Residential Magazine

Managing Your Pipeline Should Be a Priority

Data can help identify the best leads and the most likely loans to close

By Mike Eshelman

Starting about 18 months ago, the mortgage industry saw a sharp drop in interest rates that enticed millions of homeowners to refinance. This tidal wave of activity created stress on the industry’s capacity to handle that many loans (not the worst issue to have).

Mortgage originators received a flood of inbound sales leads at the same time that a record number of consumers in servicing portfolios were able to save on their rates. With rates dropping dramatically, converting leads into locks had never been easier for many originators. Lenders had to figure out how to manage the volume of loans hitting their pipelines. Lead and loan management became a hot topic, causing lead-management experts to be in high demand. 

Seven years ago, Velocify published a white paper titled, “The Power of Prioritization,” which is still relevant today. The study found that salespeople who utilized an automated prioritization system had 88% more talk time with prospects and 15% higher conversion rates than those who did not utilize this technology. Velocify also found that, “of the companies that did not utilize prioritization, 83% performed below the average for companies that did, and the 17% that exceeded that average were only slightly above, indicating an invisible ceiling.” 

If you think about what automated prioritization does for originators, these stats make sense. Rather than spending time determining who to follow up with next, an originator is presented with the next best prospect based on an algorithm. As soon as they get off a call and finish their wrap-up, they are able to click a button and be onto the next prime opportunity instead of shuffling through notes to locate one. 

If a salesperson takes a few minutes between each call, this can add up to a couple of hours each day, 10 hours a week and 500 hours each year. That is an astronomical amount of time wasted thinking about who to call next when an originator could be doing what they do best — selling.

The digital revolution has put power back in the hands of the mortgage originator, who can turn around and refer prospects to real estate agents.

Converting leads

The single most important factor in converting inbound leads into locks is the speed at which you can respond to their request to be contacted. When the consumer clicks the submit button on a lead form, lenders will have the highest contact rate if they can call them back within seconds while they are still on the website and thinking about their mortgage needs. 

What happens if you don’t get in contact with the consumer right away? When is the next best time to call them? The answer depends on the individual consumer and leads to a discussion on leveraging consumer behavioral data.

Behavioral data is more accessible today than ever before. Marketing technology and data companies are enabling brands to identify when consumers are actively shopping online for mortgages, which leads to a clearer picture of shopping behaviors at an individual level. For example, if a consumer is a servicing client who logs into their account between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., there is a high likelihood that this is the best time to get in contact with them in the future. 

If a refinance lead from six months ago begins to visit your website and spends time on the home-purchase and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan pages, you will have greater success converting this lead if you begin to market to them using home-purchase messaging that explains the benefits of VA loans. Furthermore, having an originator that served in the armed forces assigned to contact this consumer likely would yield an even higher success rate. Behavioral data is an incredibly powerful tool in prioritizing and assigning leads. More importantly, it creates an exceptional consumer experience.

Ranking loans

Once a lead becomes a locked loan in the pipe-line, lenders typically “round robin” the loan to the next available loan processor who has capacity in their pipeline. Some processors and underwriters are better and faster than others for specific loan types, so loan assignments should be based on the speed and likelihood that the loan closes. 

Loans are not like fine wines — they do not age well. The longer a loan is in the pipeline, the greater the risk that a perfectly good loan doesn’t get funded. But since you can’t prioritize every loan at the same time, lenders need to decide which loans to deprioritize while still funding them within the rate-lock time frame. 

Not all locked borrowers are committed to completing the loan and, in fact, continue to shop around for a better deal. Similar to leveraging consumer shopping-activity data to identify which consumers are in the market for a mortgage, this data can be used to identify which consumers continue to shop while in processing. 

If a consumer locked in a rate and only days later is shopping around because rates dropped, that is a loan to deprioritize because the odds of this consumer leaving for another lender is high. On the other hand, if the loan is almost finished, this consumer becomes the highest priority. A lot of resources have already been spent on processing their loan and the best chance of keeping their business is to get them to the signing table as soon as possible. 

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Lenders learned a lot about their internal operations in 2020. When rates eventually return to near 4%, the lenders with a solid strategy for lead and loan management will continue to perform well while others struggle. Converting leads and managing a loan pipeline at scale is an ongoing strategy that constantly needs to be enhanced based on newly available technology and data. 

Gaining a clearer understanding of consumers and their behaviors is what drives performance in today’s market. It also improves client satisfaction given its personalized nature. It’s a win-win, making it worth investing time and effort. ●


  • Mike Eshelman

    Mike Eshelman is a certified mortgage banker and is the head of consumer finance at Jornaya, a data-as-a-service platform that helps companies attract and retain clients using a proprietary network of more than 35,000 comparison-shopping and lead-generation sites. For more information, visit

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