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Title News - September/October, 2006

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September/October, 2006 - Volume 85 Number 5

Running Your Business
Don’t Lose the Engine to Lighten the Load!

by Darryl Turner

If your sales force is not producing, don’t let them go; find out why they are not producing and define their job descriptions so they can bring in more business.

In markets like this one, it is not uncommon to see title companies making moves, changing staff, and doing whatever they can to lighten their load to continue to make profit.
Since buildings and staff are the two biggest expenses for title companies, and your building is not something you can get rid of quickly, laying off staff seems to be the most viable avenue to take when cutting expenses.
When faced with this dilemma it is important to be able to answer a few questions. Who do you let go?

What Criteria Do You Use?
Think about driving your car up a steep hill. The hill gets steeper and steeper. Your car begins to slow down. It loses more and more power as the hill begins to look like something you are not going to be able to get over unless you make a drastic move. You must throw some things out.
What do you throw out? You could throw your luggage, but you know you will need a change of clothes tomorrow. You could throw the extra items brought on the trip such as food, supplies, etc. After thinking about it for a few minutes, you ask yourself “what is the heaviest thing in this car”? That is simple, the engine. Would you throw it out? Obviously not, because you realize the value of the engine.
Why then do title companies consider throwing out their engines (salespeople) when times get lean? At a recent event at The Title Institute we asked salespeople the same question. Their answers were quite varied, but the common theme boiled down to one of two things. Either (1) the sales rep did not produce new business or (2) the company did not have a mechanism to measure the salesperson’s success.

Where Do You Get New Business?
How do your sales reps produce new business? Many make the common mistake of trying to get more business out of their existing customers. The bottom line is that a significant business increase will never come from your existing customer base. In order for a salesperson to be productive, he/she only needs to be doing one thing. Selling.
Sounds simple, right? Let me ask you another question; what is “selling”? Let me first tell you what it is not. It is not the energy put forth to keep a current customer using your company. That is not sales; it is customer service or customer retention.
Selling is the act of acquiring customers that do not normally use your company. So, based on this, are your salespeople currently selling? Are they spending 80-90 percent of their day doing the single most important act that they can be doing? If your answer is no, then let me ask you another question. Since your desired growth will not come from your existing customers, what is your plan to increase your customer base and who will implement the plan?

Identify the Problems
If your salespeople are not currently selling, you must identify why. In most cases it is because they do not have a predictable system of sales to use each day that generates a constant flow of new customers. In other words, they wing it. The problem here is that when we lack a system and wing it, we will almost always resort to old fashioned methods of attempting to gain customers. We try to get them to like us enough to give us a try. In other words, we make the “relationship” our goal. That is another huge mistake.
If you went on a first date with someone and they told you that their goal for that evening was to form a deep and long-lasting relationship with you, I am going to guess that you would most likely run as fast as you could. The same is true in sales. Rule: “Relationship can never be the goal. It can only be a result.” When your people set a goal to form relationships with prospects, they will always end up forming the wrong kind of “ship.” They will not form a relationship, but they will form a friendship.
The way to tell if they have fallen for this trap is easy. Do they have prospects that they like and have lunch with that still use your competition? If so, they are guilty of forming the wrong kind of ship.
How do you remedy this? Sales people need to understand their customers’ business and give them sound advice on growing that business. If the customer is a Realtor®, give them advice to obtain more listings. A healthy business rapport will naturally evolve into an effective business relationship.

Shifting Your Staff Structure
If salespeople are to be selling the majority of the day, then who will keep the existing customers happy? The incorrect answer is, "the salespeople keep our customers happy."
Look at the defined lines (or the lack of defined lines) of responsibility of your staff. What should escrow officers (closers) be doing? How can an assistant make all the difference in the world? It is important that you clearly define what you want your people doing, and ultimately what you are going to hold them accountable to accomplish.
If a closer does a bad job on file after file, should a salesperson try to keep those customers? Ultimately if a customer wants to take his/her business elsewhere, it is almost always due to a poor closer-client relationship. I don’t have my friends take my wife to dinner to enhance my relationship with her, I must do this myself. Then why do we ask salespeople to solve relationship problems between two other people?
Lack of structure and systems will always result in the lack of ability to grow. Here is a simple breakdown of the roles and the specific areas that you must hold your people accountable for:
Salespeople: New customer acquisition Escrow Officers (closers): Customer retention; managing relationships with customers Assistants: Managing the tasks involved in the technical side of the file to allow the closer to have time to manage relationships.

Structure is Key
I started this article asking why we throw out the engine to lighten the load. Once you have the proper structure within your offices it will be easy to see who is producing and who is not and whether your team players know what their roles are.
As a leader you are in a position to realign your structure, put people in the right positions, hold people accountable, and make other needed changes to see your systems improve. Once you can clearly see your systems working then you can experience throttled expense control and the ability to predictably grow your revenue line and customer base.
Remember, put your people in the right slot, equip them, and work closely together to see your business increase in spite of what the market might be currently doing. Be careful not to throw out the engine to lighten the load!

Darryl Turner is a regular ALTA® speaker and a nationally recognized authority in the advancement of title companies nationwide. For more information about The Darryl Turner Companies, call 800-551-2946 ext 204 or visit them online at

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