Do Your Originators Sell as Teachers or Leaders?

Today, many sales training firms advise originators to adopt a “teaching” sales model as a way to win with a more knowledgeable customer. While this seems like a logical, reasonable approach, the sales process can be anything but. Therein likes the rub. Let me explain.

Originators who operate as teachers believe that if they simply give prospects enough information about their company’s products and services, they will earn the business. Unfortunately, this sales model isn’t a match for what is needed to succeed in a marketplace where the customer’s buying journey no longer follows a linear progression. In a world of unlimited information, customers and prospects want a sales leader.

A sales leader is an originator who takes control of the sales process and leads the individual or referral source to a conclusion. Sales leaders help prospects evaluate their options; select the best choice based on the prospect’s current circumstances; and ask for the business.

Sales leaders are also forward-thinking and recognize that there are more potential matches if any given prospecting effort doesn’t work out. That is why better originators are committed to prospecting consistently so they don’t waste time and have no business to show for their efforts.

This is not to say that the teaching model has no place in selling. However, providing valuable information to prospects and referral sources comes in at an earlier stage in the buying process than in the past. During the building awareness phase of prospecting, sales professionals deliver important information to individuals who have not yet thought about buying a home. In this phase, originators address why consumers should buy a home and what the process looks like.

It is helping consumers become aware of housing finance options and to spark interest in pursuing the dream of home ownership. But, once the interest has been generated, the sales leader needs to take over and control the selling process for the prospect and not vice versa.

The “teacher originators” fail to recognize that more information won’t resolve the fear and anxiety prospects may have concerning the purchase of a home. Originators must ask, “Does this transaction make sense for the individual considering the prospect’s stage of life and unique circumstances?”

Uncertainty and fear of making the wrong choice are a few of the reasons why customers want leadership from a salesperson. Waiting for prospects to make a decision on their own is not what professional salespeople do. This passive sales approach is characterized by a lot of meetings and discussions, but no decision on whether the prospect will do business with the originator. As one manager recently observed about one of his originators, “He is friends with everyone in his territory and is very popular but he isn’t willing to take a stand and ask for the business.” As a result, this originator is on probation. In my opinion, this producer is a professional visitor, not a salesperson.

There is no question that today’s mortgage marketplace is difficult. The external issues of rising interest rates, housing inventory problems and cost-to-originate increases are certainly challenging. It is clear that companies who want to succeed in the long run will need to improve production across the board.

Originators who can take control of the sales decision process for the consumer can make a difference in your sales results. Top producers who are sales leaders routinely generate more than eight units a month while most originators only manage two units a month.

So, how can managers increase the number of sales leaders in their organization? There are two strategies that are core principles for future success:

  1. Hire the right sales candidate. Not every candidate has the right personality characteristics to be successful in mortgage selling. Prior experience and education do not translate into selling origination success. My company has identified nine personality traits — a combination of relationship and drive behaviors — that predict sales success in our industry. No amount of training will produce these traits in candidates who are not matched for the originator position.
  2. Coach and develop these originators. For individuals who possess the right sales behaviors, coaching and developing them is your best investment. Selling has changed dramatically in the last five years which means learning new selling behaviors is critical.

Experienced originators may be stuck in their comfort zones or just plain refuse to learn something new. The low usage of Day One Certainty and many other technological systems is proof that many originators are resistant to change. Hiring the right individuals who want to learn new ways of selling is the key to improving origination results.

Clearly, these two strategies require a more robust talent evaluation and interview process than what is currently in place at many mortgage companies. While the downsizing of the industry continues, there will be a lot of originators available for hiring. Don’t make the mistake and hire “teacher” originators instead of sales leaders.