Happy Ears Syndrome and How to Cure It!


Anyone in mortgage banking can attest that origination is not for the faint of heart. Like many other industries, our business is cyclical which means LOs must endure the inevitable ups and downs which can be an emotional rollercoaster.

So, when a prospect seems receptive to a sales pitch, it is understandable that LOs might believe a transaction is imminent. Being optimistic is a key trait of all good sales professionals but being too optimistic can have its drawbacks.

When a good conversation with a prospect does not translate into a sale, originators often wonder what went wrong. Happy ears syndrome is the culprit. It occurs when originators falsely assume that a commitment to do business has been made when it hasn’t.

Just because a prospect and a seller have a good conversation is no guarantee that the sale will happen or that a referral source will be willing to add you as a lender.

The issue? The salesperson hasn’t qualified the prospect thoroughly enough to discover the individual’s potential objections which might hold back the sale.

While everyone likes to hear good news, originators must be careful not to count their commissions before the buyer’s home finance journey is done. In today’s more difficult market, this is an easy mistake for originators to make during pipeline reviews.

When business is robust, happy ears syndrome is still a factor, but the ramifications are less impactful because volume is plentiful and it doesn’t matter as much if a transaction will not close. But now, when every mortgage loan matters to a lender, if originators stop prospecting because they believe they have already hit their personal goals, they may be in for a rude awakening.

Preventing Happy Ears Syndrome

Happy ears syndrome happens when originators fail to ask probing questions during their interactions with consumers. By not asking the tough questions, LOs assume that they hit it off and that everything is OK when in fact, the potential buyer is not yet sold and was just being nice or pleasant.

When I’m conducting sales reviews, originators will often tell me that they really felt they had built a connection with a prospect and will cite the long conversations they shared. While it is great to have in-depth conversations with prospects, unless originators asked hard qualifying questions, they cannot count these consumers as viable prospects.

In addition to asking tough questions, originators can prevent disappointment by actively listening during their consumer interactions. Did producers dig deep enough to discover the prospect’s goals and dreams? Did they understand the maximum payment the prospect is comfortable with? Did they present at least three options and let the prospect select what works the best for them? Did the customer speak 80% of the time or was the originator doing all the talking?

If originators mishandled the consumer interaction, it is no surprise that there is a disconnect between what producers thought happened and the reality that a prospect wasn’t sold. This is a loss for sales professionals and their lenders.

Fortunately, happy ears syndrome can be cured!