Why the Gift of Gab Doesn’t Work with Today’s Customer

Patricia Sherlock

If you were to ask 100 managers about the most important trait of any good salesperson, 99 would say that producers must have the gift of gab. This singular characteristic is what often comes to mind when the public thinks of salespeople. From Alex Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross to Leo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, salespeople have been portrayed as dominant talkers who take up all the oxygen in a room and don’t let other people get a word in if they tried. The problem is that these “gift of gab” sales professionals are not a match with what consumers want — namely someone who will educate them about their home loan options and more importantly, to listen to them!

It’s not surprising that consumers want a salesperson who can cut through the clutter and help them make the best decision when financing a home. With the onslaught of robocalls, spam emails and other irritating marketing efforts, consumers are sick and tired of being interrupted by people they don’t know or care about. Unfortunately, many lenders still feel that the only strategy for successful selling is based on interruption and making the most noise.

The long-held industry misconception is that the salesperson who makes the most cold calls will win instead of taking into account the quality of the conversation with the consumer. The reality is that pounding out cold calls to attempt to fix production problems doesn’t make sense anymore. Yet companies are still enamored with the concept that the person who is the loudest will be the most successful.

For 17 years, my company’s industrial psychologists have looked at this issue and frankly we have found the opposite is true: low expressiveness is what matters in an originator. This means that individuals who are reserved and actively listen to their customers are preferred sales candidates.

Active listening is hard to do when selling s product or service. As all salespeople know, selling is a highly emotional activity.  If you believe that your product or service is the best, it takes a lot of willpower to control your excitement of finding a prospect who appears to be a fit. It is so tempting to conduct a monologue about how great your company is and how great you are and not really let the customer speak. The real skill is to stop talking and listen to customers share their goals and plans.

The one-way selling monologue is so common in retail sales that it is another reason why customers avoid interacting with a salesperson for as long as possible. Current technology and the rise of unlimited information on the internet is pushing the moment when a consumer needs an originator further away. With the advent of YouTube videos on mortgage-related topics and rating services that grade lenders and their salespeople, buyers have never been more knowledgeable. This shift to the buyer having all the power in the relationship is transforming all retail businesses including mortgage banking.

How can sales organizations succeed in this environment? The answer is listen to your prospects and customers. While this seems simple, putting it into practice can be tough especially after coming off of a highly transactional refinance marketplace where not much listening was required. Does your sales force have the higher level sales skills to engage and inform customers?

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