Ignore Sales Superstars at Your Own Risk


Most sales managers contend that they want a company of sales superstars but in reality, they manage using a bell shape curve (normal distribution) with 80% as average and two sets of producers at the extremes — great originators and under-performers. The normal distribution model is used for determining pay, resources and rewards. The problem is that human performance in organizations actually follows a different track according to Herman Aguinis and Ernest O’Boyle, researchers who conducted numerous studies across many fields and found that a small group of elite performers dominate through massive performance. This is the same phenomenon that is prevalent in mortgage banking.

Are you surprised? I am not. In my consulting and training engagements, it is a trend that I see again and again — too much concern for average and below-average originators and not enough attention to the superstars. In fact, what I have witnessed is management actually ignoring the top producers under the premise that these individuals want to be left alone and not bothered to do their best. Nothing could be further from the truth. This falsehood is actually one of the primary reasons why better performers will eventually leave a company.

An implication of Aguinis and O’Boyle’s research is that elite performers are special and that their talent, drive and company fit are what make them successful. This reinforces that superstars need to be treated differently in all respects from management’s time to a resources standpoint. Dedicating a company’s resources to bring everyone up to average is not a smart strategy and fails to recognize that a company’s best ROI is always in elite performers. This translates into having a recruiting strategy that is always on the lookout for the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Too often in mortgage banking we seem to settle for the “Brian Hoyers “of the world hoping they will make the difference in sales results.

The reality is that while there are a small number of superstars in mortgage origination, pirating them from another lender can be a long and involved process. Certainly, an event can bring a superstar to market but as a whole, available originators are typically average or below-average. These originators have experience, but really are mostly comfortable in their selling and not willing to make the changes in their skill levels and prospecting efforts.

So how do you find the next sales superstar? A company must invest in rookies and cultivate them because inevitably in every class there will be a potential elite player—someone who will have an exponential impact on your company’s results.