In my consulting practice, I often hear managers complain about originators who are not calling leads when they are assigned to them. The interesting thing is that the amount of leads is not the problem for sales organizations, but the failure to work and close the leads that are available. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the number of underperformers in sales organizations is between 40 and 60% according to Stratmor. These producers lack the sales skills to reap the benefits of a mortgage company’s branding and lead generation efforts. Even more troubling is the annual research conducted by InSellerate that 50% of the consumers who visit a company’s website are never contacted by the firm’s originators. What a colossal waste of time and money!
Managers’ poor hiring decisions notwithstanding, it is obvious that underperformers need to change their selling behaviors. For many experienced originators, this means adopting a new selling model. This is where the rub comes in. When you look at efforts to train these individuals on new skills or selling models, they are the ones who are most resistant. What prevents people who clearly need to learn new selling skills from learning and being successful? Research shows that a lack of self-awareness is the culprit.
Self-awareness is about individuals recognizing the need to make adjustments to their behaviors and improve their weaknesses. There is no question that self-awareness is a difficult process because one’s identity is at risk. As an example, underperformers must ask themselves hard questions about what they are doing vs. what successful originators are doing.
If sales professionals can’t even ask this question, there is no way that training or coaching can correct what is really causing the problem. This is why many coaching or sales training programs fail — not because the content is poor but because producers are resistant to new ideas.
Lack of self-awareness prevents underperformers from recognizing that their effort, focus and commitment are not the same as those who are successful. Learning new skills is only possible after originators acknowledge the problem. Otherwise, originators are stuck in a cycle of complaining and blaming others for their poor performance. This is definitely self-deception of the highest order that is rooted in avoiding pain and anxiety.
What is the solution for underperformers and their companies? For individuals, it means that they must be willing to make the investment in personal coaching to address these difficult issues with a professional. For companies, it starts with hiring individuals who are self-aware adults.
According to University of Georgia professor Sharon Merriman, a self-aware adult is someone who has the following attributes:
• Independent self-concept
• Can direct their own learning
• Has lifetime experience that can act as resource
•Is a life-long learner: internally motivated to learn and not externally made to learn
The last attribute is key: Is the sales candidate a life-long learner?
How do you determine self-awareness in an interview process? Managers must ask behavioral-based questions that focus on how candidates resolved a problem that they had in their business or life. Life-long learners reach out to peers and experts to help them. They read books and white papers and have mentors. They are proactive in trying to resolve issues. Non-self-aware people don’t pursue any of these activities. They simply accept the situation as bad luck and blame others.
In today’s challenging marketplace, having a sales force that is willing to learn new skills is paramount. It all starts with employees who are willing to recognize weaknesses and commit to changing and learning.