Why Having a Tribe Matters in Sales Success

Two weeks ago, another national lender announced that it was closing its consumer direct business due to unprofitability. The organization’s sales approach was to buy leads and try to refinance them. This marketing approach is expensive and as a result, the company couldn’t cover the costs involved with bidding for leads. Five years ago when refinancing was driving the mortgage business and margins were better, this model worked and made sense for anyone with an internet connection but not now. So, what does it take to win in today’s marketplace? Companies and originators must establish their own “tribes” and let them market for you. In a world where traditional marketing strategies are no longer as effective as they once were, this is not an easy task.

Why a tribe? Simply put, marketing has over-promised and under-delivered to the degree that consumers don’t believe the hype anymore. So who do consumers trust when shopping for a product or service? The answers are peers and friends. These individuals become part of a consumer’s tribe which can influence purchasing decisions. In this context, marketing guru Seth Godin defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another and connected to a leader and connected to an idea.”

In the past, a tribe was a community of families with blood ties that formed a group to perpetuate survival for current and future generations. People recognized that in a scary world where difficulties arose out of the blue, the chances for survival were better with a group than alone. Today, a tribe consists of like-minded individuals who are linked by their interests and values. From sports team enthusiasts to dog lovers, there are groups for nearly every interest imaginable. (Check out the Golden Retriever Lovers Facebook group to which I belong). This proliferation of tribes underscores an important point: Every salesperson has an opportunity to be a leader of his or her own tribe.

The surprising thing is that many originators don’t see this as their job or responsibility. These originators believe that the company is responsible for all marketing efforts and their only job is to slot a consumer into a mortgage loan. This misconception of their role is one of the reasons they are unsuccessful.

Similarly, originator who only define consumers by product classifications such as first-time home buyers or high-net worth professionals are also operating with an outdated sales model. In my view, these are not tribes but product niches which are too limiting because consumers are so much more than their income and credit score.

Successful originators market to a tribe. They don’t depend on the company to create the tribe. They see it as their job to align their interests and passions with who they target because they know that selling is a partnership when done correctly. They aren’t product sellers; they are tribe leaders. Not only is this smart business but at its heart, it is a long term strategy that makes origination fun and easier over time because your tribe will market for you.

How do you form a tribe that you can lead? Here are two concepts that are important:

It starts with identifying your niche and defining your brand position. This requires originators to ask themselves: who is your audience; what are their interests and where do they live online and offline. How do your interests align with those who you are trying to do business with?

The next step is understanding your alignment with your targeted audience and creating content that is valuable to them that matches and reinforces and deepens the relationship. The content can be delivered in many ways including blogs, articles, videos and pictures. There should be a mobile/social component because smartphones are such an integral part of each person’s life. It can be informative webinars, checklists and fun facts to know. The challenge for each originator is to build a like-minded community and give each prospect something of value consistently.

The part I love about professional selling is that the opportunity to lead a tribe is there for everyone and is only limited by your imagination.