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The Golden Rules of Sales Meetings

If the mortgage sales manager is the most critical position in terms of developing a team and growing local market share, then the mortgage sales meeting is the critical vehicle. I have facilitated my fair share of sales meetings and sat through even more as an originator. Been fortunate to have some great leaders and equally fortunate to have some pretty lousy ones too! I learned a great deal from all. Ask the average originator to give an opinion of the average sales meeting and you will get an earful. A waste of time is the typical response. Our collective challenge—sales managers have a hard time sticking to the Sales Meeting Golden Rule. Those who have mastered the Golden Rule lead sales meetings that mortgage originators want to attend.

Sales Meeting Golden Rule
The Sales Meeting Golden Rule is quite simple since it is based on the classic 80/20 ratio. Keep your meetings comprised of 80 percent sales and 20 percent or less operations and office issues. Anytime I hear “housekeeping” it makes me shiver. All those salespeople sitting through a meeting reviewing memos that were either distributed earlier in the week or could simply have gone in mailboxes or e-mailed out to the team. We continue this time-tested, time-wasted practice principally because many originators don’t read memos and training materials. However, we should set the proper expectation, starting with the interview stage, that originators are required to read all memos and e-mails sent to them from the company. Yes, some will slip through, but setting this expectation and managing to it will begin reversing this practice. Reading these in a sales meeting is not only an ineffective use of their time, but those who actually do read the memos will stop doing such if they know they will be covered during the next sales meeting. Following the sales meeting Golden Rule is respectful of your originators’ time and creates a meeting environment more conducive to honing sales skills that will grow your team’s production.

Assuming you follow the Sales Meeting Golden Rule, I strongly suggest you have weekly meetings. Sales managers who don’t run effective sales meetings probably will question the weekly time commitment; I say give it a chance for one month. See if a more structured approach to sales management might not actually help you manage your time more effectively by managing your team’s production one primary time each week, rather than one-offs all throughout the week. The additional benefit is more focus on sales, which is typically followed by greater production. Alan Greenberg, former Chairman of Bear Stearns, is renowned for his unique memorandums to his employees. A collection of these unique memos is the basis for “Memos from the Chairman,” by Alan C. Greenberg. He found a way to make the most ordinary communication tool interesting. If he could do that with the memorandum, imagine what you can do with the sales meeting.

The 80 Percent Concept
This 80 percent segment of your sales meetings is what drives your success in the market. Yes, you may have a hotshot or two that brings in great numbers and doesn’t see the value of the old sales meeting, but your reformatted meeting following the golden rule will benefit your core team and those few seasoned professionals.

Most sales meetings start with the housekeeping segment to get that out of the way, then move onto the substance of the meeting. I suggest flipping this around and commencing with the sales portion followed by the housekeeping segment. Should you run out of time, the housekeeping segment is by far the most expendable. Another suggestion to keep meetings vibrant is to hold at least one outside each month. Why do we interview candidates outside our office? Why is it better to have serious employee discussions in a room with a round table rather than sitting across the desk from one another? The same reason we need to take our team to a different environment on occasion. We have their full attention in a different and more comfortable environment.

Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of the 80 percent:

  • Plan your sales meetings; winging it works for birds, but not mortgage professionals.
  • Have an agenda and keep to your time allotment, generally two hours or less.
  • Hold at least one sales meeting a month outside of your office, such as in the conference room at chamber of commerce (if you are a member), back room at a local restaurant, someone’s house or hotel conference room.
  • Don’t try to conduct each sales meeting yourself. Rotate facilitators between you and your originators. Assign topics or let them pick their own.
  • Rotate who brings snacks or breakfast. For example, requiring the lowest producer from previous month to bring the refreshments provides great motivation to succeed.
  • Go to your community library or go online and rent motivational videos. They have great collections.
  • Form your own “Book of the Month” Club. Pick a different book each month and give a copy to your originators. One suggestion is “Raving Fans,” by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Assign a chapter to your originators to present to the group at the next sales meeting. Your originators will also appreciate your gift and the fact that you are investing in their business.
  • Assign a product per week to a different originator to discuss and train other LOs in depth.
  • Invite spouses/partners to join the meeting at an appropriate venue. Have the meeting the first two hours then invite the partners to join in at the bar, bowling lanes, or other location. Have fun and be creative. People seldom leave a company solely because of basis points.
  • Create a Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune board and have a contest with categories like underwriting or products. Play the game in your sales meeting each week for a few minutes and give out a few prizes. Pick prizes that are business development related such as books, newsletter or magazine subscriptions. Make it educational and entertaining.
  • Invite a top producing Realtor or builder to come in and discuss what he/she looks for in a new originator.
  • Role-play effective sales calls and phone inquiries. This could include how to turn rate shoppers into buyers, how to sell against an option-ARM, how to sell points and other topics.
  • Start a file of articles and clippings that you can discuss in sales meetings. Pick a topic each week to focus on and discuss. Make it easy for you to find material for your meetings.
  • Zig Ziglar espouses on the value of scripting as one of the keys to selling excellence. Introduce scripts to your sales team by coming together as a group and composing scripts for objections like, “your rate is too high” or “your fees are too high.” Get all to agree and then memorize them.
  • Invite a CPA or divorce attorney to discuss leads and the best way to build relationships with these professionals.
  • Have the group come up with a sales contest and implement the contest.
  • If your team supports bank branches, periodically invite bank department heads to discuss their areas and how to cross sell more effectively.
  • Ask each originator what calls they made last week, what they have set up this week and what is on their schedule for next week. Be very specific so no one can hide. This is the best exercise in which to predict short- and long-term success.

The 20 Percent Segment
Use this time to discuss important operational issues within the office or company. Don’t review memos you recently sent out. However, if the topic deserves additional discussion this is the proper time. I realize some will say eliminate this portion all together. I have tried that but I just don’t that that is realistic with all we juggle on a weekly basis in our offices.

I once had a sales manager who would allow IRS representatives to visit our sales meetings to speak on the tax code as long as they brought bagels. Drove us crazy. Invariably, it was a closing agent or attorney no one ever would use who would feed us, talk about why we should use their company and leave after 30 minutes or so. Well, that is a big percentage of the typical sales meeting. I tried a different tactic as a sales manager when approached for time in my meetings. I asked the vendor to partner with my originators first and then I would put them on my schedule. I even coached many of them by suggesting they partner with specific new originators by setting up appointments with Realtors or builders with whom they had relationships. Nothing is more effective than a warm referral. If they proved they could help us build relationships and grow our business, I would gladly give them face time in my meetings.

By investing the time to have well planned and designed sales meetings, you will realize multiple key benefits. Your team’s production will grow. Your retention rates will increase because your people are more successful. Your quality of life will improve, as you are managing with a plan and I bet you find yourself with less management headaches. Your recruiting will be easier because increased production and retention is a powerful ally on the street and competitors will take notice and so will their originators. Plan, implement, be creative and have fun and then watch your team’s production take off.

By A. Blair Glenn