Right now, sales organizations are heading into the final stretch to make year-end goals. While time is moving fast, it is not too late to look at what might be holding your sales team back from optimum performance. When conducting sales improvement audits, I see three primary reasons why a group is underperforming:
- Lack of sales activity or the right sales activity
- Lack of accountability
- Hiring the wrong sales professionals
While these factors are not necessarily a surprise, being aware of them and correcting them are two different things. Organizations tend to ignore these issues or believe that some new technology will improve the sales team‘s results. Here’s a closer look at each one:
• Lack of sales activity or the right sales activity. This is the single biggest reason for poor sales results. The reality is that if originators are not prospecting for new referral sources or customers every day, they will never achieve their sales results. The refinance market masked a lack of prospecting activity but that time has long passed. Today’s originator needs to have a minimum of 20 referral sources and that takes a significant effort to accomplish.
Failure to engage in the right sales activities is another factor in subpar performance. The right activities are efforts that have a multiplier effect. In addition to prospecting, these include ongoing training on the latest sales techniques. In my opinion, the Number One job for originators is to improve their sales skills — even if the company doesn’t pay for it.
Outdated sales skills are no longer effective in the new world of origination. An active social media presence is one of the ways salespeople can generate a more complete picture of themselves for potential clients. Companies that have had success with this approach include Academy Mortgage. Their social media strategy conveys that they do good in the world and stand for more than just housing finance. The simple fact is that if an originator performs the right activities he or she will be successful in any market.
• Lack of accountability. In today’s challenging marketplace, sales professionals must take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof. Accountability is all about a company or team having standards and meeting them. Standards go beyond hitting budget numbers and include the little things such as being respectful; showing up on time; being fully engaged in meetings and training; executing the company’s sales model and putting in the effort to be better individually.
Complaining, blaming or making excuses is unprofessional and should not be tolerated by any team or group regardless of the volume an originator generates. Too often, mortgage banking managers let the sales staff do their “own thing” and do not have any consequences for those who fail to uphold or meet basic standards. There requirements must be enforced for every originator.
• Hiring the wrong sales professionals. As a sales trainer and consultant, I am the first to tell management teams that training will not transform individuals who are not motivated to achieve or who are not a match with the mortgage originator position. Instead of investing in training on sales skills, managers should work on fixing the hiring process. When the hiring process is decentralized, the truth is that most managers have trouble hiring well unless a structure, standards and training are already in place.
The reality is that most customer service reps are order-takers who do not possess the behaviors needed to prospect such as having high energy, being a self-starter and having self-discipline. There is no training course that will instill these behaviors because they are formed early in life and either you have them or you don’t.
Selecting sales candidates who are not a good match for the company or the sales team can have a disastrous impact on sales performance. It has been estimated that bad hiring decisions account for up to 75% of poor sales performance. This can be corrected if leaders take a proactive, informed approach to the hiring process.
Also, in my view, great technology won’t save a poor hire. Just think about how many companies buy Salesforce and don’t use it. Sales organizations that fail to establish and implement hiring standards are unlikely to survive difficult marketplace conditions.
The time to address these issues is now.