The Myths and Realities of Motivating Originators


During my webinar for Franklin American/Citizens Bank last week, a manager asked what he could do to motivate his producers in this challenging market. I get this question frequently and my answer is that managers can’t motivate others — originators have to motivate themselves. You can\’t motivate salespeople any more than you can empower them. This is why managers need to evaluate a sales candidate’s motivation during the interview process. (A pre-hire assessment can be an invaluable tool to identify key drivers for originators.) What good managers provide is a positive working environment where originators can motivate and empower themselves. This is not easy in today’s world where there are so many hurdles in moving from a refinance market to purchase money.

In extensive research on employee motivation, it is clear that every producer has different motivators and these motivators need to match and align with what a company is asking them to do. No single motivator is better than another but it is critical that managers recognize an originator’s motivation and manages each producer accordingly.

Once managers determine what motivates an employee, they must support that motivation through constructive actions. Many managers falsely assume that what motivates them personally should be what motivates others. Just as a manager’s selling style isn’t a fit for every originator, a manager’s motivation may not align with an employee’s motivation.

I think that it is fairly obvious that yelling at or humiliating originators in front of their peers has no place in the work environment. For the few managers who believe that this approach improves results, any changes in sales behavior will most certainly be short-term. A fear-based environment is toxic; the only tangible yields being high turnover and poor sales performance.

Creating a positive high-performance sales environment occurs when a manager provides individual training and coaching to improve the performance of each employee. A learning environment supports originators to make necessary changes in their selling techniques to match the demands of the current marketplace. As anyone who has ever tried to lose weight or stop smoking knows, changing deeply ingrained habits can be tough. Adopting new sales techniques is no different. But managers are tasked with supporting and reinforcing the new behaviors and helping each producer become a better salesperson.

Unfortunately, the producing manager model prevalent at many mortgage companies is not conducive to helping originators learn the latest lead generation selling techniques. Many producing managers don’t have the skills or the time to provide training and coaching development for every salesperson.

So, how can a manager provide a positive environment for their originators? Here are three recommendations:

First, when hiring an originator, managers must make sure they have selected a sales candidate who has the selling skills to generate leads vs. someone who has a certain number of years experience in mortgage lending. As an industry, we overvalue experience and fail to select producers who possess the right selling skills and the willingness to learn new things. Originators who are leaving their previous lender because of pricing may be a warning sign that the producer can’t prospect and source new business.

Second, managers must take an honest to look in the mirror. Managers who are stressed or hate their jobs and are looking to retire, may send the wrong message to sales professionals regarding the commitment needed to make behavioral changes.

Third, just as a corporation’s goals can change over time, an originator’s motivation can change at different stages of their career. When was the last time that the manager sat down and had a conversation on where the originator is from a motivational perspective? Understanding each salesperson’s current motivations is essential in creating a positive environment for achieving stellar sales results.

I challenge each manager to do this exercise today: List your employees and write down the key motivator for each direct report. Ask originators to write down their own response and compare answers. The results can be eye-opening. After your discussion with the originators, review your approach and determine if you need to make modifications. This one exercise can change everything in your selling group.