Written by Lorraine Geraci, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

In the wake of major policy change, education in the reverse mortgage industry is more essential than ever. HECM professionals need to not only stay up-to-date on current rules and regulations, but also understand how the product’s audience has changed. The target market for this product has shifted, and the way we educate our sales teams must shift along with it.

Many lending institutions and NRMLA are providing increased education for sales professionals. Experienced trainers are crucial to meet these needs. The task of educating sales professionals can be extremely difficult in a world where priorities are changing and fires need to be put out. A trainer’s focus is often pulled in a million different directions. It’s a difficult job, and one that requires a special set of skills and a keen self-awareness.

Everyone Learns Differently

During my 24 years of training, supervising, and working in customer service and sales, I have been fortunate enough to meet thousands of people. Some were resilient, some creative, some distraught, some unhappy, some successful, some struggling and some inspiring. But they all had one thing in common: They were each unique.

One mistake some educators make is to teach, preach to, present to and train every student the same way. To avoid this pitfall, assess your classroom. Try to connect with each student individually. Learn what makes each student tick. What gets them jazzed? What makes John more passionate than Jerry? A good educator takes the time to assess his students before determining what the best educational approach is for them. It’s surprising how often this does not happen.

Get Personal

Good educators share the rewards as well as the bruises they have accumulated along the way. Many teach from a book or from articles they have read without ever sharing personal experiences or discussing work they have done that has led to success—or to disaster. I’ve found that personal anecdotes, good and bad, can humanize the teacher and help foster a stronger bond between teacher and student, creating a more open and productive classroom environment.

Remember, the Audience Has Changed

HECM specialists are not just dealing with older adults anymore—we are talking to other professionals, explaining the advantages of the reverse mortgage program to a variety of potential referral partners. The ability to comfortably explain the loan at the kitchen table to one or two older adults is not the main issue anymore; it’s no longer the key teaching point. There are dozens of other ways reverse specialists now work to spread the word, and your students must learn to successfully sell in a multitude of situations.Nowadays, salespeople have to present their products in front of large groups, attend social and business events, and participate in grassroots networking. We must help our students develop the skill sets needed to handle all of these situations.

Revise Your Lessons for Those With Forward Experience

More and more traditional mortgage sales professionals are entering the reverse mortgage space, and they require special training that explains the differences between the two products. learning to communicate with older adult homeowners and understanding financial abuse and elder-related situations are just two examples of subjects that must be taught. Educators must teach these students how to explain the advantages of a reverse mortgage to older clients and ensure they understand FHA’s purpose for offering this product to a protected class of people.

Master the Art of the Webinar

Professionals are now frequently scattered throughout the country, or working remotely, so webinar training is more and more common. But connecting with students online can be challenging. It’s important to study up on how to use programs and graphics to create stimulating webinars that will keep your students engaged. In addition, instructors should work to develop an assured and friendly tone of voice that will draw in listeners. Finally, make sure your presentation flows at a solid pace so attention spans do not begin to wane.

Diversify Your Lesson Plan

Reverse mortgage trainers should carefully consider the scope of their lesson plans. Topics such as Financial Assessment, reverse mortgage products and applications, using loan origination software, and navigating the concerns of older adult homeowners are important, but so are classes that focus on general professional development, such as presentation skills, public speaking, project management, telephone techniques, business plan writing, using social media and grassroots networking. This “soft skills training” is essential to equipping our sales professionals with the skill sets they need to be successful.

Educators Are Key

Many companies in the reverse space are taking a much firmer stance on the importance of the growth and development of their employees. Companies that properly focus on and invest in the professional development of their sales teams will shine and prosper. A trainer’s role in this process is pivotal. With a dedication to bettering the sales team you teach, you can have a major, positive impact on your company’s bottom line.