Smarmy Sales Guys Are Dead

Smarmy Sales Guys Are Dead

True confession time: I bought a slap choppy (yes, the one the ShamWow guy sells!).  This despite the fact that I absolutely hate smarmy sales people. You know who they are: their smiles are a mile long, they have perfect teeth, they push product over need, they send you pushy e-mails and generally take more time than you give them.Sham Wow Guy

I was recently reminded about what a bad taste smarmy sales guys leave. A vendor came to our credit union pitching his product. In a nutshell here is what transpired:

· There were three people from the credit union in the room (myself and two female colleagues); he never looked my way and only directed his words to my colleagues (“Hello, I may not be in a dress but I’m in the room!”).

· He actually referenced how much money he carried in his high balance checking account (no joke—like I care; I wasn’t impressed—I was put off).

· When he started giving his full product spiel, one of my colleagues had to remind him that we were only interested in one particular product (this after she made it clear ahead of time exactly what we wanted to cover).

· He even got my co-workers names wrong multiple times (once is bad enough but when you do it over and over again you need to take a remedial course on remembering people’s names).

So what should we want from a salesperson? Here are four suggestions on how smarmy salespeople can improve:

(1)    Be real and authentic—Don’t put on the fake smile and overt charm (leave that at the office). Instead, just be genuine. Be sincere.

(2)    Be considerate of our time—Know walking in I only have a limited amount of time. If you are given 30 minutes do something that will really impress me: only use 20. Spending more time talking does not necessarily mean I’m interested.

(3)    Be sure to establish a personal connection—If you see something in my office (like my Darth Vader mask) use it as a way to get to know me individually. Everyone’s office offers clues into their personality. Use those clues to find common ground.

(4)    Be helpful—Remember what Keith Ferrazzi says in Never Eat Alone, “You can be more successful in two months by becoming really interested in other people’s success than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in your own success.” Approach the sales meeting from my perspective and not yours.


Smarmy sales guys are dead. Maybe not literally because the world is still full of them. However, they are dead figuratively because they are not effective.

What about you? What drives you crazy about vendors selling you their goods and services? How can they improve the sales process?

Twitter Makes You A Better Leader

Twitter Makes You A Better Leader

On a recent NACHA conference call with several financial institution (banks and credit unions) executives, social media was one of the topics. I was amazed and stunned by how many people (these are executives and management) were not allowed to access Twitter at the office.Twitter logo

Credit unions should absolutely allow their management access to Twitter and to deny that access is not forward thinking.

Before I start my rant and rave a few disclosures:

· I am not advocating Twitter access for front-line staff (tellers, member service reps, etc.); their job is to take care of members

· I am not advocating Facebook access (that tends to be more personal and less professional)

· The IT staff at our credit union allows select employees to have Twitter access

There are several people who just don’t get Twitter. I admit it—I was one of them once. However, now that I am fully immersed into Twitter I get it. One of the problems, now, however, is that many credit union executives not only don’t get Twitter, they are blocking their employees from using it while at work.

Credit union management and executives should use Twitter every day. Why? Because Twitter makes you a better leader.

Here are six ways or reasons to overcome the anti-Twitter stance:

(1)    Argue strategically—Twitter improves your strategic thinking. And as a credit union executive, don’t you want to be the best strategic thinker possible? Twitter keeps you up-to-date and informed on the latest issues credit unions are facing. You can also follow key thought leaders like @GuyKawasaki, @CUWaterCooler, @CUWarrior, @morrischris @MichaelHyatt, @FinancialBrand, @JRWLay, etc. (and there are tons more I wanted to list but didn’t because of space).

(2)    Balance risk versus reward—Of course there are risks (for example viruses and malware) when employees use Twitter at work. However, there are other risks credit unions face every day as well. E-mail is a risk. Making a loan is a risk. Opening a second chance checking account is a risk. In fact, there are risks with any business venture. However, successful credit unions will balance the risk with the reward. The answer is not to deny access because of the risk involved, but rather to manage it.

(3)    Use a non-network computer—IT folks are charged with protecting the network; their job is to protect the credit union’s network. If that’s the reason why you can’t use Twitter at the office (to communicate with the outside world no less!) then have IT setup a separate computer for you that is not linked to the network. Obviously, that’s a pain for you and a less than ideal solution. However, at least with this option you can follow others and send tweets.

(4)    Use your phone—Like point number three, this is another way to use Twitter that doesn’t involve accessing your network. The downside for most folks is it can be harder to keep up-to-date with Twitter on your phone than your PC.

(5)    Use Twitter Tools—While the IT department has blocked social sites like Twitter, they may not be blocking websites like HootSuite or TweetDeck (although that requires an application download) that can serve as Twitter tools without having to go directly to Twitter itself.

(6)    Ask nicely—The IT folks are our friends and play a critical role in the success of your credit union. So when all else fails, just ask them nicely if you can have access to Twitter (using points one and two above to rationalize your reasoning).

