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Are You Teaching Your Account Holders Anything?

Are You Teaching Your Account Holders Anything?

One of my most profound experiences—professionally, anyway—occurred about ten years ago while visiting with my doctor. Doc was standing with his back to me, entranced in whatever it was he was fiddling with, when I said to him, “I guess it gets pretty irritating with all those pharmaceutical reps running around here all the time, huh?” It was more small-talk than visiting – I certainly didn’t expect to solicit the response I did. Doc stopped what he was doing, turned, and said, “Actually, no, it’s not irritating at all—I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

Say what!? I thought. Did I hear you correctly, Doc?

“I swear I’ve gotten dumber every day since the day I graduated from medical school, Will; if it weren’t for the drug reps, I wouldn’t know what the heck was going on.”  Needless to say, I was surprised at his response. He went on to explain that he’s so busy messing with insurance companies, paperwork, billing, seeing as many patients as possible and, oh yeah, being the CEO of his medical practice, that he doesn’t have time to keep up with the latest techniques, procedures and clinical trials—he relies on the pharmaceutical reps to keep him informed.

Not coincidentally, the reps who kept him most informed, were the reps for whom he wrote the most scripts. And that’s when it all came together for me: teaching is selling, and selling is teaching. If you’d like to get your tellers selling, get ‘em teaching. defines consult as: to give professional or expert advice; to serve as a consultant. Teach, however, is defined as: to impart knowledge or skill; give instruction to. Now, which would you rather receive: knowledge or advice? If you’re like me, the choice is obvious: knowledge! And your account holders undoubtedly feel the same way.

Studies have shown that consumers much prefer to buy things, rather than be soldthings, and they definitely don’t prefer being “advised” of what to do. It’s when your account holders have been taught something—partaken of your knowledge—that they feel empowered to make informed decisions of their own free will.

After more than fifteen years of working with community financial institutions, I’ve heard bankers repeatedly say that selling isn’t easy. Specifically, “We just can’t seem to get our tellers to sell, Will.” The problem, however, isn’t that they can’t sell—it’s that they’re not teaching. I once managed a team of relationship managers and many of them told me they were uncomfortable with “the selling part.” They felt that as relationship managers, they were violating the sacred, unspoken terms of their impartial, objective, client-advocate status. When I told the relationship managers to replace the word selling with teaching, their cross-sell numbers went through the roof.

To remedy the perceived problem with selling, instill a culture of teaching among your tellers. Educate them on the benefits of this new and improved approach—greater trust between you and your account holders; stronger relationships as a result of greater trust; and less attrition as a result of stronger relationships—and they’ll buy into it.

And know that your account holders aren’t the only ones who appreciate knowledge—your employees appreciate it just as much. Assign various folks to become subject matter experts, and then have them teach their peers.

Now is the time to get your tellers teaching. According to a 2013 study by Power Consulting, during which 839 in-person audits were performed by small business owners at 38 financial institutions (FIs) across the country, nearly 40% of FIs audited never even mentioned their FI’s business mobile offerings.

A Cisco IBSG study found that “financial education” was one of Gen ‘Y’ and Gen ‘X’s’ greatest needs; nearly 40% of both groups surveyed desired “help managing their finances.” If you’re the FI that fills that need, you may just have an account holder for life. Just remember: teaching is selling, and selling is teaching. Are you teaching your account holders anything?

Will Ferrell is Vice President of Product Marketing for Q2.  Will is responsible for shaping the messages and painting the pictures that tell the story behind Q2’s passion for strengthening communities by strengthening their financial institutions. A veteran of the virtual banking and payments industry, Will has spoken at numerous industry conferences and tradeshows, teaching anyone who will listen about the power of the virtual channel to improve lives, all the while dodging “thought leaders”.


The Perils of Information vs. Knowledge, Empowerment, February 14, 2011, Stan Lepeak, Managing Director Global Research)
— Power Consulting
— Celent

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