Residential Magazine

Lead Generation Calls for a Hybrid Approach

Successful originators aren’t married to one technique for attracting clients

By Michael Sunnaa

It has long been said in the mortgage industry that you need to make a decision early in your career: Will you be a self-sourced loan originator, or will you work as an originator in a call center or leads-based operation?

Those who start as the former and who can make a living rarely, if ever, transition to a call center or leads-based position. Those who begin their career as the latter, however, oftentimes jump into becoming a self-sourced loan originator.

Because of how the mortgage industry has evolved over the past 15 years, it can be argued that these two roles aren’t mutually exclusive anymore. With the rise of technology, call center-based originators and self-sourced originators are more alike than ever.

Transformed business

To say the industry has experienced turmoil over the past 15 years would be an understatement. The rise of social media, a recession and a host of new regulatory rules, for example, have transformed how originators do business.

In 2004, a new originator could pick up the phone and make call after call to expand their sphere of influence, or they could send out 500 door hangers a week to drum up new business. Everyone in the industry expected a market correction, even a deep correction. What would happen was unprecedented. Businesses that seemed to be on top of the world one week would close shop the next. Many mortgage lenders and warehouse lines shut their doors.

During this time, direct mortgage lenders emerged. They had access to money, were nimble and were scalable to match the needs of the market. What eluded many people at the time was where the loan originator would continue to get business. Online lenders became popular, so mediums such as billboard advertising and radio and TV commercials were driving business to call centers, yet traditional originators were still doing a majority of refinance business.

This created a dichotomy in which the self-sourced loan originator and the leads-based originator battled to see who could best serve their clients. Both types of originators wound up having a place, with evolution happening on both sides.

Over the past few years, new challenges have emerged, including a reduction in loan applications and refinances all but drying up. Still, some originators have prospered and have maintained a steady income, whether in call centers or in traditional settings. All of this points to one common thread: The most successful originators have developed a hybrid approach to finding new clients and staying in touch with previous ones.

Evolving roles

Call center-based loan originators now boast of their real estate agent referrals, while self-sourced loan originators brag about their use of social media and technology. For the few that valued the age of technology and the emergence of social media, gaining market share through these venues came easy and with little competition.

Social media will become an increasingly large part of our daily routine, and originators will find themselves ceasing to purchase leads and simply generating them on their own. The call-center originator is used to sitting back and waiting for their phone to ring, while the self-sourced originator is used to shaking hands and having coffee with clients and referral partners. Neither have realized that the amount of people you can reach in those ways is far more finite.

The evolution of the mortgage industry happened while we all blinked. As a loan originator in today’s market, you must have eyes on technology so you can build, maintain and market to your database while using social media outlets as a source for attracting new clients.

Facebook users spend nearly an hour a day on the platform. Most successful originators don’t even have to spend money to connect with this audience. Effective originators mix in personal posts with business posts so their clients can connect with them on a personal level. What makes this strategy so effective is the sales pitch is fed to the client in near subliminal fashion. This will become even more important as millennials begin to dominate the homebuying market. They live on technology.

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Companies that provide predictive monitoring — which can tell when a potential client may be considering buying a home — are today’s new lead generators. Loan originators who blend their personal and business social media profiles gain more trust and interest from potential clients than the originators who are off the grid. Originators who combine self-sourcing with generating their own online leads will lead our industry in sales volume and dominate their market.

The difference today is that you can accomplish that from a call center, a brick-and-mortar bank, a storefront broker shop or the office of a regional direct lender. You get to choose how you get there, but you must buy into changing the way you think about lead generation.


  • Michael Sunnaa

    Michael Sunnaa is CEO of Viewpoint Lending and managing partner at Lending 3. Sunnaa is a 25-year-plus veteran of the mortgage industry with a master’s in business administration who is currently working on his doctoral degree. His experience ranges from broker to banker to direct lender. Sunnaa has trained and managed more than 2,500 loan originators and continues to grow in changing markets. 

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