Is it an anti-sales culture that is leading some banks to withdraw product-focused sales incentives? Not necessarily.
Customer service focused incentives can work well. If your service is actually valuable and consumers buy it because it is something they actually want then the big challenge is to ensure that they are presented with it in a suitably attractive form. Look at it another way - usually the reason bank staff, or mortgage brokers, fail to sell insurance, for example, is because they don't ask - not because no-one wants or needs the cover. LIMRA reached a similar conclusion in their research into multi-line general insurance offices. Staff 'assume' that the client doesn't need the service, or assume that because they were asked 'last year' you do not need to ask again this year.
Traditionally the way to overcome the 'don't ask' approach was to focus sales incentives on the actual sale. Sell an insurance plan and we pay you an incentive. Sell ten this month and you win the weekend with the rented Ferrari... This makes it easy for a manager to oversee and it is easy to budget for - the incentive is a variable cost.
But it is easy to see how these incentives get a bad name.
Rather than ensuring the delivery of excellent customer service the incentive can foster poor sales practices: 'ours is just the same as theirs but cheaper - switch now' - even if such a promise isn't true, it might not be testable because of the complex nature of the product. The client opens the policy document to be confronted by a sea of words. That compliance risk must be offset by good governance and oversight of the sales process.
If, however, you focus your incentive scheme on, say, delivering excellent financial reviews you turn the process on its head. Suddenly what sales staff must do in order to qualify for the incentive payment is almost what you had to expensively retrofit to the end of the sales process: the compliance tasks. So in this set up you are incentivising excellent fact-finding, needs analysis, and recommendations.
If your research was right and your clients really are underinsured, then you'll make more sales.
If you aren't making more sales, you will know exactly why: either it didn't show up as a need, or you recommended it and they didn't buy, which might be a product, pricing, or promotional problem.