“Sales” is not a dirty word at All In Federal Credit Union ($2.0B, Daleville, AL). It’s the avenue to being all a member-owned financial cooperative can be and a lifeline to survival in an ultra-competitive marketplace.
Delivering on that vision, however, requires pulling together processes and principles, breaking down silo walls, and building a culture of accountability. That’s where Laurie Flanders comes in. She joined All In nearly four years ago as its first sales manager and accountability trainer, and here she shares what that means and how it looks at the south Alabama institution.
Describe the evolution of your title and role of sales manager and accountability trainer at All In.
Laurie Flanders: Our CEO, Bobby Michael, began brainstorming this role in 2016 in recognition that our cooperative can’t be successful without growth and evolution. All In was not hurting for growth, but his vision of what we could achieve required the addition of leadership.
The original thought was this role would care for all sales programs or products — including ancillary products and our incentive program — and the accountability that goes along with delivering these solutions for our members.
The continuing evolution of the role is something we couldn’t have anticipated. With the unwavering support of an exceptional executive team, we’ve redefined what it means to care for sales and accountability within our organization.
Please expand on the idea of what leadership means in your work at All In.
LF: There is a gap at many credit unions created from years of working in silos. For example, the lending department handles add-on sales, the contact center handles outbound calling sales, the branch operations team handles in-branch sales conversations, etc.
This approach is fairly common but is a recipe for different sales strategies that might or might not complement one another. In my experience, any time there are multiple strategies at play, the team members delivering those strategies are confused and inefficient at best.
My job is to bring them together and build on that integration of culture and purpose.
CU QUICK FACTS
ALL IN FCU
HQ: Daleville, AL
Data as of 3.31.217
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 26.2%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 16.5%
Describe the “sales manager” aspect of your job.
LF: I lead all sales for the credit union. This goes beyond simply communicating outputs. To be genuinely successful as a credit union in a sales space, you must completely adjust your culture.
Somewhere along the way we convinced ourselves that “sales” is a derogatory concept. We must leave that thought behind and define sales as how we care for our members and deliver our mission, vision, and values (MVV).
To bring this idea to life, I’ve created and trained a structured member experience process for all our member-facing team members. This process gives our team members the tools they need to have deep relationship-building conversations that uncover existing and future financial needs and point to the very best solutions to meet those needs.
“Somewhere along the way we convinced ourselves that “sales” is a derogatory concept. We must leave that thought behind and define sales as how we care for our members and deliver our mission, vision, and values.”
Describe the “accountability trainer” aspect of your job.
LF: From my previous experience, I know all the best sales and coaching leadership is a waste of time if the team does not understand what it means to be personally and professionally accountable. Thankfully, Bobby and the executive team at All In believe the same thing and tasked me with helping them bring this to fruition.
Quarterly, two other vice presidents — Justin Curcio, our senior vice president of IT, and Kathy Scarbrough, our marketing vice president — and myself conduct a one-day workshop where we talk about our MVV, the importance of brand, and what it means to be truly accountable.
This workshop lays the groundwork for everything we do. It ensures that no matter what seat you occupy in the organization, you can make the connection between your day-to-day tasks and delivering on MVV.
The “What’s In A Name” series is one of several Callahan Collections available at CreditUnions.com. Check out this collection, then browse the collections available for disaster recovery, member feedback, community impact, sustainability, deposits, analytics, and more.
What challenges does your role address?
LF: The biggest are cultural. There are going to be challenges any time you undergo a culture shift, but the credit union industry cannot afford to continue forward with the same mentality that created a climate in which we close our doors at a rate of one per day.
We have an incredible service to offer members, but we must get out of our own way. I come to work every day understanding that not everyone is going to see the long-term impact to our membership by stepping outside their comfort zone, but that’s where greatness lives.
What opportunities does your role address?
LF: As we shift our thought process to one of needs-based selling and accountability for delivering on MVV, a multitude of opportunities open. A few areas we are actively disrupting include:
Experience: How can we be better? More efficient? Proactive? Faster? More human?
Products: Do we offer what our members want? Why do we offer the ones we have? How can we disrupt this space before someone else does?
