Transition from a Service to a Sales Culture

Posted on 02/05/2014 in Selling Skills

Are you currently working on transitioning from a service to a sales culture?  Although any industry can struggle with this challenge, we tend to hear more from banks, credit unions and other financial institution on this topic.
When transitioning from a service culture to a selling culture, many banks often express a concern that the transition to selling will hurt their reputation as a provider of service excellence.  It is not uncommon for us to hear how important it is to manage the transition successfully from a service to a sales culture in a way that retains service excellence as the common foundation.

Many banks are justifiably proud of their commitment to providing outstanding service to their customers. Notably, smaller and mid-size banks have found that service excellence is a great way to differentiate themselves from larger banks.

When these same banks decide that they need to develop a sales culture, a question that often arises is:  "Will a sales culture hurt our reputation as a service provider?”

When done correctly, the transition to a sales culture will not diminish your ability to provide excellent service.   Four key principles should help you to transition from a service to a sales culture that embraces service as a core value.

  1. Adopt a Needs Based Selling approach at every level. Very early on you should try to overcome the resistance of many employees to conventional selling.  Employees who excel at service don’t necessarily think of themselves as salespeople.  They are likely to resist a transition to a sales culture because they mistakenly believe that they will be asked to start using high-pressure sales techniques.

    You can overcome this resistance by implementing a Needs Based Selling (NBS) approach. NBS means that your employees will identify and then meet/exceed the needs of each customer.   NBS is distinctly different from conventional selling, which focuses instead on saying or doing anything in order to make a sale.  Needs Based Selling relies on customer-focused skills such as asking great questions, listening, and communicating clearly.

  2. Communicate the link between service, selling, and customer satisfaction/retention.  You cannot succeed at Needs Based Selling if you don’t provide outstanding service to your customers.  Imagine if you transitioned to a sales culture but no longer provided excellent service.  You would lose more customers than you won, which is clearly a bad outcome.

    Communicate clearly to your employees that service excellence will continue to be a core value of your bank or financial institution.  All levels of management, ranging from top executives to assistant branch managers, need to consistently communicate, reinforce and reward employees for providing outstanding service.

  3. Use your own role models to build buy-in and success from within.  Although many bank employees aren’t initially comfortable with selling, you will probably have a few people who excel at it naturally. Think about some creative and constructive ways to use these people as role models, such as asking them to assist in the sales training effort, helping conduct role play activities, or serving as a mentor for other employees.

  4. Coaching must be done often, early, and throughout the transition period. This is the most important action to take when transitioning to a sales culture, yet unfortunately many banks and organizations fail to do so. Each employee will have different reactions and challenges when asked to transition from a service role to a new role that includes sales responsibility.  The immediate manager is the best person to resolve any issues.  In particular, coach early (for example, immediately after any sales training workshops are conducted) and coach often (for example, the manager should look for daily or weekly opportunities to reward good selling behavior).

Don’t overlook the importance of walking the talk.  Managers can and must lead by example.  For this reason, all managers must be skilled and comfortable at Needs Based Selling.

The transition from a service culture to a sales culture can be painstaking and many banks struggle to achieve a true sales culture.  However difficult the challenge, the rewards can be found in terms of increased customer satisfaction and increased sales per employee.