Cross-Selling For Life

Successfully serving your members involves solving the changing problems that they face through life, not merely an aggressive cross-selling promotion.


Recently my wife and I became homeowners, and to call the process daunting would be an understatement. We had to search for what seemed like an eternity for the perfect house. And we’re young, and had only acquired full-time jobs a few years ago, so we were clueless about the home loan process. As we bounced from a small community bank that didn’t quite meet our expectations, to one of the “too big to fail” banks, we really could have used more professional guidance.

Some institutions cross-sell in a creative way – guiding consumers to products based on the stage they are at in life. They are hyper aware of how a young couples’ needs may differ from a couple approaching retirement. Had my wife and I come across one of these banks or credit unions in our home-buying search, we may have had more pleasant home-buying experience.

USAA, which has a credit-union-type business model, is a prime example of an institution that effectively cross-sells and they do it in a way that walks customers through their life phases. With outstanding customer satisfaction, USAA has earned respect in part for their holistic solution to customers’ needs. They look at their customer, and see not only where they are today, but where they will be tomorrow. Their analysis assumes a loyal, long-term customer and starts with what services their customer needs at their point in life and why they need them.

For example, if a customer is ready to have a child, then USAA recognized that they’re more likely to need information not just on a typical savings account, but also a complimentary budget planner, a debt analysis study, and college investment information. The customer will probably make more purchases because, let’s be honest, diapers are expensive! That means that they’ll need an analysis of their current USAA credit card, and perhaps USAA would recommend that they move to one with a higher limit, or a lower APR. By approaching their product suite in such a manner, USAA sends the message to their customers that no matter what, their financial institution is in the customer’s corner, and there is no need to go anywhere else.

Any credit union can do this, as Apple Federal Credit Union ($1.4B, Fairfax, VA) does. Is their member moving out for the first time after college? Apple FCU would provide information on how to get a car loan, as well as a budget planner to assess their current debt and help them plan for rent payments. Or perhaps an older couple would like to discuss their savings, investment, and insurance before they make the decision to retire. Apple FCU lets their members clearly know that that it offers a range of solutions.

Here are a few quick tips for cross-selling by walking with members through life stages:

  1. Start young. That young member might not seem lucrative when they’re heading off to college for the first time, but soon they’re going to be looking for a car, and then they’ll need a home loan, and then they’ll be investing for their family’s future. It’s much better to start with them now, and make them aware of all that you have to offer.
  2. Be creative. Show a member how using a low-rate credit card at their particular point in life might actually help. Your financial institution can provide different services, and a comprehensive, custom-designed “package” of some of those services might be what your member needs.
  3. Be flexible. My wife has a car loan through her credit union and she said that particular loan experience was wonderful. Thankfully, her credit union was not afraid to extend a loan to a member in their early 20s. The “life stage” that other people her age might have fit into – “off to college” – wouldn’t have been appropriate for her because she’d completed her education and was already in the workforce. No one member is going to fit into cookie-cutter divisions, so remember your categories should be more guidelines than rules.

Jan. 18, 2012


  • I also had a mortgage with USAA. I called them to say they were the bank most like a credit union I had ever seen.

    They appreciated the comment.
    Bill Wade
  • I also had a mortgage with USAA. I called them to say they were the bank most like a credit union I had ever seen.

    They appreciated the comment.
    Bill Wade
  • Loved your article and thought I would add that ...interestingly enough, I know for a fact that both USAA and Apple Credit Union have faithfully utilized a process called "Integrity Selling" for several years. This process focuses on being proactive, understanding the customer/member and offering needs-based, consultative solutions.
    Julie ann Wessinger