In my job, I get the unique opportunity to ride in the field with quality lenders form all around our country. When I am doing so, I get to perform the best part of my job—actually conducting sales calls on Realtors, mortgage brokers or banks with my retail, wholesale and correspondent lending clients. This is becoming more of a trend as companies are looking for better, more consistent account penetration and understanding how to achieve this is the issue facing many lenders today. I will focus on how the training staff as well as senior management can put some ideas into play to develop a sales force that gets the most out of every call and captures a larger market share out of each relationship and account they are calling on. Sales is not just making the call, it is about understanding what each opportunity represents and making sure you are asking for as much as possible once you feel you have earned the right to do so. Let’s look at some key things to put this concept into motion.
The first question that needs to be addressed by the training staff and the management team is, who is our customer? Is it the brick and mortar establishment or the individual within the building? Today more than ever, it is paramount to a lender’s success to focus on the individual relationship within the account more than the company they work at. This focus will allow the originator calling on the account to properly identify and target key individuals and put a game plan into motion to satisfy their unique needs. The primary focus, therefore, needs to be on the number of working relationships one salesperson can effectively handle. With our customers in both the retail and wholesale distribution channels of loan generation, those numbers break down as follows:
Retail Between 20-30 individual Realtor-based relationships
Wholesale Between 50-75 individual originator relationships
Correspondent clients need to be addressed more from an account, versus an individual secondary marketing contact perspective.
The second question the training staff should put out to the sales force, is the identification of your current customer base complete and accurate? How many people are currently referring buyers to you or submitting loans to you in the past 60 days? Subtract this total number from the above minimum customer base target and that is their selling challenge for 2002.
The next training issue is the technique that the salesperson will need to achieve their goal of a better and more profitable working relationship with their customer. They must really re-think their sales approach. We become so comfortable with many of our existing relationships that we forget to continue to sell to them and therefore, business opportunities pass us by every day without our being aware of them and even worse, asking for the chance to look at that business. By far on my field travels, this is the most indiscretion I see in today’s lending world. The training department has an obligation to lead by example and get out in the field or make it possible for the management team to do so as this is where the “rubber meets the road,” and reviewing a pipeline report is not enough to manage your business. It is a reactive document that lulls organizations into a potentially deadly slumber that some never arise from—don’t let that happen with your staff. The tools to offer are these key areas of increased sales awareness:
- Create a questioning plan for your staff that they can use on existing customers. It focuses on taking the relationship from a friendship to a deeper business partnership.
- Utilize your company resources to bring in “added-value” to the relationship to strengthen it and solidify your working partnership. For example, provide open house fliers for Realtors or cooperative advertising; with brokers provide sales training or fliers for their customers that are professionally prepared to enhance their marketing efforts. (Be sure to follow RESPA guidelines.)
- The salesperson should be asking these key questions:
How much business are you currently doing?
Who are you giving your loans to? Why?
What would you improve with those lenders?
When we meet you business needs, what percentage of business will I receive?
The key to this process is opening the mind of your salesperson to ask more and more questions on every call and above all to take nothing for granted in their existing accounts. The business is out there; the question is, do you know who is doing it and are they working with you? Sales in not a complex process when it is done properly, lots of opportunity unfolds right in front of your eyes. Keep them open and you would be surprised how much your profits will increase.
By Dennis M. Black