Casey Cunningham of XINNIX on Why Today’s Mortgage Downturn is Best Time to Upskill

Casey Cunningham is CEO/Founder of XINNIX, The Academy of Excellence, a leadership and sales performance company based just outside of Atlanta. XINNIX has helped thousands of brands build companies that people want to be part of—translating into more disciplined operations, motivated staff and increased revenues. The intensive XINNIX SYSTEM of training, accountability and coaching has enabled participants from thousands of companies to improve sales productivity by an average of 40%. Contact XINNIX here or at 678.325.3500.  

MBA NEWSLINK: The mortgage industry is going through a rough patch, to say the least. Why is now the best time for lenders to rethink sales strategies?

Casey Cunningham

CASEY CUNNINGHAM, XINNIX: “Time” is the operative word. Right now, with volume slowing down, lenders finally have the time to focus on building their businesses, evaluating what strategies are working and not working, and ultimately determining how they can move from good to great.

Two years ago, when mortgage companies could barely keep up with the volume of purchase and refinance originations, success was evident and largely based on market conditions. This slowdown is shining a light on the gaps in lenders throughout the country. Those who want to thrive in this industry will see the downturn as a time to lean in, retool, and innovate their approach to sales to improve performance—now and in the future.

NEWSLINK: What kind of training—and retraining—do sales professionals need during this period?

CUNNINGHAM: In XINNIX’s 20+ years within the mortgage industry, we have found that the majority of loan officers haven’t received formal training in the fundamentals of business development. This lack of training is more obvious when the market turns and it typically separates those that can adjust and those that can’t. This is the ideal time to train as the Loan Officers are leaning in to learn. They are typically eager for guidance on how to segment and engage with the potential borrowers in their database, how to sharpen their expertise in strategic business planning and ultimately gain a process on building strong relationships with great referral sources. All of these are skills that can and should be taught.

What kind of training do sales leaders need?

CUNNINGHAM: Sales leaders are responsible for the production, growth and retention of their teams. They ultimately should be masters of leading their team members to dominate their markets while also recruiting top talent to join them…regardless of market conditions. 

Our industry has often promoted great producers into the role of leadership without any directives or training. These managers are quite often asked to balance their own personal production while also motivating and driving their team’s growth. Quite often these leaders are not aware of the significance of their role in engaging their team members. Being able to engage and motivate other people is even more important in these tough times. Not every leader is naturally hardwired for this, but they can build these skills that can gradually become strengths. These leaders must be trained on how to remove fear, uncertainty and doubt in the market.

To improve their production and engagement, leaders need softer skills like emotional intelligence and the ability to be vulnerable, empathetic and transparent. With this foundation in place, they’ll be even more effective mastering other critical sales-oriented skills like business planning, goal setting, and communicating with their team members. The skills that are of the highest priority in this market can be trained:

  • Recruiting: In one recent workshop XINNIX observed, 17 managers who had just been retrained got 30 new recruiting appointments within 15 minutes.
  • Retention: When loan officers are confident they can continue to grow, they will remain loyal to their leaders. When they lose hope and believe that their leaders are holding them back, they’ll move elsewhere.

NEWSLINK: When you work with a company, what do you evaluate first?

CUNNINGHAM: Asking the key questions necessary to determine the feasibility of success in achieving their goals is paramount to the relationship:

  • Where is their organization now and where do they want to take it?
  • What are the minimum production and performance requirements to get to that next level?
  • Are sales leaders equipped to reach these desired milestones, or do they need additional training?
  • How amenable will they be to this process?

What about their sales teams?

  • What gaps might training be able to bridge?
  • Do some team members need to be moved into different roles to account for a changing sales environment?
  • And will the current corporate culture help bolster everyone’s performance, or does it need some refinement as well?

NEWSLINK: Is it easy for you to identify elements to improve?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes; absolutely as we have had the privilege of serving thousands of companies. In every mortgage company, individual success depends on mastery of several fundamental skills.

For sales professionals, these are defining relationships, developing contact management plans, being fluent in every aspect of the mortgage process, exhibiting consistent discipline, raving fan service, and communicating effectively with clients and referral sources.

For managers, the skills include leadership, planning, risk management, recruiting, training, coaching, and ultimately driving results.

When we walk into a company, we identify the gaps that exist in these key areas and develop customized training programs to bridge them.

NEWSLINK: How long does it take to re-engineer a company’s sales strategy? Are there short-term and long-term goals?

CUNNINGHAM: Everything depends on the “three words” that are the true predictors of training success—“I Am Responsible.”

The more quickly everyone being trained assumes ownership for their individual success, the more quickly companies will realize their short-term goals. That’s why we recommend that companies make training a privilege, rather than a requirement. To retain that privilege, individuals must take full responsibility for attending every session and for executing critical assignments. These assignments drive results.

How quickly organizations reach their long-term goals also depends on the metrics they have chosen, the relative improvements they are seeking, and everyone’s level of commitment. A number of variables can be measured, such as new applications, additional closings, lead generation, and conversions. Sharing these indicators of progress company-wide can spur team members to come together to reach them even faster.

NEWSLINK: Where do you see the industry in the next year?

CUNNINGHAM: I review MBA’s predictions, as well as our clients’ forecasts. Lenders’ expectations vary widely. Some predict choppy waters for the next year or two. Others are more optimistic and believe that interest rates will improve in three to six months, leading to a quicker industry recovery.

Whatever happens, this is the time for mortgage bankers to reorient their outlook from one of pessimism to optimism. Companies that plan to just ride out the status quo may not make it. Those that see an opportunity to grow their market share by re-skilling and leaning in can achieve their vision. This is a market share game and the one who plays it well will win big in the end.

(Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect policies of the Mortgage Bankers Association, nor do they connote an MBA endorsement of a specific company, product or service. MBA NewsLink welcomes your submissions. Inquiries can be sent to Michael Tucker, Editor, at