Santa Learned to Cross-sell

Santa Learned to Cross-sell (and Your Frontline Can Too)

Did you get a chance to see your local Santa Claus this year? If so, how did he seem? Was he excited to mingle with kids and kids-at-heart, or was he bored out of his mind? Was his “Ho ho ho!” heartfelt, or did his festive greeting fall flat? If you pay close attention, you can spot the subtle differences between the so-so Santas who only do it for a paycheck and the cheerful Saint Nicks who genuinely love what they do.

While there are hundreds of Santa gigs around the world each year, the best Santas know it takes more than rosy cheeks and a fuzzy suit to make children’s eyes sparkle with Christmas magic. That’s why the most dedicated Kris Kringles go to Santa School. You did know there’s a Santa School, right? Think of it like a CUNA Council Conference, but for jolly old elves who like to network and swap tips and tricks of their yuletide trade. Last year, 40 students boarded an Alaskan cruise ship and attended School4Santas, also known as the International University of Santa Claus.

Believe it or not, even though Santa School is specialized and seasonal, it teaches sales and marketing tips that have the potential to boost your credit union’s service levels all year long.

Here are just a few:

1. You need to be able to adapt your experience to match the customer’s needs. A Hollywood Santa appearing on stage with celebrities needs to conduct himself very differently than a local mall Santa interacting with young children. The more Santa tailors his style to his clients, the more likely he is to be hired again the following year. The same goes for your credit union’s frontline. Training them to speak to every member the same will guarantee they consistently lose at least half of their audience. Teach them how to observe people and communicate authentically based on each member’s personality and current mindset. Remember: No matter how much the product or service may benefit them, an upset member who’s having a bad day doesn’t want to be cross-sold.

2. Create and practice a 30-second elevator pitch. That’s right. Even Santas need to be able to communicate why they’re the best candidate for the job of Head Elf. “Most of us only work four weekends a year, so we’ve got to maximize the time in those four weekends to make our money,” said one Santa. “How do you make Santa’s phone ring? It is marketing, marketing, marketing.” When it comes to your credit union marketing, it’s time to throw out the “great rates and good service” pitch and come up with a clear, concise message your team can share with enthusiasm. A well-crafted message should invite more questions and create authentic interest in what your credit union does. Want an example? Here is an elevator pitch that we helped a credit union create last month:

(Don’t steal this. First of all, it’s not cool to steal. But more importantly, if your message isn’t unique to you and your credit union, your team won’t be passionate when they deliver it—which defeats the entire purpose!)

“Do you want financial freedom but are struggling with too much debt? Does it make you feel hopeless? We understand, and we have over 50 years of experience providing solutions that have helped thousands of members improve their credit scores and gain financial freedom. We have helped members avoid bankruptcy, repossession, foreclosure, delayed retirement, and more. We provide you with hope and help by understanding your individual needs and finding the right solutions that create financial freedom.”

3. Like any skilled professional, the best Santas have a crystal clear understanding of who they really work for (the kids) and what their job really is (keeping the magic alive). Santa School preaches the importance of embodying the spirit of Santa 365 days a year. Your frontline staff should be just as clear on who they work for (the members) and what their job really is (providing knowledge and services that will have a positive impact on their lives). With all of the financial tools and resources at their disposal, your frontline staff can play a pivotal role in making your members’ futures merry and bright. That realization should keep them excited about what they do 365 days a year.

If Santa Claus needs to be reminded about the importance of relating to the people he serves, it just makes sense that anyone who wants to be a part of your credit union’s future needs a refresher as well. Fortunately, the tips listed above can help everyone. But before you launch your Santa-inspired initiative, don’t forget that everybody reacts to change differently. Some of your team members will warm up to these new ideas faster than others. That’s ok. Every positive change has to start somewhere. Just remember that you may need to apply Tip #1 from above and tailor your approach. How about that—looks like we can all learn something from Santa after all.

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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