How to Perform When the Stakes Are High

This past weekend, many of the Olympic trials were held to determine who will represent the United States in the Summer Olympic Games in Rio. I am always enthralled by the personal stories of the athletes and how so many persevered through difficult circumstances and succeeded. While only a few individuals can make the team—the best of the best — all who attempt it are to be admired. Consider that in gymnastics, only five athletes are selected for the team from a group of about 20 or so who compete for the honor of representing our country. The pressure to perform has to be off the charts.

When it comes to the Olympic trials, one poor performance can derail an athlete’s chance to fulfill a life-long dream. It made me think that pressure at key moments is something that not just athletes must face to win at their profession. While everyone experiences pressure to perform in some way, individuals who achieve the most are able to master it better than others. How are they able to do it?

In a great book by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry, Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When it Matters Most, the authors state “that no one rises to the occasion under pressure and does better than they do in practice. The reality is that pressure makes us do worse, and sometimes leads us to fail utterly.” These are strong words that have a significant impact on anyone performing in an important event. It underscores that being a winner involves honing skills (practice) that will translate into a successful performance.

I think that originators are the Olympic athletes of mortgage companies. On a daily basis, originators must find new customers, close the sale and keep the customer. Each of these tasks require an exemplary performance. Whether they are making a critical presentation to a potential referral source or customer, the best producers are able to make a compelling case and close the deal even if things went astray when they were presenting. In other words, these originators are professionals and they simply do not choke when it matters the most.

According to Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry, choking is when you perform substantially below your capability when you want to do your best. In the sports world, it happens all too often when the most is at stake. Who can forget the famous collapse of my Philadelphia Phillies when they blew a six and half game lead and loss the pennant to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964. Frankly, the city has still not recovered from this epic blow! More recently, the Golden State Warriors threw away a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers and lost the championship. Classic sports chokes.

In mortgage origination, the pressure to perform is tremendous but the path to success is doing the little things well which involves practicing how to execute a prospecting plan; delivering a presentation; and summarizing a value proposition on why the producer is superior to his or her competitors. Originators who wing these selling steps risk their current and future business — literally.

In my opinion, top producers appear calm, cool and collected because they are confident in their execution based on years of practice and improving their selling skills. They invest their time in getting better, recognizing that success is earned and not handed to anyone.