Sales Agents into Insight Agents

DenizBank Agricultural Banking


The Story

This is the story of empowering frontline employees to become the harvesters of insights and enablers of innovation.

One would consider that a sales representative’s role in a bank would be pretty much limited to selling loans or offering the right kind of credit packages. This was not the case when it came to the DenizBank Agricultural Banking Sales Team. What would happen if we could unlock the real potential of these frontline employees? 

The DenizBank story showcases how frontline employees with the right support and tools can be indispensable resources for innovation.


How might we transform DenizBank Agricultural Banking sales team into insight generators?


Digital Agriculture Ambassadors Project (Dijital Tarım Elçileri Projesi)
“Corporate Social Responsibility, Social, Sustainable and Responsible Banking Category”, 2nd place.

Carrying Agriculture To The Future Award

Agriculture is the Future of the Forest Summit 2020
Human Centered Innovation in the Field Project (Sahada İnsan Odaklı İnovasyon Projesi)

Chapter I

Tapping Into The Potential Of Sales Teams

Right at every desk inside thousands of branches lies a treasure waiting to be unveiled: the customers’ needs and drives. If only the sales teams could tap into these facts and learn how to harvest insights from the mundane conversations they have with their customers all day long! They could then see the underlying factor behind the problems, develop creative solutions, and start a discussion within the organization leading to new services or products strictly targeted to their customers’ needs through an insight-driven innovation channel. That’s what we managed to do with the DenizBank Agricultural Banking sales team. 

Our Team Discovers A Secret Den!

When we began working with DenizBank in 2018 on a project called “Digital Agriculture Ambassadors,” our leading question was: “How might we transform the young generation in villages into the ambassadors of  digital agriculture?”

During the project and after 20 days of ethnographic research in two villages, we discovered a variety of insights to improve DenizBank’s products and services, yet the magic of the design research also revealed an unexpected insight: the untapped potential of the sales team. Right there, we realized a unique potential to transform the sales team into first-hand harvesters of insights and ideas directly from the field; through the one of a kind, organic bond created between farmers and the sales team. So, we rolled up our sleeves to transform the sales team into an “insights team.”

We first designed a prototype process that would later be the anchor for a nationwide transformation. In 2019, we conducted a pretest evaluation of all Agricultural Banking Sales Team (around 700 individuals). We chose a core team of approximately 30 people from 5 different regions for the prototype process based on their innovative potential. We conducted a two-day workshop to lay the foundation of a field transformation strategy and to present theoretical and practical tools for the sales team to use in their daily work activities. 

Open Sesame?: “Asking Questions” Is The Magic Phrase To Open The Den

One of our main aims was to equip the core team with the right questioning, listening, and interpretation skills. Following the workshop, the group spent their next two months in the field, carrying out interviews and sharing their insights through a field observation form.

Based on their learnings from the field we conducted a feedback meeting where we co-designed a road map to expand the project throughout Turkey (700 employees in 10 regions). Based on the outcomes of the meeting, we created a “Human-Centered Innovation Model” that would be applied throughout DenizBank Agricultural Sales Team all over Turkey. As we desired to kick-off conversations around the whole organization on human-centered innovation, we initiated a “Project Launch” broadcast at DenizTV, a company-based network accessible by all employees.

Team Participant
“This method is exactly what we need as part of the field team in agricultural banking. Human-centered communication, understanding the other, curiosity, asking questions, knowing how to harvest answers, and listening. Because the agricultural community is quite different, the customers are farmers. I think this (method) will play a key role.” 
Project Launch Broadcast at DenizTV in November 2019 (From left to right: Burak Koçak, Agricultural Banking Group Executive Vice President - Canan Aytekin, Agricultural Banking Group, SVP - Derya Tombuloğlu, Co-Founder at HMD - Yeşim Bilal from Sales Team and Participant of the Prototype Phase)

Executives On Board!

Our initial step was to deliver on-site trainer’s training for Regional Sales Managers on asking the right questions, active listening, and harvesting insights from customers. We trained 10 Managers who went back to and delivered the same training for the whole sales team (around 700 individuals) in January 2020.

We could stop there, but we knew that delivering training is just a mere trigger for change. For all learnings and tools to be turned into habits, one requires a mechanism integrated into the organization’s daily realities. We organized a Webinar to align all employees with the techniques/tools that the sales team can use during their daily work practices. We designed “An Insight Funnel,” a mechanism where all employees can easily share their insights and concrete action plans. The channels’ main tools were two forms we created, tailored to the sales team’s daily conversations: “Why” form and “Discovery” form. Both these forms are filled out regularly by the sales teams to directly and easily report an insight they discover while doing their daily work. The ideas are reviewed by the Marketing Team, stakeholders are informed regarding prioritized actions. 

The story continues …

Chapter II

We are now in a rethinking phase, planning to resume the action plan in 2021 with a question in mind: How might we make the designed system work in a post-corona world?

Connect with us to learn more about the project.

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