Passing the Two-Minute Prospect Value Assessment

July 16, 2013

Well-known author Malcolm Gladwell, best known perhaps for his 2000 best-seller, The Tipping Point, has written about scientific research that indicates that positive or negative initial impressions are formed during the hiring process in just two-seconds. Moreover, these initial impressions correlate highly with the decision to hire or not to hire a candidate. According to Gladwell’s research, these impressions are based almost entirely on whether the candidate “feels right,” a basic, gut-level assessment of the candidate. But Gladwell qualifies this snap-judgment as an instinctive response to the question “is this person a friend or a foe.” I believe that in the recruitment of top-producing mortgage originators the same dynamic is at play—only in reverse. Top originators are constantly in demand by firms who would like to recruit them away from their current employers. I believe these top originators make snap-judgments within the first few minutes of a recruitment meeting relative to managers and the firms they represent. These judgments or assessments are based on perceptions of value.  Will this person recruiting me and his/her firm represent an overall positive or negative value to my business?
Let me give you a case in point. I was recently on the phone with one of our lender client’s executives discussing the fact that one of his managers was struggling to recruit successful producers in his local market. Having worked with this manager and attempted to place candidates with him, I knew that he had a reputation for doing little to support his producers. The executive asked me to define the problem as I saw at. Here is what I said in an e-mail response:
When a candidate meets with a manager, regardless of the manger’s title, the candidate’s bottom line perception is centered on value. What I mean is that key producer candidates are going to question whether or not they would get sufficient value from the compensation the manager makes on the candidate’s personal production.
The candidate is asking themselves the following questions:
►Are they adding value to my business?
►Are they inspiring?
►Do they lead or do they manage?
►Do we share the same values?
►Do they shield me from feeling pain?
►Do they have my best interest in mind or do they have their own agenda?
►If candidates don’t perceive quickly that the answer is “Yes” to these questions, they are going to go elsewhere and not feel like building a relationship with you is worth their time.
The exchange I had with this client became the basis of a new focus by this lender. The goal being to ensure that their branch managers, who are involved in the recruitment of originators, are focused on communicating value during the recruitment process and throughout their relationships.
Here are the most important points to keep in mind regarding first-impressions in mortgage producer recruitment:
1) First impressions are VITAL. The first moments of an initial recruitment meeting creates an impression that is difficult to change. All words you use and actions you take are being processed and a valuation made.
2) First impressions are a SKILL. You can get better at creating positive first-impressions if you concentrate on it and practice—both during role-play exercises and in live recruitment scenarios. Your goal is to convince the prospect that the value they gain from you and your firm is greater than that they are experiencing currently, and also what they want to do with their business in the future can be better accomplished—with tangible examples.
3) It's all about the PROSPECT. If you find yourself doing most of the talking or discussing your interests, family or career, then you are not listening and you are suggesting that your focus is on your needs. Working for a self-focused manager is not valued highly by top producers.
4) Prospect names and histories are IMPORTANT. It is imperative to know who you are talking to. You must know their history and how to pronounce their name to demonstrate you are genuinely interested in them. Be prepared, it suggests that you value their time and are serious about understanding what drives them.
5) Focus on what is POSITIVE. Never criticize people or your competition. Doing so makes you appear insecure and small. Focus on what is great about your firm. Top prospects value organizations with leaders that have vision and integrity, not firms with leaders focused on what is wrong with others.
6) You must be AUTHENTIC. Never attempt to be something or someone you are not. Prospects, particularly top producers, are excellent at reading people and will see right through any efforts that are not genuine. Producers and managers operating in a local mortgage market cannot get away with pretending to be anything but what they are. There are simply too many people around that know your true value as a manager.
7) Be prepared to provide EXAMPLES. Top producers value “show me, don’t tell me” folks. When describing marketing support, or operations capabilities, or anything else relevant to the prospect’s business should they choose to join your firm, be prepared to back up claims and assertions with documents, data, policies, testimonials and contacts who can back it up.
By focusing managers on delivering value to producers, lenders can expect better morale, better performance and better results from the recruiting process. In the two seconds to two minutes that a top originator prospect takes to form an initial impression of a manager, a firm and an opportunity, it is essential that you immediately and clearly demonstrate value.
Eric Petersen is a managing partner at Hammerhouse LLC, an expanding national recruiting and strategic growth firm for the financial services industry with mortgage sales and leadership placement at its core. He may be reached by phone at (949) 525-9408 or e-mail