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Marketing your difference is crucial now.

During my 37 years in the mortgage lending industry I have seen many economic swings that have stimulated both dramatic increases and decreases in mortgage lending volume. I live in Albuquerque N.M. and our volume of purchase money lending opportunities in 2008 were only 35 percent of what they were at our peak in 2006.

Fortunately, historic low mortgage interest rates have stimulated refi opportunities. However, we are challenged with credit and property value issues along with a continually shrinking list of available loan programs. Therefore, what should have been a landslide of opportunity has been tempered by the new realities of the mortgage industry.

Many of us have reread "Who Moved My Cheese," and are reading every success story in M.O.M. as we desperately try to reinvent ourselves and find a more productive approach to our business. An "old guy" like me suggests that you glance over your shoulder and take a look back. What was old is once again new. Dust off your old flier from LoanToolbox, illustrating the "Pyramid of a Complete Loan Originator," and focus on the first three levels: Essential Knowledge, Selling and Presentation Skills, and Personal Marketing. These three skill sets can be instrumental in helping you kick start your production. Remember, these low interest rates can be gone in a flash, so take advantage of the current refi revenue opportunities to invest in rebuilding your referral network and mining your relationships.

Essential Knowledge

We are all originating the same five or six loan programs. The days of a competitor finding a new, "funky," no qual program that you don't have, and stealing your deal, are over. If we all have the same products, how are we going to differentiate ourselves in our market? We need to know more about FHA, VA and Conventional Conforming products than anyone else. We need to know how to "tell the story" on a full doc loan with additional documentation and notes to the processor and the underwriter. We commit to always turn in our loan files with a memo to the underwriter. Remember, no one but you has had the time with the client to get the whole story. Relate the story to all concerned and get more loans approved. Thorough knowledge of Agency Underwriting Guidelines and product descriptions is just the start. We also need to be well versed on the additional overlay underwriting criteria that most investors are now adding to the basic agency regs. We need to time block to read industry information.

Selling and Presentation Skills

We must be sharper here than ever before because we are going to get in front of fewer people. If we have fewer selling opportunities, we must close a much higher percentage of them if we hope to earn as much this year as last, or to enjoy a raise. Practice selling scripts and dialogues. Make certain that we have an "elevator" response to the commonplace mortgage questions that always end in an offer of assistance and the setting of an appointment to provide it. We need to take off the headset, stop answering every insipid e-mail that comes our way and get out among our customers and referral partners. Here are five things that I think we need to focus on in this level of the pyramid:

[check] Start every day with 30 minutes of reading industry publications. We need to be the source of accurate mortgage information to our professional network and our market. A daily regimen of reading and gathering timely industry information will contribute to our becoming an authority.

[check] Set a fixed time every morning to answer e-mails and then get on with our day. Send them out during the day as we need to. Keep our calendar up on our computer screen so that we can continually see how few appointments we have and how much time is available for prospecting.

[check] Never eat alone. The best way to work a referral partner and prospect database is in person. The best way to meet in person is at breakfast and lunch. There are 22 work days in a month with 44 opportunities to have one-on-one personal, productive sales calls with our referral partners and prospects. We should schedule half our appointments for protecting and half for prospecting. I dare say that most of us do not make 44 meaningful sales calls in a month. We will, if we schedule two each day at the morning and afternoon meal.

[check] Get active in the local Board of Realtors. Join a committee. Scour their roster for familiar names. Make a prospecting list from this roster, then take them to breakfast or lunch.

[check] Stop in and visit our referral partners and prospects. Very few of our competitors do this. The art of the personal sales call was lost in favor of technology somewhere along the way. Call a referral partner or prospect and schedule an office visit. If we make regular visits, we will run into a deal that someone else in the office needs help on. Go where your competitors are not. And there are not many originators making office calls these days.

Personal Marketing

Branding yourself is more important than ever. Mortgage companies have come and gone. We each have an opportunity to stand out in our market, just by still being here. Let everyone know you're still here. Focus your marketing efforts towards tapping into these principles of Ethical Influence as taught by Dr. Robert Cialdini, Ph.D:

* Reciprocity: Be the first to give. Trigger the time honored social principle of reciprocation by giving of your time, your talent and your knowledge with every contact. Never leave a prospecting or protecting meeting without leaving a well written, personalized article, leaflet or booklet. Use personalized scratch pads as a giveaway. Business cards regularly get trashed.

* Authority: Showing and knowing. Establish ourselves as the "mortgage authority" in our market, again, by providing timely, accurate information that is well designed and personalized. I use LoanToolbox and Mortgage Market Weekly to disseminate information to the local media, as well as my network, and in doing so, brand myself, get published and called upon when the media needs accurate mortgage information.

* Consistency: The starting point. When we determine our course of action, commit to six months and stay on track. Set our calendar and fill the blank spots each day with prospecting and protecting. A regular routine of communication, visits and calls will become more and more noticed and appreciated once the recipients of our effort realize that we can be counted on. This is an uncertain time. We can become the certainty in the professional lives of our referral partners and prospects by being consistent.

* Liking: Making friends to influence people. I try not to court those who I would not want to invite to my dinner table. So, I do business with my friends and make friends of those I do business with. Like my buddy Tim Braheem always said, "The loan originator with the most friends, wins." Life is too short to work and rely upon people who you don't like enough to invite to your home.

* Consensus: People proof, people power. Announce every success. Attend every closing and survey the borrower, listing agent and selling agent. Share every positive borrower survey with both agents. Don't forget the listing agents, as they will likely be the selling agent on their next deal and you want to "wow" them and woo them to earn that referral. Share every positive LA and SA positive survey with their respective sales managers and broker/owners. This strategy alone gained me "in house" lender status at four real estate companies. After years of sending those positive surveys out, they reached out to me and offered the opportunity.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. There's no substitute for good, old fashioned, in-person selling. People have been looking for shortcuts for years. Some work for a time and then the cheese gets moved and it's back to basics.

GREG FROST, National Training Director of PR MI Mortgage and founder/president of Frost Mortgage Banking Group, Albuquerque, N.M. Web site:
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Author:Frost, Greg
Publication:Mortgage Originator
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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