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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   January 2018

Strategies for Success

Following these common paths can make you a top producer

Strategies for Success

After being in the mortgage industry for a decade or two — and getting to know successful originators across the spectrum — it can dawn on you that most successful originators follow some very specific strategies to fill their book of business.

Why do these strategies matter? Their dominance in the industry could mean these strategies have some relevance in determining originator success. Plus, if most successful originators follow one or more of these strategies, it might make sense for new originators, or originators who never really found their groove, to follow the lead of some of these top producers (when possible).

Most successful strategies of top mortgage originators fall into four major categories: program expertise, networking, online referrals and family connections. Let’s take a look at each of these categories in more depth.

Program expertise

Many top originators work hard to become “the” expert on a specific program type. Because they focus specifically on a particular program and know that program so well, their confidence in handling program questions is quickly noticed by clients and Realtor partners, imparting a level of confidence that ensures the business is won.

Some top originators choose to focus on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loans. These originators tend to either be former military, currently in the military reserves, or are regular civilians but focus on the VA niche and work hard to connect with the military community in their area. They support the military community, hire former military personnel, take part in military fundraisers and fairs, volunteer at military functions, etc.

These originators understand the military culture but, most importantly, they know all the idiosyncrasies of VA loans. The combination of these factors instills confidence in VA borrowers and allows the VA originator to thrive.

Originators who want to break into VA lending may consider reaching out to family or friends in the military and ask about upcoming military events and how they can volunteer or help support these events. They also can ask for introductions to staff at the local military base that hosts events like “lunch and learns” and offer to present first-time homebuyer seminars on the base.

Of course, to break in as a program expert, originators also need to study up on the lending products. For VA training, ask around and find the best VA wholesale lender in the area and ask the account executive for training, or check with your company to see if they have any good webinar recordings on VA loans.

Another program some originators choose to focus on is the reverse mortgage. Originators who make this their focus enjoy working with a more mature crowd and helping clients secure and enjoy their retirement. Strategies range from holding reverse mortgage workshops, to working with certified public accountants and certified financial planners to holding lunch-and-learn events in 55+ communities. Originators interested in reverse mortgages should seek out a company that has a reverse department with proper support and training.

For a slight twist on the program expertise strategy, some originators focus instead on a particular profession, such as police officers, teachers or firefighters. If these originators do a great job for their clients, referrals from within the respective community will result.

Most of these profession-based originators focus on just a few key professions to become familiar with the lending idiosyncrasies faced by these professionals. Originators who work with police officers, for example, understand how officers get paid and their overtime issues. Then, when it comes time to calculate income for a loan, it’s a cinch. This knowledge of their profession will inspire confidence and loyalty in these clients.

To focus on a certain profession, reach out to family, friends and acquaintances who know someone who works in the profession and ask for introductions. Then see if those contacts can connect you to decisionmakers in the local professional associations who, in turn, can give permission to present lunch-and-learn events or discuss sponsorship opportunities for upcoming fundraisers. As with program specialists, make sure to do some homework first. Talk with wholesale lenders about issues they have seen on past loan files involving that profession, so you can confidently answer client questions.


Networking is, of course, a staple for mortgage originators looking to increase referrals. Originators committed to working with Realtors for referrals will do all of the standard things. They will go on caravans religiously, meet at least three new agents per week and attend real estate conferences with their Realtor partners to further strengthen the relationship. Originators also will hold training sessions — sometimes with beer or wine — to show their Realtor partners new loan programs for their prospective buyers.

Some make such a strong commitment to Realtors that they sublease a cubicle or office within a real estate office. This practice is completely legal if fair-market rent is being paid. The reason many large lenders and banks pulled out of real estate offices is because they were likely paying a referral fee by the originator, which is clearly prohibited by RESPA.

When Realtors consistently see an originator around the industry — especially one who is well-versed with loan guidelines — they are much more likely to give that originator a shot at working with them. Then, that originator can wow them with service and pricing to get even more referrals. It’s never too late to form these relationships, but they will take time to bear fruit. The biggest mistake originators make is trying for a few weeks and then giving up.

Other originators work with the relocation department at large organizations or corporations in their area. These originators often know an influential figure within a local company, university, church, etc. This could be a family friend or a relationship they’ve cultivated.

If this option sounds appealing, start by identifying influential figures who hold these roles at companies, universities, churches, etc., in your area. Set a meeting, put on your best suit, bring all of your collateral material and sell yourself. Do not give up after the first few attempts. It will take time to cultivate these relationships.

Finally, many originators get heavily involved in their community as a way to network. These originators coach their kids’ soccer teams, are on the boards of the rotary club, the PTA and their local homeowner’s association. In addition, many are active at their place of worship and volunteer several times a year at charity events.

By becoming deeply involved in the community, business will build over the years for these originators from simple exposure and their hard work maintaining a great reputation. They must still ask for the business, however. It won’t just magically walk in the door.

Online referrals

Many originators today use online leads from Lending Tree or other similar sites. These originators have a very simple business plan. They spend a lot of money on leads and work those leads hard. They follow up quickly, are great at establishing rapport on the phone and don’t stop until they win the business.

This is a low-margin and intense business, but enough of it can turn an originator into a top producer. In the long run, these low-margin leads can become repeat clients. So, although an originator may have spent $250 on a lead up front, if that client comes back a second, third and fourth time for refis or other purchases, that lead costs them much less long term.

Instead of buying leads, some originators generate passive leads by building and maintaining a crystal-clean online reputation. They use highly rated sites like Yelp or Angie’s List and search-engine optimization techniques to make sure that when borrowers search online for “home loan in San Diego” or “mortgage in Seattle,” their name comes up near the top. If you’re not on Page 1 of search results, you pretty much don’t exist.

These originators monitor their online profiles vigorously to make sure they have a positive reputation. Many of their leads result primarily from their online reputation, but then they build their referral business from there.

Family connections

Finally, some highly successful originators literally grew up in the business. They benefited from being mentored by someone, usually a parent, to gain the knowledge and, more importantly, the relationships their parent or older sibling had worked to cultivate. These originators get referrals from their family member and even get introduced to the best lenders and vendors in the industry.

If you didn’t grow up in the business, you can still gain some of these benefits by finding a strong mentor. Working with a mentor is a great way to get a start in the industry. Simply commit to the mentor for a period of time — perhaps two years — before going off on your own filled with knowledge and on-the-job experience.

Ask around. The industry is aging and many originators who are nearing retirement would be thrilled to pass on their knowledge to an eager originator looking to learn.

•  •  •

So, there you have it: Multiple strategies that top producers often use to find success in this business. Where do you fit in? If you’re not seeing the results you’d like, perhaps looking into one or more of these strategies can help get you get on track to becoming a top producer.


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