Residential Magazine

Make A Connection

The initial phone call is your best opportunity to click with a client

By Chris Hutchens

If you can spend 10 minutes on the phone with someone before the word “rate” comes up, you’ve got a great chance of getting that person’s business. By being engaged and finding something to talk about for a few minutes, you create a connection and build trust. As long as you’re competitive on rates, the client or referral partner is much more likely to use your services. This advice is as good today as it was 25 years ago.

Much has changed in the mortgage industry and yet some things haven’t changed at all. That first phone call remains just as important as ever. To remain relevant, mortgage originators must provide value and that first phone call is where you get that opportunity.

Technology is upending how the business works. You want to use technology to make your life easier, but the first step is engagement and connection with the other person before any of the selling can begin. The push toward technology can then start to take shape.

The goal of the first phone call is to find some common ground and let the other party know you’re smart, detail oriented and experienced.

Common ground

The goal of the first phone call is to find some common ground and let the other party know you’re smart, detail oriented and experienced. If you’re not, fake it until you make it, as they say. You shouldn’t brag about your success, but there is a time and place for others to know you’re confident without arrogance. 

You want your clients to know you can read a tax return, that you’ve been lending money for a number of years and whether you’ve owned rental properties, second homes or other corporations. You want them to know you can relate to almost any situation they throw your way. 

You want them to know you’ve experienced all the roller-coaster rides this industry has gone through and have reached the other side. This might sound like a lot for a 10-minute call, but you should weave as much into a first phone call as you can when merited. 

Each call is different. The point is, the caller needs to quickly feel comfortable with your skill set. Consider this: If you need brain surgery, do you want to work with a doctor who has done three operations or one who has done 500? Most people would choose the latter.

Valued partners

If this first call is with a referral, it also is important to make this partner shine. If it’s a former client, Realtor, homebuilder, etc., make a genuine acknowledgment about how important each and every referral is to both the client and the referral source. Specifically, if it’s a Realtor, make them sound like the best agent in town. (Clients and agents alike love that feedback.) 

To put it in perspective, if it’s a $400,000 sale, the real estate agent is entrusting you with their commission of around $12,000 and a total commission of $24,000. It’s flattering they thought to give it to you. In fact, when that client refers someone to you and that new client does likewise, the value of the original referral becomes exponentially valuable. Take pride in that referral and bust your butt to make the agent look great. Crush the loan process and create a raving fan for both you and the agent.

If you want to be relevant in this business, your Realtors and all purchase business must come first. Refinances will come and go, so always take care of Realtors, builders, 

certified public accountants, financial planners and whoever is pushing purchase business your way. Purchases should always take priority. If your service is lacking during this current refinance rush, your Realtors will have found a new originator to work with when the run ends.s

Assorted clients

Someone once said you have to be a chameleon as you speak to people. First-time homebuyers can read about the mortgage process on the internet for hours, but there will almost always be misunderstandings or gaps in their knowledge. These first-time buyers often know just enough to be dangerous. They need you to help them fact check and “project manage” their mortgage. 

First-time homebuyers need to be educated and coached on what is important. They might need to understand why the rate is important but not the only factor. Maybe the potential client’s buddy in the cubicle next to him got a Federal Housing Administration loan at 2.75%, but a 3% down conventional loan might be better for this client. It’s your job to educate and explain.  

Engineers and others who think systematically only care about numbers. Digging in and getting personal with an engineer is often a challenge. They need an education about why the best rate in the world doesn’t matter if you can’t close the loan. Educate them on the whole picture and that it’s not simply about numbers. You can have it done right, you can have it done fast and you can have it done cheap but not often can you have all three. 

You might have a retired couple who can talk to you all day but is somewhat scared to use technology. Hold their hand when you can, guide them to something new and help them learn. They will often appreciate your interest in teaching them how to use the technology. 

What about the guy who calls you and tells you three times in the first minute that he can pay cash for the home? He’s either smart enough to know money is cheap — borrowing with a low rate often makes sense — or something pushed him to inquire about a mortgage. As an originator, it’s generally a good idea to agree with this strategy. It’s typically your job to chime in about how cheap money is and that he can keep his money invested elsewhere. But he must understand that he still has to jump through every hoop the mortgage process will throw his way. Set the expectation that he’s not just going to be able to sign his name a few times.

It’s your job to assess the audience quickly, find the hot buttons of commonality, goals and needs, and dive in without committing an hour to the call. Time is money, so efficiency is key. Set proper expectations with each and every client, which will differ greatly depending on the client and the complexity of their circumstances. At the end of the day, you’re here to both help people and make money. Finding the right balance with your time is key.

Bad news rarely gets better and you should never avoid it. If you take it head on, you and your team can move past it.

Judgment calls

Do you have a superpower? Maybe it’s not superhuman, but a superstar mortgage originator can take a call, engage with the prospect at warp speed and maneuver them to an online app while making sure they know as quickly as possible that you are the only originator they need to be speaking with. 

A good originator is confident without cockiness, is able to tout their success without bragging and is almost always direct. Tell people the way it is. Bad news rarely gets better and you should never avoid it. If you take it head on, you and your team can move past it. So, if you want to do more business, don’t waste your own time, your staff’s time or your client’s time. 

The first phone call also can tell you when to not work with someone. They might tell you they’re talking to four lenders, that they’re completely against all technology or want to talk all day. It’s your job to assess quickly and then aggressively go after the loans you want. Make a judgment call: Sometimes you should pass on loans where the reward might not be worth the time and effort. If you can be an expert in this arena, you will win a lot more battles than you lose. In the long run, you will definitely win the war. ●


  • Chris Hutchens

    Chris Hutchens is a branch manager and senior vice president at Guaranteed Rate. He also is a member of the company’s President’s Club and Chairman’s Circle. Hutchens graduated in 1993 from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, with a bachelor of science degree in finance. Hutchens has been in the mortgage industry since 1997 and joined Guaranteed Rate in 2013. He has lifetime origination volume of nearly $2 billion.

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