Canada’s big five banks continue to post record profits and the pressure to achieve ever-increasing sales targets has filtered its way down to the front line. Three TD Bank tellers went to CBC Go Public and explained how the bank’s high-pressure sales culture has them relentlessly pushing new products on unsuspecting customers.

Suggestive selling, cross selling, and upselling is all part of a revenue-driven sales culture where a company looks for ways to get more business from its customers. Opportunities abound at banks, which offer everything from chequing and savings accounts, to credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, lines of credit, and mutual funds.

The TD tellers revealed how they were prompted to upsell whenever there was potential for an “advice opportunity”. A pop-up on their computer screen indicated which products and services the customer hadn’t purchased, such as overdraft protection, a credit card, or line of credit. Getting a customer to sign-up for one of these products counted towards the employee’s sales quota.

TD released a statement saying it “does not believe certain recent media coverage is an accurate portrayal of our culture, or that it reflects the experience of most of our colleagues, but we take the concerns very seriously.”

This comes just weeks after another CBC Go Public report revealed deceptive sales tactics at Loblaws stores, where shoppers were tricked into signing up for PC Financial MasterCards. The salespeople were from a marketing company hired by PC Financial to increase credit card sign-ups.

Banking on a high pressure sales culture

Banking on high pressure sales culture

Consumers have every reason to be outraged by these recent stories of deception and aggressive sales tactics at PC Financial and TD Bank. But make no mistake; this is common practice at every bank.

Despite the growth and convenience of online and mobile banking, banks continue to expand their branch network, with over 6,300 bank branches across Canada. Many of these branches have extended hours into the evenings and weekends to meet their customers’ needs.

Seniors and new immigrants are most at risk to fall victim to these sales tactics. The “trusted bank advisor” is a perfect cover for an employee looking to meet a sales quota, and Canada’s aging population and growing immigrant base is ripe with potential for “advice opportunities”.

Final thoughts

While these reports are often painted as shocking exposes, in reality this is just part of an increasingly common sales culture in business today. Consumers need to be vigilant and learn how to say no.

Even in the PC Financial case, where SDI Marketing representatives were outright forging documents, consumers could have protected themselves by simply taking the brochure home to look at later.

Treat every sales encounter with a dash of scepticism. Err on the side of caution and give yourself the opportunity to do research on your own time before making a decision.

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