What Scrabble and Marshmallows Can Teach Originators!

In a recent Business Insider article, Mark Abadi discussed the difference between amateurs and experts in Scrabble.  He said inexperienced players don’t utilize the option to exchange tiles for new ones, thus losing the opportunity to improve future moves which may have higher point values. In essence, Scrabble experts would rather play the long game than reap the benefits of an immediate move. This concept of deferring gratification may seem counter-intuitive in today’s fierce business climate where winning now seems to be all that matters. But research has shown that is not correct. There is an important lesson for salespeople to learn here.

The practice of delaying gratification is not a new concept. In the 1960’s, Stanford University professor Walter Mischel tested hundreds of children (ages 4 and 5) in an experiment where they were given a choice. The bargain was if the child did not eat a marshmallow now that was available in the playroom while the researcher was out of the room, he or she would receive a second marshmallow. If the child ate the marshmallow, he or she would not get a second marshmallow.

What made this experiment famous was that the researchers conducted follow-up studies over 40 years and tracked each child’s progress in life. Mischel found that those who were willing to delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow ended up having more success in life. How can this be that delaying eating a marshmallow could predict success later in life?

The issue of delaying gratification is a matter of having self-control. Self-control (or a lack thereof) is central to understanding why people don’t reach their fullest potential. Case in point: Every day I have conversations with managers and originators on implementing sales training programs that would change their selling behaviors and generate more success. However, managers are quick to assume that the answer isn’t training but purchasing a new CRM or LO system to help originators organize their contacts and for companies to track sales activities. The reality is that if the manager had hired better sales professionals with the right talent set, long-term results would be far greater than the benefits of installing a new computer system.

Likewise, originators will mention that what they need isn’t training but for their lender to provide more leads and to have better pricing. These originators fail to recognize that their selling techniques are not a match for the current marketplace and that their skills need to be revised and enhanced to win in the long-term.

There is no question that creating loan demand is hard today and requires sales professionals to be on the top of their game if they want to win in a highly competitive marketplace. For a majority of originators, this means re-learning how to sell to today’s customers. Certainly, some originators can master new sales techniques themselves but most cannot do it on their own.

Unfortunately, implementing change involves making an investment now for the payoff down the road. Most companies want the originator to absorb the cost. In a tight mortgage market, originators feel that they can’t afford it. Similarly, the company can’t or won’t make the training investment either.

This is the quandary in mortgage banking right now. So what must originators do? Bouncing from one lender to another might work for a while but not all customers will follow you to a new lender. Originators need training to update their selling skills and the self-control and discipline to complete the hard work of adopting new behaviors. This isn’t about being motivated or entertained. It is more akin to installing practices that are required for earning a spot on an Olympic team.

If the originator is lucky enough to have their company make the training investment for them, great. If not, the originator must ask what sales behaviors need to change to improve their sales results. This is where a coach or mentor can make all the difference in the world.