Bonus Content

Six Lessons from the Brokerage Industry

By John Chapin

Everyone wants an office that offers a positive, supportive environment conducive to doing lots of business. And while there will always be problems and differences of opinion, dealing with them swiftly, directly, and with respect and professionalism is key.

Early on in my sales career I was lucky enough to be in the top-producing office of a financial services firm. In that office we had the top two producers in the country, out of 1800. We also had three more in the top 20. Here are six elements of that office that made it No. 1 for the entire three years I was there:

No. 1: Our only job was to sell.
With rare exception, companies go out of business because they don’t sell enough and stay in business because they do sell enough. That premise was understood in our office and as producers our job was to produce sales. Almost all of our business was done over the phone and we were expected to make in the neighborhood of 200 phone calls a day—because that’s what it took to make the necessary sales. During prime calling hours—and most other hours for that matter—all we were doing was making calls in order to get the necessary number of prospects, presentations, and sales. We didn’t do paperwork, or anything else that could be done during prime calling hours. Everyone knew his or her annual, monthly, and weekly goals, along with their daily—and we did whatever it took to hit them.

Also, anything that interfered with sales was dealt with immediately and completely. If it interfered with selling, it was removed right away. We had great support people and systems in place to handle all the non-selling activities; sales was the top of the food chain, everything else was secondary.

No. 2: All key sales metrics were tracked and counted and the most important were displayed.
Phone calls were listened to and tracked and everyone’s call numbers were announced in the morning meeting. New prospects, presentations, and sales were recorded. There was a board that listed, in order, who had the highest sales numbers. It was updated every evening and displayed prominently where everyone—including all support people and even the cleaning people—could see it. There was complete visibility and transparency when it came to numbers and performance. There was even a “trophy” for the person with the combined lowest numbers for the previous day. Maybe this was old-school, but it motivated people not to get it and/or get rid of it quickly when they did.

No. 3: A push for excellence and continually raising the bar.
There was no such thing as good enough, you could always improve and do better and you were expected to. It was impossible to rest on your laurels because it was too competitive. If you stopped for a second, someone was going to pass you. There was always someone willing to outwork you and do whatever they had to do to be at the top.

No. 4: There was a team atmosphere.
Everyone supported and drove everyone else, pushing them to higher levels. A win for one was a win for all and a challenge for everyone else to up their game. The top five producers in the office were willing to share their presentations, answers to objections, and any other techniques or tricks they had to make sales. No one kept success secrets from the others and there were no prima donnas. Everyone helped one another, knowing that the more successful each of us was, the more successful we’d all be. We were one solid unit, helping one another win. It was a powerful and positive environment and it created a lot of energy.

No.  5: Positive peer pressure was encouraged.
Our office was committed to being super-positive. Negative people usually didn’t make it through the interview process, and on the few occasions they did, they either got positive or left quickly. I remember one guy leaving at lunch and not coming back because a producer told him: “Go to lunch and change your negative attitude or don’t come back.”  This was an environment in which you either focused on solutions or kept your mouth shut. There was zero tolerance for negativity.

Another aspect of the positive peer pressure was that it pushed people to work hard and do the right things. Because everyone else was working hard, you felt pressure to do the same. Because everyone ran their business the right way, you felt pressure to run your business the right way too. In short, the positive peer pressure weeded out negativity and poor work ethic, ensured all were committed; it also helped hold people accountable.

Lesson No. 6: Self-governing and self-correcting worked.
One of the most interesting elements of our office was that, for the most part, it managed itself. Attitude issues and other problems were usually handled at a peer level and rarely got to the point where upper-level management had to get involved. I remember a situation in which one of the producers was being particularly negative one day. It only lasted about two minutes because one of the other producers turned to him and said, “Dude, you’re being negative! Knock it off or go home! Understand!” Situation resolved. Also, if a producer saw another producer doing something wrong or making a mistake, he or she would immediately say something. It was like an internal check-and-balance system.

The bottom line is the office was a positive, supportive environment conducive to doing lots of business. It wasn’t Pollyanna, we had problems and differences of opinion, but they were dealt with swiftly, directly, and with respect and professionalism. Everyone was expected to contribute more than they took and everyone was held accountable to do the best job possible—and help everyone else in the process.

Chapin is a sales and motivational speaker and trainer. For his free newsletter, or if you would like him to speak at your next event, go to: John has over 29 years of sales experience as a number one sales rep and is the author of the 2010 sales book of the year: Sales Encyclopedia. For permission to reprint, e-mail:


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