Trusted Advisor to Banks and Credit Unions

Looking to Hire a Loan Officer? Top Four Traits of a Successful Salesperson

Whether you are looking to hire your next CEO, EVP of Commercial Lending, or your next Residential Loan Officer, separating high performing salespeople from mediocre performers can make all of the difference.

Let’s walk through a scenario:

You have an opening for a commercial loan officer.  You have posted the position on a couple recruiting websites, perhaps did some external networking and after several interviews, reduced the number of possible candidates down to a qualified few and are undecided on which candidate to hire.

Consider this list of qualities that separate a top performing salesperson from an average one:

  1.  Are they comfortable talking about money?

This seems like an obvious requirement, but a salesperson who simply takes orders is rarely the same person that you would hire to bring in new business.   The person that brings in the most new business should be willing to ask the customer or prospect uncomfortable questions about debt, income and expense, collateral, and any other topic. 

This same salesperson should ask very detailed questions about the compensation package- what happens if they hit goals, greatly exceed sales targets, and miss goals.  A person comfortable about money should not have a problem asking what the average loan officer made and what the highest paid loan officer made the previous year.

Action Item: Execute some role playing, with you being the customer coming in for a loan and see what questions the prospective salesperson asks you.

  1. Do they continually learn about the industry and about sales?

The most successful salespeople are listening to podcasts, reading books and attending seminars to continue to educate themselves on becoming a better salesperson.  Ask them what the last book they read, and what it did to help them improve their sales technique.  Did they pay for it or did their employer?  If they were self-motivated enough to pay for it themselves, you have a good prospect.

Now, think about your internal training processes.  Are you educating your sales teams on a regular basis?  Are you sending them to seminars about the banking/CU industry, trade shows within your customers industries, or sales in general? Do you provide a monthly stipend for them to purchase materials to make themselves better salespeople?  If not, you might not be offering the right work environment.

Action Item:  Ask the candidate about previous professional development.  Also, consider new processes or opportunities in professional development at your bank to increase sales.

  1. How do they educate and challenge their customer prospects?

Studies have been run for years developing categories for different sales styles (order taker, people pleaser, lone wolf, etc.), but you will find that historically the sales person who can both educate the prospect and challenge the customer’s perspective will consistently close the most business.

Is your salesperson presenting at educational seminars, sending out industry-relevant material to their client prospects, or writing for industry publications?  Can they provide a story where a client came in looking for one product and after some discussion, left with something completely different because it fit them better?

Action Item:  During the time of COVID-19 closures, consider new ways/tools to educate your members.  Webinars?  Zoom meetings vs. in-person? Ramp up the calls/interactions with customers to find the solutions they need for them quicker, better, faster.

  1.  Is your potential candidate goal-oriented?

Most of us ask goal-related questions during an interview; however, ask if they have met their quota in the past? Dig down a little deeper and ask about the sales pipeline.  Do they know how many meetings or phone calls produce how many applications and underwriting activity, and so on down the pipeline until it runs into a commissioned sale for them? 

If they missed their sales goal in the past (and we all have missed at some time), why did they miss and what did they do about it?  If they do take personal ownership rather than try to blame it on other factors, you have a good prospect. How did they perform the next period after missing?

Action Item: If they own their sales goals (good or bad), you want them!

Look at your current sales team, do you see these traits in your superstars?

Whether you are hiring your next CEO or your next loan officer, develop some questions related to these four items and see if they help you separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to hiring high-producing salespeople. 

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