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You can ... weather this storm.

The characters in the Chinese language that together spell crisis, when separated spell danger and opportunity. I think this illustrates the climate of today's mortgage market. Some companies and loan originators are in trouble. Others are thriving. How are you doing? Are you on your way up, down or just getting by? That's the question you must answer if you are going to weather the storm.

I closed my first loan in November, 1979, and 1980 presented challenges unheard of anytime previous in the industry. Prime was two percent, unemployment was at record levels, my piggyback loans averaged about 18 percent and FHA and VA loans were at 17 percent and four-five points. There is no doubt that during any tough market, attitude is the driving force behind all action. I have three key memories from that market that helped me through it. The first is from my childhood pastor, Robert Schuller. One Sunday at church he said, "Tough times never last, but tough people do." I also remember what Tom Hopkins used to say: "When you come across someone who is negative, don't walk away from them, run!" Finally, Brian Tracy suggested that "Everything is cause and effect. If you don't like your results, change your actions." It's all about attitude and action. I had a button made that said "Rumor has it we're in recession. I'm not participating." I wore it for the whole year. That opened the door for a positive attitude and it endeared me to dozens of potential Realtors, builders and other referral sources who needed to follow someone and something positive. I had a great year, and you can this year too.

Now, I'm the first to tell you that having and maintaining a positive attitude is a tall order. But really, what are your options? Wake up mad, depressed and frustrated? I don't know a lot of successful people who are mad, depressed and frustrated. But I do know a lot of successful people who are positive, happy and engaged. And here's a key-positive people do positive things.

The Change

We've all witnessed how much the industry has changed. In August, 2007, The Duncan Group had a $150,000 check bounce from a major lender. Within a few weeks, another major account was also in trouble. You never would have thought at the start of 2008 that companies like Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers would be in trouble or gone. You never could have predicted that the mortgage broker community would be so affected and that "wholesale" would take on a whole new meaning. You probably would have never guessed that we would see product menus for loans like I had in 1980, instead of the limitless amount of products available over the last eight years. You need documentation. What? People have to qualify. Are you serious? And regulation; it's gotten to be big business and will become more so in the next several years. Since we don't know when the "crisis" will end, it's decision time. Danger or opportunity, positive attitude or negative attitude, it's your choice, and the actions you take will follow the predominant thoughts you hold.

Six Steps to Succeeding in This Market

1. Evaluate Your Purpose

So, what do you do? If you're not having the kind of success you would like, what is your first step? In my book, "High Trust Selling," I talk about the 14 Laws that govern sales success. The first law in the book is The Law of the Iceberg. This law states that the truest measure of your success is invisible to your clients. Basically, when you see an iceberg, you only see the top 10 percent of the mass. The bottom 90 percent is "invisible" but is what gives the iceberg its strength. Success is always an inside attitude before it ever becomes an outside action. A commitment to succeed is an absolute to success. You must analyze why you are a mortgage professional. And you must ask and answer, "Does it still bring me joy and stir my soul, and do I wake up excited about the opportunity?" If not, it's time to reevaluate. What's your motive? What's your mantra?

In 1980 I survived because my motive was to make a difference and my mantra was to make someone's dream come true. It got me through. Answer the question, "Why am I doing this?" If you have the right answer, then proceed to the next step. Otherwise, ponder this and get insight from others about your gifts and your skills. Where do they see you? Those who know you best can help you in tough times.

2. Evaluate Your Fiscal and Market Knowledge

J. Paul Getty gave some great advice when he said, "To succeed in business, to reach the top, an individual must know all it is possible to know about that business." That's especially true of the origination business today, given the unprecedented economic times we're living in. It is vitally important that you spend at least one hour a day gaining knowledge about everything happening in the markets and in the mortgage industry. Find one or two economists you understand and read them regularly so you gain a consistent impression about what is going on.

3. Evaluate Your Plan

Every sales industry on the planet evaluates sales success by the plan, and the daily calls, conversions and orders the sales person gets ... except the mortgage industry. The lack of personal and managerial accountability in this area is mind-boggling. Every person reading this who is good with Steps One and Two should have their "Next 12 Months Plan." It may look like this:

In the next 12 months ...

