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Inside the mind of a top producer--Stuart Crawford.

IT IS ALWAYS EXCITING TO SPEAK WITH FORMER STUDENTS ABOUT THEIR experiences in the mortgage industry. Stuart Crawford was no exception. Thirteen years ago, Crawford launched his mortgage industry career after graduating in the top of his class from the XINNIX ORIGINATOR[TM] program.

Today he remains a leader as a top-producing branch manager with V.I.P. Mortgage Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona. He has received recognition as Top Mortgage Professional in October 2015 by Phoenix magazine, winner of the Five Star Mortgage Professional award and member of V.I.P. Mortgage's President's Club. At the outset of my discussion with Crawford, it became clear that he has a true passion for his business and the industry.

Crawford's entry into the mortgage business began as a part-time job in college making calls for loan officers. After graduation, he transitioned to a different mortgage company that reached out to him. However, he quickly grew disenchanted with the industry at the time. "I quit that job because I didn't like the feel of the mortgage business--because that was a time when a lot of people were doing it, and they really weren't qualified to be giving people a lot of advice on such a big financial transaction," he says. "So I swore off the mortgage industry forever, which is ironic."

Not long after Crawford's exit, one of his contacts asked him to interview for a different opportunity in the industry, and over the course of six interviews with a single organization, he was back in. "To go through six different interviews ... I mean, that was unheard of in that time, and that was just [the sign of] a different kind of company. I started there, and that's where I really started my mortgage career," he says.

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Being a different kind of company perfectly sums up Crawford's approach to business, which is 100 percent referral-based. About 50 percent of his business comes from past clients and others who have touched his organization, and the other half is Realtor[R]-based.

One of the lessons we teach at XINNIX is to build strategic relationships with a key group of referral partners. Although Crawford works with more than 50 agent teams, he works closely with a group of 15 core agents or agent teams.

I was curious to learn more about how he and his team differentiate themselves from competitors, so I asked Crawford if he leveraged any unique marketing ideas to generate leads. "I would say [our marketing efforts] are very traditional," he says. "But years ago, I decided I didn't want to be like every other originator that I knew and how they marketed because it becomes white noise, and Realtors just hear the same thing over and over again."

Instead, he considers quality service to be the greatest marketing initiative for his business. "I went on a mission to build a system because I thought, if I can deliver such good service that they start calling me, that's what I want. That was sort of the mindset change I went through a while back ... so I could provide what I call Signature Five-Star Service."

Interested in hearing about each top producer's service philosophy, Crawford explained the entire system he built was designed around delivering consistent, quality service. The process he and his team use is based on giving each customer the same "client journey" that resembles the five-star service offered at Nordstrom and the Four Seasons.

"So from A to Z, they're going to come stay at our five-star hotel. They're going to get the same service every single time, no matter who the client is. It's a very consistent thing that is to be expected, and we've become a mortgage concierge who's at their service," says Crawford. This approach is reassuring to his customers and validates the team's reliability in serving its clients.

As Crawford and I continued our discussion, I began to learn more about the system he implemented and how it enhanced his clients' experience. He built out a regimen for his team to follow that includes email templates and scripts that ensure the team communicates effectively. According to Crawford, the greatest complaint among Realtors is about poor communication, and he names five communication hot points that his team focuses on: how, when, how fast, how accurately and how professionally they communicate.

"I'm very relentless on how [we] communicate to anyone. That has built a brand that people have flocked to and [now] they expect that from us," he says.

He also sets clear expectations for each member of his team by defining their roles to maximize quality throughout each client's journey. This journey begins from the time a client is referred to the business, at which point the client relations coordinator immediately sets up a loan application call with a senior mortgage banker. The respective senior mortgage banker makes sure the applications are very thorough to establish Day One quality. Afterward, a list of required documentation is sent to clients, and these documents are placed into a file that is reviewed by a senior mortgage banker. After they assess the file, they create a blueprint and the client relations coordinator sets up a call between Crawford and the clients to review the available options.

He also looks to his production manager to serve as a pipeline facilitator who takes clients through closing, and a business development director who promotes the brand and creates strategic relationships. Together, the group works to make sure that no one slips through the cracks.

"If you are in our system, you are being communicated with," Crawford says. He also stresses the importance of being an educational resource instead of pushing clients toward a sale.

"I don't like being sold anything, so I will not sell other people. When we do touch customers, we're just checking in. You can let us know; no rush getting back to us; just making sure we're on top of it. We talk like that and people feel, I believe, more at ease with us." Uniform communication reinforces the consistency that is central to Crawford's business, and he works hard to lead and coach his team to make sure that clients have the same quality experience. "You talk to me, then someone else on my team, you want to feel like we're sort of the same person. That's why we use the templates," he says.

Because Crawford relies on a team to help manage his pipeline, I asked him about the team-building process. "Once you're closing consistently around seven units per month ... I personally believe that's when you need help," he explained. "You need to let go. It is the toughest thing for anybody to do. That was my biggest hurdle. You're going to leave bodies on the battlefield, and you have to be OK with it because you're going somewhere much bigger."

The team approach has given Crawford the bandwidth he needs to continue growing his business without sacrificing the three key areas that elevated him to become a top producer. In addition to building a fundamental skill set and knowledge base during his training with XINNIX, he emphasizes availability, hard work and a systematic approach to take production to the next level.

"When you're growing your business, answer that phone every time it rings," he says. "Even if you're not ready to take on a 15-minute phone call, answer that phone and ask, 'Can I call you back?' And it is never a problem. People know you're always there."

Crawford's emphasis on discipline and diligence made me wonder how he stayed motivated to maintain the service level his customers have come to expect, and I asked him how he deals with burnout. "It doesn't matter what you do for a living. If you do the same thing for enough years, day in and day out, you're going to have burnout. It's just normal. You have to take some time for yourself and think about 'Why am I not feeling motivated?' You've got to change your mindset and get excited about it in some way."

One way that Crawford reignited his motivation for his business was by starting a charity. Every six months, he handpicks a member of the community to help. "Every closed transaction [during the six months], we set money aside and we choose a specific person who's in need," he says. Most recently, the charity helped cover medical expenses for a patient in need of an organ transplant. Through this initiative, the entire team stays motivated because each transaction is a chance to help someone in need.

Crawford's passion for his business and self-motivation are just a few of the many factors that make him a leader among his team, his organization and the industry. For him, however, it really just boils down to hard work.

"Just be disciplined. All the little things add up and work," he says. As far as I can tell, everything Crawford's doing seems to be working quite well for him.

This column only covers a portion of our discussion. To hear my entire interview with Stuart Crawford, go to www.xinnix.com/mrcenroll and join our free Member Resource Center.

Casey Cunningham is the chief executive officer and founder of Alpharetta, Georgia-based XINNIX, The Mortgage Academy, a national provider of leadership development and mortgage sales training. She can be reached at casey@xinnix.com.
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Title Annotation:THE RIGHT STUFF
Comment:Inside the mind of a top producer--Stuart Crawford.(THE RIGHT STUFF)
Author:Cunningham, Casey
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Date:Oct 1, 2016
Words:1567
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