A Gang Of Three

When it comes to outbound calling, you don’t need an army to fuel amazing loan growth, just a few key players.

As a beacon of the pro-local consumer movement in Salem, OR, Maps Credit Union ($470.1M) rarely has trouble attracting individuals to its community-oriented brand. In fact, membership growth for this institution has been more than double the rate of its peer group for much of the past three years, according to Callahan Associates’Peer-to-Peer analytics.

But even as Maps grew by leaps and bounds, loans and other sales opportunities that would further enhance the value of these relationships frequently fell through the cracks.

DATA AS OF JUNE 30, 2013
Callahan Associates | www.creditunions.com


Like many institutions, we were approving a lot of loans but weren’t always able to close them in the branches, says Toni Silbernagel, vice president of consumer lending at Maps.

Part of the disconnect was because the credit union receives a significant volume of its applications through non-branch channels, such as online, or through its thriving indirect program. And given that approximately 40% of incoming indirect borrowers are new to the institution, Maps knew it needed better options to engage these members on their own turf.

An Outbound Experiment

In June 2012, the credit union initiated a dedicated outbound sales position, later expanded to a group of three, to address these concerns and ramp up new sales activity. In the year since, the team has helped drive 10% annual loan growth at Maps, including double-digit growth in both new and used auto as well as unsecured credit card.

DATA AS OF JUNE 30, 2013
Callahan Associates | www.creditunions.com


The team doesn’t currently handle mortgages although it makes referrals for them and instead focuses exclusively on consumer loan items. In addition to outbound calls, it also takes inbound calls routed from the service call center. Regardless of who called whom, these employees work under the expectation that they turn every conversation into a sales opportunity.

They get credit for a loan transferred from the call center, but we also ask them, How many other loans did you get from that call?’Silbernagel says. We want them to mine the credit report and see what else is out there that makes sense for the member.

Do One Thing And Do It Well

The success of this unit lies in its specialization, which complements the cross-functional sales and service roles Maps currently uses across its branch network. Yet building a team that understands how to be aggressive without overwhelming members or going against their best interests requires continual training and adjustment.

We started by hiring an ex banker, Silbernagel explains. That individual was sales focused, loved that part of the job, and was successful in terms of generating results, but they lacked the integrity you need in a credit union environment.

After that relationship ended, Maps began transferring internal employees who already understood the institution’s culture and values and were hungry for more sales opportunities.

Putting Fuel On The Fire

Cash-related incentives have never been a part of the job for typical Maps employees. But with this new department, the credit union had to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction to connect with those of a sales mindset. Today, outbound team members are paid almost entirely according to their outstanding book of business.

Our employees in the branch have many of the same sales responsibilities and functions, Silbernagel says.The differentiator for these outbound employees is that they have a desire to be able to control their own salary.

For the first year, new outbound hires get a guaranteed base salary that is in line with industry averages. This gives them time to build their numbers. Top performers, however, can more than the initial agreed upon amount.

In their second year, the employees earn a base pay of $9.23 per hour the minimum wage in Oregon as well as a set amount for each product they sell. For example, the payout for a car loan is approximately 35 basis points annualized.

The credit union also removes individual loans from each rep’s book of business on a rolling basis, two years from the date the product was sold.

Hungry Like The Wolf

On average, Maps’three outbound employees produce four times the amount of loans and sales of any single branch in its footprint. And unlike most departments, which might be negatively affected if too many employees are sick, on vacation, or otherwise absent, these employees thrive on the chance to work independently and take on a larger share of leads for themselves.

For example, in a recent credit card promotion, the three reps combined generated roughly 50% of total card openings. For an auto campaign, two of the reps made up for the third’s absence by generating 40% of all the loans originated in that window.

Everything is a competition with these employees, and that includes competing against their past performance, against other departments, and against one another, Silbernagel says. It’s a different mindset than you see among many employees, but it’s ultimately a positive thing for the institution and for our members.

October 7, 2013

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