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Targeting hot prospects.

There is no magic formula for making the phone ring. But carefully targeting top Realtors and systematically marketing your services and image to them should light a fire under your production volume.

During this latest wave of consumer refinancings, many loan originators lost touch with their primary client--the Realtor. But even in times of strong housing sales activity, loan originators often do not have the time, or the organizational skills, to maintain their visibility with real estate salespeople in the field. When this happens, originators begin to lose key clients.

To protect their "lending franchise," sales associates--whether retail loan originators or wholesale loan representatives--must become more sophisticated in targeting and tracking their prospects and clients. They must also devise a plan to make themselves stand out from the competition. This is identical to the way a sales manager would manage a target market. And it is worth the effort because it is, after all, the originator's long-term annuity that is being protected.

In targeted markets, successful sales associates must keep a high profile. Personal marketing systems are ideal strategies to use for this when you do not have the time to conduct face-to-face visits. A successful campaign protects and maintains connections to Realtors in the target market and expands the franchise by introducing the loan originator to new prospects.

A personal marketing system allows sales associates to identify, target and profile key Realtors and correspondents. Through a series of time-sensitive mailings and promotional events, originators can increase their exposure, create an image of professionalism and build credibility.

Personal marketing systems are an effective means to provide a competitive advantage for mortgage loan professionals in the 1990s. The focus is on process, not outcome. Sales associates following such a system will be motivated by concern for the relationship rather than the transaction. As a result, symbiotic relationships will develop; clients will become business partners. This is one way that sales associates will be able to work smarter--not just harder.

Dispel the myths

There are two myths about sales and salespeople. One is that sales is a numbers game; the more you prospect, the more sales you make. The other assumption is that top sales associates thrive on rejection and are highly persuasive.

In reality, the opposite of these two generalizations is true. Sales is only a numbers game if you waste a lot of time calling on virtually everyone rather than carefully targeting your prospects. Sales associates who target their markets actually see fewer people, not more. The key is they make sure they are seeing the right people and are establishing mutually beneficial business relationships.

The ability to withstand rejection is not a trait of top salespeople. Far from it, our studies have indicated that top producers abhor rejection. In fact, they do everything they can to avoid rejection by preparing for the call and working a plan. They test and probe. They always have a reason to call and always leave the door open for a return call. So much for "close early and close often."

The only time rejection is an issue is when someone takes a shotgun or the "spray and pray" approach to prospecting. Great salespeople are not necessarily highly persuasive. They are, however, good listeners who meet their clients' needs and, therefore, do not try to "close" or "sell" a client. After all, people don't like to be "sold" anything; it is demeaning to their intelligence. Rather, clients choose to do business with sales associates whom they trust.

Unfortunately, becoming a superstar sales associate is not a science. There are, however, field-tested procedures to help people gain exposure, increase credibility, enhance image and lay the groundwork for long-term business relationships. This does not mean there is little or no effort involved. The right questions have to be asked, collateral materials must be developed, and a plan must be devised for implementing an ongoing promotional campaign.

See the right people

Every personal marketing plan must start with a few basic questions: Who are the big producers and potential big producers in my market? How do I reach them? When is the best time to contact them? What is the most cost-effective way to meet them?

Avoid the numbers game by carefully targeting markets and centering your promotional efforts within them. The key is for you to see top producers and potential top producers whose business is the type that best fits your product mix and underwriting requirements. This means profiling Realtors and correspondents before soliciting their business to determine the "fit." No one can be everything to everybody. Target marketing requires sales associates to specialize in product and market. Specialization builds expertise, credibility and a long-term client base.

There are several answers to the question "How do I contact my clients?" Some effective ways are:

* Introductory letters; * Personal brochures; * Collateral materials; * Status reports; * Time-sensitive greetings and follow-up notes; * Joint promotional events; * Personal appointments.

You must be able to maintain your visibility on an ongoing basis using all of these tools. You need customized collateral materials and a fully integrated computer software system to manage your mailing schedule. There are several generic software programs on the market. The Duncan Group has developed a software program called The Business Development System for Mortgage Loan Professionals. This system can manage a data base of current and prospective clients and generate personalized communications.

