As 2018 comes to a close, the most popular strategy used by mortgage companies to address weak production numbers is to hire more originators. This strategy of hoping that more salespeople will increase total production is mostly a disaster. For whatever reason, the gamble of going on a hiring spree is a risk senior executives are willing to take even though the data shows that it rarely works. Although the year ahead is projected to be a challenging one for mortgage banking, I expect this approach will continue to be used in spite of the fact that it is costly and can actually facilitate a faster decline for a mortgage lender.
In my opinion, a better solution to increase productivity is to enhance the selling skills of your current originators. Two critical questions that every executive needs to ask regarding their sales force are:
- What percentage of an originator’s day is actually spent selling?
- Are originators using their selling time effectively?
The answers to these questions reveal everything about a company’s sales organization and its productivity.
After conducting countless sales audits over the years, I have found that many originators are only spending a small part of their day engaged in selling activities. What are they doing with their time? Well, it runs the gamut from a lot of pipeline management to attending endless meetings and inputting data into CRM systems. The end result? Originators are interfacing with potential prospects less than 20% of the work week!
The primary function of originators has always been to interact with referral sources and prospects but an increase in administration duties over the years has tasked originators with serving in the role of compliance officers versus actively selling.
It raises the question of what we want originator’s job to be: A sales professional who can generate new business or an operations whiz who excels at administrative work? Too often, companies say they want salespeople but then burden their originators with activities that do not increase production.
The second issue centers on whether producers are selling effectively. As someone who works with originators and managers on a daily basis, it is clear to me that poor production is rooted in originators not having advanced selling skills that are a match with today’s marketplace. These originators might have been successful a while ago but their selling skills have become outdated.
Whether it is having a professional LinkedIn profile, using social media or reaching out to former customers, proactive selling habits will be mandatory for producers to survive more difficult times. Originators who are unwilling or unable to adopt new selling skills will be left behind.
For companies that want to successfully introduce and implement new selling skills, targeted training and development that can be tracked and measured is essential. Sales training that can’t be measured for effectiveness is a waste of valuable time and money.
In my own consulting and training practice, I require that clients support and participate in training efforts from the head of sales to first-line managers. If senior executives say they do not have the time, I will not do business with them because they are not willing to lead by example.
Changing selling behaviors takes not only a commitment by each individual salesperson, but also must be owned by direct managers and the leadership team. Otherwise, it transmits the message to originators that the training is not important to the company. Producers need to know that the company is genuinely invested in helping them become better sales professionals in order for training to be effective.
Good training can transform sales behaviors and is all about instilling consistent selling activities throughout the sales organization. The focus, commitment and the quality of the training is what will improve production today and in the future. Anything less will not accomplish what sales organizations need to serve today’s customers.