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Most credit unions would agree that cross-selling is a good idea. Adding products, services and accounts to your members’ portfolios not only increases their value to your credit union; it also deepens your relationship. All good, so what’s the problem?

Executing an effective cross-sales program without resorting to the credit union equivalent of, “Would you like fries with that?” is the central challenge. Converting your frontline service staff into hardline salespeople is difficult – and, more to the point, it’s self-defeating. Members don’t visit a branch or call your member-service line only to receive sales messages; they want service. On the other hand, setting off a barrage of sales calls and direct mail pieces also runs the risk of alienating members. While a targeted, well-timed auto loan offer might be appreciated, 17 calls and postcards offering every product in your line won’t be.

How do you cross-sell with class?

DON’T: Require frontline staff to hard sell, especially when members are not receptive.
DO: Champion the notion that finding new ways to increase member accounts and usage actually improves service. Encourage staff to be proactive. Give them talking points to promote relevant products and services as a way to serve members more effectively.

DON’T: Take a shotgun approach. You have limited opportunities to engage your members’ attention.
DO: Improve your member intelligence. Examples: Members who have filled out mortgage applications have indicated whether or not they’re self-employed – and therefore are candidates for business services. Users of CO-OP Total Revelation portfolio analysis can craft user-driven incentive programs to move debit-card users into credit, or vice-versa. Cross-selling software (that feeds frontline personnel information about individual members as they interact) is also an option – provided you have the culture and systems to support the investment.

DON’T: Think all cross-selling has to be immediate.
DO: Be educational. If a member isn’t buying a home right now, he or she probably doesn’t want to hear about your mortgage rates. But if you post or publish an article about buying and selling in a fluctuating home market, you grab their attention and establish yourself as a resource for the future. Winning your members’ business in areas like home loans or investments might require more than a single approach. Establishing yourself as a credible expert goes a long way.

DON’T: Try for the big bang.
DO: Consider cross-selling a long-term, multi-faceted priority. You don’t need a single killer promotion: You need a sustained effort that includes training (and retraining), a continuous stream of great ideas, ongoing evaluation, incentives for success and dedicated leadership.

Final Thought: If You Don’t, Someone Will

According to the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Retail Bank New Account StudySM, only 43 percent of customers who purchased an additional banking product made that purchase at their primary bank. Customers who went to another institution did so largely to take advantage of gift cards or other promotional offers.

“Customers who choose to stay with their current primary bank for additional products are most driven by positive past experience and perceptions that their bank is more focused on customers than on profits,” said Rockwell Clancy, VP of J.D. Powers’ financial services arm. “Clearly, banks that are providing a noticeably better experience are more likely to lose the business of indifferent customers who are more easily lured by the next attractive promotional offer to come along.”