What Separates Successful Originators from Others: Being a Permanent Beta

Last week on David Lykken’s “Lykken on Lending” podcast, I discussed what it will take for originators and their lenders to succeed in 2019. During the program, a listener asked what to do with employees who refuse to learn new selling techniques. At a time when many companies and originators are struggling, I get this question often. The problem is evident when you look at our industry’s low productivity numbers. The reason becomes painfully obvious when I am training originators on using social media to increase their brand awareness and prospecting efforts.

In my experience, a salesperson’s refusal to learn and apply new tactics rarely happens with top performers but occurs with average or middle-of-the-road originators. Time after time, these average or “comfortable” producers come to training and from the start, refuse to accept that origination has changed and that they need to change with it. Instead, these producers make excuses for their low performance with many placing blame on their lender. They might admit that today’s selling is more challenging and they are not making the money they used to, but they do not believe that they need to change their selling techniques in response to marketplace challenges.

Instead, average originators want the lender to have better pricing, easier underwriting or to give them an assistant. Many managers and their companies perceive that sub-par performance in producers is something training can correct. The thinking is that if these originators learn just one thing in training, that will make the difference in their sales results. This is not likely as any good trainer will tell you. Did Lebron James become a great basketball player overnight? No. He changed his game to match what was required to win championships. He consistently tweaks his skills and mindset to adapt to what the game requires. Originators are asked to do the same.

To be successful in any profession requires aligning critical behaviors with the mental mindset needed to deliver peak performance.  An individual who has a long track record of doing just enough to keep their job and refusing to accept that they need to change is not a candidate for training. These producers have become mentally complacent and will reject any effort to learn new selling techniques.

This refusal to learn anything new emanates from an individual’s lack of awareness and unfortunately, it can hurt the rest of the class that does want to learn and change. These producers can also be a disruption if they are constantly complaining and don’t participate as they should. My advice to lenders is don’t waste your training dollars on these originators. No amount of training will make a difference if an individual refuses to learn.

In addition to providing convenient and fast transactions, mortgage companies must have quality originators with the ability and willingness to be in a Permanent Beta Mode. Just as in computer technology or manufacturing, a successful product that was good at one time still needs to evolve to the next level or risk replacement by a competitor. It is a fact of life that nothing stays the same. That also applies to selling and mortgage origination.

It is not enough anymore for originators to be able to get exceptions to underwriting problems.  The originator is now responsible for getting in front of the customer and engaging earlier than they have ever had to before. This means that they must be savvy in using social media.

It is interesting to me that when social media is discussed, many average originators come up with a slew of reasons why they are not using it. However, in today’s selling world, social media is a critical component if producers want to expand their personal brand awareness. Those hesitant to use it need to recognize that what they are really saying is “I don’t want to tell my story through a more modern and updated version of the phone.” I can just imagine what it would have been like years ago when Alexander Graham Bell came out with the original phone. These salespeople would have said “It won’t last. I don’t need to learn how to dial!”

As I mentioned on Lykken’s program, the customer’s journey starts earlier than it has in the past and consumers are searching for valuable information that originators need to provide or they will not be top of mind when the consumer finally makes a decision to buy a house. When the originator is not top of mind, they are left with the scraps of pre-quals that have some issue or the pricing wars of irrational lenders. This reactive and passive selling approach might have worked during the refinancing boom but in a purchase money market with more sophisticated buyers, originators must be in front of who is likely to buy a home. Social media platforms are great tools to accomplish this. Failure to leverage social media in your sales efforts is a ticket to becoming irrelevant.

In my view, two things separate top producers from average originators: 1) willingness to learn new things and 2) the discipline to implement the new behaviors. These sales professionals have in essence, chosen to be in a permanent beta mode. Top producers set aside time to learn something new each day and commit to applying this new information to their work. For most salespeople, this means getting assistance to help them.

Winning in our new world of origination is available to all originators but the path to achieving success starts with recognizing that it is the individual’s responsibility to be willing to change and learn.