A new report by VRL Financial
on branch-based sales techniques examines in fine
detail the processes and techniques banks should use to improve
customer service and cross-sell more products. Clients are not
looking for overly innovative branch formats – just straightforward
environments to bank in.

It is by now a well-accepted observational that traditional
distribution via branches is here to stay. For most banks, branches
are still the key retail delivery channel. New approaches to
traditional face-to-face selling have already been tested and
proven by many banks. Branch agents and sales agents can improve
efficiencies dramatically – but only when planned, implemented and
managed properly.

They can build on existing traditional
channels so there is no need to tear out parts of the
infrastructure that are working well. The key issue though is to
not only integrate these new channels at the strategic level but do
the execution correctly. Failure to do so can cost dearly, as those
who took a good idea (for example, branch agents) and executed it
poorly (for example, as a branch franchise set-up) have

As most financial institutions have
(re)learned, branches remain a cornerstone of retail financial
services delivery – both for consultative selling and involved
services. Recent acquisition activities in the US, for example,
reflect the wisdom that acquiring branches is still one of the most
efficient and fastest ways to build a retail base.

Partly driven by this realisation, and coupled
with the desire to be ‘innovative,’ a number of banks have engaged
in dramatic branch redesign programmes.

To be kind, these results have been ‘mixed’ –
and no wonder. Consumers would like a branch to be a branch. Maybe
better than it is today. More convenient. Nicer. Allowing faster
service. With more discretion when talking about personal

But still a branch. Not a corner store. Not a
coffee shop. Not a travel agency.

When quizzed in a study by Novametrie (The
Branch of the Future
, a joint study by Novametrie, HP,
Capgemini, Microsoft and EFMA), 85 percent of respondents
overwhelmingly stated that their current branch, or a slight
modification of it, would be their “ideal branch”. Rather than
completely throwing away the existing branch layout, banks should
modify it to be more efficient and better suited to customer


Branches are a full-service ‘sales
and service centre’ for customers. Within that spectrum, however,
branches’ prime focus is usually on ‘relationship building’ with
the ‘best’ customers – those with both the highest profit and the
highest future extra profit potential for the bank. This role fits
within the general channel role outline proposed by the author:

• acquire directly;

• build relationships in person; and

• service remotely.

This model puts the onus of driving
acquisitions on direct marketing, sales agents and the like.
Servicing should be done as much as possible via remote channels,
such as call centres, the internet and similar. However, for
relationship building one needs the branches. Relationship building
and cross-selling go hand in hand.

As one understands more of the customer’s
needs one can offer more and more services and products to satisfy
those needs.

Cross-selling improves current profits, by
having more products with the same customer. It also improves
retention, as studies show that those with more products and
services are much less likely to leave the bank (unless of course
something drastic happens, such as a significant drop in service

Branches therefore play an important role in
cross-selling. Cross-selling is also easier to do than cold
calling. The customer is already known and there is some level of
relationship with him. The bank can contact him more easily. As a
result, branch staff also feel more comfortable cross-selling than

However, once proactive selling skills have
been honed through cross-selling, they can be applied to
prospecting as well. It is therefore recommended that cross-selling
should always be the starting point in any proactive branch sales
and business development plans.

The point about starting with cross-selling,
developing skills, and then applying those skills to prospecting is
strongly supported by evidence. The bar chart (see below),
showing data from a recent integrated branch sales efficiency
improvement project, illustrates this.

*The above is a very brief,
edited extract from a new report from VRL Financial News
Branch Banking – Best Practices in the Worst of
Times. Written by experienced ex-banker Sandy Vaci, the report
looks in comprehensive detail at the most important branch-based
sales techniques for banks. Contact Kirsten Lamb at
kirsten.lamb@vrlfinancialnews.com for more details.

Credit card application cross-selling