Business Development Must Go “Beyond the Handshake”

This blog has featured several dozen posts that deal with the growing discipline of credit union business development.  As these posts seem to get the most attention, click-thrus, shares, etc., I thought that another business development post around the Holidays couldn’t hurt.

It has always been my belief that credit union business development is the fastest-growing discipline in the industry – please note that I do not consider mobile banking or remote deposit capture to be “disciplines” in this sense.   Business development takes a certain skill set, persistence, and system to work properly and to achieve results. Indeed, business development must go beyond the handshake. 

In our industry, the professionals that are charged with business development are tasked with creating, cultivating, maintaining, and expanding mutually beneficial relationships with centers of influence in the communities served by the credit union. This takes a lot more than attending an after-hours “meet and greet” at the local Chamber of Commerce.  In addition, so-called “speed networking” events are not the best option for a credit union business development professional.  Indeed, Credit union BD professionals must transcend and redefine the usual characterization of “networking” by placing enormous emphasis and painstaking effort on building relationships.

I want credit unions to redefine how business development is done.  Period. BD isn’t about the number of business cards that you can collect at a luncheon, trade show, or other similar events.  BD results and effectiveness should not be solely measured by the number of cold calls you make in a week or the number of onsite visits that you conduct at your SEGs or the number of community events you attend.  Don’t get me wrong, having goals associated with these activities is still important but they have to be measured in the proper context.  For example, if your BD department has a goal of conducting 4 on-site visits per month but comes back from those visits with no new members, no new loan leads,  etc. – what has actually been accomplished besides giving people some trinkets or pens or key chains?

Many credit unions have implemented incentive programs for their business development departments.  Some credit unions are considering doing so.  When designing these programs, make sure that you are placing significant importance on goals that demonstrate the quality of the business relationship.

Credit union business development is not simply a numbers game.  And it should never turn into one.


About Your Full Potential, LLC

I am the President of Your Full Potential, LLC and the Founder of ABSURD! Leadership. I am a professional speaker and have addressed thousands of people throughout the United States and internationally on the topics of leadership, sales, service, business development, marketing, and strategy.
This entry was posted in Building Relationships, Business Development, Community Charters, Credit Unions, Management, Marketing. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Business Development Must Go “Beyond the Handshake”

  1. David G says:

    I’m very curious, as we are working to set up our own way of measuring success of the BD department…what are other credit unions doing? What if new members come in, and don’t really mention the way they were introduced to the CU, even when asked?


    • David – the key is to have a system in place to track everything – AND most importantly to communicate what that system is and to hold people accountable to following it. For example, there should be a section on your new member application that asks how the person heard about the credit union. Make it a “mandatory” field.


  2. Lou Ascarrunz says:

    I’m not so sure that I would be so hasty about condemning speed networking, and after hours events as a complete waste of time. Like anything else, even these events can be effective if coupled with consistent follow up. In my experience, these types of events can be more about quantity than quality if you let them. In my experience, I made some excellent contacts that yielded mutually beneficial business opportunities for my credit union.


    • Hi Lou,

      Thanks for your comments although I never said that after-hours networking events are a complete waste of time. The point of my post is that credit union business development must include more than networking events and business card exchanges. As for speed networking events, I guess I just feel that talking to someone for 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 2 minutes doesn’t provide ample enough opportunity for people to get to really know each other. Call it a personal aversion, if you will. I’ve just never found speed networking events to be useful. However, if they work for other people, I say go for it!

      On the other hand, other kinds of networking events can be (and have been for me as a credit union professional) very beneficial in terms of making new contacts and establishing mutually beneficial relationships. But I’ll stick to my premise that business development professionals have to do a lot more than attend meet and greets to be successful.



      • Lou Ascarrunz says:

        I totally agree with your initial premise, that credit union professional must indeed work a bit harder at relationship building. In my opinion, credit unions are uniquely positioned for the smaller “mom and pop” type businesses with gross annual sales of $1 million and 10 or fewer employees. These types of businesses aren’t big enough for the big banks to bother with, but they are perfect for a credit union like ours, and I’ve had much success building relationships with small business owners that fit this niche.

        I found for me anyway, the most effective networking occurred within the confines of a solid referral group that was commited to creating opportunities for each member. I’ve seen people join referral groups with the sole intention of milking referrals out of the group members, without giving any in return. This is a mistake I’ve seen many so called business development experts make. When you create opportunities for others, you often get paid back many times over your initial investment. Make it about how YOU can help others, not how others can help you, and you will see better results.


      • Absolutely right, Lou! The key is to get keenly interested and passionate about you can help OTHER people. Thanks for continuing the discussion!


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