If Nothing Changes, then Nothing Changes

Patricia Sherlock

 

In today’s volatile financial marketplace, lenders and their originators must position themselves as different from their competitors if they want to be successful. This reality is challenging everyone to abolish a “being average mindset” in delivering their services from prospecting to closing. Not doing so is a ticket to becoming irrelevant. Obviously, differentiating yourself from the competition takes time, creativity and effort; it does not happen by chance. If a company or originator does nothing different, then sales results will likewise be stagnant.

Implicitly, this means that trying new things must be part of an originator’s selling activities. This is a responsibility for both the company and salesperson. Whether it is redefining their competitive advantage to personal branding or upgrading selling skills, all issues must be under constant review in today’s difficult marketplace.  Too often originators think that being unique is only about having the best price. Obviously, this is a fallacy as shown by research and discussed many times in this blog.

The simple fact is that every sales organization has a certain number of individuals who will chart a different path from the other originators. These sales professionals work hard to remain top of mind with potential prospects, customers and referral sources. Many other originators fall into the category of “Waiting for Godot” sales professionals (who as we know in Beckett’s play never arrives) and do nothing different.

The recent NFL draft is a perfect example where teams have an opportunity to incorporate a new positioning strategy each year. Each draft gives a team an opportunity to change their personnel and adopt a new football strategy that reflects where the game is heading. For some teams it is about getting younger; for others it is about drafting players to fit a new paradigm. And still others elect to stay the same. The better sports teams realize that unless they make changes in their playing strategy and personnel, they will be left behind by their competitors.

Modern life is all about recognizing that success has a short shelf life. Yes, you can be great today but that doesn’t guarantee your success tomorrow. Even great companies like GE stumble and can hit rock bottom when they fail to keep current with today’s marketplace. The approaches that worked before do not necessarily work now. This is reflected daily in business: one day you can be a star; the next day you are not meeting your goals and must recalibrate. The time at the top is getting shorter and shorter.

When I speak at conferences, I generally show top ten lenders ranked by decade. Not surprisingly, rarely do the same lenders appear on the ranking list. Today, a decade is way too long to measure who has survived in the new financial landscape. It is more like half a decade or less. The timing issue is also reflected by how long originators stay with a company. Today, it is more like two to three years. Long tenures are fairly non-existent especially at the more senior positions.

The competition and challenges are too much for many firms. Typically, the failure is attributed to not adjusting to generational and technological impacts. In other cases, it can center on silencing any internal voice that speaks the truth about their companies.  Firms that are resistant have ossified and can’t change if their existence depended on it. In fact, it does.

Change is constant and unrelenting. For many lenders and originators, this can be an unsettling experience. It is like being on the Titanic every day and you can see the iceberg in the distance but you are hoping that the iceberg will miss you but you keep going on the same path.

What is the solution? Installing a culture of learning. Yes, the best antidote is incorporating learning as a requirement for all employees—top to bottom. If they refuse to learn, they should not be an employee. In many ways, successful businesses and continual learning have always been tied together. Originators who learn new things separates themselves from those who don’t make the effort to stay current in their skills and techniques. As Peter Drucker so wisely stated many years ago: “Today’s worker is a knowledge worker.” Someone who accepts that change is a given and wants to stay ahead of the game by learning new techniques is the type of individual all companies should be hiring. It all starts with discussing during the interview process what the candidate has done recently to keep current with today’s business world. If the answer is “nothing” that is all the hiring manager needs to know.

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