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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   May 2017

A Legacy of Respect

The habits of successful originators haven’t changed in a quarter century

Chris Warner, one of the most respected residential mortgage leaders and sales trainers in the industry, retired last year to little fanfare, but his legacy carries on throughout the Washington, D.C., area. As president of 1st Washington Mor tgage Corp. during its heyday in the early to mid-1990s, Warner was instrumental in teaching the origination business to dozens of industry newcomers with diverse backgrounds ranging from aeronautical engineering to commercial fishing in Alaska.

Warner helped build 1st Washington into a top home lender despite a “rookies-only” hiring policy that discouraged the traditional mortgage industry practice of exclusively recruiting experienced originators. In fact, many of his hires had been referred by competing companies that were unable to provide the necessary support required to give those new originators the opportunity to succeed.

Warner had been a high school English teacher and a real estate agent prior to finding his way into mortgage banking. 1st Washington’s motto — “We will be here for you” — attracted many top real estate agents and builders throughout the District of Columbia/Baltimore corridor and produced a generation of mortgage banking leaders who occupy influential positions at organizations such as Caliber Home Loans, First Home Mortgage, George Mason Mortgage LLC and SunTrust Mortgage Inc., to name just a few.

Habits of success

Ten years after the mortgage meltdown, our industry continues to be defined by the media and the public as inefficient, irresponsible and even immoral. Television commercials today promote technology solutions as a way to ease the burden on borrowers seeking mortgages and borrowers often compare applying for a mortgage to getting a root canal. In that context, it might be time to return to the practices that made originators successful a quarter of a century ago.

Perhaps we should revisit Chris Warner’s sales sermons and seminars targeting those bright-eyed, young originators in 1993. Even today, Warner’s advice provides originators with a blueprint to build the required foundations behind every long-term partnership they will ever need with both referral partners and borrowers.

Warner’s most effective sales training technique wasn’t even originally designed for the mortgage industry and dates back another half-century. In 1940, an insurance-industry executive by the name of Albert E. N. Gray delivered a talk in Chicago before the National Association of Life Underwriters titled: “The Common Denominator of Success.” Gray’s speech to a roomful of life insurance salesmen became a living document that Chris Warner positioned as a mission statement for every successful originator he taught, and this advice is still relevant today.

Gray — and Warner after him— said successful salespeople formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do. “Why are successful people able to do things they don’t like to do while failures are not?” asked Gray. “Because successful people have a purpose strong enough to make them form the habit of doing things they don’t like in order to accomplish the purpose they want to accomplish.”

So what are the habits originators need to be successful and compete against slick advertising and builder-owned mortgage companies? Warner’s rules of engagement are simple to understand, repetitive in nature, but challenging for the overwhelming majority of originators to follow because of the discipline and mental toughness required in following them daily:

  • Return phone calls promptly;
  • Always write at least five personalized thank you notes every day;
  • Be an expert at your trade, and study your industry at all times;
  • Be honest with clients and referral partners, and deliver the truth at all costs; and
  • Never stop learning.

Practice professionalism

Whether you are an originator or a branch manager, ask yourself how frequently you practice Warner’s traits or how often you see your teammates and employees consistently perform these simple tasks. Today’s top producers, regardless of how large their origination teams might be, are implementing daily some version of this business strategy in their own unique style.

Visiting open houses on Sunday afternoons with just your business cards so you have to engage agents in conversation and then sending each of these agents a handwritten note as a follow up isn’t complicated, but it takes discipline. Learning how to perform a complete prequalification for a challenging first-time homebuyer may not be exciting, and it may not even result in a closed loan, but it demonstrates an expertise and a level of integrity and professionalism that does not go unnoticed.

Gray told that audience of insurance salespeople in 1940 that every single qualification for success is acquired through habit. Today, whether it is attending open houses, teaching “New Agent Financing 101” classes, or helping first-generation homebuyers decipher the complexities of obtaining a mortgage, performing these habits well and consistently allows you to separate yourself from the pack.

These activities may seem incredibly simple and straightforward, but executing them on a daily basis is challenging. These practices do not lead to immediate results and they are not flashy tactics by any means, but consider the impact they will have on your competitors. Are any of them more consistent than you with a disciplined approach to creating habits? Consistency, reliability, consideration and effort will never fail you in the long run.

•  •  •

The past quarter century has been a remarkably volatile and exciting time in mortgage financing. A decade-long refinance cycle, the near-collapse of the government-sponsored enterprises, the disappearance of the private residential mortgage-backed securities market, and a national homeownership percentage close to 70 percent all occurred during this period.

What hasn’t changed during this time is the Chris Warner approach to developing successful loan originators who possess strong partnerships with referral sources and borrowers. Whether these habits are acquired in the first month of a career or in year 10, they will determine the success of individual originators and define a team’s core competency. 


 


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