This piece first appeared in the Lone Star Leaguer.

As part of the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference last month, I facilitated an “Ask the BD Experts” panel discussion. In this unique format attendees could ask any questions (strategic or tactical). The panel discussion offered tips, ideas and suggestions from three seasoned business development experts.

Serving on the panel this year were Mia Perez, CAO, Louisiana FCU, Andy Reed, BD Manager for American Airlines FCU, and Sean McDonald, president and founder of the Business Development Academy. Below are eight general tips they offered throughout the question and answer session from the audience.

 (1) Train your ambassadors—American Airlines FCU has an incredibly robust ambassador program (as do many other credit unions). One of the tips Reed offered that makes his program unique is that he actually trains his ambassadors. He gives them tons of information about American Airlines FCU and what makes them unique. In essence, he has turned his ambassadors into an unpaid sales team.

(2) Hire sales people—McDonald constantly preaches this message: “if you are in business development, you are in sales.” He counsels credit unions to stop being shy about sales. Hiring sales people also means paying them well, paying them a commission and holding them accountable for sales goals.

(3) Show value—Perez noted that when it is all said and done consumers and SEGs want value. You have to prove that your credit union brings value to the business you are serving. In other words, it is far more about them than you. Value could mean educating employees, helping them with their finances, sponsoring company events, etc. Value is not bringing donuts to the company once a month.

(4) Drop member incentives to join—Coinciding with the above point, every expert suggested no longer paying cash incentives at company events to get people to sign up to join your credit union. The bottom line is those accounts are extremely transitory and rarely profitable. Someone should join your credit union because of the overall value they are receiving and not the $50.

(5) Use top down to bottom up strategy—You need to work everyone at the select employee group: from the CEO to the janitor. Don’t forget the importance of getting top executives from the company to be your advocate. Sometimes a CEO can open a door when an H.R. executive can’t.

(6) Rank your SEGs—Not every SEG is created equally. Make sure you spend your time with your most profitable companies. It is the classic 80/20 principle: 80% of your production will come from 20% of your companies. And the key is spending your time with those top 20% and not trying to get the others to move.

(7) Use SEG testimonials—A common problem faced by many business development representatives is losing the company contact when the H.R. person leaves the company. If you can gather testimonials from employees inside the SEG who use and love your credit union that opens up doors that might be otherwise be closed. It also makes it easier to reestablish a dormant relationship.

(8) Talk to CEOs about the numbers—What’s the ROI of business development? Do you ever get that question (the panel sure did)? The best way to prove your business development worth is to show your results with numbers (loans, new members, balance sheet impact, etc.). This requires serious tracking and data integrity but some of the tips offered included making sure front line staff understand the
importance of coding members correctly.

Those were the top suggestions from the experts (including a few that came from audience participants). What other ideas would you add to the list?