Not everyone (especially IT people) will agree with this post. So if you go a few days without any Twitter updates from me you know my plug has been pulled!

Do you KNOW Your Members?

Do you KNOW Your Members?

Branding is not about slapping a tagline somewhere in hopes that it resonates with members and potential members. Your employees must also live the brand.

For example, at Neighborhood Credit Union, our tagline is “World Class Service, Neighborhood Convenience.” But what does that really mean to our employees? What does that mean to our tellers, our loan officers, our member service representatives? For one thing, we want our employees to KNOW our members.

In an effort to connect the brand with their day-to-day jobs we developed a 3×5 laminated card. On the front it has our logo, tagline (World Class Service. Neighborhood Convenience) and artwork. On the back it says, “Do you KNOW your members” where the KNOW is an acronym:

K = Know the member’s name

N= Discover the members’ needs

O = Offer products and services

W = Give the member a WOW experience

 KNOW card_2 

Know card back


In other words, we want our employees to use the members name at every transaction, to talk with them about what’s going on in their lives (having kids, retiring, etc.), matching those conversations with products that might benefit the member (child’s saving account, IRAs, etc.), and then close by wowing the member (for example, dog biscuits in the drive-through if the member has a dog with them).

Our employees have to live that every day. Our brand is only as strong as the service our employees give our members. They must deliver “world-class service, neighborhood convenience” or our brand will fail.

Connecting the brand at the employee level doesn’t just work for our credit union. With every one of my branding clients we’ve developed some type of similar acronym to help their employees connect the new brand with what they are doing on their job every single day. I also do brand training for all employees of those clients so all staff “gets” branding.

What about your credit union? How do your employees connect your brand with their jobs?

Trust Agents Makes Business Book Hall of Fame

Trust Agents Makes Business Book Hall of Fame

If you’re an avid blog follower, you’re probably familiar with Chris Brogan, one of the most widely read bloggers today. In fact, Brogan is a true pioneer in the social media field. So it’s with that background that I eagerly read his new book, Trust Agents, hoping to glean many truths from his wealth of knowledge. He did not disappoint.Trust agents

Brogan (and fellow author Julien Smith), delivered a first-rate business book on how to maximize your online efforts by connecting with others. This book is not about the tools but rather about the connection. Their conversational writing tone makes it an extremely easy read.

One of the key points they make is, “attention is and will continue to be our scarcest resource.” That is so true; let that fact sink in. No matter what product or service we are promoting we are trying to get someone’s attention. How do we do that in today’s world of diversified news channels, social media and a never-ending supply of how people fill their time?

Brogan and Smith claim the best way is to connect with your honesty and to provide value. In other words, to be a trust agent. It’s simple but very true. As they say in the book, “When people ask Chris how he got to where he is in social media, his answer is always the same: be helpful.”

Both Brogan and Smith practice what they preach. If you’re not following them on Twitter and reading their blogs/newsletters, you should.

They identified three rules of the new game:

1)   When you treat people well, they treat you well back.

2)   The wider your network, the easier it is to get things done.

3)   The more personal the relationship, the more straightforward you can be

Trust Agents offers real and practical suggestions about how to have more influence on the Internet. In other words, it’s not just theory. For example, they make the point to promote others 12 times as much as your promote yourself.

A standout quote in the book was “it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.”

One of the best business books I read two years ago was Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferazzi. It seemed like I underlined half that book and listed tons of action steps for ways to improve how I do business.

Trust Agents falls into a similar category: it is by far one of the best business books I’ve read in the past 12 months. It makes my business book Hall of Fame.

Brand Identity Questionnaire

Brand Identity Questionnaire

As most marketers and executives know, any credit wanting to grow its membership will have an effective brand in place. One of the keys to develop a credit union’s brand is creating a clear and distinct separation from your competition. Brands that stand out are different.

Think about the airlines industry. Look at the three major airlines logos (American, United and Delta):


  Delta  United

Notice how all three have color elements of red, white and blue in their brand identities. Now look at Southwest Airlines:


Their use of yellow stands out; it makes them different.

How do you build an effective brand? One way is to complete the following brand identity questionnaire to help your credit union create uniqueness:

Your credit union

(1)   What are some of the reasons a person would consider switching their funds to your credit union?

(2)   In your opinion, what is the perception of your credit union?

Your marketing

(1)   What role does marketing serve in your credit union?

(2)   What messages are you trying to send to non-members through your marketing material?

Your competition

(1)   What competitors might a prospect consider (in order of market strength) and what are their advantages?

(2)   What can your credit union offer potential members that the competition can’t?

Your position

(1)   If a prospect only remembers one thing about your credit union, what should they remember?

(2)   If you could choose one famous person from all of time to personify your brand in the marketplace, who would it be and why?

Answering these questions provides a practical and strategic way to get your credit union’s brand moving in the right direction.