Residential Magazine

Put the Cold Calls on Ice

The best leads come from established referral partners

By Eric Simantel

They are called “cold calls” for a reason. You’re not getting on the phone and talking to someone with whom you have a relationship. You’re getting on the phone with a stranger. How it makes you feel adds even more clarity to the term “cold call.” There are cold sweats, cold shivers and a cold sting that hits your vocal cords when you start to speak.

It’s very likely that 2023 has been one of the toughest years to get organic leads into your sales funnel. That frigid feeling of calling strangers isn’t helping either.

Yes, there are companies that sell leads. The credit bureaus will even sell you trigger leads. You might have told yourself that your business isn’t set up that way. Maybe you don’t want to throw your hat in the ring for a lead that has already entered the sales funnel. Likely, and intuitively speaking, it’s because if the prospect or lead doesn’t know you, then almost certainly the only point of differentiation you have to negotiate against is price.

Consumers who don’t have a preference for a specific mortgage originator, bank or retail lender just do an internet search for “lenders near me” or “best rates on a 30-year loan.” How do you get these leads into your funnel before you have to compete and pay for them? The answer that you may already know is that you need more referral partners. And these primary referral partners are real estate agents.

Expanded network

Let’s understand more about the sales funnel inside the mortgage world. Do borrowers start daydreaming about a 30-year fixed mortgage, or do they start dreaming about seeing themselves inside of a beautiful home that they found online?

As much as mortgage professionals want to think borrowers are going to a lender first, they are unequivocally starting with home search websites, finding a property, then poking their real estate agent (or finding one, if they didn’t like their previous one or are first-time buyers). The first question the agent is asking them is, “Are you preapproved?”

Granted, it’s an older survey (from 2016), but Freddie Mac reported that 84% of real estate professionals have a select group of lenders to which they generally refer their clients. Of these, 73% have one to three lenders in their network, while 24% work with four to six lenders. More than three-quarters (76%) say their clients always or often use their recommended lender referral. This figure climbs to 87% among agents who sell more than 20 properties per year.

Wait, what? You thought your real estate agent was only loyal to you? Statistics don’t lie and you are likely only one of the choices on your real estate agent’s cell phone contact list.

To make it through the rest of this year, you need to put yourself on more agents’ contact lists. There are an infinite number of strategies out there to meet new agents. It can be through cold calling, LinkedIn messaging, email lists or professional referral groups. The list goes on and on.

The cold, hard truth to 2023 is that the real estate agent’s business is down too. It’s really tough to tell an agent with whom you have no prior relationship that you want to become their referral partner. This is simply because there isn’t any working history or trust between the two of you. So, what is a better lead-in?

Practical results

In many sales trainings, one of the first things you are taught is to answer this question in 20 seconds or less: Who are you and why should someone care about you? In other words, why should that real estate agent care more about you than the 20 other originators who have reached out this year and are trying to do the same thing? What is your valid business reason for contacting them out of blue?

The agent isn’t going to refer business to you because you offered to buy them a cup of coffee. Chances are, your first communication with them is likely to be a little clunky.

Once you get the agent’s attention, the way you pique their interest is by having a cure to a problem that ails them. Their biggest problem this year is they don’t have enough closings. So, do they have clients who have fallen out of their sales funnel that you might be able to entice? Do you have a unique lending program that others may not?

Equally as important, you should have case studies that explain how you or your team have solved a similar problem for someone else. A real estate agent doesn’t want to leave the conversation thinking they are your guinea pig. They won’t willingly hand over leads they hold near and dear to their heart.

From there, if you’ve shown your worth, you’ll get them to send you more clients. This can still be a good year. But you need to make the connections that will let you leave the cold calls in the freezer. ●


  • Eric Simantel

    Eric Simantel is a branch manager and mortgage originator for the Ryder Mortgage Group (dba C2 Financial) in Portland, Oregon. Simantel spent more than 17 years in the sponsorship and advertising world prior to getting his mortgage license in 2020. He received his MBA from the University of Oregon in 2002. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from San Diego State University in 2000.

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