How much money do you want to make? What will be your average loan amount? How many loans do you need to close? Based on your percentage o f loans that close, how many do you need to bring in? What's that number per day? What's your conversion rate o f borrowers to applications? How many consultations or "pre-quals" do you need? How many is that a month? How many do you want from each referral partner per month? How many partners do you need? (Go to Step Four.)

4. Evaluate Your Prospecting

Zig Ziglar once said, "Prospecting is like taking a bath. If you don't do it every day, pretty soon you stink." So, how do you prospect successfully? Time-wise, spend one hour prospecting every day until you have a solid 10 to 20 referral partners, and then prospect weekly or monthly. Create unique value propositions and approach campaigns that will get you noticed. For instance, you can send materials via Federal Express versus regular mail, or include a business book prospects may benefit from as a gift. And as you are working to schedule appointments, make sure you follow up with a phone call 48 hours after you have mailed your package.

When you do get appointments, your focus must be on getting the relationship, rather than getting the deal. This is the key to long-term success. That's why a typical High Trust Interview with a strategic partner prospect lasts between 45 minutes to one hour (See longer version of this article at for five steps to the High Trust Interview.) And make sure each of your campaigns includes follow up. Be willing to add value to potential partners for at least two years at a pace of three to four value-adding ideas a month as you are attempting to secure the relationship.

5. Evaluate Partners and Partner Planning

Are you making yourself emotionally and intellectually attractive to your partners? The most successful originators in the current "crisis" have solid partnerships. The only way to have partners for life is to work strategically with them during their life. This is the follow-up plan that 99 percent of loan originators ignore. Here's a plan for making partnership planning work for you. For the first three months of a relationship, meet weekly for 15-20 minutes on the phone. The next three months, meet face-to-face for 30-45 minutes. After that, meet face-to-face once a month for one hour. Examples of questions you should discuss with your partners include:

How can we be more efficient? How can we produce more business? What needs do we have and how do they need to be met?

Never forget: Ignored partners lead to broken partnerships. Don't make that mistake with your partners. Right now you should call everyone you think will make a great partner, sit down with them and ask these questions.

6. Evaluate Your Actions and Resolve

In the area of action, this passage by my friend Og Mandino says it all: I will act now. I will act now. I will act now. Henceforth, I will repeat these words each hour, each day, every day, until the words become as much a habit as my breathing, and the action, which follows, becomes as instinctive as the blinking o f my eyelids. With these words I can condition my mind to perform every action necessary for my success. I will act now.

I will repeat these words again and again and again. I will walk where failures fear to walk. I will work when failures seek rest. I will act now for now is all I have.

Tomorrow is the day reserved for the labor o f the lazy. I am not lazy. Tomorrow is the day when the failure will succeed. I am not a failure. I will act now. Success will not wait. If I delay, success will become wed to another and lost to me forever. This is the time. This is the place. I am the person.

Action produces results. Right actions produce right results. Wrong actions produce wrong results. Become a student of the game. Model the best practices of industry leaders. Get on a plane and go see one of them for a day. Develop deep resolve and a ferocious commitment to raise your standards and reject "just making it" in this challenging market. Jim Rohn, undoubtedly America's greatest business philosopher said this: "Resolve says, 'I will.' The man says, 'I will climb this mountain. They told me it is too high, too far, too steep, too rocky and too difficult. But it's my mountain. I will climb it. You will soon see me waving from the top or dead on the side from trying.' Disgust and resolve are two of the greatest emotions that lead to change."

Danger or opportunity. It's your choice! I personally think this is the greatest market opportunity you might ever see.

TODD DUNCAN is the president and chief learning officer for Mortgage Success Source, which includes The Mortgage Market Guide, LoanToolbox and The Duncan Group. He is also the author of 11 books including "High Trust Selling" and "Time Traps."
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Author:Duncan, Todd M.
Publication:Mortgage Originator
Article Type:Cover story
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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