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How I sold salary accounts in the late 2000’s

Updated: Mar 2

Have you ever thought "I could sell so much more if only my company had more resources, or my product was more competitive"? Here's a story about coming up with creative solutions to increase your sales AND grow your business.

Yet again, a story set in 2000 when I was working with one of the largest private sector banks in India. My spouse relocated to Bangalore and I moved with him to the silicon capital of India. As Business Development Manager, I was given the task of selling salary accounts to corporates. The Regional Head was an ex army man, strict, no nonsense and disciplined to the core.

At that time, salary accounts had just been introduced in order to procure bulk accounts from corporate employees instead of opening individual savings accounts. The main competitor (a foreign bank) had launched “0 balance” salary accounts with much fanfare and had a network of 50 ATM’s in Bangalore. We were the David to their Goliath with 4 ATM’s and a 5000 Average quarterly balance requirement. I knew we were up against tough competition, but bravely plunged in to meet this challenge.

Every corporate I approached posed the same question – why should I choose your bank when the competition is offering me easy access to my account through their network of ATM’s and a “0 balance” facility with no non maintenance charges?

I approached my Regional Head to get approval to open more ATM’s and offer “0 balance” salary accounts, but to my surprise was told that we had to grow business first and then ask for “concessions” or waivers. This was clearly not an option, so I had to come up with creative solutions to the problem on hand - which was to offer and demonstrate value to the corporates to convince them to choose our bank.

I decided to think out of the box. Since the number of branches and ATM’s was limited, the customer didn’t find it convenient to come to the bank. My next thought was – If the customer can’t come to the Bank, the Bank can certainly go to the customer. And thus was born the idea of home/office banking – where we offered document/cheque pickup and cash delivery at the office premises.

We started small by opening a few savings accounts in marquee corporates and offering them differentiated value. Office banking, OD or instant credit against salary to meet short term fund requirements and exceptional service. In those days, the cheque book would take more than a week to be delivered to the customer and I remember one instance where the customer required a cheque book immediately after account opening. I sat in the processing centre- got the account opened, cheque book issued and personally delivered to the customer in one day.

Soon, word of mouth brought in many more accounts and we could empanel the corporate as a salary client. Despite being a small bank with limited distribution, we were able to multiply the salary business by 10x and acquire all the major marquee corporates and IT companies.

How did we do this? It started with a simple belief in the vision of the bank – to grow to be the largest and best private sector bank in India.

Though the odds were stacked against us, there was not a single employee who didn’t believe that we could achieve this. It was this belief in the bank that created in me the confidence and conviction to march on and achieve my goals. I was rewarded with a role as Branch Manager of a new branch, the first “salesperson” to be offered this prestigious role and I proudly took charge of my new branch. (That’s a story for another day)

Lessons Learned

Believe in yourself, believe in your company and its products. Your belief translates into conviction & authenticity in your sales interactions.

Think out of the box- the solution may not always be obvious, but there is always a way.

Don’t let the naysayers hold you back. There will always be those who will laugh at you and criticize you. Let their criticism be the fuel which ignites you to take positive action.

What others have doesn’t matter. What matters is what you have and your will to succeed!

Visualise yourself as a winner , prepare yourself to win and you will be unstoppable.

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