Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: meetings

Earshakes vs. Handshakes

Hello, can you hear me? I’m currently flying back from LA after two days of meetings with partner companies and clients. Geek fascination: This iPad is online…while it’s magically floating over 30,000 feet above the western United States. Is the connection any good? Not particularly…no video and the streaming audio struggles. But, hey, Twitter and Facebook!

Of course, the travels got me thinking (oh no!). Much of our business is conducted over the phone and computer. It has proven an efficient and effective manner of communicating. We are able to include multiple participants spanning large geographic ranges in a single conversation. Often on short notice, something just not possible with face-to-face. Take a morning meeting with a partner in Texas, joined by others in California. Enjoy a break for lunch, then go to NYC for an operations update. Sure, since the advent of phones we could do such things, but adding the file and screen sharing really seals the deal. (Out of respect for all parties, we rarely ask for video-based meetings. If sweat pants are your thing, that’s quite alright.)

Simply put, we would be unable to build or support our client base without such technologies.

Yet there’s a value to being more than within earshot.

A partner summed it up perfectly yesterday as he explained, “we have been speaking for months; I know all of your voices and your names are a familiar sight in my inbox. But it really is great to put a person to those things!” He continued with an even more astute observation, “It was beneficial to see everyone’s faces as a question was asked, or to see their body language. On the phone, you can cover that up. In person, it’s all there.”

Could it be? Does our trust of others revolve around observing them directly? At least to some point, this is true. We make consciously-imperceptible movements when interacting with another person. You may not notice, but your brain does. Ever just “get a feeling” about someone, good or bad? Thank your brain for catching those subtle cues.

While we will always embrace the technology, efficiency, and convenience of online meetings, this will be a year of handshakes over earshakes. Are we working with you? Will you be reprinting this blog in the Metropolis Daily Bugle? (How did you get it past Jonah Jameson?)

Then grab your sonic screwdriver, open up your tricorder, draw your light saber, because you might just get a visit!

What’s Obvious for You…

…might be an unknown for others. Which isn’t so much an issue until you, oh yes, we’re going there…assume. Consider a meeting with a vendor or a prospect (sometimes you’re the salesperson, others, you’re the one buying), and they keep bringing up a term. It sounds important, and perhaps even central to their thesis, but it is never explained. Let’s be honest, you have no idea what they are talking about.

We’ve all been in that situation, where everyone seems to know something we don’t. How does that make you feel?

A natural response is, “why don’t you just ask?” And let others see your weakness? Never!

The more common reaction is to push away what makes you feel “not ok”. In this case, it would be the other party in the meeting. As you can imagine, chasing out potential partners isn’t a great way to expand, so how do we find a happy medium?

Let’s step into a new pair of shoes, this time, those of that person who made you feel inferior. Can we agree they were not aiming to insult you or give you overt rationale to send you away? They made a mistake; they assumed, and you know what happens when we assume. (If you see what I did there, fantastic, if not, that’s ok: I made an assumption of you knowing the oft-repeated line regarding assuming, “you make an ‘a**’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’!” This would be a great example of what you want to avoid.)

Back to the meeting. How could it have been handled to keep everyone “ok”? For starters, ensure everyone is on the same page, on everything. It is possible you have heard advice regarding use of industry jargon. Short answer? It’s all correct. A credit union which does no indirect lending may not know how the process works, what the terminology is with the dealers, or even the competition. Beginning a discussion on dealer fees, then referencing DealerTrack (a principal source dealers use to search loan options), may put the unknowing CU representative in an uncomfortable spot. Bottom line: If a random person doesn’t understand you, the person sitting across the desk or on the other end of the phone may not either.

Why am I writing a post on something which, in hindsight, seems so obvious? Because we did it, too. During a meeting with one of our credit union clients, we began a discussion of one of our services, mentioning another place members can get a loan. However, this alternative is a last-resort option, known for very high rates and challenging terms (there’s no question the credit union was a far better choice). We presented it directly, “as a credit union, you are in a perfect position to serve these members and truly improve their lives.” Sales strategies aside, this is entirely accurate. However, the credit union executive was not familiar with this other loan source, and, likely not wishing to feel silly, didn’t ask. Nor did we explain. It created a situation where they wanted to make any excuse to say no because it was uncomfortable.

In that scenario, it was our failure. We assumed, and were wrong. In the future, we are going to address these potential issues up-front. We will ask if they are familiar with any terminology before discussing. We might say, “I don’t suppose you are familiar with so-and-so products?” If they respond, “yes, we are”, then great, we move forward. But it gives them a moment to say, without showing any weakness, “actually, no, would you mind discussing that further?”

We’re all on the same page, and suddenly, what’s obvious for you…

…is obvious to them, too.

Change…When It’s Forced

Last night, I went to bed feeling great. Got in some exercising prior, then a few episodes of Shark Tank to enhance my court-side business savvy.

For no reason (beknownst to me, at least), I woke up at around 2:00 a.m., and I was not great. Miserable would be a suitable adjective to describe my then-current state. Thus ensued a sleepless night of tissues, tossing, and positioning to keep the sinuses happy. As most people know from this situation, there is no ideal position, no angle which makes you feel better. There’s not even a temperature that feels right. Covers on? Too hot. Covers off? Ice cube. Remember that activity monitor discussed a number of posts back? It stopped considering me even trying to sleep after 4:30 a.m.

What to do when an unexpected situation is thrust upon you? Adapt as best you can. In my case, that has meant a day of tissues within arms reach, lots of water, quiet focus on research, and this blog. Thankfully, my father (business partner) and I share meeting obligations, so he has been taking those on with gusto (No angry calls/e-mails yet. That’s good news!).

What about within your CU? Operations cannot just stop in place, even if the issue requires significant attention. Have an “emergency plan” that can be launched when anything arises compromising your ability to do business as usual. It can even be a tiered plan, with various levels of handicap to the institution. Level one can represent an important executive absent on a unique review day, while level 5 can deal with a natural disaster or other major event taking down telecom or power.

Many places understand what to do when something big happens, but what if Jane is out sick on the day she was supposed to finalize a major initiative affecting CU strategic plans? In the same way power grids can automatically fall back to working systems in an effort to keep electricity flowing, your CU can do the same.

All it takes is a plan. And some soft tissues.

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