Every salesperson has personally experienced how dramatically selling has changed in the last five years. Prospects don’t answer their phones or respond to emails as they once did. This is a daily fact of selling life and is very frustrating, especially for veteran originators. Considering the difficulty accessing prospects in the current marketplace, it is clear that the days of the salesperson as keeper of product and service information are over.
When deciding to make a purchase, the first action steps most consumers take is to search for details and product reviews on the Internet. Even after the purchase, buyers look at online comments to confirm that they made the right decision. Even when an individual goes to the doctor for an illness, the patient will often check whether the doctor gave the right diagnosis and prescriptions!
This skepticism impacts sales professionals in all industries and makes being an originator challenging. Lenders large and small are under the microscope to deliver what they promised. Consumers no longer assume that what a salesperson says is true, accurate or in their best interest. They will double-check information online and will rely on the wisdom of the crowd or customer reviews to validate that they are getting the best deal.
The Problem with Telling and Selling
What should originators do to succeed in such a difficult environment? Many sales professionals have just kept executing the same old selling techniques hoping that working harder will help them. Others have turned to sales training for better performance but haven’t seen results. Why does this happen?
Unfortunately, many sales training programs have not kept up with the times. More often than not, providers are teaching some version of the traditional “features and benefits” approach. This sales model has been around for the last 100 years with a few minor changes along the way. Sometimes it is called needs-based selling or solution selling but at its core, it is “telling and selling.” In other words, the salesperson is providing product information and then pressuring the prospect to buy.
In mortgage origination, salespeople tell consumers how the mortgage process works and how to qualify for a loan. The reality is that all of this information can be found via a quick Internet search. Loan officers might try to distinguish themselves by emphasizing how large their lender is or how great their products and services are. However, for most consumers, one originator seems the same as the next and the transaction becomes only about price.
Some lenders claim that they have more integrity than their competitors and that they really care about their customers. This is a hard sell when the loan closes and the lender’s only customer outreach is occasional anniversary card. Instead, consumers think, “If I am going to get poor service at least let it be at the lowest price.” This makes sense to me.
Poor customer experience is the beginning of the end for lenders who must wait until a refinance market to be profitable because their customers do not feel they have a real relationship with the company.
The way for lenders and originators to move forward in the digital age is to change the selling model. This involves more than adding AI to a lender’s computer systems. In his excellent book, “Zero Resistance,” author Harry Mills says that every part of the sales presentation has to be revised. He recommends that “a seller should use self-persuasion techniques where (prospects) find their own reasons for buying. Self-persuasion techniques are the answer to winning the trust of today’s skeptical customers.” Mills discusses in depth what this looks like and how to implement these practices in a sales force. I highly recommend that sales leaders read it.