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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   May 2009

4 Ways to Break the Ice

Earn your clients' trust by showing them you care during these tough economic times

With the seemingly neverending economic crisis unfolding, mortgage brokers not only must cope with their own panic, but they often are working with clients who also are panicking. And if the panic alone weren't bad enough, the ensuing stress makes everyone edgier than normal.

With mounting job losses, increasing debt and declining property values, you're bound to come across clients who under normal circumstances would welcome your call but now are less than thrilled to hear from you.

Don't take their prickly tone personally. Rather, realize that it's part of your job to help ease their stress and help them cope with feelings of financial panic.

Here are four ways to do so.

1. Consider your own fears

If you're apprehensive about contacting clients, you must determine why.

Is it because clients have told you they don't want to talk about their mortgages?

Are you nervous that they will have questions for which you may not have an answer?

Or are you afraid that you may discover that some of your clients are having such deep financial struggles that you can't help?

Once you can pinpoint the cause of your fears, you can begin walking yourself through them. Rather than picturing the worst-case scenario, remind yourself of the reason that you're calling your clients: to demonstrate that you care and to let them know that you haven't abandoned the industry or them during this crisis. In other words, you're contacting them to provide comfort.

Your subconscious fears should subside further when you realize that your foremost objective is to lend clients an ear. Remember, some of your clients may not have anyone else with whom they can discuss the financial stress that they are feeling. Or they may feel ashamed that they are having financial struggles and feel desperate for advice but don't know where to turn.

This is precisely why you must initiate the conversation. It is imperative that you use tact in broaching the subject of finances, however. Don't try to push a refinance, for example, if clients are adamant that they do not wish to do so. Your objective is simply to open the lines of communication.

2. Listen intently

Again, when dealing with stressed-out clients, the best thing you can do is listen to their concerns and their fears. Let them talk as long as they need.

To provide comfort for your clients, you must first make sure that you really hear their primary concerns. Make suggestions or offer advice only when they indicate that that is what they want.

Don't interrupt them with a sales pitch, however, until you've clearly determined that they are willing to hear what you have to say.

3. Share good news

Everyone likes good news. And in today's market, sharing good news with clients may be the highlight of their day.

So before you contact your clients, make sure to pinpoint the best-possible news you can share with them.

Whether you are letting clients know that lenders are becoming more helpful in modifying loans or that they may be eligible for a refinance, make sure that the news is real and applicable to their situation.

Although it's always nice to hear that interest rates are low, clients often are bombarded with advertisements announcing this. Instead, try to share something with them that they likely don't already know. It will work wonders toward getting cold clients to warm up to you once again.

4. Follow up

After speaking with all of your clients, make sure to offer a personal follow-up. It doesn't matter if they decided to refinance, agreed to begin working on a loan modification or decided to wait. They still must know that you valued their time.

Whether you choose to send a handwritten note or an e-mail, make sure that it includes at least a brief recap of your conversation so that your clients know that you understood their concerns. It's also never a bad idea to restate any viable options they may want to consider, even if they didn't appear interested during your initial conversation.

In addition, don't forget to restate good news from your call or to share other newsworthy tips that may benefit them.

•  •  •

By showing your clients that you care, you likely will find that any prickliness or iciness they may have shown initially wanes.

In fact, by contacting your clients regularly during this time of economic turmoil, you will strengthen existing relationships, further cementing your role. In many cases, you'll be not only their mortgage broker but also a trusted adviser on whom they can lean during times of panic.

Even better, by keeping in regular contact with all your clients, you may just find that your own stress level declines. You could discover that even if the time isn't right for clients to purchase a new property or refinance their mortgage now, you likely can count on their business in the future.


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