The Number 1 New Year’s Resolution for Senior Managers

As 2014 comes to a close, many managers feel it is a year they don’t want to repeat. With fairly stable interest rates projected for most of 2015 and a more positive consumer outlook tied to lower unemployment rates and declining gas prices, the year ahead may be better for the U.S. economy. As senior management teams look to the new year, it makes sense to discuss the best companies’ sales practices.

In my conversations with executives, I see two common scenarios: companies with great strategies but an inability to implement them; and companies with average strategies and a coherent alignment of sales, operations and marketing that they execute well. The first group seems to be stuck in perpetual strategy sessions but don’t have much to show for their great thinking. The second group may not have the best strategists, but they have their act together and can deliver an excellent customer experience throughout the organization. It is no surprise that companies in the second category are consistent winners in mortgage origination. How do they do it? Their sales managers are all on the same page. Let me explain.

As all industry leaders know, companies don’t execute strategy, people do. In his excellent book Aligning Strategy and Sales, Frank Cespedes states that the total performance of all activities of any company is by definition a culture. The primary drivers of culture are sales managers who shape their organizational environment via hiring, selection criteria, performance expectations and development. Simply put, sales managers are the means by which the core levers of sales and strategy align.

If sale managers are so critical, why are there so many poor sales managers in mortgage origination? Part of the problem lies with our industry’s practice of promoting great sales people to sales or branch manager positions. Our proprietary research on the competencies of managers reveals that top producers are task-oriented doers, not necessarily skilled coaches of others.

The transition from one to the other can be difficult. Where the producer’s day was once filled with selling activities, as a new manager, the individual must now handle bureaucratic activities such as constructing budget projections, motivating staff to use new technology to prospect and updating senior managers on market changes.

As Cespedes observes, the difference in the roles is significant: “A good salesperson closes a deal, makes a commission and moves on to the next deal. A good manager sees the bigger picture and can judge the best way to use resources—human and financial.” In many ways, it is true that new managers have to unlearn attitudes and habits that they developed when they were only responsible for their own performance. As managers, they have to examine issues in more holistic ways; discover and use new measures of success; and draw on different sources of personal satisfaction that are not based on closing transactions.

While 2015 may be a more positive year for the mortgage industry, it is clear that companies with the highest number of great sales managers will be the winners.