I have watched the news and the fallout of the Wells Fargo debacle for weeks now and after numerous interviews and teeth grinding I have a few things to say about the sales “culture” that was created there. This was NOT a sales culture. This was a culture of fear and intimidation. This was a culture of bad sales training and bad management. This was a culture of people in silos sending pressure downward to those least likely to be able to perform. This was total failure in an organization that was not about its clients. It was about stock price and executive pay.
Let me be clear – I was not there so this is all my opinion and to me the facts as reported are pretty clear. Do anything to get the numbers. Common sense, integrity and decency be damned. Nope – not a sales culture. When I talk about sales culture I am very clear what this means. Everyone’s in sales. The sales team is not siloed from the rest of the company and vice versa. There is transparency and accountability into how the numbers are being achieved. There is a common knowledge that everything everyone does has a systemic effect on the customer’s decision to say “yes” to the bank.
Let me illustrate this in a story. Let’s say a customer has a very long term relationship with the bank. That customer has been with the bank through all of its mergers and acquisitions. That customer has an excellent relationship with his local banking officer and has seven different accounts – personal and business that he runs all of his money through. With me so far? A really good, solid and profitable customer. One bright and shiny day the customer decides to refinance his house and asks the bank to close his home equity loan and then reopen it once the new mortgage is in place. He is told “no problem”. The refinance happens very easily and…you know what happens next. The bank refuses to open a new home equity loan. The bank manager is very embarrassed and cannot get an answer from anyone in the bank. After weeks of trying to get answers, writing letters to senior bank officials it is finally revealed that the decision was made based on 4 lines of a tax return. Four lines that someone in their silo made a decision that this was not a good risk. No evaluation of the relationship. No phone call to learn more. A siloed culture at its best. That banking officer who made that decision never understood that they are in sales and that their job is to act in way that helps the customer say “yes”. They play a role in the holistic sales dialogue.
That lack of realization made sure that that the customer would also say “no ” to the bank. Which is exactly what happened. The customer gets tired, is insulted and fires the bank. He closes all of his accounts and moves to a smaller bank..where he gets his home equity loan without a problem. Yes, this was me. I have said little in the years since this happened and I am not surprised that Wells now finds itself in this position. ( In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that that brand new mortgage was sold to and is now serviced by Wells. Yes, I see them every month….) In a sales culture there is transparency and accountability.
Everyone thinks first how their actions impact a customer and their decision to say “yes”
No one has the right to say ” sales..not MY job..” Sales is your job and what you do in your silo impacts the customer. You cannot hide. A sales culture is about the ENTIRE organization. At Wells Fargo, I believe they created a sales “boiler room mentality”. The culture the bank created and maintained in the sales silo was corrupt. This is what gives sales a bad name.
I know many fine people who work for Wells Fargo and do not deserve the horrid reputation that is now firmly in place. I think there are many people at Wells who are as pissed off about this by this as I am. I have had the good fortune to keynote and workshop for many banks and they “get it”. It’s about the customer. Not the silo.
I hope in the days ahead there will be leadership that also “gets it” and will actually live it. At Wells Fargo, I am not optimistic anything will change.Now you should be thinking ” ok, I get it. Now how do I fix this”? Good question and I am glad you asked.
Todd Cohen, CSP is an accomplished and sought after international keynote speaker, sales culture expert and author of “Everyone’s in Sales” and “Everyone’s in Sales; STOP Apologizing.” Todd’s dynamic and motivational keynotes and workshops are based on the foundation that regardless of career path or position, everyone is a salesperson. Since 1984, Todd has led sales teams to deliver more than $950 million in revenue for leading companies including Xerox and Thomson-Reuters.
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