What Our Industry Can Learn from the Olympics

Watching the 2014 Winter Olympics, I have been amazed at the athletes’ performances. Especially impressive is the amount of practice these star performers put into their craft. Many USA team members spend six hours a day or more practicing for an event that might take just two minutes in performance time.

Experts generally agree that it takes about 10,000 hours for someone to become accomplished at a specific skill. The investment in practice time is made with the goal of performing well when the pressure is the highest and performance counts. Succeeding in sales is no different. To be in the top 10 percent, you have to practice, practice, and then practice some more. There are no shortcuts in the Olympics or in selling. So, why aren’t practice and improving skills a top priority for sales organizations?

In my conversations with senior managers regarding sales training this year, many admit that training is the first line item to go when expenses are tight as they are in the current environment. When looking at the data revealed in a survey conducted by Culpepper and Associates, a leading sales industry research firm, the numbers are shocking:

• 87% of all sales managers have had fewer than eight days of formal sales training
• 98% of all salespeople don’t follow a consistent sales method
• 93% of all salespeople volunteer a price decrease without being asked
• 87% of prospect inquiries are never followed up by a sales contact
• 93% of all sales veterans have had no training in how to generate their own leads

In my view, the two that strike home for the mortgage origination industry are lack of a consistent sales method and no training in how to generate or self-source leads. In the recent refinance marketplace, these issues were masked because the volume was there. Now that we are in a purchase market and prospecting for referral sources is a top priority, a lack of consistent sales approach —especially in prospecting — is fatal.

I know there are those who say they only hire experienced top producers but our research shows that when a $15 million producer moves from company A to Company B, that producer will lose 50 percent of their pipeline. Then, the $15 million producer is really a $7.5 million producer who better have the talent set to replace the lost volume. Company B has now overpaid through guarantees for the new talent. Just like any sports team who brings in a free agent to their team, overpayment for ineffective talent can tank a team for a long time (just look at the current state of the Phillies) and it is not easy to overcome.
The time to install a consistent sales method is now. Call me to discuss what is working at the best companies.