Forge Small Business Relationships: Five Strategies

Engage business owners in robust dialogue around small-business drivers.

October 28, 2010
KEYWORDS benefits , business , loans , owner
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The banking industry’s turmoil and tighter lending standards are presenting incredible opportunities for credit unions. For instance, small-business owners who previously received loans from banks are finding it difficult today to get the same funding and are turning to credit unions for assistance.

Savvy institutions will seize these opportunities to gain valuable, profitable members from the small-business community. They will gain business owners’ trust and long-term commitment by meeting all their business needs with targeted solutions and the highest quality service.

Any successful small-business owner will tell you that relationships are the key to their success. To form relationships with business owners, credit unions need to demonstrate that they offer significant advantages over banks.

Here are five strategies to help institutions earn the loyalty of small businesses:

1. Understand what they need

It’s not enough for credit union professionals to be knowledgeable about their organizations’ products and services. Small-business owners want to view credit union representatives as experts who can answer all their financial questions.

For example, consider the owner of a small business who previously obtained loans from a particular bank until the lending guidelines became more stringent. While the business owner knew the credit union was an alternative resource for loans, the owner was new to credit unions and wanted to be reassured that the employees are truly professionals who understand the business's goals.

An effective strategy, therefore, is to engage the owner in a robust dialogue around small-business drivers, business cycles, and the company’s specific industry.

In that way, a credit union professional, confident about the institution’s products and services, can learn about the small company’s goals and needs, and add value by meeting them most effectively with the institution’s unique offerings.

2. Take an enterprise approach

This approach is demonstrated when credit union professionals work as partners across all lines of business, allowing the business owner to see the credit union as one entity.

When credit unions use this total team approach in assisting small businesses, owners view the institution as a single, powerful entity assisting them with all their goals, both personal and business.

To do so, employees from all lines of business need to be equipped with the skills to communicate the credit union’s value proposition so the business owner sees that the organization is thinking holistically.

Next: Be true to CU principles

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