Amid the COVID-19 global pandemic, where every day is unpredictable — coupled with extreme financial market fluctuations — it feels like being on a roller coaster without any guardrails. The best way to describe today’s financial marketplace is simply as an economic upheaval. This reminds me of the 1987 stock market crash when I was on Wall Street and the Dow had one of the largest declines on record. Traders were shocked and dumbfounded at what happened. It was a historic day that has only been eclipsed by recent volatility. The good news is the financial markets did stabilize and improvements were made to lessen the impact of future upheavals. One of the changes was the installation of circuit breaker rules which require trading to stop for 15 minutes if the market declines more than 7% from the previous day’s S&P 500 closing price. Our current challenge presents the same opportunities to learn lessons and modify business practices.
Once this crisis passes, the issue for lenders and their originators is whether they will restart their business and operate as they did before or reset and chart a different course. Essentially, sales leaders must ask themselves, “Are you going back to what you have always done or is it time to implement a different sales model?”
While I’ve discussed the sweeping changes in the retail environment before, I believe the buyer’s purchasing journey will shift once again after the pandemic is over. Lenders not bold enough to make the changes needed to their sales models to match marketplace conditions will lose out to companies who will adapt as needed.
Emerging Industry Trends
In my opinion, there are several emerging trends that merit attention as we move forward:
- With the prevalence of social distancing and more employees working remotely, physical bank branches are not as important as they once were. For all lenders, having branch offices is a costly investment that doesn’t make sense as it once did. While the mortgage industry has become more centralized over time, this recent period of originators conducting business remotely will accelerate the move to reduce branch locations.
- The role of outside originators will be raised again because of new communication tools. Another important question that needs to be addressed: Are outside originators really outside sales professionals? Frankly, the term “outside originators” is a misnomer for the simple reason that referral sources such as Realtors aren’t in their offices anymore. In my experience, a large majority of outside originators are really inside salespeople.
- With prospects, customers and originators interacting remotely, it is clear that salespeople need to become more technologically proficient. More importantly, the sales team must be able to sell visually. Video selling skills are more than knowing how to set up and run a Zoom meeting. Today’s environment requires producers to present effectively and influence prospects. Whether it is conducting a webinar for referral sources or using FaceTime to speak to a borrower, video has its own techniques that need to be mastered. I believe originators will become more like QVC hosts in the future and will be judged on whether they can form relationships quickly and connect to clients in a video format.
- For senior managers, this trend may translate into incorporating video into their hiring process both as a way to connect with sales candidates and to evaluate the candidate’s video selling skills. In this case, prior experience won’t be as important, but how the sales candidate presents in a live broadcast scenario will be.
Although no one knows exactly how the retail environment will be post-pandemic, I believe lenders and their sales groups will fall into one of two camps. They will either be like Amazon, easy to use but with no social engagement; or like QVC in that they that form a community and are socially connected with their tribes of followers.
During these turbulent times, it is definitely time to reset, not restart!