Get to the Heart of the Sales Mindset and Increase Questioning Confidence

If your employees struggle with a willingness to ask the questions that will deliver more client value, you need focus on shifting their mindsets and building their confidence.

One of the biggest issues on the minds of L&D professionals working in and with financial institutions today: What separates the most effective tellers, CSRs, loan officers and other bank and credit union employees from all the rest? Why are some able to build lasting relationships with customers and create more value for them time and time again? And more to the point, what’s holding back everyone else? Why aren’t they willing to ask the probing questions that will lead to deeper insights and, ultimately, greater wallet share and customer loyalty?

When we polled attendees at our session at this year’s Bank Trainers Conference & Expo about this last point, a couple common threads emerged:

I’m not good at it. The variations of this answer generally revolved around concerns that they’d look bad in front of the customer because they might not know all the answers, or that they lacked the confidence to contradict a customer who thinks they know what they need, even if it’s not the right solution.

I don’t want to be pushy: Most people in banks or credit unions don’t have the word ‘Sales’ anywhere in their job titles or descriptions, and they pride themselves on being service-oriented and responsive. But there’s something about questioning about other needs and asking for commitment that makes them feel uncomfortable. They don’t want to be seen as trying to pry into the client’s personal business or force a product on them. Others just assume the customer won’t want or need any additional products, so they don’t even go there.

These responses reflect what we’ve heard in our work with banks, credit unions and other financial services companies as well. Questions don’t get asked because the person doesn’t know how to ask them, feels like it would be “too salesy,” doesn’t know the products well enough, or has a fear of rejection—or all of the above.

In all of these situations, there’s an underlying mindset that is preventing the person from asking the deeper questions that could lead them to uncover needs and create more value. The message for bank and credit union trainers: While sales training often focuses on expanding product knowledge and building skills, that’s not going to solve a problem like this one, which is one of will.

Why Addressing Motivation Matters

Both skill and will play a role in an employee’s selling success. But in the banking and credit union evironments, where most employees wouldn’t call themselves salespeople in the first place (or want to be viewed as such), the issues of sales mindset and motivation are particularly important. The most successful employees understand that selling is a way to create value and strengthen relationships. That’s what motivates them to ask the probing questions and engage customers on a deeper level. As our founder Ron Willingham once said, “Selling is simply uncovering a need, filling that need, and adding value.”

When you’re dealing with a will issue vs. a skill issue, you have to understand what’s at the root of the problem. Many factors play a role in a person’s selling success, including their view of selling, their confidence in their abilities, their commitment to activities, their belief in the product and their values alignment with the organization.

When we asked the audience at our session session to rate their teams on these 5 areas of sales congruence, “Commitment to Activities” ranked the lowest. But when people aren’t committed to doing the activities necessary to be successful, it’s important to note that this is actually like the check engine light on your car’s dashboard- it’s merely a symptom of the real problem. Is it their confidence in their ability that keeps them from doing the work? Do they view selling as bothering someone or pushing products on them instead of helping and creating value?

In addition, employees need to have goals that directly connect to those activities so they can see the impact of doing the work. In the meantime, until you get at those deeper levels of disconnect, all the training on how to do the activities won’t turn the issue around.

Improving Your Team’s Questioning Confidence

If your employees struggle with a willingness to ask the questions that will deliver more client value, you need focus on shifting their mindsets and building their confidence. The point of selling, like service, is to be genuinely curious and uncover and fill the customer’s needs. Once they understand this, they can use effective questioning to:

  • Build rapport and put the customer at ease.
  • Ask about the current situation vs. their desired situation to get the customer talking.
  • Ask follow-up questions to explore the benefits and rewards of the desired situation.
  • Listen so they can pick up cues about challenges, needs and opportunities.
  • Show how the product(s) fill that need.

Yes, bank and credit union employees need to be knowledgeable about the products. But overloading customers with product information isn’t helpful. As this process shows, a good questioning approach allows the employee to move more toward listening and wait for the cues and stated needs to be revealed. Then they can pull out the specific product or service that solves the problem.

When you build their questioning confidence, the quality of the questions they ask will become a key differentiator. And your employees will become viewed as people who bring value to each and every discussion. That will only continue to reinforce the sales mindset, motivation and confidence that creates greater customer value and greater personal success.



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