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Referrals vs. Sales: Do You Know the Difference?

December 11, 2017 - 12:17pm -- Tony

Google defines a referral as:

An act of referring someone or something for consultation, review or further action

·         the directing of a patient to a medical specialist by a primary care physician

·         a person whose case has been referred to a specialist doctor or a professional body


We are firm believers that the position of a teller on the frontline of a bank or credit union is one of the most important.  The folks working on the teller line are the first encounter that a customer/member has when entering a financial institution.  So much of what a teller says, how they say it, their level of product knowledge and their ability to communicate directly impacts the comfort level, trust level and the overall impression a customer/member gets of the institution.


Furthermore, we also believe that, after the health of themselves and their loved ones, people care most about their financial health, that is why it is vitally important that customers/members trust that the teller in front of them is acting in the role of a trusted advisor.  The more comfortable and trusting someone is with their doctor, the more open and honest they will be in sharing symptoms they are experiencing (even the real embarrassing ones).  This gives his/her doctor the complete picture in order to refer the best line of treatment.  Just like the more a customer/member feels valued and comfortable with the teller they are speaking with, the more open they will be to share the fine details of their situation. One of the best ways to show that you are worthy of member/customer trust is by making sure that you are referring products and services and not just trying to “make the sale.”  What is involved in referring a product or service?  

In order to refer a product or service, you must truly listen actively to what the person in front of you is sharing.  When you actively listen to a member/customer with genuine empathy, it allows you to step into their shoes and feel their position to better identify the true need(s) they have. After you are able to identify a need(s), you then select a product or service that will best meet the need(s).  This is where having incredible product knowledge serves you beautifully!

When you refer a product or service to a member/customer, your focus is on finding the best fit to solve a financial challenge he/she may have.  You use the in-depth information you’ve learned through the genuine interaction, versus focusing on just “making the sale” to increase performance numbers.  The danger of being sales-centric is that so much of what builds comfort and trust gets lost in the behavior that typically comes with solely trying to “make the sale”.  Through our many trainings, our participants have shared with us that when they think of someone who is all about “making the sale,” they think of a salesperson who typically shows signs of being pushy, talking far more than listening, blindly pushing products without determining true need and ultimately giving off the impression that he/she is out for themselves and their commission.

When you are referring a product or service you are working with the customer/member by asking open-ended questions and bouncing ideas off of them to see what they think.  Referring a product or service also includes educating a customer/member about the product or service in a way that clearly states the features and benefits so that he/she is comfortable with whatever potential steps are to follow.  Just like the majority of us probably can’t translate most medical lingo or know the ins and outs of various treatments, the majority of your members/customers don’t have the depth of knowledge about the many solutions there are for his/her financial needs that you possess. They depend on you to enlighten them, and that can only come through referring products and services.

If you already take a more referral-based approach with your members/customers, that is fantastic.  If you find that you are currently selling more than referring, the great news is that with effort and a will to improve, you can easily get to the place where customers/members feel comfortable being open and asking for you by name when they visit your branch because of your great referral approach. Through practicing active listening, communicating features and benefits in a way that all customers/members can easily understand and making sure your product knowledge is stellar, you will be able to make the referral experience one that will have your members/customers telling their friends and family all about you, their personal trusted advisor in banking.


To learn more about our highly effective three-step ReferralPro training system, please contact us today!