What Works In Motivating Originators


In today’s tougher origination marketplace, managers are struggling to help producers switch from reactive to proactive selling techniques. Frankly, they are not having much success. In my consulting practice, I find that managers are often mistaken about what really motivates their sales professionals. Many assume that higher basis points, lucrative contests or president’s club trips to exotic locales are all it takes to keep employees fulfilled. The truth is that financial motivators rarely satisfy what good originators really want from their employers.  What does?

From years of research on the personality characteristics and best practices of top producers, my company has identified eight key motivators of originators (i.e., recognition/attention, control, money, freedom, developing experience, affiliation, security/stability and achievement). While money certainly can be a motivator, top producers are more likely to be driven by a desire to develop experience or reach higher levels of achievement.

To effectively manage top producers, the direct supervisor needs to first identify and understand what motivates each individual originator and then manage them accordingly. Using a one-size-fits-all approach will ultimately force high achievers to leave the sales organization in search of a better management fit.

In a great book by Susan Fowler, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work and What Does, she says that “one of the primary reasons motivating people doesn’t work is our naïve assumption that motivation is something a person has or doesn’t have. This leads to the erroneous conclusion that the more motivation a person has, the more likely she will achieve her goals and be successful. What a manager may fail to notice is that their sales reps are motivated differently. The science of motivation provides compelling evidence that sales reps have different types of motivation and that has major implications.”

Fowler further states that “after years of research we now understand the true nature of human motivation and how this can improve a leader’s success in getting the best from their employees. While there are many speakers/trainers who still espouse the carrot-and-stick approach, it is well understood in science that extrinsic motivation that places pressure to achieve results has been disproved.” In Fowler’s view “it is time to stop beating our people with carrots and sticks and embrace different and more effective leadership strategies.”

The initial step of identifying what motivates an individual originator is based on knowing each sales professional’s life story and history. A manager can use a pre-hire assessment or have personal conversations with the individual to determine the producer’s primary motivator. I recommend that managers ask questions during the interview process to determine if the sales candidate is a good match for the firm.

Questions such as, “Why do you like being a loan officer? Why did you get in the business?” and “Why do you get up every morning and go to work?” reveal a lot about where the sales candidate is mentally and emotionally. Once the manager has determined the salesperson’s primary motivator, he or she can use Fowler’s model of best practices to optimize motivation.

According to Fowler, optimal motivation provides the employee with autonomy (inviting choices); relatedness (deepening interpersonal openness and appreciation) and competence (emphasizing continual learning). These three psychological requirements are essential if the employee is to flourish. Frankly, the work place either facilitates or thwarts it. The main driver of whether the employee is optimized comes from their manager and what type of environment they make for their employees.

Some managers will argue that they are not there to fulfill their employee’s psychological needs and that all this sounds like mumbo jumbo. These managers are missing a great opportunity to obtain greater productivity from their employees by learning a science-based motivation skill set. Fowler’s research shows that good things happen when a person’s psychological needs are met: they are 10 times more engaged by their job; generate 37% greater sales figures and are three times more satisfied with their jobs. Just think what impact this would have on customer experience!

The bottom line, Fowler says is that “people are always motivated and the quality of motivation makes the difference.” The good news is that any manager can develop the skillset to truly motivate their salespeople. Are you ready to make that commitment?