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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   March 2017

The Road to Success

Moving beyond deadlines and building for the future is the secret

r_2017-03_spot_ValentiniMortgage banking is a unique industry because it is one of the few professions where you can literally transform your business — and your income — to whatever scale you want. The sky is the limit because you are almost 100 percent in charge of your own production.

Think about other fields where professionals want to advance their careers or make more money. Most require an advanced degree, years of training, or even a change of company or industry to make any real difference. Any of those options can require a significant investment in time, money or both.

As a loan originator, you have the amazing opportunity to change your professional trajectory just by changing the way you approach your business. Here are several steps that will help you get on the road to success this year.

Identify success killers

You may be surprised to hear that your success is not being thwarted by rates, your company’s technology or even the current housing market. Only two things negatively affect your current production: procrastination and deadline pressure.

Procrastination is foremost an issue of perspective. Most loan originators put off the activities that they can’t see making them money today. Unfortunately, these are the very activities that offer the biggest payoffs in the future: making contacts, meeting with local professionals and building referral relationships. Instead, too many mortgage originators get bogged down in the deadlines of the day and never get around to building their business.

What was the first thing you did today? If you’re like most originators, it probably entailed following up on a file and getting bogged down by pipeline management. That makes sense. If a loan doesn’t close on time, you won’t get paid and you won’t get any more business from that borrower.

But you can arrange your workload so your whole day doesn’t turn into a frenzy of chasing deadlines. This starts with changing your systems so you are always a step ahead and have a cushion built into your timeline. This step alone will remove much of the “rush” pressure that many originators feel.

Then, turn over the deadlines to your operations team so you can focus your efforts on marketing and prospecting. The reason these activities often fall prey to procrastination is that they don’t have a deadline. You have to actively commit to scheduling time for these activities or they get pushed to the side every time by looming deadlines.

If you stop focusing on deadlines and start focusing on building your pipeline, your business will change dramatically. The reason many loan originators have anemic pipelines is because they are so focused on deadlines — the flashing red lights in front of their eyes that are impossible to ignore — that they never spend any time building for the future.

Smart business developers create the same feeling of deadline pressure and commitment on building their future business as they already have placed on completing their current business. They do this by physically scheduling time for prospecting activities on their calendars, just like any other activity. This is a paradigm shift that requires approaching your business in a completely different way, but it will have dramatic payoffs.

Differentiate yourself

Once you have tamed the time monster, you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd. Let’s face it. Almost every company in the industry offers great rates and great service — and to be frank, those that don’t probably won’t be in business long. That is why successful loan originators don’t rely on these trite phrases to differentiate themselves. Instead they focus on understanding their market and the unique challenges their customers face.

To win the sales game, you must find out what’s important to the people you are selling to and how to meet those needs. People do business with professionals they like and trust, so focus on building that relationship.

The best way to start is by picking up the phone, calling a contact who can be a source of business and requesting five minutes of that person’s time. You might have to call people 10 times to reach them, but once you have their attention the payoff can be huge.

Treat goal-oriented tasks with the same importance as any other deadline. 

The key is to get contacts talking about their favorite topic — themselves. When you have reached someone at a good time, they’ll be happy to spend a few minutes answering questions. A successful script might go like this: “I’m trying to build my business and want to get to know people in the industry. How did you become a real estate broker? What are your challenges? What do you love about the loan originator you do business with already? What can they do better?”

Those last two questions are the most important because ideally your new contacts will name qualities or habits that their favorite loan originators have, which you can then emulate, as well as areas where they fall short, which provides you an opening to offer to do better.

Another option is to view previous borrowers as a potential source of new business and make a point to cultivate relationships while working with them so you can reach out later. Think of current borrowers as future business prospects and focus on developing those relationships. If borrowers plan to renovate their house after closing, for example, follow up later and ask how it went. Admire their photos and compliment their taste. It is guaranteed that you will stand out in their minds.

The key is to make all your contacts more relationship-driven and less transactional. When you deepen your relationships, the success metrics will fall into place.

Set and track goals

How many calls did you make last year? Probably only 10 percent of originators can actually answer that question, and the chances are good they are the most successful 10 percent of producers in their shops. The last step in creating a more successful business-development plan is the most critical. It entails setting a goal.

Where most people fail is by making their goals too general. Like many people, you might have made a resolution a couple months ago to lose weight. But how much? How will you accomplish it? What’s the timeline? The same holds true for business goals. It’s easy to say you’re going to make more sales calls this year, but what does that look like? It’s imperative to quantify the goal so you are driven by a specific plan.

Do you want to make 20 calls per week? Then guard the time on your calendar and treat goal-oriented tasks with the same importance as any other deadline so you can execute on those goals. Are you making more personal visits? Plan your route so you know exactly where you’re going. Any time you can add concrete details to a goal, it becomes more real — and more doable.

This also allows you to track your goals. When you pursue a vague goal like “make more sales calls,” you can’t determine if you actually succeeded. But 20 sales calls a week is tangible and allows you to review and see what techniques worked the best. Were 20 calls sufficient or do you need to ramp it up or try something else?

Along the way, make sure you keep track of what activities you have performed in a spreadsheet, on a phone app or just as notes on your calendar. This will give you a record of what worked, which can eventually become a blueprint for planning future goals.

At the end of this year, you can look back and see which business-development efforts paid off, and realistically determine what you need to do more or less of to achieve even greater success. How much volume did you close and how many sales calls did you make? If your goal is to be in that top 10 percent, this is the roadmap to get you there.

•  •  •

These business-development techniques largely involve a shift in mind-set and some mental effort. The payoff will come when you realize the inherent benefits you can gain by conquering procrastination, looking beyond deadline-driven goals of merely surviving today and embracing activities that build your pipeline for tomorrow.


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