Sales Management Starts With Selection Process

Most of us have read hundreds of articles on sales management and attended a seminar or two focused on this critical topic. I’d also imagine most of them were very worthwhile. However, it never ceases to amaze me how many mortgage sales managers will only attend a seminar if their company suggests it or pays their way to attend. If you have not personally invested in your career and attended a mortgage sales management seminar, now is certainly the right time. Mortgage sales managers truly earn their compensation in declining markets, and those who can’t adapt will be “outed” by a slow decent on their company’s ranking reports. These articles and seminars will typically focus on how you will hold your originators accountable through goal setting, inspecting what you expect and various other well-recognized sales management practices. However, I suggest that unless the average mortgage sales manager changes his or her approach to hiring, we will continue to be plagued with these challenges and high turnover in our industry.

“Recruiting” and “Retention” are two of the most frequently spoken words in the mortgage industry today. Often, our retention issues are primarily two-fold. Good originators leave to go to the competition and weak originators do the same or get out of the business. So rather than focusing on managing our originators once they start dropping down the production reports, I would like to concentrate on avoiding our future challenges, thus increasing our retention rates. And yes, it has a lot to do with recruiting.

Doug Smith, my friend and fellow M.O.M contributor, recently conducted a sales management and recruiting session for the sales leaders of our company. One of the messages we came away with was the term “recruiting inference.” Doug described it as tailoring your interviewing questions to get the answers you want to hear from the candidates you immediately like. How many of you have done the same thing? Sharp candidate, great suit, very professional, strong vocabulary and simply very impressive—all things you have formed an opinion on prior to asking the first in-depth question. We see it with reports every day. A big celebrity is in the chair and what do they ask them, controversial questions or fluffy ones? A fluff question: “Don’t you think it is important to invest in your business through marketing and database management?” Do you think you would get better information if you worded it like this: “Can you give me a few examples of how you have invested in your business over the last 12 months. What did you do and what were the results?” Everyone reading this will agree the latter question will result in better vetting of the candidate. But in an interview setting with the picture-perfect candidate, most of us forget to take charge and conduct a thorough, probing interview. The following are some questions that are designed to elicit more information from candidates, thus helping you make a more informed hiring decision.

Application and Closing Volume
You want to understand the candidate’s production numbers and which products they use the most so you can ensure a fit and also avoid a slower ramp-up period. Questions:

  • Let’s talk about your current and most recent production numbers. How many loans have you closed YTD and what is the dollar volume?
  • What was the lowest closing month you had recently and what did you close? How did you react?
  • What are the top five products you sell on a consistent basis and why do you personally sell them?

Referral Sources
You want to know if they know where their business comes from and if they have developed relationships that will carry over to your company if they are hired. If you can’t get comfortable with understanding how the candidate develops relationships, I suggest you pass unless you are hiring for an inside or captured position. Questions:

  • Give me a rough percentage breakdown for your sources of business, such as Realtors and builders.
  • Let’s discuss your closings for last month. How many units and what was the volume? Tell me the source for each loan. If it was a referral, why did they send it to you?
  • What was the biggest mistake you have made on a loan that was referred to you by one of your better sources? How did you handle it, what was the outcome and do you still work with the source?
  • What segment of your business (Realtor, builder, captured, affinity, past clients, etc.) would you like to see have the largest percentage increase? Why and how are you going to achieve it?
  • What Realtors are currently working with you and how did you start? What type of business and amount of closings does each have?
  • Let’s role-play a minute. I am a Realtor, you are the originator. You just convinced me to go to lunch with you and we are at the table. Tell me how you would handle going forward.

Work History
You want to go company by company and find out why the person joined and then left each one. Look for patterns. If the candidate complains about their underwriting or processing, be sure to ask for specifics. Questions:

  • I see on your resume you were at ______ company. Why did you decide to go to that company and why did you leave?
  • What are you personally most proud of in your career?
  • Who was your favorite manager and why did you like working for him/her?
  • What was the best coaching a manager gave you and what was the result?
  • What was the most difficult obstacle you encountered in your job and how did you handle it and what was the result?

Getting To Know Candidates
Your goal is to understand the work ethic, the drive and motivation, the ethics, and the type of employee you will have once they start working for you. Questions:

  • What are you most proud of outside of work?
  • In high school or college (depending on the candidate) what organizations or clubs did you belong to? Which one did you enjoy the most and why?
  • What organizations do you belong to today and how do you participate?
  • Describe a time when someone in your office did something unethical. What happened and how did you react?

The average mortgage sales manager spends far too much time trying to grow $8 million producers to $12 million originators. The most effective and productive use of your time is growing $20 million producers to $40 million originators. Not all candidates can achieve this level, even with the best training, coaching, products and price. It is up to you to determine if the candidate has the traits and characteristics to achieve these levels. Being relentless with probing questions during the interview will make your role as a sales manager easier and more enjoyable, and increase production and decrease turnover.

By A. Blair Glenn