including lack of internal support, an unfocused strategy, and outright rejections on a daily basis. But one person with extensive experience in the field said there are effective ways to overcome those challenges, most especially in credit unions.
Andre Taylor, an author and entrepreneur who has more than 35 years’ experience in helping business to increase sales and who is based out of Manhasset, N.Y., offered numerous strategies to attendees at the CUNA Marketing and Business Development Conference here on everything from the “musts” every business development executive and department needs to practice, to the one and only thing that really matters.
“I like to think of business development as a blend of sales and marketing. One of the reasons business development fails is the sales component is missing,” said Taylor. “You can have great slogans and marketing and taglines, but somebody has got to close the deal. Someone has to get the member engaged. This is about relationship and account development. If we understand what is involved in developing relationships and accounts, we’ll be very successful.”
Taylor said business development is also a focus of the need for institutional development, including the infusion of new ideas into an organization. “The reality is that you are centered in a place that is really crucial, and that is understanding the needs and desires and the pain, if you will, of your member community.”
One often overlooked piece in the process is finding what Taylor called “growth partners.” That means integrating with “eco-systems,” or the organizations that work in the community, such as local colleges, arts and cultural groups and Chambers of Commerce. “It’s fundamental to helping your organization grow that you don’t try to do it alone,” recommended Taylor.
The Key to Sustained Competitive Advantage
He said it is similarly vital that credit unions define client solutions and then promote use.
“The key to sustained competitive advantage will be our capacity to identify, understand and adopt business development concepts, turn concepts into actions, and turn actions into results,” said Taylor.
Taylor said he’s had numerous experiences where he has been forced to question himself when strong offers are made and response is tepid or non-existent. But that just means returning to that formula, he said, which works. “The big gap to succeeding is often inside of us,” Taylor told the CUNA Marketing Council meeting.
Asked how many are doing business development alone in their credit union, approximately 20% of the room raised their hands. “Realizing you have to carry the credit union on your back is a big challenge,” he told them.
Goals & Plans
But regardless of whether a CU employee is a one-person business development operation or part of a larger BD team, Taylor said everyone needs to have goals and a business plan.
“You need to know what you’re aiming at. How many members are you targeting and is there a way you’d like to serve a particular market?” he asked. “One reality is that strategies have to be modified to circumstances. So, you have to ask every day, ‘What is the most important thing for me to do, TODAY?’ You must use your days, your weeks and your months effectively.”
Another reality is that business development, like any sales position, can be a tough business with doors slammed in the face and phone calls hung up on. In his own office, Taylor said, they deal with rejection by celebrating every time a prospect hangs up on their call. “We jump up and down and clap,” he said. “The reality is you are going to have to deal with those things. One thing you also have to deal with is the fact you are offering something many people, even though it’s great for them and valuable to them, are backing away from.”
For individual business development executives, Taylor said to be effective there are five “musts”:
- You must get strong in “fundamentals.”
- You must commit to high levels of activity.
- You must become experts at the process and creative follow up
- You must become immune to rejection
- You must become masters of “closing.”
For organizations, there are seven “musts” to effective business development, according to Taylor:
- You must have a clear business development target
- You must have a “value=-rich message”
- You must be proactive.
- You must have a systematic plan an approach. “A systematic plan means you know what the process is from start to finish. I can anticipate what’s going to happen, so I am proactive about those things. I can send an email saying, ‘You’re likely thinking about this,’ so you can pre-empt the process.”
- You must focus on your most profitable opportunities. “The things you’re working on don’t have equal weight and you must recognize this.”
- You must turn every “no” into a next step. “You have to decide what you’re going to do next. ‘No’ just means not right now, or not with me. You have to look at ‘No’ strategically, particularly if you are working with businesses.”
And the seventh “must,” which he stressed is critical: “You must become excellent at closing the deal.”
“You must get the relationship to move forward. A lot of people can have great conversations and relationships and make people feel good, but they can’t get people to take action. That’s something you will have to work at. You will have to figure out what the right approach is for your organization.”
The Common Barriers to Winning
Taylor said most organizations, including credit unions, have some “common barriers” to winning when it comes to business development. Those include:
- Indifference and poor emotional intelligence. “This is when you don’t feel excited doing what you’re doing. I hope you’re connected to how you’re serving your communities. This is also about getting mad at someone who won’t say yes.”
- Lack of confidence in promoting your offering. “You have to go out every day and feel good about what you do. You have to know that ultimately there are opportunities to be had.”
- Discomfort being the driver. “This is feeling that you are the only one who understands what is involved in business development.”
- Fatigue and anxiety from continuous rejection. “This is natural. There are going to be times when you just don’t want to see another member name. Sometimes just getting away from it for a while will help things to come together in an easier fashion.”
- Poor reaction to a member’s poor reaction. “You’re excited about something, but your member isn’t.”
There are additional issues in being successful, too, said Taylor, who referred to those issues as the “web of challenges.”
“The key here is to get grounded in your purpose and the impact of what your credit union does and credit unions in general. It’s a wonderful field to be in to have a sense of purpose,” he said.
That means understanding a member’s pain, even if the member doesn’t, and being empathetic in other ways, too.
“You have to understand the intangibility of hopes and dreams,” he said. “It’s not a checking account or credit card; you want to have a conversation as often as possible asking people about their hopes and dreams and how they will get there.”
As part of those conversations, Taylor said he recommends every business development person or department have scripts in place to articulate value propositions and for responses when members say “no” or “I don’t need that.”
What Everyone Can Do
Every credit union business development exec, whether alone or part of a team, can do the following, he said.
- Outreach. In the case of small businesses, Taylor said he wants them reach out to 150 prospects per week. “It’s a number that requires some exertion. If you’re not reaching out to that number, the number of people you will be able to move forward is going to be very small, if you move them at all. The more ways you can hit a prospect, the better.”
- Networking via outside events. “You got to get out and shake hands. A lot of things won’t happen unless you meet with them in person. And you really want to be an ambassador in the process.”
- Meetings with people who are “Centers of influence.” “These are people in your community who are powerful, connect with others, and are able to make things happen.”
- Marketing via planned events and mailings. “You need mailings going to members that tell them that you are an organization they should be paying attention to.”
- Relationship-building gestures. “I think this is really crucial. I ask everyone in my organization to find others to do something nice for every week. This will make you feel good, but it’s also a planted seed. It will create opportunities for you. You’ll be surprised at how that will come back to you. It will put you in the right mindset of doing things for your community.”
For any person to be successful in business development, Taylor said these skills are required:
- Courage and self-starting. “It takes a lot of courage to sell and to market and to put yourself out there.”
- Discipline. “This can really make a difference if you can make yourself do it every single day.”
- Charm and conversation skills.
- Listening and creativity.
- Proposal and timing sensitivity.
- Ability to shake off disappointment.
- Ability to bounce back and forward. “This is dealing with disappointment and bouncing back quickly. If you allow disappointment to linger, that will become your culture.”
- Ability to step up activities.
- Ability to “close.”
The Right Things
Taylor said credit union business development execs also need to pay attention to the “right things.” Those right things:
- Key performance indicators
- Lead Generation
- Client’s Cost of inaction
- Passion: What and who can you feel good about?
“You have to roll up your sleeves and try these and then you will understand where you are weak and where you are stronger,” Taylor said. “And then you will be a force in credit unions, in the member’s lives. Success and prosperity will be inevitable.”