Technology: How can we use technology to enhance our member experience? How can our team be more agile? How can we move closer to an omnichannel experience?
Who do you report to? How do your responsibilities play out at the management level?
LF: I report to Todd Peeples, our senior vice president of sales and lending. I work closely with our different VPs to recognize areas where we could innovate and take our member experience to the next level. Once we identify an area, I work with applicable parties to develop a sales strategy that will make the initiative a success and deliver those strategies and tools to the team.
For example, we rolled home equity product fulfillment to our branch and contact center team in the fourth quarter of 2019. I worked closely with Todd and his team to develop a plan that included a few key objectives that focused on providing our team the knowledge to be confident having conversations as well as the best technology partners to create an efficient experience supported by the best tools.
The results of this strategy were greater than we anticipated. Overall, we grew our total book of business 106% in one year and impacted the financial lives of more than 470 members.
What Does She Do?
As All In FCU’s first sales manager and accountability trainer, Laurie Flanders wears a lot of hats. Some of her responsibilities include:
All Sales Functions
Companywide incentive program (including 32 sales coordinators).
All sales vendor relationships (ancillary products, third-party programs, etc.).
QUEST (member experience program and ongoing skill development).
All In Services (Flanders leads the credit union’s insurance CUSO).
Communicate all sales outputs in alignment with All In’s mission, vision, and values.
Lead product promotions.
In branch/department coaching and leadership.
All member and employee surveys.
Learning and Development
Facilitate all new product development training.
Lead All In’s accountability workshop.
Product Knowledge (quarterly workshops for ongoing product knowledge).
Serve in a consultative capacity for All In’s training and development team for ongoing learning.
Lead a mentor team of 36 members to enhance the overall success of All In’s total training experience.
Create and maintain learning plans mapping all job roles for skill development and learning expectations.
What’s your daily routine?
LF: It depends on the day of the week, but Monday and Friday are typically my administrative and preparation days. On these days I build content, pull reporting, close out incentives, create payroll files, and more.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the days I lead meetings, trainings, virtual one-on ones, and, hopefully soon, in-person visits to branches and departments to help leaders coach their teams.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected what you do at All In?
LF: Thankfully, I was preparing for more virtual integration in 2020, but COVID-19 made this a necessity. The research we had proved pivotal to our ability to shift our training to a virtual space.
We had already begun vetting virtual classroom software and discussing how we can close the gap between in-person and virtual trainings. Before the pandemic, I was traveling and conducting in-person one-on-one coaching and group workshops throughout our footprint. Now, our teams have even more access to me but in a virtual space.
“We have an incredible service to offer members, but we must get out of our own way.”
How do you track success in your job?
LF: We use many metrics to track sales success, including products per member, revenue per member, membership growth, and loan growth. Although each of these are important, my preferred measurements for success lie more in employee engagement and Net Promoter Score.
My ultimate goal is to create lasting behavior change among our team members. In my experience, that has the most impact on both their level of success and personal fulfillment in their work. In turn, they deliver this happiness to the members, resulting in exceptional outputs.
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How do your stay current with topics that fall under your role?
LF: I’m a true lifelong learner and consume leadership books and podcasts every day. I never want to fall into the trap of believing I have all the answers because I have seen firsthand the consequences of stagnation. A few of my favorite authors are Brené Brown, Patrick Lencioni, Simon Sinek, Kim Scott, and Jim Collins.
When it comes to attending learning events, I enjoy attending industry and out-of-industry conferences. By far, the most impactful in industry gatherings are the roundtables hosted by Callahan & Associates. I’ve used the connections I’ve made in those forums for years afterward. As a matter of fact, I just connected with my group from a 2018 roundtable last week for incentive feedback. These are a game changer.
Sometimes when you are looking to accomplish real innovation there is value in looking at what other industries are doing. It’s by keeping this mindset that we can stay on the cutting edge of many hot-button issues. For example, later this month we’ll implement a new workflow training software that will revolutionize the way we complete systems-based training not to mention give us the analytics we need to find further efficiencies and areas of opportunity. We are the first credit union to use this vendor.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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