When Does a Training Investment Make Sense?


I often hear from managers asking about training their underperforming originators. With the marketplace shift to purchase money, leadership teams have put underperformers on their radar as they try to address lower volume. When the market was hot last year, underperformers were there but overlooked because refi volume was off-the-charts. Now, with a less robust market, underperformers can no longer be tolerated. This raises an important question: Is training the right solution for underperformers?

In my consulting practice, the first question I ask managers is, “Why do you think training will resolve the problem your underperformers are having?” At this point, managers are often silent and a little nervous or reluctant to discuss what is really going on within their sales group.

While it’s obvious that managers are trying to do the right thing for their sales force, a closer look at the main causes of underperformance is warranted before determining whether training can correct the issue.

Poor Sales Performance Causes

There are multiple reasons why originators fail to perform as well as their colleagues but here are the three main reasons I see for sub-par sales performance:

  1. The individual is a poor match for the originator position or lacks the ability to generate loan demand.
  2. The individual doesn’t understand the manager’s expectations.
  3. The individual is experiencing personal issues that are negatively impacting his or her job performance.

An argument can be made that all three causes are not something that a tactical sales training program can address.

Solving the Toughest Sales Management Issue

Employee underperformance is by far one of the hardest issues for managers to contend with. Managers who hire a poor sales performer are faced with the reality that they did not properly evaluate a sales candidate during the interview process and made a bad hiring decision.

Hiring mistakes often occur when managers rush the interview process, are desperate, or did not objectively listen to what the candidate really said in the interview.

A lack of ability for what is required in a sales position cannot be corrected by any training program. Providing mismatched employees with a training program on sales techniques has a weak chance of improving poor performance. However, if the manager intends to let the employee go, training does provide proof that the lender tried to help the employee turn around results.

A better course of action is to install a training program for managers so they can improve their interviewing techniques and avoid making hiring mistakes in the future.

While no training program can eradicate employee underperformance, skill training is appropriate for producers who possess sales talent and are coachable. Coachability is a critical factor in determining whether managers should invest in training for their underperformers.

Why Being Coachable Matters

Employees who demonstrate a willingness to learn are considered coachable. The best person to decide whether someone is coachable or not is an employee’s direct manager because of his or her daily interaction with the individual. Questions about a sales candidate’s willingness to learn should be part of the interviewing process.

What does coachability look like? Here’s an example: If the manager gave the employee a book or article to read, did the individual read the material or stow it away for later? If the employee reviewed the material in a timely manner, he or she is likely coachable. If the individual did not make an effort to review the material, he or she is not receptive to coaching.

Another example: When managers are giving employee feedback, is the individual defensive and blaming others for his or her performance? Or does the individual reject the feedback as “not correct?” These are other indicators that the employee is not coachable. Employees who are defensive will not be open to any training program, hence training to improve performance is not a good investment in these cases.

Finally, employees who do not perform any new actions after a coaching or training session are demonstrating that they are not coachable.

To correct performance issues, a manager’s best course of action is to hire better quality sales professionals.