As a provider of financial industry sales and service training for 20 years, I have been nothing short of horrified to learn about what Wells Fargo has been doing to their customers. It truly was not a big surprise as my daughter opened Wells Fargo accounts as a young adult several years ago after moving to Los Angeles. Even though it has been many years, I have not forgotten her call to lament all the charges she was getting from Wells Fargo for products and services that she never requested. I am married to ‘an officer and a gentleman’ (bank loan officer) and recall how it took him days of effort with nearly 4 hours on the telephone to get her out of all the accounts and services that they put her in without her permission.

Over the years when a potential bank or credit union client calls my office to ask about my sales training programs, I have asked two fundamental questions:

  1. Is your customer service where it needs to be?

In my humble opinion, it is not a good business decision to embark on sales training if your service is not top notch. Let us explore an analogy of Olympic diving to illustrate this point. The diver walks out onto the edge of the board, stands and thinks about the dive they are about to take and then has the all-important bounce that propels them into the air giving them the inertia to have a good chance of completing the dive as designed. If the right bounce is not there, the dive is doomed from the outset. Similarly, unless you know your customers, and have asked questions to understand their needs, and have a strong foundation of service, you have no business attempting to sell them anything. Yet many organizations look to sales training as a silver bullet to solve all of their problems. Let me save you some money… invest first in customer service training, build strong relationships and then and only then invest in sales training.

  1. I tell the person inquiring about my financial service sales training programs that I am NOT in the business of teaching people to PUSH products and services on their customers and members.

Why? Pushing products and services on customers is a SHORT TERM success strategy. I am interested in bringing a LONG TERM success strategy to my clients. If you have your interests in mind more than your customer’s, the customer will eventually see through your motives. And that will be a fork in the relationship road that ever changes the dynamic of TRUST. Wells Fargo is not the only financial institution or business to be guilty of such a strategy. I have seen countless examples of this reckless approach (although none quite as blatant or widespread) in my 20 years of providing sales and customer service training to businesses of every type.

Regardless of what industry you are in, learn a lesson from the failed strategy of Wells Fargo and others like them. Lead your staff to build relationships based on a position of trust that considers the customer’s business and life goals and objectives a far more important factor than what your business happens to need at the moment. If you do this with a foundation of great service, you will build long term profitable relationships!