Paradigm of the 1990s

There is so much competition in the mortgage banking industry today that sales associates must make concerted efforts to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd making sales calls. The top producers have turned to personal marketing to help them in prospecting, promoting and "telling" their story.

Personal marketing requires that you think like an entrepreneur and promote yourself as though you were the sole proprietor or CEO of your own company. Also, to be effective at this you must help your clients succeed by providing value-added services. These marketing efforts will:

* Enable sales associates to target top Realtors;

* Increase market exposure for the lender;

* Enhance professionalism;

* Offer value-added services that truly differentiate;

* Create a system for record-keeping and prospect tracking;

* Make promotion an ongoing activity.

The computer data base

The first step toward launching a personal marketing system is to develop a computer data base of prospects and current clients. This data base will contain people in your target market only. When you compile your mailing lists, it is essential that you choose top producers or up-and-coming producers in a specific market niche. Resist the temptation to add names to your lists just for the sake of having more names. Some field research should be conducted before adding or deleting any name from an existing data base.

The computer data base makes it faster and easier to mail letters, notes, brochures, postcards, status updates and follow-up information. By using a mail-merge computer program, you or an assistant can prepare mailings without taking a lot of time out of your daily routine.

The most important requirement of the tools of the trade is that they must appear professional. A brochure, postcard or letter will be counterproductive if produced in an amateurish way. Marketing materials must reflect the image and professionalism of the company they represent. That means all the writing, design, graphics, photography and printing must be of top-notch quality.

Personal capabilities brochure

Every business should have a first-class brochure that describes what it does. By the same token, every sales associate should have a capabilities brochure that describes his or her business and service philosophies, experience and expertise. The brochure should also contain testimonials provided by clients with stature and influence in the industry. It should also include a photograph or stylized sketch of the loan originator.

The cover letter that accompanies a brochure should be no longer than one page. It must tell the prospect in well-written prose something other than what is covered in the brochure. The letter could explain 1) how you got the prospect's name; 2) the reason for making contact; and 3) your intention to periodically send the recipient something of value that will help that Realtor improve productivity and pave the way for a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Event-related communication tools

Most sales associates routinely send thank-you notes and birthday cards to their Realtor clients. An effective approach to this is to have a professionally produced package of attractive cards with customized messages for every occasion and the computerized means for organizing these mailings.

Postcards should be designed for the following occasions: thank-yous (after appointments, applications, meetings and closings); congratulations (career or personal promotions, loan approvals, business relocations, etc.); referral cards (after the loan closes); customer feedback cards; anniversary of home purchase cards, birthday cards; and status report forms.

Postcards that are designed to deliver a simple message are also valuable. On one side they can have a nice photograph; on the other side is a line or two that relates both to the picture and to the business relationship being developed.

Newsletters, journal and newspaper articles and cartoons are useful items to send to people periodically. Newsworthy articles can be photocopied and shared, as can relevant cartoons that will not only deliver a telling message, but also lighten someone's day.

All these items, when mailed on a regular basis, will help you build long-term relationships and become more productive. Most of the collateral materials necessary should already be incorporated in a business-development system.

The personal marketing program

The key to any promotional campaign is consistency. Hit, or, miss promotions do not work. As a sales associate, you have to keep in touch regularly with your prospects and clients. To keep in touch, sales associates must develop and implement two marketing plans. The first is an approach plan, which targets prospects and devises ways of contacting them. The second plan focuses on maintaining clients. The following programs will serve as guidelines that sales associates can modify to meet their needs. Keep in mind that event-related thank-you notes and similar communications are sent in addition to, not in lieu of, the following programs.

The approach campaign is designed to form name recognition, create a positive image and set the stage for an introductory meeting. The best way to turn prospects into clients is: 1) to have your image precede your call; 2) to add value to your marketing to create that image; and 3) to repeat your value-added marketing so that prospects are motivated to act on the image you are creating.

It is important to realize that it takes between five and fifteen contacts that offer something of value to the recipient to evoke a response. Be patient and recognize that you are now relationship-driven, not transaction-driven.

The twelve-step campaign that follows should be scheduled over the course of three months. Plan your campaign carefully by developing all pieces and your mailing list in advance.

