Credit union business development is the art of building relationships with local businesses, community organizations, and existing and potential members. It’s more than just bringing business through the door; the goal is to increase your credit union’s viability and visibility within its community.
Put another way, business development professionals often serve as the public face of the credit union.
This individual might represent your credit union at business and community functions, and he or she might even be your credit union’s official spokesperson. The credit union business development professional might also be called on to act as coach, mediator, contact person, loan officer, teller, report runner, data analyzer, project manager, or marketing coordinator.
Many credit unions are creating their own business development departments or assigning business development responsibilities to other departments—most often the marketing department. Collaboration between those two functions is important, but they require different skill sets. Training and professional development are crucial, as is the realization that not everyone is meant to be a business development professional.
It’s important for credit unions to understand that business development involves selling. Sales tactics, however, should be based on businesses’ and members’ needs and shouldn’t involve the high pressure tactics that have given some sales efforts a bad name.
Credit unions are in the relationship-building business. Your credit union’s business development professionals should be comfortable calling on new people and organizations, attending networking events, coaching other employees on how to give referrals, and focusing on building relationships with centers of influence in the local business community and in the community at large.
Successful credit union business development programs share these characteristics:
♦ Structure. Business development professionals have decision-making authority. If it’s a one-person shop, that person should have management authority. Otherwise, projects get stalled and momentum gets lost. In larger credit unions, it’s not uncommon to have a vice president of business development with a team of professionals reporting to him or her.
♦ At the table. Business development is represented at executive meetings and strategic planning sessions. The business development department is involved in helping the credit union fulfill its value proposition. Business development staff are involved in the community, so they can provide feedback and fresh perspective on many issues.
♦ Compensation. If credit unions want the best people, they have to pay them well. The best business development professionals are forward thinking, self-motivated, innovative, strategic, organized, dedicated, intuitive, problem-solvers, and relationship-builders. To get this kind of talent, credit unions must be willing to compensate appropriately.
♦ Respect and communication. There must be mutual respect and good communication between business development employees and other employees—loan officers, tellers, member service reps, and executives. After business development employees bring new business into the credit union, other employees must follow through and close loans, open accounts, and support campaigns. Employees cannot work in silos but must work as functional teams.
Adapted from the 2014-2015 CUNA Environmental Scan (E-Scan), which features an enhanced tablet app available free to purchasers of the recently released print report.
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