Phase one: Name recognition

Step one: Mystery message phone call--Simply call and leave your name without your number. This starts the differentiation process.

Step two: Image development--Send a cover letter and personal brochure or resume. The higher the quality of your collateral materials, the more impressive your image will be.

Step three: Personal marketing letter--Send an article or newsletter that shows Realtors how they can develop their own marketing campaigns.

Phase two: Value-added marketing

Step four: Value-added piece 1--Send information on the five strategies for high-performance selling.

Step five: Value-added piece 2--Send information on the five keys to greater lead generation.

Step six: Value-added piece 3--Send an article on the five strategies for time management.

Step seven: Value-added piece 4--Send information on the five keys to personal marketing.

Step eight: Value-added piece 5--Send information on the five strategies for listing and selling.

Step nine: Value-added piece 6--Send information on the five strategies for direct-mail marketing.

Phase three: Relationship initiation

Step ten: Testimonial letter--Send a cover letter that highlights your performance and goals. Include a testimonial letter or two from Realtors.

Step eleven: Approach phone call and meeting--Get an appointment to meet and become acquainted with your prospect. During your meeting, "interview" that person to uncover his or her highest priority needs.

Step twelve: Value-added piece 7--Send some information on the five keys for building and maintaining long-term business relationships.

These 12 steps represent a powerful strategy that should yield results far above your expectations.

The maintenance campaign

While continuing your value-added marketing for prospects, you also must maintain your new clients. As with the approach campaign, this is done with a well-planned maintenance campaign. The program that follows will keep you in touch with your clients, again, with communications that convey your commitment to offering something of value to the recipient.

Month 1--Send a postcard of mountain climbers. The message on the flip side should emphasize your willingness and ability to help Realtors achieve their goals.

Month 2--Send a newsletter and another postcard. The postcard could be a photograph of racing sailboats with a message about teamwork.

Month 3--Send a letter about building a successful partnership. Talk about recent industry developments. Paint a picture of the power of mutual reliance, referrals and relationship-building. This month's postcard might show an image of hot air balloons with a message about partnerships taking people to new heights.

Month 4--Send another newsletter, journal article or other relevant information.

Month 5--Send your Realtors a letter that discusses the benefits of prequalifying buyers. You might accompany that letter with a brochure that explains prequalifying, the loan process and escrow for inexperienced homebuyers. The letter will explain how you plan to use this brochure to provide qualified leads for the Realtor. This month's postcard: how about an ocean sunset with a message about assisting Realtors to realize their dreams?

Month 6--Mail another newsletter, journal article or cartoon.

Month 7--A letter about personal marketing or value-added service will help Realtors become more productive. The postcard can show tandem bicycle riders with the message that you are on the same team as the Realtor.

Month 8--Mail the fourth newsletter, journal article or informative piece to your prospects and clients.

Month 9--This month's letter can talk about financial planning, time management or team-building. The postcard of the month is a field of flowers with a message about business blooming and relationships growing.

After nine months, a personal marketing system if done correctly and consistently should have produced many new clients. You will have increased name recognition for yourself and your company, conveyed the perception of expertise and provided many value-added services to current and prospective clients. These services are an important part of selling. Selling and service are not separate functions; they are mutually dependent.

One of America's legendary Realtors, Jim Droaz, was the number-one producer for Century 21 for three years. He generated more than $1 million in annual income for himself. In his best month, Jim sold 47 spot properties. On his best day, he sold nine homes. When asked how loan originators can increase their success, Jim said, "There are no big secrets, magic wands or silver bullets in good selling. It's fundamentals. Target your markets, differentiate yourself, and 'walk your talk.' Loan originators should be less concerned about becoming great salespeople and concentrate more on being superior service people."

A personal marketing system creates unparalleled value and service in the minds of Realtors. Just as important, it makes the phone ring.

Dave Agena is executive vice president of The Duncan Group, a San Diego-based management consulting firm specializing in sales training, management development, customer service and personal marketing systems for the mortgage lending industry.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Mortgage Bankers Association of America
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:marketing mortgage banking services to realtors
Author:Agena, Dave
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:There must be a better way.
Next Article:High profile.

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